Special Collections of the ODU Libraries

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

By Special Collections Staff

Collection Overview

Title: Samuel Leyens Switzer Papers, circa 1910-1985, undated

ID: 00/MG 37

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

Extent: 9.2 Linear Feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The collection is divided into six series: Series I: Correspondence; Series II: Literary Productions; Series III: Printed Material; Series IV: Maps; Series V: Photographic Material; and Series VI: Memorabilia.

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

Abstract

Department store owner in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Includes correspondence, literary productions, legal documents, newspaper and magazine clippings, maps, memorabilia and photographs. Collection 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 collection contains the correspondence, publications, photographs, maps, and memorability of Samuel Leyens Switzer, a soldier who fought in World War I as well as a merchant in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The bulk of the material details Switzer's time as a Lieutenant in World War I. Some of the highlights of the collector include letters chronically the daily life of soldiers, photographs of Switzer and fellow officers, and maps containing detailed battle positions and troop movements.

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

Businessmen--Mississippi--Vicksburg
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, Old Dominion University Libraries.


Box and Folder Listing


Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence, circa 1911-1985, undated],
[Series II: Literary Productions, 1910, 1919],
[Series III: Printed Material, circa 1910-1960],
[Series IV: Maps, circa 1912-1919, undated],
[Series V: Photographic Material, circa 1910-1919],
[Series VI: Memorabilia, circa 1914-1955],
[All]

Series I: Correspondence, circa 1911-1985, undated
This series contains letters to and from Switzer from his days as a student at Exeter and Harvard University, to his time as a soldier in World War I, and as a dry goods merchant in Vicksburg, Mississippi after the War. The bulk of the letters, written mostly to family members, describe the daily life of being a soldier, first as a member of the Harvard University ROTC, and then as a Lieutenant on the front lines in France and Germany. Of particular note is a letter describing the calm after the armistice in November 1918. The series is arranged in chronological order.
Box 1
Folder 1: Schooling: Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire, 1911 November
Folder 2: Schooling: Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire, circa 1911-1914
Folder 3: Schooling: Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire, 1914 February
Folder 4: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1914 September
Folder 5: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1914 October
Folder 6: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1914 November
Folder 7: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1914 December
Folder 8: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1915 January
Folder 9: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1915 February
Folder 10: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1915 March
Folder 11: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1915 April
Folder 12: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1915 May
Folder 13: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1916 March
Folder 14: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1916 April
Folder 15: Military Training: Plattsburgh, New York, 1916 June
Folder 16: Military Training: Plattsburgh, New York, 1916 July
Folder 17: New York City, 1916 August
Folder 18: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1916 October
Folder 19: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1917 March
Folder 20: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1917 April
Folder 21: College: Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1917 May
Folder 22: Military Training: Harvard's Reserve Unit, 1917 June
Folder 23: Military Training: Harvard's Reserve Unit, 1917 July
Folder 24: Military Training: Harvard's Reserve Unit, 1917 August
Folder 25: Military Training: Leon Springs, Texas, 1917 September
Folder 26: Military Training: Leon Springs, Texas, 1917 October
Folder 27: Military Training: Leon Springs, Texas, 1917 November
Box 2
Folder 1: Military Training: Douglas, Arizona, 1917 December
Folder 2: Military Training: Douglas, Arizona, 1918 January
Folder 3: Military Training: Douglas, Arizona, 1918 February
Folder 4: Military Training: Douglas, Arizona, 1918 March
Folder 5: New York City, 1918 April
Folder 6: Sailing to and Arrival in France, 1918 May
Folder 7: World War I: France, 1918 June
Folder 8: World War I: France, 1918 July
Folder 9: World War I: France, 1918 August
Folder 10: World War I: France, 1918 September
Folder 11: World War I: France, 1918 October
Box 3
Folder 1: World War I: France, 1918 November
Folder 2: Occupation Army: Germany, 1918 December
Letter dated 1918 December 26 talks about influenza while Switzer was stationed in Germany.
Folder 3: Occupation Army: Germany, 1919 January
Folder 4: Occupation Army: Germany, 1919 February
Folder 5: Occupation Army: Germany, 1919 March
Folder 6: Beaune University: France, 1919 April
Folder 7: Beaune University: France, 1919 May
Folder 8: Beaune University: France, 1919 June
Folder 9: Arrival in America and Discharge from the Army, 1919 July
Folder 10: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1919 November
Folder 11: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1920 April
Folder 12: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1920 August
Folder 13: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1920 November
Folder 14: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1921 March
Folder 15: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1921 May
Folder 16: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1921 July
Folder 17: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1921 December
Folder 18: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1922 January
Folder 19: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1922 March
Folder 20: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1922 September
Folder 21: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1922 October
Folder 23: Vicksburg, Mississippi, April 1923
Folder 24: Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 1923
Folder 25: Vicksburg, Mississippi, July 1923
Folder 26: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1925 November
Folder 27: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1926 December
Folder 28: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1927 December
Folder 29: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1928 February
Folder 30: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1928 March
Folder 31: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1928 April
Folder 32: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1937 February
Folder 33: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1937 March
Folder 34: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1937 June
Folder 22: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1922 November
Box 4
Folder 1: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1937 July
Folder 2: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1937 August
Folder 3: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1937 September
Folder 4: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1937 October
Folder 5: Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1957 July
Folder 6: Address Books--World War I, circa 1917-1919
Folder 7: National Rehabilitation Association--Switzer Scholars, 1985 May
Folder 8: Letter Asking for Date with Switzer, undated

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence, circa 1911-1985, undated],
[Series II: Literary Productions, 1910, 1919],
[Series III: Printed Material, circa 1910-1960],
[Series IV: Maps, circa 1912-1919, undated],
[Series V: Photographic Material, circa 1910-1919],
[Series VI: Memorabilia, circa 1914-1955],
[All]

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