Special Collections of the ODU Libraries

Samuel Leyens Switzer Papers, 1910-1957, 1985 | Special Collections and University Archives

By Special Collections Staff

Collection Overview

Title: Samuel Leyens Switzer Papers, 1910-1957, 1985

ID: 00/MG 37

Primary Creator: Switzer, Samuel Leyens (1896-1960)

Extent: 9.2 Linear Feet. More info below.


Series I: 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.

Series II: Literary productions - 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.

Series III: Printed materials - consists of legal documents; lists; bulletins/orders; programs; certificates; identification cards; newspaper and magazine clippings; books; sections of newspapers; magazines and journals. These materials span the years from 1916 to 1928. Military matters take precedence in this series.

Series IV: Maps - date from the World War I era. Most 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.

Series V: 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.

Series VI: Memorabilia - consists of various items such as Switzer's diploma and certificate from Harvard, his diploma from Exter academy, and his International Dateline Certificate from Pan American World Airways.

Date Acquired: 03/20/1980. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: Businessmen--Mississippi--Vicksburg, Civic leaders--Mississippi--Vicksburg, Harvard University, Phillips Exeter Academy, World War, 1914-1918, World War, 1914-1918--Veterans

Languages: English


Department store owner in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Includes correspondence, literary productions, legal documents, newspaper and magazine clippings, maps, memorabilia and photographs, the bulk of which dates from 1911-1920. Collection amply documents his service as an artillery officer in World War I. Of note are maps of Europe detailing battle positions and troop movements in World War I.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

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, printed material, maps, photographic material, and memorabilia.

Collection Historical Note

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 request.

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. "

Subject/Index Terms

Civic leaders--Mississippi--Vicksburg
Harvard University
Phillips Exeter Academy
World War, 1914-1918
World War, 1914-1918--Veterans

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives

Accruals: Last accession August 15, 2005.

Alternate Extent Statement: Five hollinger document cases and three oversize boxes.

Access Restrictions: Open to researchers without restrictions.

Use Restrictions: Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Acquisition Source: Mrs. Bettie Minette Cooper

Acquisition Method: Loan. Accession #A80-19

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Box [insert number], Folder [insert number and title], Samuel Leyens Switzer Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA 23529.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence, 1911-1957],
[Series II: Literary Productions, 1910, 1919],
[Series III: Printed Material, 1916-1928],
[Series IV: Maps, circa 1912-1919],
[Series V: Photographic Material, circa 1910-1919],
[Series VI: Memorabilia, 1914-1955],

Series I: Correspondence, 1911-1957
Box 1
Folder 1: Schooling: Exeter, New Hampshire, November 1911
Folder 2: Schooling: Exeter, New Hampshire, circa 1911 - 1914
Folder 3: Schooling: Exeter, New Hampshire, February 1914
Folder 4: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, September 1914
Folder 5: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, October 1914
Folder 6: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, October 1914
Folder 7: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, December 1914
Folder 8: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, January 1915
Folder 9: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, February 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, October 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, August 1917
Folder 25: Military Training: Leon Springs, Texas, September 1917
Folder 26: Military Training: Leon Springs, Texas, October 1917
Folder 27: Military Training: Leon Springs, Texas, November 1917
Box 2
Folder 1: Military Training: Douglas, Arizona, December 1917
Folder 2: Military Training: Douglas, Arizona, January 1918
Folder 3: Military Training: Douglas, Arizona, February 1918
Folder 4: Military Training: Douglas, Arizona, March 1918
Folder 5: New York City, April 1918
Folder 6: Sailing to and arrival in France, May 1918
Folder 7: World War I: France, June 1918
Folder 8: World War I: France, July 1918
Folder 9: World War I: France, August 1918
Folder 10: World War I: France, September 1918
Folder 11: World War I: France, October 1918
Box 3
Folder 1: World War I: France, November 1918
Folder 2: Occupation Army: Germany, December 1918
Letter dated 1918 December 26 talks about influenza while Switzer was stationed in Germany.
Folder 3: Occupation Army: Germany, January 1919
Folder 4: Occupation Army: Germany, February 1919
Folder 5: Occupation Army: Germany, March 1919
Folder 6: Beaune University: France, April 1919
Folder 7: Beaune University: France, May 1919
Folder 8: Beaune University: France, June 1919
Folder 9: Arrival in America and Discharge from the Army, July 1919
Folder 10: Vicksburg, Mississippi, November 1919
Folder 11: Vicksburg, Mississippi, April 1920
Folder 12: Vicksburg, Mississippi, August 1920
Folder 13: Vicksburg, Mississippi, November 1920
Folder 14: Vicksburg, Mississippi, March 1921
Folder 15: Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 1921
Folder 16: Vicksburg, Mississippi, July 1921
Folder 17: Vicksburg, Mississippi, December 1921
Folder 18: Vicksburg, Mississippi, January 1922
Folder 19: Vicksburg, Mississippi, March 1922
Folder 20: Vicksburg, Mississippi, September 1922
Folder 21: Vicksburg, Mississippi, October 1922
Folder 22: Vicksburg, Mississippi, November 1922
Folder 23: Vicksburg, Mississippi, April 1923
Folder 24: Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 1923
Folder 25: Vicksburg, Mississippi, July 1923
Folder 26: Vicksburg, Mississippi, November 1925
Folder 27: Vicksburg, Mississippi, December 1926
Folder 28: Vicksburg, Mississippi, December 1927
Folder 29: Vicksburg, Mississippi, February 1928
Folder 30: Vicksburg, Mississippi, March 1928
Folder 31: Vicksburg, Mississippi, April 1928
Folder 32: Vicksburg, Mississippi, Febraury 1937
Folder 33: Vicksburg, Mississippi, March 1937
Folder 34: Vicksburg, Mississippi, June 1937
Box 4
Folder 1: Vicksburg, Mississippi, July 1937
Folder 2: Vicksburg, Mississippi, August 1937
Folder 3: Vicksburg, Mississippi, September 1937
Folder 4: Vicksburg, Mississippi, October 1937
Folder 5: Vicksburg, Mississippi, July 1957
Folder 6: Address Books--World War I, circa 1917-1919
Folder 7: National Rehabilitation Association--Switzer Scholars, May 1985
Folder 8: Letter Asking for Date with Switzer, undated

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence, 1911-1957],
[Series II: Literary Productions, 1910, 1919],
[Series III: Printed Material, 1916-1928],
[Series IV: Maps, circa 1912-1919],
[Series V: Photographic Material, circa 1910-1919],
[Series VI: Memorabilia, 1914-1955],

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