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This is the sixth in an ongoing series of posts on real-life Monuments Men. Today’s post is by Dr. Sylvia Naylor. See related posts on Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, Walter J. Huchthausen, Seymour J. Pomrenze, Mason Hammond, and Edith A. Standen.

The forthcoming movie, The Monuments Men, has focused great attention on the Monuments Men (and women) and their work during and after World War II.  Of course the movie cannot tell the story of the over 300 individuals involved in Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) work, so focuses on three: George Stout, James Rorimer, and Rose Valland, played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett respectively.  Over the course of the next two months, Dr. Greg Bradsher and I thought it would be illustrative to discuss some of the lesser known individuals.

This post focuses on Dr. Karol Estreicher, the Polish Monuments Man and is the sixth in the series of blogs on the Monuments Men.

Karol Estreicher, Jr. was born on March 4, 1906 in Cracow, Poland into a prominent family.  His father Stanisław was a renowned law professor at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and his mother Helena was a homemaker.  Karol received his Ph.D. from Jagiellonian University and went on to become one of Poland’s most prominent art historians, as well as a bibliographer, writer and professor.

Dr. Estreicher fled Poland during the Nazi invasion in 1939 and worked for the Polish government-in-exile in Paris until the fall of France in 1940.  He then moved to London and became the head of the Cultural Losses Restitution Bureau (Biuro Rewindykacji Mienia Kulturalnego) for the Polish government-in-exile in London.  This Bureau, which worked closely with the Polish underground, was responsible for gathering information regarding cultural losses in Poland received from archivists, librarians, and museum staff in occupied Poland and Germany.  Estreicher and his team were dedicated to documenting and cataloguing information on lost, looted or confiscated Polish cultural property and art items.  As a result of this work, Estreicher edited and compiled a publication entitled Cultural Losses of Poland: Index of Polish Cultural Losses During the German Occupation, 1939-1944 (London, 1944).  According to Estreicher, “This index is intended to give precise and concise information concerning the losses sustained by Polish cultural institutions through the German occupation…”

Dr. Estreicher traveled to the United States between November 1942 and April 1943 in order to inform Americans of the scale of Nazi destruction of European culture and to advocate for the restitution of confiscated Polish property.  While in the United States he gave several lectures and speeches at universities, including Columbia, Harvard, and Yale.  He also met with American officials, including Francis Henry Taylor, the director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who shortly thereafter became a member of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe (Roberts Commission).

Estreicher played a key role in the establishment of the Inter-Allied Commission for the Protection and Restitution of Cultural Material (Vaucher Commission) in April 1944.  Composed of representatives of the varied Allied governments, the Vaucher Commission had as its purpose the study of problems relating to protection, restitution, and reparations and the collection and organization of information relating to looting for the eventual use of the Allies in post-war restitution efforts. The secretariat of the Vaucher Commission functioned as a central bureau for information on looted objects supplied by the different national commissions and issued lists of looted objects for the use of Monuments officers until its dissolution in November 1945.  Dr. Estreicher was a very active member of the Commission.  At a meeting on May 15, 1944, he presented a proposed method of how to gather information for post-war restitution efforts.  According to the meeting minutes:

Dr. Estreicher pointed out that after the last war efforts had been made only to track down the objects which had been looted or lost.  It would be much more effective to track down the men who looted them or who had information about them, and this was his basis of his approach to the problem.  He had made a particular study of the careers and personal histories of German art connoisseurs…

 

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It appears that the United States clearly agreed with this approach.  For example, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Art Looting Investigation Unit conducted interrogations of several Nazi art dealers and individuals involved in art looting activities.

Following the end of World War II, Dr. Estreicher had become the official restitution liaison officer of the Polish government in the American zone of occupation.  In this role, he worked with the U.S. Army Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) Section to oversee the return of looted and confiscated Polish cultural items to Poland.  He was instrumental in returning many of Poland’s looted treasures, including the Veit Stoss altar (Ołtarz Wit Stwosza), which is considered a national symbol of Poland’s cultural patrimony.  German sculptor Veit Stoss moved to Cracow in 1477, where he spent the next 12 years working on the altarpiece.  In 1489, he completed the three story high wood carved altarpiece (42 feet high and 36 feet wide), which is located in St. Mary’s Basilica in Cracow and is considered the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world.

