November 11, 2018 will mark one hundred years since the ceasefire came into effect ending the First World War (1914-1918). Some of our blog’s readers may be familiar with many of the World War I-related materials we have here at the State Library of Massachusetts, including our collection of World War I soldier photographs
given to us by the Boston Globe or histories of different military divisions, such as this Pictorial History of the Twenty-sixth Division of the U.S. Army
from 1920. But in addition to these fantastic resources, our stacks contain evidence of bright moments amid this dark time. One such item is a thin volume published by the Boston War Camp Community Service Committee on Hospitality in 1918. It’s title? Simply: Joy Book for Soldiers and Sailors.
The Joy Book
serves as a guide book for soldiers and sailors stationed in and around Boston, with “suggestions of places which the Committee hopes may interest and entertain.” And truly the book includes something for everyone: club rooms, vaudeville and movies, gymnasiums, music, and libraries are listed in their own categories, with the State Library listed under “Books” on page 6. The book also includes a helpful foldout map of Boston for those visiting, and features travel and hospitality information “if your women folks are coming to Boston” (page 4).
Guide books like these were published by the War Camp Community Service, one of the two secular groups involved in the United War Work Campaign dedicated to providing entertainment to American troops at home and abroad (the only other secular group involved with the UWWC? The American Library Association
). War Camp Community Service (WCCS) groups were devoted to acting as a facilitator between the community and the soldiers stationed nearby: “One of the manifestations of this spirit is the widespread and wholehearted effort to make the man in uniform feel that, wherever he may be in this country – whether in his home town or a thousand miles from his native state – he has both the friendship and respect of the community, and that his uniform entitles him to feel at home wherever he is stationed” wrote Paul Robert Jacques in an article about the efforts of the WCCS
. He also proclaimed that “New England has been a leader in this excellent work. At Portsmouth, N.H. for instance, a committee, representing the summer colony at Rye Beach and Little Boars Head, was formed early last summer to meet the social needs of the men at the Navy Yard… In the vicinity of Boston, a number of delightful homes have also been thrown open for purposes of hospitality to men in uniform. They include the homes of Mr. and Mrs. Stanwood G. Willington at Brookline; Mr. John E. Oldham and Miss Smith at Wellesley Hills; and Mr. George D. Hall at Dedham.”
By providing entertainment and hospitality, those involved in the WCCS believed they were providing a vital service, one which President Woodrow Wilson called ‘a military and social necessity.’ Paul Robert Jacques went on to explain that the WCCS’s “special care is the comfort, welfare, and recreation of the enlisted men of the Army and Navy, and to this end its ramifications spread through countless activities which touch upon the soldier when he is off duty. To quote the President [Wilson] once more: ‘The spirit with which our soldiers leave American and their efficiency on the battlefronts of Europe will be vitally affected by the character of the environment surrounding our military training camps’” (What We Are Doing for the Boys in Camp
What would you have recommended to soldiers stationed in Massachusetts? Are they listed in the Joy Book, now available online
? Learn more about the State Library’s World War I-related materials and Massachusetts’ involvement via our blog
or by searching our catalog