Basil Beebe Elmer
Letters, 1917-1919

SC23224

Quantity: 1 box (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift of Belle Lincoln Elmer (Mrs. Stephen B. Elmer) June 2011
Processed By: Michael Maloney, Student Intern, SUNY Albany, October 2011

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Biographical Note:

Basil Beebe Elmer, banker and World War I soldier, was born in Ithaca (Tompkins County), New York, May 29 1892, the eldest son of Herbert Charles and Bertha Edson Beebe Elmer. He was raised in Ithaca, and was a graduate of Cornell University, where his father was a professor of Greek and Latin and dean of the classsical department.  

During World War I, Elmer served in the Company A, Intelligence Section of the United States Army 165th Infantry Regiment. He mustered in with the rank of first lieutenant and attained the rank of captain before mustering out.

After the war, Elmer pursued a career in banking and finance in New York City. He was married to Alice Haight of New York City in April 1920, and they had two children: Alice Hoyt Elmer, and Basil Beebe Elmer, Jr. The family eventually settled in Bronxville (Westchester County), New York. He died February 23, 1962.

Scope and Content Note:

This collection consists of approximately 170 letters written by Basil Beebe Elmer to his parents between 1917 and 1919 regarding his experiences of military service during World War I. The letters begin with his departure from the United States in October 1917 aboard a steamship that was transporting American troops to France. The letters written on board the ship reveal the initial excitement and enthusiasm he and his fellow soldiers had about the war and fighting for freedom and democracy.

By mid-November, his letters indicate the boat has landed on the coast of France, but state that he could not reveal the exact location. His letters also mention that the American troops were welcomed by the French enthusiastically and he very much enjoyed the hospitality of the French people. Thereafter, the letters detail his responsibility for examining the letters written by men in his company, and having to censor some of the content. This experience was said to have given him a better understanding of the men of his regiment. After a while, he found the task to be quite tedious, and the process delayed posting of letters by several weeks.

The letter of January 31, 1918, indicates Basil was transferred to the 165th Regimental Headquarters Company from Company A. By February 1918, he had been promoted to regimental intelligence officer. By March 12, 1918, he was on the front line where he lived in a trench. In April 1918 Elmer was put on detached service which appears to have involved gathering intelligence behind the enemy line. Some of the letters indicate he had been engaged in dangerous missions. The nature of his work required a high degree of secrecy so his exact location was not stated other than the fact he was somewhere in France.

The letters break in August 1918 and do not resume until February 1919 by which time he was stationed in Ahrweiler, Germany, where his regiment was part of the American Army of Occupation. The letters conclude March 12, 1919 when he informs his parent that he is about to return to the United States to be mustered out.

Provenance / Processing note:

The letters were apparently stored in letter boxes for a number of years and organized in at least two series in which each item was consecutively numbered. A few gaps in the numerical sequence were discovered when the collection was accessioned and processed. Nevertheless, the overall arrangement is chronological.

A number of letters were not dated, stating only the day of the week on which it was written. However, there was enough evidence available to make it possible to supply the date with certainty. Also, the author would frequently write more than one letter on a given date, all of which are listed separately on the inventory list. Lastly, the place where these letters were written was rarely stated, so it was supplied based on information from the content of the letter. 

Box and Folder list:


Box Folder Description
1 1 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents), October-November 1917
  1. To Parents [aboard steamship], October 27, 1917; attached letter of October 14, 1917
  2. To Parents [aboard steamship], October 26, 1917
  3. To Parents [aboard steamship], October 28, 1917
  4. To Parents [aboard steamship], November 1, 1917
  5. To Parents [aboard steamship], November 3, 1917
  6. To Parents [aboard steamship], November [4], 1917
  7. To Parents [aboard steamship], location unknown, November 5, 1917
  8. To Parents [aboard steamship], November 6, 1917
  9. To Parents [aboard steamship], November 6, 1917
  10. To Parents [aboard steamship], November 8, 1917
  11. To Parents [aboard steamship], November 8, 1917
  12. To Parents [aboard steamship], November 8, 1917
  13. To parents, [France, November 13, 1917]
  14. To parents, [France, November 14, 1917]
  15. To parents, [France, November 15, 1917]
  16. Cablegram to Basil Elmer from Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer. Location unknown, sent November 13, 1917; received November 1917.
  17. Note to parents, n.d.
1 2 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents), November-December 1917
  1. To parents, [France, November 16, 1917]
  2. To parents, [France, November 17, 1917]
  3. To parents, [France, November 18, 1917]
  4. To parents, [France, November 20, 1917]
  5. To parents, [France, November 21, 1917] (Received December 17, 1917)
  6. To parents, [France, November 21, 1917] (Received December 17, 1917)
  7. To parents, [France, November 22, 1917] (Received December 17, 1917)
  8. To parents, [France, November 23, 1917] (Received December 17, 1917)
  9. To parents, [France, November 25, 1917] (Received December 17, 1917)
  10. To parents, [France, November 29, 1917]
1 3 Letters of Basil Beebe to Elmer Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents), December 1917
  1. To parents, [France, December 1, 1917]
  2. To parents, France], December 1, 1917
  3. To parents, [France], December 3, 1917
  4. To parents, [France], December 4, 1917
  5. To parents, [France], December 7, 1917
  6. To parents, [France], December 5, 1917
  7. To parents, [France], December 7, 1917
  8. To parents, [France], December 7, 1917
  9. Mike [?] to Basil Beebe Elmer, n.p., [ca. December 7, 1917]
  10. To parents, [France], December 11, 1917
  11. To parents, [France], December 16, 1917; included is a note from Mr. &     Mme. Bertilleville
  12. To parents, [France], December 17, 1917
  13. To parents, [France], December 23, 1917
  14. To parents, [France], December 23, 1917
  15. To parents, and family [France], [December 24, 1917]
  16. To parents, [France], December 24, 1917
  17. To parents, [France], December 25, 1917
  18. To parents, [France], December 25, 1917
  19. To parents, Paris, [France], December 30, 1917; with letter to parents, Paris, [France], December 29, 1917
  20. To parents, [France], December 30, 1917
  21. To parents, [France], December 31, 1917
  22. To parents, [France], December 31, 1917
1 4 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents),: January 1918
  1. To parents, [France], January 1, 1918 (telegram)
  2. To parents, [France], January 1, 1918
  3. To parents, [France], January 3, 1918
  4. To parents, [France], January 4, 1917 [sic – should be 1918]
  5. To parents, [France], January 5, 1917 [sic – should be 1918]
  6. To parents, [France], January 5, 1917 [sic – should be 1918]
  7. To parents, [France], January 9, 1917 [sic – should be 1918]
  8. To parents, [France], January 9, 1917 [sic – should be 1918]
  9. To parents, [France], January 14, 1918
  10. To parents, [France], January 17, 1917 [sic – should be 1918]
  11. To parents, [France], January 24, 1918
  12. To parents, [France], January 28, 1918 [probably written on Sunday, January 27, 1918]
  13. To parents, [France], January 29, 1918 [probably written on Sunday, January 27, 1918]
  14. To parents, [France], January 28, 1918
  15. To parents, [France], January 29, 1918
  16. To parents, [France], January 30, 1918
  17. To parents, [France], January 30, 1918
  18. To parents, [France], January 30, 1918
  19. To parents, [France], January 31, 1918
  20. To parents, [France], January 31, 1918
1 5 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents): February 1918
  1. To parents, [France], February 2, 1918
  2. To parents, [France], February 7, 1918 [possibly written February 6, 1918]
  3. To parents, [France], February 7, 1918 [possibly written February 8, 1918]
  4. To parents, [France], February 10, 1918
  5. To parents, [France], February 12, 1918
  6. To parents, [France], February 13, 1918
  7. To parents, [France], February 12, 1918
  8. To parents, [France], February 13, 1918
  9. To parents, [France], February 13, 1918; with newspaper clipping, date unknown.
  10. To parents, [France], February 13, 1918
  11. To parents, [France], February 14, 1918
  12. To parents, [France], February 14, 1918
  13. To parents, [France], February 15, 1918
  14. To parents, [France], February 20, 1918
  15. To parents, [France], February 20, 1918
  16. To parents, [France], February 22, 1918
  17. To parents, [France], February 23, 1918; contains a newspaper clipping.
  18. To parents, [France], February 24, 1918
1 6 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents), March, 1918
  1. To parents, [France], March 4, 1918
  2. To parents, [France], March 5, 1918
  3. To parents, [France], March 5, 1918