 

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A few weeks before the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Polish government made the decision to dismantle the Veit Stoss altar and evacuate it from Cracow to Sandomierz in order to protect it from Nazi looting.  Dr. Estreicher oversaw these activities to dismantle and evacuate the altar.  The Germans conquered Cracow on September 6, 1939 and soon after found the hiding place.  According to Nazi racial ideology, any pieces of art created in Germany or by a German individual belonged in the Third Reich.  Since Veit Stoss was a medieval Nuremberger, the altarpiece was viewed as “German.”  The Sonderkommando Paulsen, an SS unit, located the figures of the Apostles and sent them to Berlin in October 1939.  The rest of the altar followed shortly afterwards.  The altar was transferred to Nuremberg Castle in March 1940.  The Polish government-in-exile carefully tracked the fate of the altarpiece during the war.  By 1943, they knew that it was being kept in Nuremberg through information provided by Polish slave laborers in Germany.

During his first restitution mission in the U.S. zone of occupation, Estreicher traveled to the Nuremberg castle to retrieve the altarpiece.  He wrote to the Minister of Arts and Culture in Warsaw:

In the cellar of the castle in Nuremberg I found the altar of Veit Stoss in good conditions.  The work of counting the sculptures & carved architectural structure recently began.  The figures of the altar were taken out from the wooden cases, in which they were packed in 1939.  One relief with the Assumption of Christ and some figures of prophets and angels still missing.  The American authorities give full help and assistance in searching them.  The counting, packing and sending of the altar must take about eight weeks time.  The American authorities will provide the means of transportation to Cracow with a special guard & will pay all expenses.  Please inform the Polish press about the generosity of our American Allies…

 

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On April 30, 1946, a twenty-seven-car train carrying the altar and numerous other looted Polish treasures, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with the Ermine), arrived in Poland.   The train was accompanied by U.S. military escort, including a guard contingent, three Monuments Men, and Estreicher himself.  The delivery was positively received by local Polish authorities and the Polish people.  However, it was marred by problems resulting from tensions between the Communist militia and anticommunist protesters that resulted in the shooting of 30 anticommunist demonstrators on May 3 and the subsequent shooting of two Communist militiamen by one of the American soldiers during an attempted robbery.

Over the next two years, Estreicher engaged in seven additional trips to the American occupation zone.  Throughout this time, he worked closely with his American colleagues to assist in the return of looted Polish cultural property, including books, paintings, and other artwork, from the American occupation zone to Poland.

Following the war, Dr. Estreicher resumed his academic career in Cracow.  He produced several publications on art history and related topics and was an editor of “Rocznik Krakowski,” the publication of the Cracow Heritage Society (Towarzystwo Miłośników Historii i Zabytków Krakowa).  In addition, Dr. Estreicher was a member of PEN-Club and was dedicated to the “Society of the Friends of Fine Arts” (Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Sztuk Pięknych).  He retired in 1976 and died on April 29, 1984 in his beloved Cracow.

 

References:

1.  Minutes of the Meeting of May 15, 1944; Minutes, 1944-1945 (National Archives Identifier 1552677); Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historical Monuments in War Areas (The Roberts Commission), 1943-1946 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1944, roll 154); Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239; National Archives at College Park, MD.

2.  Photographs of the Veit Stoss Altarpiece (Local Identifier 260-MCCP-4-3a and 260-MCCP-4-3b); Photographs of the Restitution of Art and Other Activities at the Munich Central Collecting Point, 1945-1945 (National Archives Identifier 541595); Records of U.S. Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260; National Archives at College Park, MD.

3. Handwritten Notes by Dr. Karol Estreicher; General Records, 1946-1948 (National Archives Identifier 1560051); Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): OMGUS Headquarters Records, 1938-1951 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1941, roll 20); Records of U.S. Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260; National Archives at College Park, MD.



