Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day Love-Letter

Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied Troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in an invasion that ultimately turned the tide of the Second World War. The Louisiana Research Collection preserves the papers of Murrel H. Kaplan, who served in the Army Medical Corps at the 64th General Hospital in Italy during World War II. In this letter to his wife, penned while listening to the radio broadcast of the battle, Kaplan recounts his and his fellow Medical Corps officers' experience of the event, as well as his eagerness for the war to end.

                                                                                                                                        6 June '44

         Today is a memorable day. it is never to be forgotten. The invasion across the channel began, which is a long way for saying that it marks the beginning of the end of Hitlerism. It significances, altho manifold, is interpreted as having but one meaning -- that soon this European conflict will be over, and we will be on our way home to our loved ones. Since early this morning, all ears have been glued to the radio, even tho we knew that there would be nothing to say about the first day's fighting. It just sounded so wonderful to hear the announcer read Gen'l Eisenhower's order of the day. The repetition, instead of becoming boring, served the opposite effect, for the reality of such a long awaited event had to be driven home. As you can well visualize, the joy of this excitement was so great that hardly anyone could get any work done. The frequent consultations, the comparison of notes and of words made each of us forget for the moment that we were thousands of miles away. We could only pinch ourselves to make sure we weren't dreaming. Oh darling, this war will be over soon, and we will be together again. 
      Because I felt that I was of no value today on my ward, I decided to go back to Maj. Holabaugh and let him check me. He found everything quiescent, which pleased me as usual. he thanked me for the compact you sent his wife. he appreciated it very much for it was only a small way of finding out how grateful I've been for all his attention. 
     Last night, I saw Wallace Beery in "Rationing." it was a typical picture, with a few laughs and a lot of slap-stick comedy. tonight it was Bing Crosby in "Star Maker." Altho it was an old show, I enjoyed it thoroughly. movies always fascinate me. It add so so much to this otherwise drab existence. 
     There was very little mail today. i am sure the boys at the A.P.O. took off a half day to listen to the news. I don't blame them; I would have too! 
     Please excuse this rotten letter, but it has been an exhausting day. My sweetheart, I feel so happy, I could shout aloud. The invasion has actually taken place! We are that much nearer to being together. Gosh, how I love and adore you - and how I miss you. 
     Love to the fallen, my heart to you, 
     Your Sweetie

Posted by Samantha Bruner

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Discoveries in Jones Hall-- birthday parties on Constantinople Street

Cornelia Dean Genella Sansum (1868-1960) and her her husband, Samuel Sansum (1858-1945), a lawyer, lived at 1636 Constantinople Street in New Orleans during the twentieth century. Mrs. Sansum's mother was Mary Louise Kennedy (1836-1899). Cornelia and Samuel Sansum were married in 1902. 

Mrs. Sansum donated her rather small amount of personal papers to the library in 1950, and they are held in the Louisiana Research Collection as Manuscripts Collection 586.  This collection consists of handwritten correspondence, affectionate birthday greetings from Sam to Cornelia, a business card, a calling card, advertisements, their marriage announcement, a reception invitation, Samuel Sansum's 1918 certificate of naturalization, and Cornelia Sansum's small prebound datebook into which she wrote birth, death, and marriage dates of some of her relatives. Names represented include members of the Sansum, Genella, and Kennedy families of Louisiana and Mississippi.

In the late 1940s, when Mrs. Sansum was elderly, she held her own birthday parties at her grand home. Gathered from twenty-first century research interviews, John Kennedy Toole biographer, Cory MacLauchlin, relates in Butterfly in the Typewriter, that as an adolescent, Toole attended Mrs. Sansum's birthday parties, where he was required to recite poems for her, and a friend of his performed piano sonatas.  Afterward, the young people enjoyed cookies and petits-fours, and would have fun riding up and down in Mrs. Sansum's elevator.

John Kennedy Toole may have been related to Cornelia Sansum, as they shared the ancestral name of Kennedy, which is the maiden name of the author's mother's grandmother.  It seems probable that the young Toole might have been sent to these parties of an aging great-aunt, as a family obligation. Also, it seems more than a coincidence that Constantinople Street in New Orleans figures prominently in Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, although we imagine that the fictional Ignatius Reilly and his mother lived down on the other side of Saint Charles Avenue.

Captions: the naturalization certificate of Samuel Sansum; 
a notation in Cornelia Sansum's datebook: Born ... 1840, John Kennedy, Biloxi, Miss. 

Butterfly in the Typewriter by Cory MacLauchlin is available in LaRC with call number:
 PS 3570 .O54 C666 2012 LACOLL. 
 Another copy is located in the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library main stacks. 

Images of items in the Louisiana Research Collection may not be republished without permission.

Posted by Susanna Powers