With this writing group as a spur and a support I am setting my goals rather high this summer writing season. I proposed two papers at two different conferences and both were accepted–for the same weekend! So I will be traveling to Leeds, England, on 24 June, taking the train from there to Edinburgh, Scotland, to deliver a paper on World War I trophy trains. Then back to Leeds the next day to deliver a co-written paper on the “One-Hour Dress,” a popular home sewing project introduced in 1923.
My colleagues and I have already delivered a version of the “One-Hour Dress” paper at a regional Costume Society of America conference. The Leeds conference is on “Everyday Fashion” so we are taking the opportunity to update the paper and then submit it to a scholarly journal. So this revision shouldn’t take too long and I may just travel to undertake an in-person writing session with my former colleagues at Michigan State University.
The trophy trains (also called “war relics trains”) paper is the one I need to draft in the next several days–20 minutes, 10 pages, 2000-2500 words. I’ve an outline but I’m one of those types who thinks through writing so the outline tends to go by the wayside fairly early in the process. I have found absolutely no scholarship on this topic; I’m looking forward to receiving advice about next steps after it’s written. The United States government outfitted flat cars and a box car full of war relics taken from the German army on European battlefields. The trains also displayed the American doughboy’s kit, showing that loan dollars were keeping him as safe and comfortable as possible. In a way, too, the trains’ contents matched so, so many private collections of war materiel sent back to the US by soldiers. Some of those objects ended up in museum collections.
Trophy trains were basically rolling museums, and they were used to raise funds in the 3rd, 4th, and last Liberty Loan drives. Importantly the trains carried returning veterans of the Allied forces, ready to speak about the need for funds to finish the war and “bring the boys home.” All these veterans were wounded in battle, and especially in the last loan drive urged people to give to establish long-term support and retraining of the wounded. Early on I thought it would make a great stage play: wounded allies surrounded by objects of battle; those objects raising memories; the many stops along the way in which town representatives are way too boosterish or nosy or selfish; the meaning of friendship-making through shared experience.
From newspaper accounts I’ve mapped the trophy trains routes (there were two trains per Federal Reserve district). If you are interested, you may see the map here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1c9vFSyQPHNWqgntzuM5-H5pMqTg&usp=sharing
I’d like to work a little more on this paper to turn it into a scholarly article, but I am also thinking that it could be a chapter in a book about the circulation and meaning of World War I relics.