This is the fifth in an ongoing series of posts on real-life Monuments Men by Dr. Greg Bradsher. See also his posts on Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, Walter J. Huchthausen, Seymour J. Pomrenze, and Mason Hammond.

The forthcoming movie, The Monuments Men, has focused great attention on the Monuments Men (and women) and their work during and after World War II.  Of course the movie cannot tell the story of the over 300 individuals involved in Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) work, so focuses on three: George Stout, James Rorimer, and Rose Valland, played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett respectively.  Over the course of the next two months, I thought it would be illustrative to discuss some of the lesser known individuals.

This post focuses on Edith A. Standen, and is the fifth in the series of blogs on the Monuments Men.

Edith A. Standen was born at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1905, the daughter of Robert Standen, a British Army officer stationed in Nova Scotia, and an American mother, granddaughter to Nathan Appleton, a Massachusetts textile mill founder.   She was raised in England and Ireland, and received her B.A. in English from Oxford in 1926.  In 1928, she immigrated to the United States, and settled in Boston where her mother’s family lived. She began working for the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, which had been founded in 1910 by her uncle, William Sumner Appleton.  During the winter of 1928-1929, she took Paul Sachs museum curatorship course at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.  In 1929 she was hired as art secretary to collector Joseph Early Widener at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, estate (outside Philadelphia).   She retained that position until Widener transferred his collection to the National Gallery of Art in 1942.  That year she became an American citizen and the following year she joined the Women’s Army Corps, and was stationed with the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) in Ohio.

Her commanding officer referred her to Mason Hammond, an USAAF officer, former Harvard professor, and head of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Branch of the United States Group Control Council (USGCC), for a “Monuments Man” position. First Lieutenant Standen joined the MFA&A Branch, USGCC, on June 4, 1945 as a Fine Arts Specialist Officer.  From June 20 to July 21 she was sent on a temporary assignment to the 12th Army Group, and then returned to USGCC.  On that assignment she assisted in inspecting the loot at the Reichsbank in Frankfurt that was then schedule to be transferred to the new collecting point in Frankfurt (as it turned out, Wiesbaden).

In September 1945 Standen changed MFA&A positions, moving to the G-5 Division, United States Forces European Theater, at its headquarters at Höchst (about a twenty minute drive from Frankfurt).   In November she was one of thirty-two officers who signed a document, known as The Wiesbaden Manifesto, protesting the United States Army’s decision to send 202 German-owned paintings held by the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point temporarily to the National Gallery of Art for safekeeping.  The third paragraph of the five-paragraph document, noted:

Since the beginning of United States participation in the war, it has been the declared policy of the Allied Forces, so far as military necessity would permit, to protect and preserve from deterioration consequent upon the processes of war, all monuments, documents or other objects of historic, artistic, cultural or archaeological value. The war is at an end, and no doctrine of ‘military necessity’ can now be invoked for the further protection of the objects to be moved, for the reason that depots and personnel, both fully competent for their protection, have been inaugurated and are functioning.

When Captain Walter I. Farmer, the officer-in-charge of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point was redeployed on March 11, 1946, Captain Standen, having been promoted during the winter, was sent on temporary duty as his replacement.  Reflecting on the assignment, she would write in the mid-1990s:

When I took over the Wiesbaden Collecting Point from Walter Farmer in early 1946, I found an organization in perfect working order. The building was in good condition. It was heated. It was lighted. It was weatherproof and secure. The German staff had been well-chosen and were hardworking and loyal. Photography and conservation work were being undertaken by competent professionals. The only new responsibilities that fell to me were the reception of representatives from countries that had been occupied and robbed and the actual shipment of restituted objects.

Her work was more complicated than she implies.  Before leaving the Wiesbaden directorship position in August 1947, she supervised the organization, research and ultimate restitution of thousands of artworks and other objects.  This was not an easy task by any means, especially when dealing with art work that had been acquired by Germans by means forced sales or seized from German museums because it was considered degenerate and then subsequently sold.

