Photograph Album Compiled by an American Ambulance Driver during WWI
[France]: (n. d.), circa 1916. 8-1/4 x 10 inches. 12 leaves containing 96 b&w photos; all photos approx. 2" x 3". Maroon cloth with stiff grey leaves, a.e.g., holograph captions in red or white ink below nearly all photographs. Edgeworn; front hinge weak; tear and crease to margin of one leaf. Images clear and well developed overall. Very Good.
A photo album compiled by an unknown American ambulance driver during World War I. The album appears to be roughly chronological, beginning with his voyage to France on a non-military ship (which had several women and children on board as well), a few shots of Bordeaux, and then settling in on Bar-le-Duc, where he appears to have been stationed for the majority of the period covered by the album.
After a few photos of the American aviation field in Bar-le-Duc and scenes of the town, including one of the deserted town square after an air raid siren went off, the photographs are entirely of his sights and experiences during his service. These include images of the ambulances in the yard, fellow servicemen during a raid, a wrecked lorry on the side of the Voie Sacrée ("50,000 between Bar le Duc and Verdun every day" -- referring to the massive transportation of troops and equipment to the battlefield along that road after March 1916), nurses and doctors, the evacuation of the hospital, the hospital train, troops passing by, artillery horses, and several images of refugees, including one captioned "'Ammonites - Jude[o?] Chinese cracking stones". Young German prisoners of war ("ages 15 and 16") are shown digging with shovels, as well, and another photo shows dead cattle in the street, killed by a bomb.
Several images show the lighter side of the driver's service. In one, captioned only "Self & car in Meuse", he is shown shirtless in the river Meuse beside his ambulance, possibly cleaning the tires; in another, two men (fellow drivers?) are shown playing baseball during a break; in a third, he is diving nude into the river. Two photos also show "Mrs. Vanderbilt" -- presumably Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, a patron of the American Ambulance Service during the war -- visiting the encampment and cordially talking with the lieutenant there.
Throughout, the driver's curiosity about his surroundings, as well as his fear, abhorrence of the level of destruction he sees around him, and his compassion for refugees and even, it seems, the young German POWs, shines through.
A remarkable window into one American man's experience as a volunteer with the Ambulance Service prior to U.S. entry into WWI.