Jun 27, 2024 - Sale 2675

Sale 2675 - Lot 213

Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
(MILITARY.) Robert M. Danford. Diaries kept as a West Point cadet, and other papers through his retirement as a general. Several hundred items (0.7 linear feet) in two boxes; condition generally strong. Various places, 1900-1945

Additional Details

Illinois native Robert Melville Danford (1879-1974) kept these diaries as a cadet at West Point before graduating in 1904. He went on to a distinguished career as a field artillery officer in World War One, was Commandant of Cadets at West Point, and retired as a Major General and Chief of Field Artillery in 1942.

Diaries: 66, 113, [47], manuscript diary pages, plus 25 pages of clippings in the first volume and [32] pages of drafting class notes in the last volume. 3 volumes. 4to, original matched ½ calf over marbled boards, worn; minimal wear to contents. West Point, NY, September 1900 to May 1904 (with breaks for summer furlough).

The biggest news at West Point during these years was the death of Oscar Booz, who had withdrawn from the academy in 1898 with his emotional and physical health broken from relentless hazing. He died on 3 December 1900 from related causes, which soon became a national news story. Danford, who arrived after Booz's departure, wrote three days later: "Sensations over the Booz affair. Rumors of an investigation in the corps." The next day, an official addressed the cadets "in regard to the Booz affair. Some of our class thought he intimated that our class was without honor." He discusses the arrival of the investigating committee under General Brooke on 18 December; on 21 December several cadets were reprimanded for their "slow and deliberate manner in which they gave testimony."

Danford's 29 August 1901 entry describes the cadets' visit to the Buffalo World's Fair, just days before President McKinley was assassinated there. On 6 September, the cadets were gathered for parade when an order came down from the commander, and it was "announced that there would be no parade as Pres. McKinley had just been shot and killed. Everybody wild for particulars."

School athletics are discussed at length, particularly football games. A completed baseball scorecard from a 19 April 1902 game against Harvard is tipped in. In center field and batting third for West Point: Douglas MacArthur, Class of 1903. Harvard's star shortstop William Clarence Matthews, one of the very few African-Americans playing on a white college team in that era, is listed as the shortstop in the scorecard, credited with three runs. Danford's diary entry noted only "They beat us 14 to 4. They played their coon." Matthews played a year in the white minor leagues in 1905.

Danford's correspondence includes 33 letters from his time as major in command of the Yale Battery as they prepared to head for the Mexican border, 1916; a thick indexed 568-page bound file of retained carbon outgoing correspondence as Chief of Field Artillery, 1938-1940 (including correspondents Harry Truman, Hap Arnold, Douglas MacArthur, and many other generals); and a 68-page correspondence file relating mostly to his retirement, 1942 (including a congratulatory letter signed by George C. Marshall).

Photographs include 33 loose photographs from circa 1916 to the 1920s, two showing American troops massed in Laredo, TX at the Mexican border, others of Fort MacArthur, CA; 19 loose photographs of Danford and others, 1940-1941 and undated; and a binder of 13 photos of his visit to Fort Knox in 1938, bound with related memoranda.

Also included are Danford's copy of his textbook "Elements of Trigonometry," 1900; 5 telegrams and their responses to Major Danford's Yale Battery, 1916; a file of Danford's tour of military bases, June 1941; two typescript addresses to the New York civilian police auxiliary, which Danford commanded in his retirement from 1942 to 1945; and a possibly unrelated photo album of travels in India, circa 1930s, inscribed "Robert Borrell, belongs to Edward Borrell."