This collection consists primarily of correspondence written by David C. ("Dave") Cottrell of the American Expeditionary Forces in France during the First World War. The majority of the letters are addressed to his sweetheart, Ethel M. Jury of Stockton, California, with a handful addressed to her mother, Annis. Most of the letters are numbered, and Cottrell wrote almost weekly between October 11, 1917, and April 13, 1918, the week of his death. He noted his intention to write every Sunday, as that was the only day on which the soldiers regularly had leisure time. His letters focus on his daily life in France and include descriptions of the rainy weather, scenery, and townspeople. He also frequently commented on the mail service between soldiers and their correspondents in United States and on the slow speed of transatlantic mail steamers, which occasionally caused letters to arrive out of order. Though he was aware of censorship, he nevertheless described life in the army and commented about soldiers' attitudes on a range of topics, including a generally negative opinion of the YMCA (November 9, 1917). He also frequently wrote about dogs and news received from Ethel, who mentioned her siblings and mutual friends; the later letters reflect a temporary rift in the couple's relationship, apparently mended by early April. Cottrell's letters to Ethel's mother have similar content, with an increased focus on some of her English acquaintances, who also corresponded with Cottrell during the war. Ed B. Hall of Company D, "319th Engineers," wrote the final letter (September 1, 1918) to Annis Jury; he mentioned his recent quarantine and desire to visit Stockton on a furlough.
The non-correspondence items are three newspaper clippings related to potential German propaganda in Stockton's libraries, to conditions at Camp Kearney, and to the death of David C. Cottrell, as well as several pressed flowers, all but two of which are attached to letters.