A photograph of Edith Standen and Captain Rose Valland is available on the Archives of American Art website.

Standen would leave military service in 1947 and two years later joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as an associate curator in 1949, assigned to the textile study room.  She was subsequently named Curator of Textiles and retired in 1970. In retirement she researched, published numerous articles, and authored European Post-Medieval Tapestries and Related Hangings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two volumes, in 1985.  She would pass away in July 1998.

For more information on Edith A. Standen’s MFA&A career, please consult various National Archives Publications concerning Records of Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”) OMGUS Headquarters Records relating to Central Collecting Points, Property Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260; National Archives Microfilm Publication M1947, Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, 1945-1952, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260. Her personal papers are at the Gallery Archives of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.



Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) launched this month a new section of its portion of the International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property that is devoted to the photographic albums containing photographs of cultural property looted by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) during World War II.  The section contains information about the ERR, the albums recovered and presented as an exhibit at the International Military Tribunal, and the albums subsequently recovered by the Monuments Men Foundation and donated to NARA. There are also links to the digitized individual items within the albums.  There is additionally a short video that shows the albums being introduced as trial exhibits and the American prosecutor discussing them and the Nazi looting activities.

The ERR was a primary German organization, headed by Alfred Rosenberg, charged with seizing Jewish and other cultural properties in occupied countries during World War II.  During the latter part of the war the ERR deposited much of its looted cultural property and its records in various locations in Germany and Austria.  Most of these items were recovered by the United States Army during April and May 1945. The bulk of the items were recovered at Alt Aussee in Austria and at Neuschwanstein/Fussen in Bavaria.  Among the items recovered at both locations, as well as at Berchtesgaden, were photographic albums depicting cultural works the ERR had seized.  One particular collection of leather-bound albums was recovered at the castle at Neuschwanstein and transported to the United States Army-operated Munich Central Collecting Point to be used by the Monuments, Fine Art, and Archives (MFA&A) staff (the Monuments Men) in identifying and restituting looted cultural property.   During the summer, various other collections of photographic albums created by the ERR were also transferred to the Munich Central Collecting Point.

During the summer of 1945, members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) interrogated various ERR members about their activities and records.  The ALIU ascertained that the recovered 39-album collection was part of nearly 100-album set that the ERR had prepared for Adolf Hitler to view in order to show him the extent of the ERR’s work.

The 39 photographic albums containing photographs of cultural property looted by ERR were subsequently submitted as an United States exhibit at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.  They were accessioned by the National Archives during 1947.  Four more albums of a similar nature, taken as souvenirs by United States military personnel, were brought back to the United States after the war.  Three of these albums were acquired the Monuments Men Foundation and donated to the National Archives and Records Administration by its Director,  Robert M. Edsel, one in November 2007 and two in March 2012.  A fourth album is scheduled to be donated to the National Archives in June 2014.  The 42 albums currently in NARA’s custody have been digitized and can be viewed online through on NARA’s website.

 



This is the fourth in an ongoing series of posts on real-life Monuments Men by Dr. Greg Bradsher. See also his posts on Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, Walter J. Huchthausen, and Seymour J. Pomrenze.

The forthcoming movie, The Monuments Men, has focused great attention on the Monuments Men (and women) and their work during and after World War II.  Of course the movie cannot tell the story of the over 300 individuals involved in Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) work, so focuses on three: George Stout, James Rorimer, and Rose Valland, played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett respectively.  Over the course of the next two months, I thought it would be illustrative to discuss some of the lesser known individuals.

This post focuses on the first American Monuments Men in the field, Mason Hammond.  This is the fourth in the series of blogs on the Monuments Men.

Mason Hammond, born in 1903, graduated from Harvard in 1925.  He then studied at Oxford University, receiving an A. B. degree in 1927 and a B.Litt. degree in 1930. He returned to Harvard to teach Latin, Greek, and History.  In 1932 he received his master’s degree from Harvard and served as Professor in Charge of Classical Studies at the American Academy in Rome from 1937 to 1939.  He entered military service in 1942.

