Mail Call: An Artistic Perspective of The War and a Father’s Love For His Child

Mail service has historically been a cornerstone of American communication, and that was especially true during World War I. Bridging military and civilian life, post offices provided some of the most essential services during WWI. Not only was communication home desired, but it was also encouraged.

“To write home frequently and regularly, to keep in constant touch with family and friends, is one of the soldier’s most important duties. Mothers and fathers will suffer if they do not hear often from sons fighting in France. In the present large companies, it is not possible for officers to write letters for their men, and every man must do it for himself.” — General Orders, No. 66, from the General Headquarters, A.E.F., May 1, 1918

Most needed no such encouragement. The unique experiences of war and traveling abroad demanded to be shared.

Mail Call, an exhibition on view at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, highlights the letters (and love) between a father, John Ross Myers, and his son, Walter Myers.

In February 1918, Walter headed for a training camp at San Antonio, Texas. He wrote back home to Steubenville, Ohio, that “all is OK.” Like many fathers, John Ross sent a letter of reply to his son in camp.

Unlike many fathers, John Ross was a professionally trained artist who owned a print shop in Ohio and painted theatrical scenery. On envelopes carrying letters to Walter, John carefully painted vivid and vibrant cartoons, scenes of camp life, patriotic symbols, mythological figures and expressive scenes of the American Expeditionary Forces at work. He mailed these works to his son, sometimes with decorated envelopes arriving in batches, wherever Walter was — Kelley Field in San Antonio, Texas; U.S. Aviation Camp in Morrison, Virginia; or “somewhere” in France.

Walter kept his father’s art with him and safely cared for it throughout the war until he returned home. Today, John Ross’s work speaks to those through the years, communicating both a unique artistic perspective of the war and a father’s enduring love for his child.

Mail Call is included in a general admission ticket to the Museum and Memorial. Learn more at theworldwar.org.

–National WWI Museum and Memorial

CategoriesArts Consortium

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