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Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0256
telephone (757) 683-5350
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Scope and Contents~Series Descriptions and Container Listing

Switzer 1917 BIOGRAPHY

Samuel Leyens Switzer was born into a prominent family in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on November 26, 1896. He was a son of Simon and Flora Leyens Switzer. In 1902, Sam's father died, leaving his widow Flora with four children: Louis, Minette, Barbara and Samuel. Samuel Switzer's correspondence begins when he journeyed North in 1911 to complete his secondary education at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. After Exeter, Sam entered Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a member of the class of 1918. Sam's letters home during this period reveal that he was a typical college student interested in fashions, football, girls and grades.

While attending college Samuel Switzer joined Harvard University's Military Reserve Unit. After his sophomore year, in the summer of 1916, Sam attended and successfully completed a United States Army training camp in Plattsburgh, New York. Sam returned to Harvard University in the fall of 1916, continuing both his studies and his military training. The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917. Sam spent the summer of his junior year, from May 7 to August 15, 1917, in a military instruction camp of the War Department of the United States at Harvard University. Throughout the summer of 1917, the situation in Europe worsened for the Allies and Sam decided to sacrifice his senior year at Harvard University for his country.

In August 1917 Sam Switzer entered Officer's Training Camp at Leon Springs, Texas. On November 27, 1917, he was commissioned a First Lieutenant in Field Artillery. Lieutenant Switzer completed his military training with the Tenth Field Artillery, Third Division, at Camp Douglas, Douglas, Arizona. Sam drilled throughout the winter of 1918. On April 23, 1918, Lieutenant Samuel Switzer sailed with his Division for France. After a field artillery course at Coetquidau, France, Sam Switzer participated in the Champagne-Marne defensive (July 15, 1918), the Marne-Aisne offensive (July 18 - August 2, 1918), the Saint-Mihiel offensive (September 12 - 14, 1918), and the Meuse-Argonne offensive (September 26 - November 11, 1918).

Lieutenant Switzer was cited in the General Orders Headquarters of the Third Division, American Expeditionary Forces, for gallantry in action. His " brave work in defending a position near a bridge in the vicinity East of Chateau Thierry on July 14, 1918 " entitled him to wear the Distinguished Service Cross. Lieutenant Switzer's bravery so impressed the staff of the United States Field Artillery Journal that they requested an account of his experience defending the gun at Mezy Bridge. Unfortunately, Mr. Switzer never found the time to fulfill their Switzer Armyrequest.

After the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, Lieutenant Switzer traveled through Luxembourg and into Germany. He remained in Kretz and Kruft, Germany, with the American Army of Occupation. In March 1919 he was detailed to the American Expeditionary Forces University at Beaune, Cote d'Or, France. Lieutenant Switzer was " relieved from assignment and further duty in the Army " while a student at the American Expeditionary Forces University.

At Beaune University he studied French, political science and business law. In May 1919, while still in France, Sam Switzer was awarded his A.B. degree in absentia from Harvard University. He was awarded this degree as a student who had completed three-fourths of the requirements but was unable to complete the entire course due to military service.

On June 15, 1919, Sam Switzer sailed for home with the St. Aignan Special (Beaune University) Casual Company Number 6438. After his arrival in New York City, Lieutenant Switzer proceeded to Fort Shelby, Mississippi, where he was formally discharged from the United States Army on July 29, 1919.

As a civilian, Sam Switzer entered the family business in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Switzer family owned The Valley Dry Goods Company, the largest department store in the Mississippi Valley. As president of The Valley, Samuel Switzer remained one of Vicksburg's most eminent businessmen. He was active in all phases of civic life and was a devoted member of Anshe Chesed congregation, having served as congregation president and for a number of years as president of the Young Men's Hebrew Association. He was former chairman of the Jewish Welfare Federation and was a member of B'nai B'rith.