During the spring of 1943 discussion within the military civil affairs authorities led to the creation of the Office of Adviser on Fine Arts and Monuments to the Chief of Civil Affairs at the headquarters of Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories (AMGOT).  The initial T/O [Table of Organization] called for a Lt. Col. and Major.  On May 13 General Marshall cabled General Eisenhower that for the protection of arts and monuments, the American major position was to be filled by Capt. Mason Hammond and that the British agreed to assign a British captain under Hammond. Hammond was transferred from Air Force Headquarters Washington A-2, Current Intelligence Section on May 21 and sent by air to Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ). He reported for duty at Chrea, Algeria, on June 7.

At Chrea and at Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, Hammond acted in the various capacities of student, teacher, and planner.  Three days after arriving at Chrea he produced “Brief Notes for Civil Affairs Officers on the Protection and Care of Monuments, Historic Buildings, Works of Art, etc. in Occupied Areas.” Later in June Hammond drafted for General Administrative Instruction No. 8 on the same subject for the AMGOT Handbook for the guidance of AMGOT Civil Affairs Officers participating in the first phase of operations.

While in North Africa Hammond encountered difficulties in actually making inspections of cultural property, primarily because of lack of transportation, but he did make some inspections and acquired information, which he reported back to the United States, where he requested it be shared with relevant military and civilian organizations and  individuals.

For the pending invasion of Sicily Hammond prepared a very brief “Art History of Sicily” and a list of certain sites which seemed important.  These he was not allowed to reproduce and distribute on account of security.  So Hammond advised all men with whom he talked, to secure local guides, or the standard guides, or to find out from local authorities, what monuments were in their districts, and to ensure their protection.

The invasion of Sicily took place on July 10.  But Hammond was not part of the invasion force.  Because of limitations of transportation, he was not moved forward with the AMGOT Headquarters and, and for weeks, was completely cut off.  The effectiveness of the protection rests, therefore, Hammond wrote a colleague on July 24, wholly in the hands of the Civil Affairs Officers attached to task forces-who had a great deal else to think about.  In terms of bombing the island he hoped there would be little damage, and that it would not lead to serious deterioration through any delay in getting attention.  “And,” he added, “one can only hope that unsettled conditions will not lead to thievery, souvenir collecting, etc. by either inhabitants or troops.”

On July 27 Hammond preceded by air from AFHQ via Tunis to Syracuse, reporting for duty at AMGOT Advanced Headquarters at Syracuse, on July 29.  Several days later Hammond wrote the Chief Civil Affairs Officer regarding the damage done by troops in the Syracuse area and requested transportation, because he was dependent “on chances of travel with others, which binds me to their route and their disposition of time.”  On August 3 Hammond proceeded as part of the Headquarters convoy to Palermo.

From August 4 until September 10 he was tied to Palermo for a number of reasons: lack of other personnel, lack of transport, and the pressure of work. While at Palermo Hammond produced reports about the situation and in mid-September he produced a paper entitled “Suggestions to SCAO’s and CAO’s [Senior Civil Affairs Officers and Civil Affairs Officers] for the handling of questions relative to Monuments and Fine Arts in Sicily.”

Analyzing his work on Sicily, Robert M. Edsel in his Saving Italy, observed that: “Hammond assessed damage to monuments, effected temporary repairs where possible, got superintendents and other local museum and church officials back to work, and cut down on billeting problems by well-intended troops seeking shelter. His work in the field proved the job could be done.” “Serving as the guinea pig for the Monuments officers,” Edsel added, became Hammond’s enduring legacy.  Each miscue provided invaluable information about what to do differently once Allied forces reached the Italian mainland and began the push northward.”

Following the Italian surrender in September 1943, AMGOT was abolished, and a new Sub-Commission on Fine Arts and Monuments was created within Headquarters Allied Military Government.  In late November, the Sub-Commission was renamed Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives.

