Skip to content

Notes on Base Hospital #38

Rosalind Fuller in 1919 served at The 38.

American Red Cross Base Hospital #38 in the World War, 1923. Published under the auspices of the Jefferson Medical College and Hospital. I found this copy at the City Institute branch of the Philadelphia Free Library.

The hospital was stationed at Nantes from 1918-1919.

p. 5 Base Hospital #10 was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Hospital; #20 by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Also at Nantes was Base Hospital #34, sponsored by Episcopal Hospital.

p.6 All of these hospitals were staffed by volunteers.

p. 31 Nursing Corps
The Nursing Corps sailed from NYC 5/18/18. The “38” was located in the Grand Blottereau, a park surrounding what used to be a chateau. The town of Doulon was nearby; also the Loire and a tributary of it. The grounds of the chateau were still intact at that time: tall trees, small shrubs and hedges.

p. 32 The facilities consisted of “nurses’ barracks and mess-hall, ablution sheds and barracks, receiving wards…and laboratory.” All were temporary buildings; they had electricity and running water, but inadequate sewerage. Barracks were constructed of composition board (asbestos and cement) with felt-tar-paper roofs, the concrete floors laid directly on the ground. Unusually, all windows were glazed. “Baseballs frequently penetrated the walls…” The roof leaked a lot.

p. 33 Heat came from varied types of stoves. Tents provided for overflow from buildings. The “extraordinary rains of 1918″ proved to be an issue.

p. 36 By September, over 1000 patients had been admitted. By November 1918, 2412 patients.

p. 37 “Because of pressure at other Hospitals and the urgent demand for nurses, practically all of those belonging to the Unit had been transferred to active emergency duties at or nearer the front and to needy centers at Nantes and elsewhere in France.” The 38 was frequently depleted of nurses–often only seven nurses had to deal with 1000-2000 patients [!].

p. 89 “[nurse’s] overflowing heart, her flagon of mercy…woman and she alone, could rift the darkness, bring the lamp of mercy…”

p. 93 The Nursing Corps mustered into service 3/2/18. 3/4/18 went to Lakewood, NJ. Stayed two weeks, then to NY for four weeks. Left NY 5/18/18 to Liverpool, arriving 6/1/18. the next day, they crossed to Le Havre, then to Paris and on to Nantes. They arrived 6/6/18, where the group was broken up, as nurses were sent where they were needed.

p. 94 30 The hospital was originally intended to have 500 beds–it ended up having over 2400. Miss Melville and seven nurses were the main staff. Eventually, some nurses were shared from Base Hospital #11 (Chicago-based).

p. 95 Nurses generally had 40-100 patients each. They suffered from overwork, inadequate sleep, snatched baths and changes of clothes. p. 96 Two of the 38s nurses died from transmitted infection. Flu added to their workload.

p. 99 Some nurses returned home as “casuals,” some left 3/10/19 via ship, arriving NYC 3/19/19.

Trains and Trolleys in Early 20th Century Philadelphia

Source: “Trains and Trolleys” exhibition, Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia, PA, 1996.

In 1902, the Peter Widener group and the John Mack group created the PRT, Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company. It didn’t do well at first. 1910: long and bloody transit strike. By 1922, company had become profitable (Thomas E. Mitten, president), though it went into bankruptcy in the Depression. Reorganized as the Philadelphia Transportation Company 1/1/1940.

Woodside Park (lake with picnic grounds), near Wynnefield, PA, opened 1897. Had a merry-go-round, a theater for music, a revolving tower. Fireworks, free concerts. Operated until the 1940s.

Willow Grove Park (now site of Willow Grove Mall) in Montgomery County, opened 1895 by the PRT [to drum up business?]. Covered 130 acres. Linked to city by 7 trolley lines.

Fairmount Park—could get there by trolley. “Park Trolley Bridge” across Schuylkill River and into East Park completed 1897. A popular day excursion.

(Earl) Shibe Park opened 1909 for Philadelphia Athletics at 21st and Lehigh in the “North City” [now called North Philly]. Served by numerous trolley lines, the Pennsylvania and Reading railroads.

