Over There, Over Everywhere: The Aero Service Collection at the Library Company of Philadelphia

  • Author: Nicole Joniec
  • Published: October 9, 2014

The following post is by Carl H. Winnefeld, Jr., Guest Blogger for the Library Company of Philadelphia


Street of Blondefontaine- Dec. 26-1918. Gelatin silver photograph. Library Company of Philadelphia

The Aero Service Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia contains material (primarily photographic images) acquired by the Aero Service Corporation and its president, Virgil Kauffman over a 40 year time frame. Aero Service was founded in Philadelphia in 1919 as Pennsylvania Aero Service and remained based in Philadelphia until 1973 when it relocated to Houston, Texas. The company operated on a worldwide basis.  Its primary business was aerial photography, photogrammetry (the use of photography in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects), and remote sensing using an airborne magnetometer. In 1934 Aero Service worked with the Tennessee Valley Authority to map areas where the TVA was responsible for developing watershed resources. In 1947 Aero Service flew one of the first large airborne magnetometer surveys using Shoran navigation control over the Bahamas.


Jules Schick Photography, Virgil Kauffman, gelatin silver photograph, March 18, 1958. Library Company of Philadelphia

The Aero Service Corporation’s longtime president Virgil Kauffman (portrait above) was born in Yardley Pennsylvania in 1898. With the onset of World War I, Kauffman was assigned to the Corps of Engineers Photography School. The Army Air Corps utilized aerial photography for intelligence during the war and Kauffman was assigned to participate in the aerial reconnaissance missions, making this his introduction to aerial photography. After the war, he joined Aero Service in 1924 and directed the company from 1927 to 1961. His contributions to the scientific and technical world were wide ranging and significant. In 1966 he funded the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal to be awarded by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists for outstanding contribution in geophysical exploration.  Kauffman was associated with the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University from 1961 to 1985. Virgil Kauffman passed away in 1985.

The first image above shows the village of Blondefontaine, France in the winter of 1918 immediately after the war. Blondefontaine is located 285 kilometers southeast of Paris. The village today looks very much as it did in 1918. The image below is a description of the scene written by Virgil Kauffman. The photograph provides a view of just how grim it must have been during the war years in France.


Verso of Street of Blondefontaine- Dec. 26-1918. Library Company of Philadelphia

World War One Posters and a Philadelphia Connection

  • Author: Nicole Joniec
  • Published: June 23, 2014
World War One poster by Jessie Willcox Smith P.2284.107

World War One poster by Jessie Willcox Smith P.2284.107

The Jessie Willcox Smith Photograph Collection in the Print and Photograph Department is not the only place to find the famed illustrator’s work at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Smith was one of the many talented artists recruited by the United States Committee of Public Information to create propaganda posters during World War I. In 1918, Smith designed “Have You a Red Cross Service Flag?” a poster which Pennsylvania poster dealer George Theofiles labeled as, “a very popular poster done by an equally popular children’s book illustrator of the period” (Theofiles, American Posters of World War I, 169).

An article in the 1918 Thanksgiving issue of The Red Cross Bulletin described this poster even more enthusiastically:

“In the Jessie Willcox Smith poster the Red Cross Christmas Roll-Call will present one of the finest studies of child life ever painted. It is a window scene which it is hoped will be reproduced in every home in the country. A little boy is fixing a Red Cross service flag in his window to indicate that his home is 100 per cent enrolled. A Christmas wreath is suspended above. Miss Smith set aside all her regular orders and work to produce this poster for the Red Cross.”

A Philadelphia native, Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935) studied at the Moore College of Art (then the School of Design for Women), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and with Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute. Smith lived with fellow artists Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley, who collectively became known as the Red Rose Girls. Smith not only grew into a nationally recognized children’s book illustrator, she also designed the cover of the magazine, Good Housekeeping, from 1918 to 1932.


Jessie Willcox Smith collection P.9446.porch


Jessie Willcox Smith collection P.9446.porch

Smith frequently took portrait photographs to use as studies for her illustrations. Two photographs within the Library Company’s Jessie Willcox Smith Collection indicate that she may have been planning to design additional World War I posters. These two character studies show a sailor seated either on a porch or in a field pointing towards the horizon. I have not been able to track down posters created from these photographs, but please let us know if you are aware of any related images.

Becca Solnit
Library Company of Philadelphia Intern

Books in Pictures

  • Author: Sarah Weatherwax
  • Published: May 21, 2014


As Library Company of Philadelphia intern Becca Solnit organizes our material for inclusion in the digital collaborative project Home Before the Leaves Fall: a Great War Centennial Exposition (http://wwionline.org), we in the Print Department have been treated to the largely unexplored visual delights that lurked in our drawers of World War I posters. Posters urging Americans to buy war bonds or not waste food were expected, but posters relating to the war work of the American Library Association (ALA) were more surprising.


Established in 1917, the ALA’s war time programs, known as the Library War Service, accomplished an impressive number of tasks in a short period of time. While these posters are more utilitarian than eye-catching, the work of the Library War Service was given more visual appeal in posters such as this one urging the public to donate books for servicemen. While this poster encouraged donors to drop off their books at nearby public libraries, another Service initiative facilitated the delivery of magazines to the troops.  Created by the Postmaster-General Albert S. Burleson, the special program allowed individuals to mail used magazines for only one cent.   This reading material, referred to in publicity as “Burleson magazines” flooded military libraries through the work of the Library War Service. As many as twenty sacks of magazines weighing as much as one hundred pounds each arrived daily at some camp libraries. The group erected thirty six camp libraries with money from the Carnegie fund; raised five million dollars from the public; distributed close to ten million books, magazines, and newspapers to the troops; and provided library materials to over 500 locations, including more than 200 military hospitals. The Library War Service produced a series of posters promoting their work, and the Library Company’s collection includes four from this series. Using a collage of images the posters showed clean-cut soldiers in training camps enjoying library services, wounded soldiers in hospitals receiving books at bedsides, exteriors of libraries on military bases, and the delivery of reading material to the troops stationed overseas. The organization also reproduced many of these images as lantern slides and used them for fundraising presentations around the country.


Even near the end of the war, the Library War Service remained active. Illustrator Dan Smith (1865-1934), who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, created this visually striking poster probably when many soldiers were contemplating their re-entry into civilian life. The books leading out of the European trenches and across the Atlantic to America encompassed practical subjects such as drafting, business, farming, and machine shop work. The Library War Service encouraged soldiers to take advantage of library resources. “Got your eyes glued to some job back home?” read some fundraising material. “Better glue them to the book about it at the CAMP LIBRARY. Stick To It, you’ll get the job.” The Library War Service distributed 100,000 copies of this “Knowledge Wins” poster. The Library Company’s copy was “found in collection,” and it would be great to think that it has possibly been in our possession since its distribution almost 100 years ago.

Sarah J. Weatherwax
Curator of Prints and Photographs

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Last Modified: May 21, 2014