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Is this, is this your joy,
O bird, then I, though a boy,
for a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!*

Arthur Yates Statham, around 1910.

We all know how the years go — how they glide by, gathering speed in autumn such that the end of December arrives and the year is gone, and more youth too. Before 2017 departs entirely, there’s a centenary to note: the loss in World War I of a British soldier, Arthur Yates Statham, who died in France during the Arras offensive  in May, 1917.

But stop there. –Is it better to remember how he lived or how he died? His death in battle could reasonably overwhelm the rest of his story, but if we could ask Arthur, how would he want to be remembered? Would he want to be defined by the circumstances of his death or by his life?

In this post, we consider his life, brief though it was, and remember him through a two-part diary from 1913.

The diary forms a small section of the Dicken-Statham Family Papers at Amherst College. This collection – a handful of boxes –surveys the lives of several generations in a British family that lived and worked and fought wars in India, England, France, and Iraq over the course of about 150 years. Arthur’s years were in the middle: he was born at the end of the 19th century but didn’t survive into the 20th as long as he had a reason to expect he might.

The Stathams: left to right standing, Arthur, Noel (who died in WWI three months to the day before Arthur), Heathcote, and Maud. Left to right seated, Gilbert, Florence, Irene, and Heathcote. About 1910.

Arthur Yates Statham was the son of Heathcote and Florence Statham. He was the youngest of six children – he had three brothers and two sisters. The family lived in and around London while his father was writer and the editor (for 20 years) at “The Builder” magazine.

In April, 1913, Arthur’s mother packed him up for a vacation in Hastings & St. Leonards, where he stayed with “Miss O.” – Miss Ogle – who was probably a relative on his mother’s side.  The diary from this vacation shows us something of Arthur, aged about 15.  Here is the boy, with all his vitality and humor, to suggest the man who might’ve been. In some ways he’s Everyboy, in other ways he’s just Arthur. It’s not that there’s “important content” in his diary, unless you consider a soul on the page as a thing to reckon with.

Here are a few excerpts about the things Arthur did on vacation. He loved cycling perhaps most of all, but he also loved games, visiting people and places, movies, and Sherlock Holmes.  He does everything with joy — every experience is not just new, it’s NEW!!!

 

Arthur frequently begins an entry with an excerpt from a poem or popular song:
“8th Tuesday

‘There is no place like home yet I’m

afraid to home in the dark

‘That is why I did not go overnight.  A slow cab, a fast train, a nice guard, a good dinner, a middling magazine (no names mentioned) made up together with a ticket my journey to Kings Cross.  Such trifles as myself and my luggage went also…  At Kings Cross my mother (all names, as I have already remarked, are to be suppressed unless I forget this rule), intent on losing baggage (I speak of the author of this libelous rag) came 69.357 seconds late!  (for any mistakes in figures please apply [to] the mathematician, who, for obvious reasons, is anonymous.)”

Warrior Square, St. Leonards

“This train, a half-animated serpent of metal crawled to St. Leonards Warrior Square Station. (Loud cheers)…  A cab, that, much to my astonishment, once managed to break into an ambling trot, took me to the house of a Miss O., who lives at 9 St. P. Road in St. Leonards.”  Image courtesy the East Sussex Libraries; see their Flickr page for an abundance of images of Hastings-St. Leonards.

Arthur brought his bicycle (perhaps one like this) to St. Leonards in parts and reassembled it at Miss O’s: “9th Wednesday. It never rains but it pours. St. Leonards is not hilly it is mountainous. After breaking my fast I went upstairs and for nearly one hour (how time flies) I tended my cycle, an extraordinary creature it is too! I bought oil and oiled it and parafined [sic] it and rubbed it and scrubbed it and corked it and polished it and screwed it and many other such things.”

It would be instructive (and no doubt impressive) to add up Arthur’s many miles on his bike — he almost always notes where he went and how many miles he covered. He includes an excerpt from Henry Charles Beeching’s poem “Going Downhill on a Bicycle/A Boy’s Song” and adds his own enthusiastic opinion on the sport: “This is true, there is nought like this. Going downhill on a cycle is glorious.”

