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William M. Andersen collection

Identifier: MS 3290


This collection primarily contains the outgoing correspondence of William Madsen Andersen, 2nd Lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps, 1917-1919. Stationed at Base Hospital #18 in Bazoilles-sur-Meuse, France, Lt. Andersen's letters home to his parents and sister contain evidence of his daily life as a non-combative officer in World War I.


  • 1880 April 21-1944 August 11
  • Majority of material found within 1917 June 8-1919 February 23


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

William Madsen Andersen was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 20, 1892. His mother, Mary Fraser (1858-1940) was born in Fochabers, Moray, Scotland, while his father, Andrew Andersen (1859-1939) was a native of Denmark. He had an older sister, Alexia "Lex" Andersen (1890-1982), also born in Baltimore.


0.63 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



The William M. Andersen collection consists of three series: Correspondence, Photographs, and Miscellaneous. Series I, Correspondence, is arranged in chronological order beginning in June 1917 and ending in April 1922. Each letter is accompanied by a typed transcript, which is also available in a Word document upon request.

Series II, Photographs, contains nine photographs all housed in the same folder.

Series III, Miscellaneous, contains four folders arranged in chronological order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Dr. William A. Andersen, June 2005. Accession #7018.

Related Materials

MS 3140, William M. Andersen World War I collection, 1916-1934.

Scope and Contents

The William M. Andersen collection consists of three series: Correspondence, Photographs, and Miscellaneous.

Series I, Correspondence, contains letters from Lieutenant William M. Andersen to his parents and sister in Baltimore dated June 1917 to May 1919, while serving in the United States Army Quartermaster Corps in France, World War I. The earliest letter in this series is dated June 8, 1917 from New York, shortly before Andersen and his company set sail for France. He continued to write from the ship, the S.S. Finland, describing the company and new friends, and also the general mood on board, including nervousness about submarine attacks.

From his arrival in France to his departure nearly two years later, Andersen writes nearly bi-weekly from his post at Base Hospital #18 to his family, eager for news of home and desperate for news of the war. He laments that he cannot discuss his own work in detail due to the censors, and persistently asks for his mother, father, and sister to write to him as often as possible. Many of his letters are repetitive, discussing the weather and assuring his family that he is safe and not in any danger. He does periodically mention parts of his life in the Quartermaster Corps, which included disbursing funds and handling money. On July 11, 1917, Andersen tells his parents- " I do not think I would enjoy work in a bank in France like the good old American banks, especially the Savings Bank of Baltimore." He frequently asks after the health of his old friends at the Bank, and mentions a desire to return.

Lt. Andersen often describes the Germans using inflamatory language, calling them "Boche" or "Huns." On April 28, 1918, he tells his sister, " Sometimes we see things around here, the work of those (d—) Huns, that just about make you boil over, and you wish to be out there to get some of them. I sure would like to get my share, but I suppose our work here is just as important." Although not in a combat role, Andersen expresses a desire to do harm to the enemy. On November 10, 1918, he writes that he is thrilled at the probable end of the war, but declares that "the Hun is finished and just has to stop, but I would like to see them get some of the medicine that they gave Belgium and Serbia and France. They do deserve it and ought to get it, but anyhow I do not think the heads of it all will get theirs. Don’t you hope so!" Beginning in August 1918, Andersen begins to mention a a nurse, Miss Maye Liphart of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in his letters home. He describes her as "a darling" and "a peach" and becomes increasingly devoted to her as the months pass. In a letter dated December 29, 1918, he mentions that he has been engaged for a year on Christmas night. When she leaves with the rest of Base Hospital #18 in January 1919, Lt. Andersen expresses a desire to leave as well, stating that there is "nothing left for me," and "the best companion in the world has left me." In February he asks his sister to help purchase an engagement ring for her, and asks his family to keep her safe for him. But just a few months later in May, he begins to express doubts: "At this time, I find myself a most fickle and changeable man, and I wonder if I will ever settle down to real life, and if it will be possible for me to make one woman happy all of my life. When Maye was here, I was with her nearly all the time, and I was very, very happy with her, but now, I do not know what has happened, if it is the lonesomeness and disappointment that I have had here or what, but I do not feel as I once did, and I am ashamed of myself for it; I really do not know what to do."

The last letter Andersen writes before returning home is dated May 29, 1919 from Neufchateau, France. He describes a recent business trip to Paris, during which he "saw the Bastilles, Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and a number of peace delegates." The Treaty of Versailles, the peace treaty that ended the war between Germany and the Allied Powers, would be signed roughly one month later.

Andersen's final letter in the collection dates to three years later from a business trip to Denmark, his father's native country.

Series II, Photographs, contains nine photographs. There is one portrait of Lieutenant William M. Andersen in uniform, a photograph of Andersen and two other soldiers, and seven photographs of scenes in Bazoilles-sur-Meuse, France, where Andersen was stationed at Base Hospital #18.

Series III, Miscellaneous, consists of four folders. These contain financial papers and ephemera, greeting and post cards, military papers, and William Andersen's estate papers. The military papers contain records relating to Andersen's promotion, as well as evidence of his duties in charge of the payroll. A document for the month of November 1918, lists the names, ranks, enlistment date, army serial numbers, and amounts due. This folder also contains a certificate of discharge from the Maryland National Guard, Fifth Infantry, dated 1911.

Series III also contains records regarding William Andersen's death and estate, circa 1934. These include a statement of death claim, receipts from the Register of Wills Office and John O. Mitchell & Sons Funeral Directors, and an account of Andersen's estate. His wife, Mary Jane Andersen, served at the Administratrix.

Guide to the William M. Andersen collection
Mallory Harwerth
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States