WWI Collections: The Washington University Memorial Association

Memorial Plaque outside of Ridgley Hall. Photo from Washington University Photographic Services Collection.

In 1919, after WWI had officially ended and troops had returned home, Washington University in St Louis decided to create a Memorial Association to document and record the University’s involvement in the war effort and of honor students, faculty, and graduates of the university who had served, and in some cases died, in the war.

Program for the initial May 1919 memorial ceremony for Wash U Affiliates who died in WWI, with a list of names of the deceased. From the Washington University Memorial Association Records.

Program for the initial memorial ceremony for Wash U Affiliates who died in WWI, with a list of names of the deceased. From the Washington University Memorial Association Records.

Creating a Memorial

One of the main tasks of the association was to honor Wash U affiliates who had died during the war. A small memorial was held on May 30,1919 in the Graham Memorial Chapel. The association then raised money to create a plaque with the names of all who had fallen. The ceremony to reveal the plaque was held in 1921. The plaque can still be found on the east side of Ridgley Hall.

Program for the Plaque Dedication Ceremony, Jun 7, 1922. From the Washington University Memorial Association Records.

Inside of the program for the Plaque Dedication Ceremony. From the Washington University Memorial Association Records.

One of the people honored on the plaque was Charles Duncker Jr, who died in battle shortly after being named Captain. The survey of his participation in the war, completed by his family, is below. The Duncker family would later dedicate Duncker Hall, the current home of the Washington University English Department, in Charles Duncker’s memory.

Charles Duncker’s University War Record. The gold star at the corner indicates that he died in battle. From the Washington University Memorial Association Records.

Surveying Students and Faculty About the War Effort

Another major task of the Memorial Association was to assess the participation of everyone associated with the University in the war effort. In 1921, they sent out a survey to all current and former students, faculty, and staff for whom they had a current address, asking them to document what they did during the war.

Below are the completed surveys of Hugh Ferriss, who executed drawings of building projects for the war department after studying architecture at Wash U, and Joseph Erlanger, a psychologist and professor at Washington University who was a member of the Physiology Committee of the National Research Council and Subcommittee on Traumatic Shock during the war.

Hugh Ferriss’ University War Record. From the Washington University Memorial Association Records.

The back side of Hugh Ferriss’ University War Record. From the Washington University Memorial Association Records.

Joseph Erlanger’s University War Record. From the Washington University Memorial Association Records.

Additional Resources on the Memorial Association and WWI

Washington University Archives’ Washington University Memorial Association Records Collection (link http://archon.wulib.wustl.edu/index.php?p=collections/findingaid&id=155&q) contains this association’s correspondence, completed surveys from hundreds of former faculty and students, and notes on the completion and dedication of the memorial plaque.

More surveys from the Memorial Association Records and other materials from Washington University’s WWI collections will soon be available digitally through the Missouri Digital Heritage project, “Missouri Over There: Missouri and the Great War,” a project to digitize collections of Missouri’s participation in the First World War. You can check out the project at http://missourioverthere.org/.

Patrons interested in WWI can also view the library’s WWI Archival Sources finding aid to discover other related University collections.

About the author

Rose is a PhD candidate in English and American Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. When she is not working on her dissertation on post-1945 asylum novels or blogging about the amazing materials in Special Collections, she fills much of her time reading, writing, gardening, and wrestling.