However, he hit a patch of rainy days –day after day of it:
“10th Thursday. ‘Rain, Rain, go to Spain, go and don’t come back again.’ This is my song, my remark, my saddened cry, my pitiful song, my wail. Yesterday, it rained, a thing not unprecedented, you will be surprised to hear. The morning was passed in mourning (this is an accidental pun). With great energy I got out my cycle, turned round four times in the middle of the road and then started off[.]  7.145921 minutes later I returned. It was RAINING!!!!! Cousin G. told me I did a wise thing in returning, of course I like being complimented (especially as all compliments to me are well-deserved)…”

Arthur visited friends of the family a lot (probably following his mother’s instructions) and in general was very good-humored about engagements with the grownups in a situation where some of us would’ve felt really growly about all that visiting.

A cranking old invalid

“In the afternoon I went and saw a lady Mrs. Sayer Milward. Her husband is ill. I cycled to see her. The ride was 10 miles there and back… A Mrs. Grant was there. She asked me to come over to a cottage she had hired and spend an afternoon there. I mentally arranged that Friday afternoon was suitable. I returned home”;  “11th Friday. ‘The more, the merrier.’ So it is here. The more friends the merrier. 9 ladies are unhappy because they have made my acquaintance…”; “After tea I paid two calls, one to Mrs. [Samson?] who is very old, to use her own words, “A cranking old invalid.” [Excerpts from multiple entries.]

Like any good tourist, he visits all the local sights: “We strode off and climbed to Lovers Seat. There are sign-posts pointing to Lovers Seat everywhere, and I am perfectly sure that the poor lovers can get no peace, so I suppose they find some other haunt. We eat sugar candy there, a prosaic thing to do in so touching a spot.”

Image courtesy Pett Level Archive.

“17th Thursday.  ‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.’  That is why I and the Grants became friendly when going for a walk.  Immediately after breakfast I cycled with all speed to the Grants, where I arrived at 9:55 and found them preparing to go to Pett Level, a very good beach about 5 miles away. We started off but soon it started to rain. So we hied ourselves to the coastguard station where we could hide ourselves from the elements of nature. We looked at the lamps at the fog-horn or siren, and I interested myself about the acetylene gaslamp and the signaling code, which I know, for, when all is said and done, I know a lot!”

Glass slide of the Albert Memorial in the center of Hastings. Gift of “moonspender” on ebay.

Once or twice, we see shades of his father, editor and writer for “The Builder” magazine and, to judge from the archival record, a stickler for details and accuracy:

“…we caught a tram…and we were soon falling down the tremendous hill that leads from Bohemia to the memorial. I pause to remark that Miss O. was ignorant of what the memorial was about.  I had to find, stranger though I am, and tell her that it is an Albert Memorial.”

Image courtesy of St. Matthew’s Church.

His religious instruction was not neglected during this vacation:

20th Sunday: [An] exciting day for a Sunday. Miss O. and I went [to] church at St. Matthews where Mr. Askwith, the Vicar, preached. This sermon was about socialism and he pointed out what it really was. He said that he could and would tell us roughly what the chief points of Socialism are:

1. There is to be no King.
2. There is [not to be] Patriotism (if we are invaded, we are not to fight)
3. All property will belong to the state.
4. No one will do any work, you will be fed and clothed by the State.
5. The “shirkers,” as they call all who do not do manual labour, will be abolished, all will be equal.
6. There will be no religion of any sort, all churches will be pulled down and taken, as all other property will be, by the state.”

Image courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Games constituted the entertainment for most evenings: “We had supper and then Miss O. and I settled down to drafts.   In all we played five games and Miss O. nearly got a fit of joy because she won the first; then I leap almost out of my chair and said “Vengance!! Vengance” [sic] and ended the next game by my having 7 kings Miss O. 1!!!  The third game was mine, I always have 2 out of three games, you see I give Miss O one to make her happy.  In the last two games she won the first and I said “Vengeance” and had 6 kings to her 1.  So if I had said “Vengance! Vengance!” twice I would have had 7.  However I am best out of five and three.   The weather was fine and very hot.”

“In the evening I played four games of drafts with Miss O.  I act all the while, for I look at the clock and then Miss O. looks at the clock and then forgets her piece is in danger and I take it.  Also when she does a move good for me I make a noise of sorrow and terror, and she thinks she has “done” me and really she has done me a good turn.”

Image courtesy the Victory and Albert Museum.

“I played two games of Spilikins [with Miss Ogle] and beat her (of course)!!!!!!!