Sam Switzer was also a member of the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and the board of directors of the Vicksburg Country Club. In addition, Mr. Switzer was a member of the American Legion and the Vicksburg Library Board.

After World War I Sam Switzer maintained contact with his military comrades through correspondence and attendance at the Tenth Field Artillery's reunion conventions. He also indulged his passion for travel. In the summer of 1937 he took a trip around the world. He also made numerous trips to Europe and Iceland. He was an enthusiastic philatelist and amateur photographer. A lifelong bachelor, Samuel Leyens Switzer died on April 14, 1960, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His family remembered him as being " fervently American as a nationality and Jewish as a religion. "


The papers of Samuel Leyens Switzer are a collection of personal papers, official correspondence, and maps, dating from 1910-1957, the bulk of which dates from 1911 to 1920. The collection is divided into six series: Correspondence, Literary Productions, Maps, Printed Material, Photographic Material, and Memorabilia.

Series Descriptions and Container Listing

Series I - Correspondence

Correspondence constitutes the vast majority of the materials in the collection. Correspondence is arranged in chronological order by month and year. Incoming and outgoing correspondence is filed together. Letters, telegrams, postcards and address books are included in this series. The principal value of the papers is in the extensive correspondence of the World War I period. This includes his college years at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He often wrote long and very detailed letters concerning his daily actions. His letters reveal the life of an average college student. His military training at camps in Plattsburgh, New York, Leon Springs, Texas, and Douglas, Arizona, are also vividly described. He amply chronicled his personal experiences as a Lieutenant in the Artillery of the American Expeditionary Forces in France and Germany during World War I, for the folks back home. Particularly moving are the letters describing the final days of the war before the Armistice, the long march into Germany and the early months of the Occupation. Correspondence after 1920 is sparse. It is largely limited to military matters and is impersonal in nature. The correspondence is also valuable for the bits of social history that are revealed for the careful reader. Popular slang terms, a description of a hurricane, prejudices and fears, reactions to new inventions like the automobile are evident. Finally, the collection provides a glimpse into the successful life of a young American in college, the military and a Southern city at the turn of the century.


Folder 1 Schooling: Exeter, New Hampshire Nov. 1911
Folder 2 Schooling: Exeter, New Hampshire Ca. 1911 - 1914
Folder 3 Schooling: Exeter, New Hampshire Feb. 1914
Folder 4 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts Sept. 1914
Folder 5 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts Oct. 1914 Switzer Harvard 1917
Folder 6 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts Nov. 1914
Folder 7 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts Dec. 1914
Folder 8 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts Jan. 1915
Folder 9 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts Feb. 1915
Folder 10 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts March 1915
Folder 11 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts April 1915
Folder 12 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts May 1915
Folder 13 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts March 1916
Folder 14 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts April 1916
Folder 15 Military Training: Plattsburgh, New York June 1916
Folder 16 Military Training: Plattsburgh, New York July 1916
Folder 17 New York City August 1916
Folder 18 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts Oct. 1916
Folder 19 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts March 1917
Folder 20 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts April 1917
Folder 21 College: Harvard University, Massachusetts May 1917
Folder 22 Military Training: Harvard's Reserve Unit June 1917
Folder 23 Military Training: Harvard's Reserve Unit July 1917
Folder 24 Military Training: Harvard's Reserve Unit Aug. 1917
Folder 25 Military Training: Leon Springs, Texas Sept. 1917
Folder 26 Military Training: Leon Springs, Texas Oct. 1917
Folder 27 Military Training: Leon Springs, Texas Nov. 1917
Folder 28 Military Training: Douglas, Arizona Dec. 1917
Folder 29 Military Training: Douglas, Arizona Jan. 1918
Folder 30 Military Training: Douglas, Arizona Feb. 1918 Switzer Harvard 1917 running
Folder 31 Military Training: Douglas, Arizona Mar. 1918
Folder 32 New York City April 1918
Folder 33 Sailing to and arrival in France May 1918


