Collecting Delaware Books

World War I As Seen by Delawareans

Francis A. Iannis World War One Remembered, 1993, Delaware Heritage Commission, gives a brief history of the war, but it is mainly a showcase for the magazine battle illustrations of Frank Schoonover and Gayle Hoskins. Two other books, however, give personal accounts of the war and its aftermath as seen by Delawareans.


The first is Memories by Marie A. V. Speakman. It was published, probably at the authors expense, by the Greenwood Bookshop, Wilmington, in 1937. The book is in memory of her husband, Dr. William C. Speakman, a Wilmington dentist who volunteered to serve in World War I as part of American Ambulance Hospital in France.

Dr. Speakman was a copious letter writer and kept a personal diary. Often included are little essays or articles like "The Story of a French Orphan." He also brought home many photographs of his medical unit and war-torn France.

Mrs. Speakman did a good job of editing and coordinating the material into a cohesive book. The book is not expensive and is easily found.

The Summer of 1919

Before the armistice negotiations were even completed, May duPont Saulsbury convinced her husband, Willard, President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, to take her to France on vacation. He had wanted to go to Australia. Upon their return, she wrote The Summer of 1919 and had it privately printed in New York in 1920.

Saulsbury reports the devastation seen in post-war Europe, but often she is more concerned about the inconvenience to her than the plight of the war victims. Indeed, her use of wealth smacks a bit of the ugly American. She does, however, tell of conditions in Europe and vigorously condemns the Germans.

These two books can often be found for a few dollars. There is no great demand for World War I books, but that will change with time. They probably make a good long-term investment.

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