  4. To parents, [France], March 6, 1918
  5. To parents, [France], March 6. 1918
  6. To parents, [France], March 7, 1918
  7. To parents, [France], March 7, 1918
  8. To parents, [France], March 7, 1918
  9. To parents, [France], March 11, 1918
  10. To parents, [France], March 12, 1918
  11. To parents, [France], March 12, 1918
  12. To parents, [France], March 13, 1918
  13. To parents, [France], March 13, 1918
  14. To parents, [France], March 15, 1918
  15. To parents, [France], March 17, 1918
  16. To parents, [France], March 17, 1918
  17. To parents, [France], March 19. 1918
  18. To parents, [France], March 27, 1918
  19. To parents, [France], March 27, 1918
1 7 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents), April 1918
  1. To parents, [France], April 2, 1918
  2. To parents, [France], April 4, 1918
  3. To parents, [France], April 4, 1918; continued April 5, 1918
  4. To parents, [France], April 5, 1918
  5. To parents, [France], April 10, 1918; with letters of April 7 and April 8 enclosed
  6. To parents, [France], April 12, 1918
  7. To parents, [France], April 16, 1918
  8. To parents, [France], April 16, 1918
  9. To parents, [France], April 17, 1918
  10. To parents, [France], April 18, 1918
  11. To parents, [France], April 22, 1918
  12. To parents, [France], April 22, 1918
  13. To parents, [France], April 22, 1918; with envelope addressed to Clarence Elmer from Basil Elmer
  14. To parents, [France], April 23, 1918 and April 26, 1918 (written on same stationery)
  15. To parents, [France], April 30, 1918
1 8 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents), May-June, 1918
  1. To parents, [France], May 3, 1918
  2. To parents, [France], May 7, 1918, includes newspaper clipping from the Paris Herald.
  3. To parents, [France], May 7, 1918
  4. To parents, [France], May 15, 1918
  5. To parents, [France], May 17, 1918
  6. To parents, [France], May 20, 1918
  7. To parents, [France], May 21, 1918
  8. To parents, [France], May 21, 1918
  9. To parents, [France], May 24, 1918
  10. To parents, [France], May 25, 1918
  11. To parents, [France], May 25, 1918
  12. To parents, [France], May 26, 1918
  13. To parents, [France], May 27, 1918
  14. To parents, [France], May 29, 1918
  15. To parents, [France], May 29, 1918
  16. Empty envelope addressed to Mrs. H.C. Elmer from Basil Elmer, received May 31, 1918
1 9 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents), June 1918
  1. To parents, [France], June 7, 1918
  2. To parents, [France], June 7, 1918; includes a note from a Mme. Marcelline, a nun who took care of Elmer while he had the flu
  3. To parents, [France], June 7, 1918. Dated June 8. Elmer corrected the date to June 7 in the following letter.
  4. To parents, [France], June 8, 1918
  5. To parents, [France], June 8, 1918
  6. To parents, [France], June 8, 1918
  7. To parents, [France], June 9, 1918
  8. To parents, [France], June 9, 1918
  9. To parents, [France], June 9, 1918
  10. To parents, [France], letters of June 11, 1918, and June 12, 1918, written on same stationery
  11. To parents, [France], June 12, 1918
  12. To parents, [France], June 13, 1918
  13. To parents, [France], June 14, 1918
  14. To parents, [France], June 17, 1918
  15. To parents, [France], June 19, 1918
  16. To parents, [France], June 20, 1918
  17. To parents, [France], June 21, 1918
  18. To parents, [France], June 22, 1918
  19. To parents, [France], June 27, 1918
  20. To parents, [France], June 28, 1918
  21. To parents, [France], June 29, 1918
1 10 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents), July-August 1918
  1. To parents, [France], July 8, 1918
  2. To parents, [France], July 11, 1918
  3. To parents, [France], correspondence from July 12, 1918, and July 13, 1918, written on same letter.
  4. To parents, [France], July 13, 1918
  5. To parents, [France], July 14, 1918
  6. To parents, [France], July 14, 1918
  7. Series of typewritten letters that include two letters from August 5, 1918, August 6, 1918, August 8, 1918, August 10, 1918, August 11, 1918, and two from August 18, 1918.
  8. Western Union cablegram to Herbert Elmer, August 16, [1918?]
1 11 Letters of Basil Beebe Elmer to Herbert and Bertha Beebe Elmer (parents), February-March 1919
  1. Newspaper clipping showing a picture of a British newspaper showing the headline of Britain’s declaration of war upon Germany on August 4, 1914; from newspaper of August 1918
  2. Letter addressed to Tot’s (Basil Elmer’s brother Charles Jefferson Elmer): February 10, 1919
  3. To parents, Ahrweiler, Germany, February 10, 1919
  4. To parents, Ahrweiler, [Germany], February 11, 1919
  5. To parents, [Ahrweiler, Germany], February 12, 1919
  6. To parents, Ahrweiler, Germany, February 13, 1919
  7. To parents, [Ahrweiler, Germany], February 19, 1919
  8. To parents, [Ahrweiler, Germany], February 22, 1919
  9. To parents, [Ahrweiler, Germany], February 22, 1919
  10. To father, [Ahrweiler, Germany], February 25, 1919
  11. To parents, Ahrweiler, Germany, February 25, 1919
  12. To parents, Ahrweiler, Germany, February 27, 1919
  13. To parents, Ahrweiler, Germany, March 6, 1919
  14. To parents, Ahrweiler, Germany, March, 11, 1919
  15. To parents, Ahrweiler, [Germany], March 12, 1919
  16. To parents, Ahrweiler, [Germany], March 14, 1919
  17. To parents, Ahrweiler, [Germany], March 15, 1919
  18. To parents, Ahrweiler, Germany, March 24, 1919
  19. To parents, [Ahrweiler, Germany], March 26, 1919
Last Updated: July 19, 2012