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Rathbun Family Papers, 1916-1942

Title
Rathbun Family Papers, 1916-1942
ID
MS 00020
Extent
3.0 Linear Feet
Scope and Contents

The collection consists mostly of love letters between Ella-May Abbott of New Orleans, Louisiana and Walter James Rathbun who is based in ship ports in the United States, Europe, Nicaragua and the Panama Canal Zone.  Letters from Walter Rathbun’s Mother, Mrs. J. Baird of Floral Park, New Jersey and other family members are included.

Ella-May and Walter begin a correspondence courtship in 1916, then breakup in 1919 for reasons not given.  They begin writing to each other again in 1926 and finally marry in 1930. These years are hard for them, particularly since Walter is trying to obtain a divorce from his Brazilian wife.

In their almost daily letters, Ella writes about her day's activities and Walter writes about his ship duties and his experiences while in port.  They both write about their love and longing for each other. His World War II letters from the Panama Canal Zone are marked by a censor and have few details about his work but contain many comments about the culture among the Navy families, particularly the wives. A running thread through the years is the inability of Charles Rathbun, Walter's brother, to hold a job.

Walter has many titles while working on ships including 2nd Officer and Captain.  In World War II he is a Lt. Commander in the United States Naval Reserves stationed in the Canal Zone.  Ella-May is a window designer for a large department store in New Orleans, but doesn’t work after they marry and move to New Jersey.  They later move to Pasadena, California where Ella-May's mother and sisters live.

Arrangement
Chronological order.
Creators
Rathbun family
Administrative/Biographical History
Walter James Rathburn was a ship captain on vessels associated with the navy and with shipping.  He spent time in the Panama Canal Zone during World War II.  His father was also associated with ships and his brother, too.  Ella-May Abbot is a woman who works and enjoys her family then must adjust to marriage with a man whose time is more often on ships than at home.
Subjects
Canal Zone
Merchant marine--United States
Panama--Description and travel
Shipping--United States
United States. Naval Reserve
United States. Navy--History--20th century
United States. Navy--History--World War, 1939-1945
Women--Social life and customs.
World War, 1914-1918
Genres
Letters (correspondence)
Love letters
Languages
English

Detailed Description

Full Finding Aid/Box List

Administrative Information

Acquired
09/05/2011.
Restrictions
Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.
Rights
Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.
Acquisition Note
 Source: Purchase..
Preferred Citation
Rathbun Family Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
Collection Material Type:
Papers
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