The Jersey Shore was a very popular destination.

The “Chinese Wall” on Filbert Street Viaduct ran along what is now J.F.K. Boulevard. It supported elevated tracks from the Schuylkill, east to 15th Street and Broad Street Station shed. Broad Street Station shed was built in 1881, suffered a major fire in 1923, was demolished in 1952; located at Broad and Market; 1892 additions designed by Frank Furness.

The El [Market-Frankford Blue Line, still operational) opened 1907. Not extended over/above Frankford Avenue until 1922.

Ethnic Groups in Philadelphia, 100 years ago

Source: “The Immigrant and the City: Poles, Italians, and Jews in Philadelphia, 1870-1920,” by Caroline Golab in Peoples Of Philadelphia: A History of Ethnic Groups and Lower-Class Life, 1790-1940. Allen T. Davis and Mark H. Haller, eds. 1973, Temple University Press.

p. 203 “Compared to other cities of the nation, Philadelphia housed a small immigrant population. Her percentage of foreign-born residents was the lowest of all large northern cities, averaging one quarter of the total population from 1870-1920.” Newer cities often had a higher percentage of immigrants. Boston had ~33%, NYC 40%, Chicago 50% foreign-born in 1870.

Irish were the largest immigrant group to Philadelphia 1870-1910. In 1910, ~23% of immigrants were Russian, ~21% Irish, ~16% German, ~12% non-Irish British, ~12% Italian, ~6% Austrian, including Bohemia and Galician Poles. German statistics include some German Poles.

Most Russian immigrants were Jews; many Polish and Austrian Jews as well.

In 1910, Philadelphia’s black population was 6%.

p. 210 Black and Irish people filled most unskilled labor positions, so less room for other immigrants wanting that work.

p. 211 Poles and Italians tended to work in factories in Pennsylvania, but outside of Philadelphia.

p. 212 Major industries of Philadelphia: 1/3 of all wage earners worked in textile and clothing manufacture; also present were machine shop and hardware manufacture, printing and publishing, and leather production.

There was a general grouping of immigrants in certain jobs. Jews of various countries earned their living as merchants, shopkeepers, hucksters, workers in cigar factories, and especially in the garment industry, especially for women.

Italians tended to end up in construction, street grading, street cleaning, sewer and subway construction, trash collection (“scavenging”), snow shoveling, and railyard work. They worked as barbers, masons, shopkeepers, peddlers, musicians, waiters, and confectioners. Women often worked in the garment industry.

Poles: mostly worked in industry (80% of Polish population in 1915), especially metal trades, textiles, and leather manufacture. In Europe, most Poles (before immigration) had been farmers.

Notes on World War One Slang

If you’re wondering about George’s and Matthew’s cursing in 1919, here are my notes.

Source: Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English From Plymouth Rock To Silicon Valley. Stuart Berg Flexner and Anne H. Soukhanov, Oxford University Press, 1997.

p. 82 “The use of obscenity and scatology…increased greatly during World War I and became prolific during World War II. The use of the cursing modifier fucking, for damned, first reached epidemic proportions with British soldiers during World War I, by which time they were also using fuck arse (for a contemptible person, which American troops translated into fuck ass), fuck me gently (literally “don’t take advantage of me too much, don’t cheat me too blatantly”), fuck ‘em all, and make a fuck up of (“bungle, ruin”).”

p. 84 “Shithead is known from 1915…By 1918 S.O.L. was a common abbreviation for the older shit out of luck…In World War I the old rural term shithouse became a popular soldier’s word for latrine, while shit alley was a particularly dangerous battlefield or position while shit pan alley was a military hospital (a pun on the 1914 Tin Pan Alley).”

p. 86 “Son of a bitch was used so often by World War I American soldiers as an expletive or intensive that Frenchmen called them “les sommobiches.” The abbreviation S.O.B. also appeared during World War I.”

p. 146 “Basket case, 1919, a quadruple amputee, originally British Army slang, later coming to mean mental, not physical, incapacity.”