Folder 1World War I: France June 1918
Folder 2 World War I: France July 1918
Folder 3 World War I: France Aug. 1918
Folder 4 World War I: France Sept. 1918
Folder 5 World War I: France Oct. 1918
Folder 6 World War I: France Nov. 1918
Folder 7 Occupation Army: Germany Dec. 1918
Folder 8 Occupation Army: Germany Jan. 1919
Folder 9 Occupation Armv: Germany Feb. 1919
Folder 10 Occupation Army: Germany Mar. 1919
Folder 11 Beaune University: France April 1919
Folder 12 Beaune University: France May 1919
Folder 13 Beaune University: France June 1919
Folder 14 Arrival in America and Discharge from the Army July 1919
Folder 15 Vicksburg, Mississippi Nov. 1919
Folder 16 Vicksburg, Mississippi April 1920
Folder 17 Vicksburg, Mississippi Aug. 1920
Folder 18 Vicksburg, Mississippi Nov. 1920
Folder 19 Vicksburg, Mississippi Mar. 1921
Folder 20 Vicksburg, Mississippi May 1921
Folder 21 Vicksburg, Mississippi July 1921
Folder 22 Vicksburg, Mississippi Dec. 1921
Folder 23 Vicksburg, Mississippi Jan. 1922
Folder 24 Vicksburg, Mississippi Mar. 1922
Folder 25 Vicksburg, Mississippi Sept. 1922
Folder 26 Vicksburg, Mississippi Oct. 1922
Folder 27 Vicksburg, Mississippi Nov. 1922
Folder 28 Vicksburg, Mississippi April 1923
Folder 29 Vicksburg, Mississippi May 1923
Folder 30 Vicksburg, Mississippi July 1923
Folder 31 Vicksburg, Mississippi Nov. 1925
Folder 32 Vicksburg, Mississippi Dec. 1926
Folder 33 Vicksburg, Mississippi Dec. 1927
Folder 34 Vicksburg, Mississippi Feb. 1928
Folder 35 Vicksburg, Mississippi Mar. 1928
Folder 36 Vicksburg, Mississippi April 1928
Folder 37 Vicksburg, Mississippi Feb. 1937
Folder 38 Vicksburg, Mississippi Mar. 1937
Folder 39 Vicksburg, Mississippi June 1937


Folder 1 Vicksburg, Mississippi July 1937
Folder 2 Vicksburg, Mississippi Aug. 1937
Folder 3 Vicksburg, Mississippi Sept. 1937
Folder 4 Vicksburg, Mississippi Oct. 1937
Folder 5 Vicksburg, Mississippi July 1957
Folder 6 Undated
Folder 7 Address Books Ca. World War I

Series II - Literary Productions

This series includes an early composition of young Sam Switzer and the syllabus and class notes from a course in Contemporary International Relations. He took this course at the American University in Beaune, France, from March to June 1919.


Folder 8 Composition 1910
Folder 9 Syllabus and Notes from " Contemporary International Relations " Mar.- June 1919

Series III - Printed Material

Legal documents, lists, bulletins/orders, programs, certificates, identification cards, newspaper and magazine clippings, books, sections of newspapers, magazines and journals are classified in this series. The materials span the years from 1916 to 1928. Military matters take precedence in this series.