“…I beat Miss O. in six games of drafts running.  She thinks ozone has made my brain as sharp as my nose!!!! (Which is a great deal)–“

and

“After supper we played drafts, where in 3 games, I won two, Miss Ogle one.  In Spilikins my steady hand nearly lost but just won. The games were closely contested.  There is not much more to say.  I had a bath!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Finally, there is Sherlock Holmes.  Arthur mentions him many times, including this section in which he gloats at his superior reasoning over that of Miss Ogle.  The section begins with an excerpt from Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”:

“13th Sunday.

‘Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.’

Gray’s Elegy

“Only too true, I might have been a Sherlock Holmes, I might have been a Dr. Statham.  My genius in detection has been wasted on the desert air.  On coming down [for] breakfast on the Sunday morning aforesaid, Miss O. remarked to me that a plan was in her head.  I remarked that I would try and guess it.  My first guess was right in every detail.  She suggested that we should go to Fairlight.  The reasoning was as follows: Miss O. had thought of something which we could both do.  Therefore cycling was not in it.  The plan was either a walk or a tram ride.  Had it been a walk surely Miss O. would not have been so excited.  Therefore it was a tram ride.  But where to?  Sunday is a day for paying calls. On whom then should we, taking a tram, call.  The Sayer Milwards at Fairlight!  The reasoning is elementary, superficial.”  Later: “I read some Sherlock Holmes to Miss O.  The reasoning did not seem as clear to her as to me.”

Arthur’s diary closes with these lines: “So our happy walk ended.  I recited poetry to Miss O. and then I read the Strand Magazine while Miss O. indulged in the newspaper.  So the evening ended.” 

Two years later he was at war.  It feels like a triumph to point out that the boy who knew all about the signalling code in the coastguard station became the “Signalling Lieutenant” in his battalion.

Arthur at 18.

The Dicken-Statham Papers also contain many of Arthur’s wartime letters to his sister Irene.  Like perhaps the majority of such letters, they contain descriptions of pastimes, duties, and boredom followed closely by battle.  One often senses the need to read between the lines to guess at what he must’ve felt behind the comforting words written to family members.

A colleague and I remarked on what may be an “archival thing” (although probably only because of the likelihood of the experience in an archives): the way you look for textual evidence of the death you know will come but the writer doesn’t.  You look for foreshadowing, and it haunts the experience of reading because you expect to see a sign around the corner of every sentence.

On this blank page that isn’t blank at all I felt Arthur’s living shadow in the impression of his pencil from the previous page.  It contrasted with the boldness of his youthful diary, as though here his life ebbed through the paper, a sign that it would soon be gone.

 Arthur was last seen during the Third Battle of the Scarpe, on May 3, 1917.  He is said to have been killed by a sniper as he turned to address his men.  The Germans took the area in which Statham died, so his body was never recovered.  His name is included at the Arras Memorial.

Arthur’s fellow soldiers remembered him in ways that echo the boy of the diary.  A superior officer said, “He was signalling officer of the battalion, work in which he showed the utmost keenness.  He was given a special job to do in the operations on the 9th April, and I found him at the objective one and a half hours after our attack, coolly working away…” and his Captain said, “We all regret his loss to us, as he was a tremendously cheery companion and a brave officer.”

–O bird, see; see, bird, he flies.

_____________________________

*Excerpt from Henry Charles Beeching, “Going Down Hill on a Bicycle: A Boy’s Song”

There is much more to discover in Arthur’s diary.  Complete PDFs of the manuscripts are available at no cost from the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

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7403648354_ecc1a4a073_oIn March 2012 eight wooden crates of WWI posters and ephemera were transferred from the Mead Art Museum to the Archives & Special Collections. These WWI materials all came from John P. Cushing, Amherst Class of 1882, and a complete guide to the collection is now available.

John Pearsons Cushing was born in Lansingburgh, New York on September 5, 1861. He attended high school in Lynn, MA after which he studied for two years at Boston University. He transferred to Amherst College in 1880 and finished his B.A. with the class of 1882. He went on to receive his M.A. from Amherst in 1885. During the time he spent working on his masters degree he also taught at Holyoke High School. He acted as Vice-Principal of Holyoke High from 1889-1892.7403655586_0536f7ffe4_o

cushingFrom 1892-1894 Cushing attended the University of Leipzig. His dissertation, ‘The Development of the Commercial Policies of the United States’ was published in 1894. Cushing received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Leipzig that same year. Upon his return to the United States, Cushing became a professor at Knox College in Galesburg, IL from 1894-1900. He returned to New England in 1900 to begin serving as headmaster of Hillhouse High School in New Haven, CT. In 1911 Cushing left Hillhouse in order to begin his own country day school for boys. Hamden Hall opened in Whitneyville (what is now Hamden) CT in 1912 where Cushing acted as headmaster until his retirement in 1927.

