Hawaii, San Francisco, New Jersey, and North Carolina: 1917-1919.
Softcover. An album of more than 275 photographs of Germans held at two American Internment camps during World War I kept by a German prisoner. Small quarto. Measuring 13" x 10¼". String-tied black cloth over paper boards with “Photographs” on the front in gilt. Silver gelatin photographs measuring from 2½" x 2" to 7½" x 9¾", but most 4½" x 3½". Many of the photos are captioned in German on the rear, though damage at the corner mounts prevents us from checking them all. Overall near fine with only light rubbing and bumping at the edges of the album; the photos fine though several are loose.
Upon Congress’s declaration of war with Germany on April 6, 1917, the Bureau of Immigration enacted a series of raids on German merchant ships anchored in U.S. ports. These “enemy aliens” were transported to several temporary internment camps before being sent to a permanent location in Hot Springs, North Carolina for the remainder of the war. The waning resort town of just 650 swelled to nearly 3000 with ship's officers rooming at the Mountain Park Hotel, while the rest of the men stayed in hastily built barracks on the grounds nearby. Though the camp was under guard, the security was minimal. The internees occupied their time playing sports, putting on plays, and building an elaborate miniature German village from materials they could gather on site, such as flattened tin cans and scraps of lumber. When victory was declared the prisoners were transferred to Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia before returning home. As for the camp, a flood damaged the Mountain Park Hotel and washed away the German Village where today there stands only a plaque to record its location.
The album starts with vacation images of Hawaii showing palm trees, natural wonders, native Hawaiians, and images of tourists posing by waterfalls and sitting on the beach. After 10 pages the vacation images end with a photo of the U.S. Army Transport Ship *Sherman* followed by shots of Germans disembarking at Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco. There are nearly 40 images from the island, showing the docks, internees cooking by the beach, washing clothes, diving from the pier, in the dormitory, and on stage performing in a show. These are followed by shots from a train showing the countryside before arrival at the Gloucester City Immigration Center in Gloucester City, New Jersey, in November of 1917 where the compiler spent the winter. There are about 40 images of the immigration center showing the docks, nearby grounds, various buildings, the icy Delaware River, and snowfall on the town, along with costumed performer on stage and afterward at a somber Christmas celebration.
The largest section of the album, totaling more than 100 photos, documents life at the Hot Springs Internment Camp in Hot Spring, North Carolina. More than a dozen larger format 7" x 5" images show the inside and outside of the barracks, nearby streams, groups of men gathered by the hotel and its pool, a 48-piece band set to perform, and a bird’s-eye view of the camp taken from a nearby hill that shows the layout of the camp. Men in the images are shown playing soccer, tug-of-war, pole vaulting, and high jumping, possibly as part of a field day as indicated by a poster showing the grounds divided into several areas. There was also a performance space, either in the hotel or built by internees, where various productions were held according to a series of photos of the men in costume (or in drag), with three photos of hand drawn posters for performances.
The most captivating portion of the Hot Springs section of the album are the photos of the miniature German village that the men built. Made up of more than a dozen buildings with numerous walkways, stone fences, and patio areas, the most notable structures include a church, windmill, and an elaborate merry-go-round consisting of four small cars with canopies suspended by ropes from above. The images are sharp and crisp, providing an appreciation of the time, skill, and resourcefulness required in the construction of the village. Most of the men in the photos appear relaxed and at ease, though perhaps a bit disheartened by their circumstance.
Also contained in the album are six photographs of pages from a fellow internee's sketch book and provide some insight into day-to-day life at the camp. They include drawings of men standing by the barbed wire fence looking out at a group of passing townswomen, internees drinking at the camp bar, a group who have fallen through a badly constructed wooden porch, prisoners photographing a guard that has fallen asleep in a rocking chair, and a sober funeral procession. Additional items of interest are a photo of a collage of naked women posted on a wall of the barracks and a manuscript poem given to the compiler at his final stop in Georgia and signed by the writer: “Edward Schroder / Prisoner of war 3192, room 24 / Fort Oglethorpe 10 Jan 1919.”
A compelling album documenting the little-known internment of German citizens during World War I.