Folder 10 Legal Documents Ca. World War I
Folder 11 Lists Ca. World War I
Folder 12 Bulletins/Orders 1916 - Aug. 1921
Folder 13 Programs 1910-1928
Folder 14 Certificates 1916-1922
Folder 15 Identification Cards Ca. World War I
Folder 16 Newspaper and Magazine Clippings Ca. World War I
Folder 17 Newspaper and Magazine Clippings Post-World War I
Folder 18 Newspaper - The Vicksburg Herald (Vicksburg, Mississippi) May 14, 1916
Folder 19 Newspaper - The Camp News (Plattsburgh, New York) July 8 - Aug. 5,
Folder 20 Newspaper - The Sunday Herald (Boston, Mass.) May 6, 1917
Folder 21 Newspaper - The Stars and Stripes (Paris, France) Jan. 17, 1919
Folder 22 Newspaper - Fourth Corps Flare (Mayen, Germany) Jan. 25, 1919


Folder 1 Military Books Ca. World War I
Folder 2 Book - Abridged Prayer Book for Jews in the Army and Navy of the United States ca. World War I
Folder 3 Book - Folder 4 Book - A New World in the Making 1919
Folder 4 Book - A Popular Geography of France Ca. World War I
Folder 5 Folder 7 Book - In Flander's Field Ca. 1920's
Folder 6 Folder 9 Magazine - Le Pantheon de la Guerre Ca. World War I
Folder 7 Folder 11 Magazine - Mid-Week Pictorial Sept. 4. 1919
Folder 8 Journal - The Field Artillery Journal March-April 1921

Series IV - Maps

The maps in the Switzer collection date from the World War I era. All of the maps deal with areas of Europe and most of them are in French and German. Several maps detail battle positions and troop movements in World War I.


Folder 9 Maps of Europe Ca. World War I


Contains 13 German & French WWI maps (11 German, 2 French), and 1 map of France.


Contains 11 French WWI era maps, 9 German WWI era maps, 1 English/American map of Pacific Territories, 1 map of Paris, 1 map of Pacific Ocean (National Geographic), and 1 map of the United States (National Geographic). There are 24 items total.

Series V - Photographic Material

Photographic material includes positive prints and a large collection of postcards all dating from the World War I period. Postcards are filed by country and city. The countries represented include France, Germany, Monaco, Spain, and Italy. Postcard packets of the destruction at Verdun and La Marne are also part of the collection.


Folder 1 Positive Prints - Sam Switzer and Family
Folder 2 Positive Prints - Harvard Training Camp Summer 1917
Folder 3 Positive Prints - Camp Douglas, Arizona Dec. 1917 - April 1918
Folder 4 Positive Prints - World War I 1918-1919
Folder 5 Postcards - Camp Douglas, Arizona Dec. 1917-April 1918
Folder 6 Postcards - France Ca. World War I
Folder 7 Postcards - France: Verdun, La Marne Ca. World War I
Folder 8 Postcards - France: Lyon, Paris, Dole, Mont-Roland, Dijon, Langres Ca. World War I
Folder 9 Postcards - France: Marseille Ca. World War I
Folder 10 Postcards - France: Beaune, Cote D'Or Ca. World War I
Folder 11 Postcards - Germany: The Rhine Ca. World War I
Folder 12 Postcards - Germany: Metz, Kruft, Coblenz, Andernach Ca. World War I
Folder 13 Postcards - Monaco Ca. World War I
Folder 14 Postcards - Gibraltar, Spain Ca. World War I
Folder 15 Postcards - Rome, Italy Ca. World War I
Folder 16 Postcards - Vicksburg, Miss. Ca. World War I

Series VI - Memorabilia

Box 5

Folder 17 Memorabilia Ca. World War I

Oversize Box 3

Folder 1: Diploma: Harvard University June 1918 (Samuel Leyens Switzer)
Folder 2: Certificate: Harvard University June 20, 1918 (Samuel Leyens Switzer)
Folder 3: International Dateline Certificate, Pan American World Airways, November 23, 1955 (Samuel Leyens Switzer)
Folder 4: Diploma: The Phillips Exeter Academy, June 22, 1914 (Samuel Leyens Switzer)


On loan from Mrs. Bettie Minette Cooper, March 20, 1980; last accession August 15, 2005.


Collection is open to researchers without restrictions. Questions on literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.


Five hollinger document cases and three oversize boxes


MG - 37

Revised: 7/10/2008