newsclippingWhile headmaster of Hamden Hall School for Boys, Cushing encouraged his students to collect WWI posters.  The above newspaper clipping reads “Posters of all sizes and descriptions, posters large and small, posters gray and sad, posters artistic and lurid, in fact every kind of poster that has in any way to do with the conflict of nations now raging is what [the students] are interested in.  One of the objects of their collection, of course, is to obtain as great a variety and as many hard-to-get posters as they are able to, and competition is among them, though the spirit of friendly rivalry prevails.”

During the outbreak of the first World War, governments across the globe realized that they needed an effective way of communicating their needs to the general populace. Through the production of propaganda posters, they could reach a wide audience and create a unified cause for citizens to get behind.

7375720552_0c184bde3f_oCitizens contributed to the war effort by enlisting, constructing military supplies, conserving food, and buying war bonds. Artists contributed by donating their work to various government agencies for the propaganda posters. These colorful works of art appealing to patriotism and nationalism grabbed the attention of the viewer and communicated a message powerfully and succinctly.7939458028_253c0dbb72_oThe visual appeal of the posters was made possible by the printing process known as choromolithography. In this process, a flat piece of limestone is used. The positive part of the image is applied with an oil-based ink. The rest of the stone is washed with a water-based solution. The oil repels water so that when the paper is applied, only the oil sticks and the rest of the sheet is kept clean by the water. This process can be done multiple times with different colors in order to achieve a poster print with as many colors as the artist desires. The most difficult part of this process is keeping the same alignment during multiple prints on the same poster.

This collection contains more than 700 World War I posters, ephemera, and propaganda collected by John P. Cushing (AC 1882). The collection includes work from the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Canada and Spain.  The finding aid for this collection includes item level detail about each poster.  Many of the posters in this collection have been photographed and the images are available on the Archives’ Flickr page.  To view items from this collection in the Archives, please contact the department in advance to request access at archives@amherst.edu.

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“I left Harpoot the 17th of May, going alone three days’ journey to Diarbekir, somewhat to the scandal of the missionaries along the way. However, I knew the road well and was not in the least afraid, and after all nothing happened.” (Letter of Dec 3, 1915)

“I left Harpoot the 17th of May, going alone three days’ journey to Diarbekir, somewhat to the scandal of the missionaries along the way. However, I knew the road well and was not in the least afraid, and after all nothing happened.” (Dora Mattoon, letter of Dec 3, 1915)

What inspires a woman to throw over her life from one day to the next, to go from apparent comfort and a great job in a big city to a remote post in a country she’s never been to, where they speak a language she hasn’t studied at all?  And what would possess her to leave the first country after five years of hard work for an entirely different one, retraining herself all over again?  (more…)

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college_seal_1825aWhen Amherst College was founded in the early 19th century, part of its raison d’être (aside from being a protest against Harvard’s Unitarianism) was to educate young men to go out into the world and preach the gospel.  The College seal illustrates this philosophy: “Terras Irradient” – “let them enlighten the lands.” However, by the end of the century graduates’ interests had evolved to something in addition to religious instruction, or something entirely different.  Graduates of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were still going into the world as missionaries, but by then the work often meant starting schools or becoming medical missionaries.  Other alumni were writers, doctors, teachers, publishers, ambassadors, “industrial barons,” and in many other professions far removed from those of the first Amherst graduates.

From left, Laurens, Dorothea, Kate, and Mary Averett Seelye, ca. December, 1919.

From left, Laurens, Dorothea, Kate, and Mary Averett Seelye, ca. December, 1919.

