The Irl Potter Haynes correspondence is made up of over 100 typewritten letters from Irl Haynes to his wife Josephine Haynes while serving in the YMCA as part of the American Expeditionary Forces in the United States and France during and after World War I. Haynes received transportation training in the summer and fall of 1918 at "College Camp", Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; New York City; and Hoboken, New Jersey. He worked for the YMCA as a cashier/financial manager at the Hotel Pavillon in Paris from November or December 1918 to June 1919, and at the "Garden" soda fountain from June to at least December 1919.
In June 1918, Haynes underwent training at the Lake Geneva Encampment of The Young Men's Christian Association College at "College Camp", Wisconsin, serving in both secretarial and physical capacities. He arrived in Washington, D.C., in July 1918 and by October, he had settled into a training regimen and as a physical director in New York City. During his time in New York, he received mail and regularly visited the International and War Work Council Headquarters at 347 Madison Avenue. In the city, he wrote letters about crowds and sightseeing in New York, working on learning to drive different trucks, and volunteering at the transport school at Hoboken, New Jersey. He also described armistice celebrations in New York City.
Around November 18, 1918, Haynes shipped out on board the Lamport & Holt Line, S.S. Vauban, arriving in Paris in early December. He started working in a garage after his arrival and shortly thereafter, as cashier at the Hotel Pavillon. In regular letters, he shared with his wife observations on different areas of the city; attendance at prizefights, shows, and other entertainment; discussions of French women, a Belgian nurse, and other women; and updates on mutual friend Catherine Stinson and Irl's friends Jo Barnard and "Hayden". He wrote about everyday life, including information on acquiring and washing clothing, costs of living, the weather, food, the home he stayed in, aspects of his work, reading and writing, health and medical treatment (requesting at times for his wife to send him particular medicines), visits to the Red Cross, typewriters, securing souvenirs, and interacting with other Americans in Paris. Early after his arrival in France, he talked of censorship and the censors mutilated at least two of his letters (December 12 and 20, 1918). In one instance, he mentioned that the hotel would be temporarily restricted because of the flu (February 26, ). The subjects of Irl's letters changed little after taking on new employment at the "Garden" soda fountain in June 1919, though he included details about his new responsibilities.
Irl Haynes clearly felt the distance from his family and the correspondence with his wife regularly included requests for information about their children, discussions about the children's education, thoughts on a newly purchased piano and on whether or not the family would buy a dog, queries about health, and talk of financial matters. He emphasized the importance of reading to the children, particularly Bible stories.
Irl Haynes wrote a few of his letters on the reverse side of a typed 1-page daily serial titled "THE KIT BAG : Trials and Smiles Concerning the Overseas Conferences of the YMCA" ed. Ira C. Young and Robert Good out of the Bristol Hotel, New York City, November 2, 1918-November 12, 1918. The serial is illustrated with a suitcase marked "O.K. BRISTOL Y.M.C.A. A.E.F."
The collection includes a 1-page illustrated printed flier titled "'On to Victory' From painting by Edgard Léon. Copyright 1917" with the text of "A MESSAGE TO HEROIC FRANCE", also by Edgard Léon (Polytechnic Institute, Kansas City, Mo.).
Irl Haynes copied two poems into his letters, which were written or partially written by his friend and colleague "Hayden":
- "The Flag" by "Hayden" (January 10-14, )
- "Mrs. Malone and the Censor" by unidentified and "Hayden" (February 23, )