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Herbert S. Williams papers


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Herbert S. Williams was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 12, 1881 to James Williams and Sarah Williams, nee Oglesby. He received his degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 1906 and enlisted in the U.S. Army Expeditionary Forces in 1908. He served in the Army until 1930 and took part in the Mexican Expedition and World War I as part of the Veterinary Corps. He married Honoria Moomaw in 1912 and they had one son, Winslow, who would become a Yale graduate and portrait artist. Williams rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and received a commendation for his service in World War I as well as the Victory Medal.

Williams maintained regular correspondence with his family and his sister Emily in particular during his military deployments. These documents form the principal part of this collection. Williams was stationed in Cuba and Mexico during his first deployment and France, Luxembourg, and Germany during his second, writing to his family about military life, travel, and the day-to-day goings-on back home. He saw combat in France and suffered mustard gas burns in October 1918, according to Pennsylvania WWI Veteran's Service and Compensation files. Returning to the U.S. in 1919, Williams settled in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania where he died on August 7, 1950. He is interred with his wife at Arlington National Cemetery.

This collection documents Herbert S. Williams's family relationships during his time in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps from 1909 to his retirement 1930 and, to a limited degree, following his retirement until his death in 1950. The bulk of the collection includes letters written by Williams to his family while serving in Cuba, Mexico, and Europe. There are also a few official documents from the U.S. Army and a limited amount of material relating to his family and personal life.

This collection is arranged in three series: Series I. Letters from Williams to family; Series II. Official military communications; Series III. Family and biographical material. Series I. Letters from Williams to family date from very early in his army career when he served in Cuba from 1908 to 1909. All of the letters in this timeframe are to his sister, Emily P. Williams, nicknamed "Bon." He writes largely about family matters, the hard work of military life, and his sister's relationships back home. From 1916 to 1917 he was involved in the Mexican Expedition. Very little of military-historical interest is discussed during this period, apart from some general discussion of the hunt for Pancho Villa, on which the Mexican Expedition was based. The majority of the letters are to Emily, but those letters often are addressed to include the whole family; as well as one letter to Madgie, likely another family member. The bulk of letters in this collection were written during World War I from 1917 to 1919, with Williams serving in France, Luxembourg, and Germany. Letters were written to: James L. Smythe [nephew], Mrs. A. Felton Wood, Aunt Teresa, Madgie, Emily P. Williams, Florence Wirt, and Aunt Nancy. He discusses his day-to-day life and that of his correspondents, books and periodicals, and his travels. From 1925 until his death in 1950, the only letters in the collection were written to his son, Winslow, one of which is hand illustrated with animals. There is one letter from Winslow to his father, written in 1925.

Series II. Official military communications contains documents relating to Major C.P. Summerall's commendation of Williams prior to Summerall's retirement from the American Expeditionary Forces, as well as the award of the Victory Medal to Williams in 1920. This series also includes Summerall's personal letter to Williams on the occasion of Williams's retirement from the Army in 1930.

The final series, Family and biographical material, contains a limited amount of material, including a photograph of Williams, a small amount of information about his military service, and his obituary. There is also a general genealogical document and an obituary of his brother-in-law, J.K. Stevenson, husband of Emily.

This collection noticeably does not include letters to Williams's wife. Because of wartime censorship, they also do not include much in the way of direct reference to the events and developments of the military conflicts in which Williams served. This collection may best serve researchers interested in family correspondence during military deployment.

Sold by Beltrone & Company, 2019.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Cory Austin Knudson
Finding Aid Date
2019 September 24
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

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Cuba and Fort Myer, Virginia, 1908-1909.
Box 1 Folder 1
Mexico and Texas, 1916-1917.
Box 1 Folder 2
France, Luxembourg, and Germany, 1917-1919.
Box 1 Folder 3
Box 1 Folder 4

Letters related to commendations and the Victory Medal, 1919-1920.
Box 1 Folder 5
Letter relating to Williams's retirement, 1930 November 4.
Box 1 Folder unknown container
Veterinary Corps pins, undated.
Box 1 Folder 7

Herbert S. Williams photograph, retired list information, and obituary, 1938-1939, 1950, undated.
Box 1 Folder unknown container
Genealogical record, obituary for J.K. Stevenson (brother-in-law), and mourning poems, 1919, 1943, undated.
Box 1 Folder 9

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