During the fall of 1943 Hammond would be joined by other MFA&A personnel and they tackled the difficult problems associated with protecting cultural property in a war-torn country.  One of his new colleagues was Maj. Theodore Sizer, formerly director of the Art Gallery and professor of the History of Art at Yale University.  In November, soon after arriving at Sicily Sizer wrote “Everything worthwhile has been already magnificently accomplished by Mason Hammond.”  Hammond’s hard work took its toll on him.  On December 2 Sizer wrote a mutual friend, that “M. H. literally worked himself to death & has been in the hospital [in Palermo] the past 10 days-out soon.”

Hammond would leave the hospital and continue his MFA&A work in Italy, serving with the 15th Army Group in Naples. Early in 1944, he was transferred to England, where he was assigned to the section responsible for planning MFA&A activities in Germany.  He would subsequently serve in MFA&A supervisory positions in France and Germany, including heading the MFA&A Branch of the United States Group Control Council.  For his work in the MFA&A, he was promoted to major and then lieutenant colonel and received honors from the Italian and Dutch governments, as well as the French Legion of Honor.  He would leave military service in 1946, and return to his teaching and writing careers. He would pass away in 2002 at age ninety-nine.

Hammond’s early career can be followed in the Subject File Aug 1943-1945, Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section, Operations Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331; Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-July 1949, General Records, Civil Affairs Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, RG 165.

The exploits of Hammond, Sizer, and other MFA&A personnel in Italy are detailed in Robert M. Edsel, Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis (New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013).



Today’s post is written by Cody White, an archivist at the National Archives at Denver

Christmas is often a time for charity, the bringing of holiday cheer to those less fortunate, and one such heartwarming tale can be found at the National Archives at Denver in the most unlikely of record groups; RG 77 Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers. Found amongst the series of engineering maps, drawings, survey notebooks, and construction files from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is one series simply entitled “Installation Historical Files, 1946-1977.” Comprised of two scrapbooks, this series documents the Albuquerque, New Mexico chapter of the U.S. Corps of Engineers Wives Club and their service to the community, especially around Christmas 1950.

Founded in 1946 by 32 charter members, we learn from the scrapbooks filled with photographs, event flyers, and newspaper clippings that from the group’s inception, the women focused on charitable contributions within the community. It wasn’t, however, until 1950 that the Santa Claus Shop was created and in turn seems to have become an enormous success.

With the concept first originating in Denver, the wives club brought to Albuquerque the idea of a place where down-on-their-luck parents could “buy” Christmas gifts for their children. These toys came from a variety of sources such as toy drives across the city where residents could donate new or broken toys to be fixed, from local businesses who donated new or returned toys, and even from the women themselves who made mittens, dolls, and stuffed animals. The club members’ husbands, all Army Corps of Engineers personnel, also helped. On Sunday mornings a government truck was borrowed to make the rounds and collect donations. One particular Army officer even made 31 stick horses to donate while a group of U.S. Navy Seabees, probably more accustomed to constructing Marine airfields and bases, spent several nights welding and painting old tricycles. Within no time it was reported that the chairwoman’s garage was full and so the use of a high profile vacant store was donated to them for the season.

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Club members: (From left to right) Dorothy Yelinak, Civic Affairs Chair; Jean Tippen; Nelda Raper, Co-Chair; and Paulina McCreary.

Eligible parents were given vouchers in relation to how many children they had and when the Santa Claus Shop opened they were able to use those vouchers to “buy” gifts. One particularly grateful parent reportedly told welfare department caseworkers that this was the “first time they had actually been able to shop for toys for their children.”

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Santa Claus Shop open house, December 19, 1950. At left, Mr. and Mrs. L.G. Bradley.

The Santa Claus Shop was reprised in 1951, this time with help from the Lions Club and Albuquerque Fire Department, but nothing is reflected in the scrapbooks after that. Regardless, for at least two years thousands of Albuquerque area sons and daughters awoke Christmas morning to gifts under the tree, all thanks to the efforts of the Albuquerque U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wives Club.

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Santa Claus Shop open house, December 19, 1950. W.R. Taubet’s daughters.

All documents referenced, photographs, and quotes come from RG 077 Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, accession NRG-077-09-048 “Installation Historical Files, 1946-1977,” Box 1, NARA identifier 4527081.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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