The Stars and Stripes, 1918-1919  |  A Closer Look at The Stars and Stripes

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Inside the Pages: Advertisements - Illustrations - Soldier-Authored Material - The Sports Page - Women and the War Effort
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A World at War: The American Expeditionary Forces - Timeline (1914 - 1921) - Historical Map

(Source: The Stars and Stripes, June 13, 1919.)
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Born In a Log Cabin

The first office of the sheet was in the back room of a little converted shop on the Rue St. Jean in the town of Neufchateau, then used as the Field Press Headquarters of the A.E.F. There, amid the constant coming and going of great but deeply grieved war correspondents, the plaintive pleas for mercy from the cruel, cruel censors, the urgent demands for more wood for that damned old stove by (Censored), and the rigors of the Vosges climate in late January, THE STARS AND STRIPES was born. It is a far cry from the present nigh palatial offices in the Credit Mobilier building on the Rue Taitbout in Paris back to part ownership - and sometimes not even that - in that little room in Lorraine. But what candidate for the Presidency ever suffered from having been born in a log cabin?

Then as now, the composition and makeup of the paper was effected at the plant of the Continental edition of the London Dally Mail, at 36 Rue de Sentler, Paris, whither, a week before the appearance of the first number, four printer-Yanks from the 29th Engineers had been dispatched. In the early days and for quite a time after, the printing was done on the Mail's press, but for the last ten months the press-run has been made at the plant of the Journal, 100 Rue de Richelieu, Paris. From the very beginning British printermen and French engravers have collaborated with the sweating, denimed Americans who, below ground in the Mails plant, have made THE STARS AND STRIPES possible these 16 and a half months; so that it Is really, in no small sense, an international affair.

The appearance of Vol. 1, No. 1. created quite a stir in the States, England and Continental Europe, but most of all in the A.E.F. itself, then a rather bewildered force of some 300,000 men scattered all the way from Bordeaux to Lorraine and heartily echoing the sentiments of the late William Tecumseh Sherman. The names of its staff actually appeared in the London Times, making them, it is said, the first American writers to be favorably mentioned therein since the vogue of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Be that as it may, THE STARS AND STRIPES suspects that Lord Northcliffe, owner of the Times as well as of the Mail, and one of the infant paper's heartiest rooters from the start, had something to do with it. He is the kind of Englishman who understands you when you say rooter - and likes it.

Li'l Dan'l Peddles Vol. 1

One thousand copies of said Vol 1, No. 1 were sold in a day in the great quadrangle at Chaumont by THE STARS AND STRIPES first newsboy, L'il Dan'l Sowers, the largest Field Clerk in captivity, otherwise known as the Quartertermaster's Despair. Clad in a cute little mackinaw, Li'l Dan'l braved the icy blasts of the high-Marne region and held up generals and corporals of the old guard and everybody for their little half-frankies. As far as we can ascertain, those were our first actual cash sales, and in reward for having made them Li'l Dan'l was allowed to attach himself to the S. & S. staff for rations and guidance whenever he came to Paris. As the largest body of troops in the A.E.F., he needed a whole flock of conducting officers.

But amid all the hubbub and uproar caused by the launching, the staff of the new weekly was unperturbed. It was too busy moving itself to Paris, which has been its home station ever since. There for about seven weeks, it worked night and day in a not too large room on the second floor of the Hotel Ste. Anne, known to every AWOL on Paris leave in the A.E.F. And there the staff which built it up and presided thenceforth over its destinies finally began to gather, to simmer down, and to function as a unit.

The "Old Contemptibles"

Of the people who wrote or drew for the first number, only three remain by the paper's bedside at the end. One, the oldest of the trio, is Army Field Clerk George W. B. Britt (43), who wrote our first signed story on our first sport page, and has since been occupied In answering 500,000 letters (so he claims), as head of the Soldiers' Service Department of the paper, organizing quartettes, octettes and Gilbert & Sullivan revivals as a side line. Another is Sgt. Hudson Hawley, 11 months a buck, who wrote almost everything Britt didn't write in the first issue, and has since been utilized on jobs ranging from editorial writing to chaperoning amiable major generals around France. The third member is Wally -- down on the Marine pay office books as Pvt. Albian A. Wallgren, 119,300, late sign painter, Supply Company, 5th Regiment -- whose main function on the paper has been to make Britt and Hawley both miserable and famous by inserting their diametrically opposed likenesses in each and every one of his gol-dern cartoons.

Of the men who helped print the first and all subsequent numbers, the original four -- Sgt. Richard S. Claiborne, oldest man on the paper, with an age of 49 and service ribbons dating back to Cuba; Pvt. Sigurd U. Bergh, formerly proof reader and now reporter with the A. of O.; Pvt. Herman J. Miller and Pvt. Frank J. Hammer -- remain to get out the last. They were the men who first informed The Daily Mail crowd that while "Continued in Page 3" might be all right for a respectable British daily. It had got to be "Continued ON Page 3" in a respectable American weekly. If they had done nothing more than that, their services to the Allied cause would have been tremendous; as it was, they did much, much more to make THE STARS AND STRIPES American in looks and arrangement as well as spirit.

Soon after Its establishment at the Ste. Anne, however, THE STARS AND STRIPES collected Cpl. George P. Wrench, its first courier and deliver of copies In bulk, who in one year has probably made more English channel crossings than the late King Edward VII made in his life. Corporal George, too, remains to the end.

Four of the men who reported for duty during the first month of the paper's existence, and who with Wallgren and Hawley constituted the editorial council shaping the paper's policy for a long, long time, have left for the states. They are ex-Buck Pvt. Harold Wallace Ross, 18th Engineers (Ry.), managing editor from December, 1918, to April of this year; ex-Buck Pvt. John T. Winterich, Air Service, head of copy desk, makeup editor and many, many other things; fat ex-Sgt Alexander Woollcott, M.D., official correspondent of THE STARS AND STRIPES at the front, later amusement editor because he was once a dramatic critic; and ex-Pvt. C. LeRoy Baldridge, Infantry unattached, the respectable half of the Art Department, known throughout the Allied World for his cartoons of the doughboy, with which he helped in no small degree to put over the Fourth and Fifth Liberty loans in the States.



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The Stars and Stripes, 1918-1919  |  A Closer Look at The Stars and Stripes