This collection is primarily made up of letters that brothers Charles B. and Clarence F. ("Freeman") Shaw wrote to their mother, Hattie C. Shaw of Swampscott, Massachusetts. Charles discussed his life in Schenectady, New York, prior to World War I and his life in Washington, D.C., in the early 1920s, when he was a clerk for General John J. Pershing. Freeman Shaw wrote to his mother about his experiences with the United States Army's 103rd Aero Squadron in the United States and France during World War I.
This collection (1.75 linear feet) contains correspondence and other items related to Hattie C. Shaw of Swampscott, Massachusetts, and her two eldest sons, Clarence F. ("Freeman") and Charles B. Shaw.
The Correspondence series (approximately 400 letters) comprises the bulk of the collection. The earliest items are personal letters to Hattie C. Shaw from her son Charles and from other correspondents, between 1905 and 1911. Charles B. Shaw began writing regularly to his mother after he moved to Schenectady, New York, in July 1915. He wrote about his daily life, including initial homesickness and leisure activities, such as attending dances, attending sporting events, and participating in bowling leagues. He described public gatherings such as parades and pro-war rallies, Union College events, and festivals, and mentioned local efforts to enlist volunteers after the country's entry into World War I in April 1917. A few letters briefly reference a large workers' strike in October 1915 and the presidential election of 1916. Shaw's final letters from this period concern his intention to accept employment in Washington, D.C., which he did just before joining the United States Army. Enclosures in these letters include a printed advertisement, newspaper clippings, and a certificate authorizing Charles B. Shaw to work as a stenographer for the state of Massachusetts (June 16, 1915).
The bulk of the letters written during World War I consist of Freeman Shaw's letters to his mother pertaining to his experiences in the United States Army. His letter of December 2, 1918, provides details about his service history, including the names of the towns and bases where he was stationed. Shaw wrote a few letters from Fort Slocum, New York, in August 1917 before joining the 103rd Aero Squadron at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. While in training, he shared details of camp life and conditions, often commenting about his uniform. After his arrival in Europe around December 1917, Shaw was briefly stationed in England before traveling to France. He commented on the scenery and the warm reception his squadron received from local citizens. His letters refer to his work digging trenches and performing guard duty, and his preference for working with the French army rather than the American army. By April 1919, he returned to the United States, where he awaited a discharge.
Charles B. Shaw wrote infrequently to his mother while serving at the American Expeditionary Forces' headquarters during the war, focusing mostly on his leisure activities, including concerts and sporting events held at the YMCA. From May-July 1919, he received a group of letters from the War Department Zone Finance Office, concerning the payment of his Liberty Loan bonds. Many of these letters enclose blank affidavits and similar forms.
From 1920-1925, Charles B. Shaw wrote weekly letters to his mother about his life in Washington, D.C., where he was a clerk in the office of John J. Pershing. He often used stationery of the American Expeditionary Forces' General Headquarters and the office of the General of the Armies. Shaw reported on Pershing's travels, the gradual downsizing of his office, and the general's retirement. Despite fears that he would lose his job, he remained employed until at least August 1925. Shaw also discussed his leisure activities, including bowling, playing tennis, going to the racetrack, and attending football and baseball games (including at least one contest that featured Babe Ruth). He occasionally wrote about his automobile. In his later letters, he referred to a female acquaintance named Mary, possibly his future wife.
The collection's Writings (2 items) are a typed copy of a speech by Chauncey Depew entitled "The Problem of Self-government," delivered by Charles B. Shaw in a prize speaking contest on May 26, 1911, and a brief essay regarding the "Fortification of the Panama Canal."
Five Financial Documents include a receipt to Charles Shaw for dental work (December 3, 1910), receipts for dues paid to the Swampscott Club (July 1, 1917) and the Supreme Temple of Pythian Sisters (February 8, 1922), and receipts related to Charles B. Shaw's policies with the New England Mutual Life Insurance Company (December 1, 1921, and undated).
The Photographs series (22 items) contains snapshots of unidentified men, women, children, and a cat at leisure outdoors. Four items show young men wearing sweaters with a large letter S sewn on the fronts.
The Printed Items and Ephemera series (4 items) is made up of a newspaper clipping with photographs of Russians in a queue and barracks in France, a social invitation for Charles B. Shaw, a wedding invitation, and a monogrammed napkin.