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Edward S. Van Duyn World War I Collection

A description of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Van Duyn, Edward S.
Title: Edward S. Van Duyn World War I Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1916-1918
Quantity: 1 linear ft.
Abstract: American physician, World War I army and Syracuse, New York. Collection includes correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, other material relating to his experiences establishing hospitals in France during World War I.
Language: Majority in English, some items in French
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Edward Seguin Van Duyn (1872-1955) was an American physician from Syracuse, New York. His father John Van Duyn, also a physician in Syracuse, gave his son the middle name "Seguin" in honor of Édouard Séguin, a French physician who emigrated to New York and was known for his work with the mentally handicapped. Edward S. Van Duyn graduated from Princeton University and received his M.D. at Syracuse University in 1897. He was a military surgeon during World War I with the American Expeditionary Force, a professor of clinical surgery at Syracuse University Medical School, a practicing physician in Syracuse for many years, and president of the board of managers of the Syracuse State Institution for the Feeble Minded.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Edward S. Van Duyn World War I Collection includes correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks and a history of U.S. Army Base Hospital #31. The material relates to two separate trips to France. The first was in 1916, before the United States entered the war, when Van Duyn joined a group of volunteer American doctors who went to France to help care for the wounded. The second, in 1918, was with a Syracuse hospital unit that served American forces in France.

Correspondence contains incoming correspondence, most of it relating to hospital work but also a few personal notes.

Memorabilia contains photographs, postcards, scrapbooks and other items. Some of the photographs and postcards are annotated on the back with names or places and others not. Included here are photographs of Edward Van Duyn and of his father John Van Duyn, also a physician. Official documents include passports and military identification cards and documents, in both French and English. Personal documents include clippings, a course schedule for Syracuse University College of Medicine for 1917-1918, business and trade cards, programs and tickets from events, and other items.

The most significant items of memorabilia are two scrapbooks, one from each of Van Duyn's tours in France. Both contain photographs, postcards, clippings, letters, notes, and other items relating to the physicians and nurses of the Hospital Unit G and their experiences. The second, from the 1918 tour, is extensively annotated by Van Duyn with names, dates, events, and memories. Included in this scrapbook is a two-page spread on Armistice Day, with notes relating how Van Duyn and another officer tried to get to the battle field that day, crossing through Verdun ("a city of the dead") and crawling in and out of abandoned German trenches where they found "half-eaten meals, abandoned personnel belongings, guns and dead bodies." Photographs, both originals and in the form of postcards, include hospitals, ambulances, and surgery wards; ruined houses and landscapes; officers, doctors and nurses both on duty and at leisure; and more. A few negatives show a group of men standing around a crashed biplane.

Writings contains Van Duyn's diary containing notes on his experiences, specifically relating to medical practice in wartime; a three-page typescript describing in vivid detail the sounds heard at night near the front; and a published history of Army Base Hospital No. 31 stamped on the cover with Van Duyn's name in gold. This last item has been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging, but a photocopy of the cover and title page remains in the collection.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is in chronological order. Writings are in alphabetical order by title. Remaining series are in alphabetical order by type of material.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Van Duyn, Edward S.

Corporate Bodies

United States. -- Army -- Surgeons
United States. -- Army. -- Base Hospital 31.
United States. -- Army. -- Hospital Unit C.


Medicine, Military -- United States -- 20th century.
Military nursing -- United States -- 20th century.
Physicians -- New York.
World War, 1914-1918 -- Hospitals, charities, etc.
World War, 1914-1918 -- Medical care -- France.
World War, 1914-1918 -- Medical care -- United States.


Syracuse (N.Y.) -- History.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Military records.
Receipts (financial records)



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Edward S. Van Duyn World War I Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. William G. Lapham, 1970.

Gift of John Van Duyn, 1970.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 31 Oct 2010
Revision history: 26 Sep 2013 - boxes updated (MRC)

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Box 1 General 1916-1927 (3 folders)
Box 1 Official documents 1916-1917, undated - passports, identification cards, military documents (both French and English), more
Box 1 Personal items 1917, undated - clippings, Syracuse University College of Medicine course schedule for 1917-1918, business cards, event programs and tickets, more
Box 1 Postcards, annotated or with message 1916, 1918, undated
Box 1 Postcards, blank
Oversize 1 Scrapbook 1916 - clippings, photographs, postcards, notes, handwritten annotations, letters, ephemera
Oversize 2 Scrapbook 1918 - clippings, photographs, postcards, notes, extensive handwritten annotations, letters, ephemera; attached to spine are Van Duyn's Army dog tags
Box 1 Identified 1916, 1918, undated - includes family photographs of Van Duyn and of his father John Van Duyn
Box 1 Unidentified - patients in hospital, nurses, groups of men, landscapes and buildings
Box 1 Diary - narrative descriptions of events and experiences; notes on surgical and hospital procedures; last two pages are titled "A viewpoint, by a medical officer"
Official History / U. S. A. Base Hospital No. 31 / of Youngstown, Ohio / and / Hospital Unit "G" / of Syracuse University 1919 - published by Craftsman Press in Syracuse, Van Duyn's name stamped in gold on cover
Transferred to Rare Books for cataloging
Box 1 Our Noisy Nights Aug 1918 - vivid description of the sounds heard at night near the front

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