For Laurens Hickok Seelye, Class of 1911, “Terras Irradient” meant that he would teach philosophy at the American University of Beirut (AUB, known at the time as the Syrian Protestant College), where he moved in 1919 with his indefatigable wife Kate Chambers Seelye, daughter of missionaries William and Cornelia Chambers.  For Kate the move was a return home after her college years in the U.S. (Kate was born and raised in Turkey but left to attend Bryn Mawr and Columbia).  For Laurens the Middle East was something entirely new, and he threw himself into its culture unreservedly.  Professor Seelye probably stood out everywhere he went for his height, his humor, and his intense intellect.  And he loved AUB.  He loved it for its diversity, tolerance, and collegiality.  In a memorable letter to an old friend, he described both himself and the college:

WCSB-LHS-to-Dorry[Robbins]-1928-Aug-excerptIn addition to testing boundaries and teaching philosophy, Laurens acted as the director of West Hall, which was and still is the student campus center.  In that position, he came to know more students than he would otherwise have known.  After he had settled in at AUB, Laurens noticed a need for something else – financial assistance for ambitious young Armenian refugees to continue their education beyond what the Near East Relief provided.  This organization had established orphanages to help with Armenian refugees who had flooded into the area during and after World War I.  They provided a basic education to about age 16, at which time the boys left the orphanages to fend for themselves.  Because of Kate’s personal connection with the Armenian community and Laurens’ work at the college, several of these boys came to the Seelyes to ask for help.  Laurens decided to do what he could as a personal project, outside of his work at AUB.

In a letter to Clarence Young, an uncle, Laurens described the situation and his plan to help.  He said that there was no provision to train the Armenian refugees beyond a trade-school education, no resources to train teachers, doctors, dentists, pastors, and other professionals.  “I am right up against young life determined to win out and get an education if given half a chance,” Laurens wrote to Clarence.  The world “can do nothing in the future without an educated and large-minded minority scattered through the races and nations who are willing to stake their lives and reputations on the practice of Good Will.”  Would his uncle share his plea with churches and schools and clubs at home and ask if they might raise funds to support some of these boys?

WCSB-LHS-to-Clarence-Young-1923-Aug-6-p1WCSB-LHS-to-Clarence-Young-1923-Aug-6-p2

 

 

 

 

The plan worked.  Laurens and his donors were able to provide funds for a long list of boys to continue their educations.  The boys were mostly Armenians, but there were also boys of other backgrounds.

In 1923 a few of these boys met with Laurens and came away with the idea  of forming an Armenian Students Cooperative Association.  The club started with the goal of finding an affordable living space that a handful of students could share, splitting the cost of food, rent, and a cook (the latter after one of the boys inadvertently fried up his tie with some eggplants).  The club was sufficiently popular that it had to expand to two clubs and two houses.  A few of its members weren’t even Armenians, which pleased Laurens because it realized his goal of having the students regard themselves as “humans first, Armenians second,” by which he meant that he wanted his students to recognize their common humanity, and to work to improve conditions for all.

Club members lived, worked, and played together. Click below to enlarge the photographs and view them as a gallery.

 

The club also issued annual reports, three of which (1923-24; 1924-25; and 1926-27) are in the collection.  The reports demonstrate the democratic philosophy they practiced:

First page of 1924-25 report. Click on pdf below for full report.

First page of 1924-25 report. Click on pdf below for full report.

Armenian-Stu-Coop-Club-report-1924-25

The Seelyes were friends with several of these students for decades; in fact, there are letters in the collection from the club’s founder, Dicran Berberian, that date from the 1960s.  The existence of the club is a testament to the industry of the students, but also to Laurens’ teaching.  In his own way, he had realized Amherst’s motto, “Terras Irradiant.”

 

The material illustrated here is from the Williams-Chambers-Seelye-Blaisdell Family Papers in the Archives and Special Collections.  Contact the department for more details.

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Need an idea for Halloween? See the photograph below from a costume party in Turkey, ca. 1920-21, except for the French soldiers, who are real and probably on duty (which doesn’t rule out their garb for your party purposes). The other men are in “Pierrot” costume, perhaps inspired on this occasion by the popularity of “Yama Yama Man,” a strange song and dance routine not to be missed for your daily dose of weirdness from another place and time.

The photograph is from an album formerly belonging to Dorothea Nesbitt Chambers (Blaisdell), daughter of missionaries William N. and Cornelia P.W. Chambers.  Dorothea, a Bryn Mawr graduate, was a hardworking but fun-loving woman who grew up in Turkey and worked there for the YWCA before her marriage in 1926.  She is probably the photographer here.

Friends of Dot Chambers in Turkey (probably Adana).  Photograph from the Williams-Chambers-Seelye-Blaisdell Papers.

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H.H. Statham -- New Year-- 1914A hundred years ago Henry Heathcote Statham (1839-1924) and his wife, Florence Dicken Statham (1856-1938), sent this New Year’s card to their friends and family. The Dicken-Statham Family Papers have recently come to us, and so we share their New Year’s greeting with our readers.

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