Chow, which had been a slang word for food since 1856, became common in World War I, along with chowhound…”

Dog tag, 1918, a disk worn on a chain around the serviceman’s neck, for identification in case of injury or death…”

Doughboy had seen some use in the Civil War, but became common in WWI.

Dud…By 1919 it had broadened to mean anything that did not meet expectations.”

“By the end of the war…to goldbrick meant to shirk.”

Shell shock, 1915, originally a British coinage, found wide use by Americans even though the official military term was battle fatigue.”

“The Secret”

This song is British, written by the Reverend Geoffrey Kenedy, also known as ‘Woodbine Willy.’

You were askin’ ‘ow we sticks it,
Sticks this blarsted rain and mud,
‘Ow it is we keeps on smilin’
When the place runs red wi’ blood.
Since you’re askin’ I can tell ye,
And I thinks I tells ye true,
But it ain’t official, mind ye,
It’s a tip twixt me and you.
For the General thinks it’s tactics,
And the bloomin’ plans ‘e makes.
And the C.O. thinks it’s trainin’,
And the trouble as he takes.
Sergeant-Major says it’s drillin’,
And ‘is straffin’ on parade,
Doctor swears it’s sanitation,
And some patent stinks ‘e’s made.
Padre tells us it’s religion,
And the Spirit of the Lord;
But I ain’t got much religion,
And I sticks it still, by Gawd.

Quarters kids us it’s the rations,
And the dinners as we gets.
But I knows what keeps us smilin’
It’s the Woodbine Cigarettes.
For the daytime seems more dreary,
And the night-time seems to drag
To eternity of darkness,
When ye ave’nt got a fag.
Then the rain seems some’ow wetter,
And the cold cuts twice as keen,
And ye keeps on seein’ Boches,
What the Sargint ‘asn’t seen.
If ole Fritz ‘as been and got ye,
And ye ‘ave to stick the pain,
If ye ‘aven’t got a fag on,
Why it ‘urts as bad again.
When there ain’t no fags to pull at,
Then there’s terror in the ranks.
That’s the secret (yes, I’ll ‘ave one)
Just a fag and many Tanks.

7 or 8 Yards Apart

“But what of that narrow strip that divided two opposing trench lines–‘no man’s land’?…The width of no man’s land varied a great deal from sector to sector. It was usually between ten and five hundred yards, the average distance between the trenches being two or three hundred yards. In Flanders, the average was a little less, probably about 150 yards….Around Cambrai, one of the easiest British sectors, there was a dead zone of 500 yards; whilst at Les Boeufs, near Guillemont, it was only fifty yards….Near Zonnebeke in 1915 the British and Germans were only seven or eight yards apart, and in certain trenches in La Boisselle it has been claimed that opposing sentries could have crossed their bayonets.”

–from Eye-Deep in Hell, John Ellis, Pantheon Books, 1976.

Sugar shortage, November 1919

Philadelphia Inquirer Notes

Thursday, November 20, 1919
“The present scarcity and high price of sugar serves to emphasize the importance of sugar in our dietary [sic]. Many people have been forced to use substitutes. There seems to be much misconception as to the role of sugar in the dietary. Sugar is a most concentrated food fuel and one which is very readily utilized by the body. Even at the present high price sugar is one of the cheapest of the carbohydrate or heat giving foods.” Sugar is currently priced 10-12 cents a pound, oleomargarine 30 cents a pound. “Saccharine is of coal tar derivation, possessing no food value.”

Friday, November 21, 1919
Sugar–15-30 cents per pound predicted for 1920. “with the closing of the war everybody went on a “sugar drunk.” Last year at this time the country was on a sugar ration of two pounds per person per month. The war ration was less than 8 spoonfuls a day…Sugar is now being distributed in Philadelphia on a basis which is 25% of that amount.” Gimbels’ had a sale on the 20th of the 800 pounds they had, and sold out. Beet sugar was used to cover the gap in supplies of cane sugar.

Confections on sale at a candy shop for Thanksgiving:
moss caramels (marshmallow in caramel; walnut pillows; chocolate fudge; peanut brittle; Jordan almonds; fruit cake; mince pies.

Monday, November 24, 1919
Storekeepers in Pleasantville, NJ were requiring people to buy other things before they could also buy sugar, until the city council stepped in and forbade it.

Thursday, November 27, 1919, Thanksgiving
Editorial: “the sugar industry has resolved itself into the question, “Got any”?”

Notes on WWI: Shell Shock

Source: Reconstruction Therapy. William Rush Dunton, Jr., M.D.. W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, 1919.

p. 110 “A further recommendation of Dr. Salmon’s which is of considerable interest is that ‘No soldiers suffering from functional nervous disorders be discharged from the army until at least a year’s special treatment has been given.’ Furloughs can be given when visits home will be beneficial, but the government should neither evade the responsibility nor surrender the right to direct the treatment of these cases. A serious social and economic problem has been created in England already through the establishment in its communities of a group of chronic nervous invalids who have been prematurely discharged from the only hospitals existing for the efficient treatment of their illness.”

p. 111 When discussing occupational therapy, Salmon noted “Non-productive occupations should be avoided.” [There’s no indication of what made an occupation non-productive.]

p. 112 “The experience in English hospitals has demonstrated the great danger of aimless lounging, too many entertainments and relaxing recreations such as frequent motor rides, etc.. It must be remembered that ‘Shell Shock’ cases suffer from a disorder of will as well as function and it is impossible to effect a cure if attention is directed to one at the expense of the other.”

p. 113 “As Dr. H. Crichton Miller has put it, ‘Shell shock produces a condition which is essentially childish and infantile in its nature. Rest in bed and simple encouragement is not enough to educate a child. Progressive achievement is the only way whereby manhood and self-respect can be regained.”

“It has been found that the personality of those applying occupational therapy is of far greater importance than skill in crafts. Such a person should possess considerable tact, common sense, and a fertility of ideas and invention. The last so that adaptations can be made for special cases and purposes.”

[Some of these things sound dire!] Recommendations: Puzzles, catches, card games, dominos, string work, paper folding and cutting, basketry, wood work, clay modeling, schoolwork, typewriting. Attendance at lectures. Physical games.

p. 117 Massage, hydrotherapy, and Frenkel’s movements are also recommended for shell shock.

My first review!

Evangeline Holland reviewed 1919 at Heroes and Heartbreakers!

A Partial 1919 Bibliography

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1916

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1916

This is a partial listing of resources I used to write 1919.We Did Not Fight: 1914-18 Experiences of War Resisters. Julian Bell, ed., 1935

Psychical Phenomena and The War. Hereward Carrington, 1918.

Over Here!: An Informal Recreation Of The Home Front In WWI. Allen Churchill, 1968.

Into The Breach: American Women Overseas In WWI. Dorothy and Carl Schneider, 1991.

Philadelphia in the World War: 1914-1919. Published for the Philadelphia War History Committee, 1922.

Pivotal Decades: The U.S., 1900-1920. John Milton Cooper, 1990.

Reconstruction Therapy. William Rush Dunton, 1919.

The American Colleges and Universities in The Great War 1914-1919: A History, 1920

War Nursing: A Text-Book For The Auxiliary Nurse. Minnie Goodnow, R.N., 1917.

Ladies of Grecourt: The Smith College Relief Unit In The Somme. Ruth Gaines, 1920.

Peoples of Philadelphia: A History of Ethnic Groups and Lower-Class Life, 1790-1940. Allen F. Davis and Mark H. Haller, eds., 1973.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Philadelphia, Volumes 6 and 7 (1918), Reel 42. Philadelphia Free Library Collection.

Philadelphia Record, Philadelphia Inquirer, London Times (microfilm)

Philadelphia “Classified” (Yellow Pages) May 1919

Bryn Mawr College Archives, mostly Akoue (yearbook) for the relevant time period

Camera Work, complete edition of the magazine published by Taschen

“Trains and Trolleys” exhibit at the Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia, summer 1996

The History Of Underclothes. C. Willett amd Phyllis Cunnington, 1981.

History of Photography. Peter turner, 1987.

Thinking Photography. Victor Burgin, ed., 1982.