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'En Route' Postal History

United States, First World War Period, 1917-1919

by Bob Swanson

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About This Presentation
  • Large numbers of military men were transported by rail throughout the United States during the First World War (1917-1919)
  • They often mailed cards and letters while onboard the trains
  • Some items are canceled by Railway Post Office (RPO) markings
  • These are only a small subset of such covers and cards

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Troop Train "Ground Rules"
  • The men were not allowed off the train, except to have exercise drill
  • Generally, they were not informed of their destination
  • Sometimes letters were handed to Red Cross women at train stations for mailing
  • Otherwise, letters would have to be placed in the RPO slot on the train, or handed to a helpful civilian

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'En Route' Cover and Letter Posted in Wyoming
[en_route_cover image] [en_route_letter_image]

(Click on image(s) to see larger version.)

  • Mailed in Green River, Wyoming
  • Letter indicates "written on train"
  • (Appears to be mailed by civilian "Hugo" after letter handed to them by the soldier "Edward")

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Mail from Wounded Soldier in a Hospital Car
[en_route_mail_image] [en_route_mail_image]

(Click on image(s) to see larger version.)

  • From wounded returning soldier, 1919
  • Writes that he is going to General Hospital #32, in a special hospital car
  • Canceled by RPO handstamp on train

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Little Rock, Arkansas 'En Route'
[transit_clerk_handstamp_image]

(Click on image to see larger version.)

  • Soldier writes "going to Houston" (October 1917)
  • Canceled by "Transit Clerk" handstamp for Little Rock (Tr. Clerk office was usually in a train station)

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'En Route' with RPO Handstamp
[rpo_handstamp_image]

(Click on image to see larger version.)

  • "we are on our way to somewhere"
  • Canceled by St. Louis and Parsons handstamp (applied on board train in RPO car)

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Sailor 'En Route' from Great Lakes
[rpo_handstamp_image]

(Click on image to see larger version.)

  • Writes: "am standing a 2 hr watch now on train"
  • Uncommon to find 'en route' items from sailors
  • Canceled by International machine from main Columbus, Ohio, post office

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Instructions for Presentation:
  • Computer: Use your arrow keys to move from one slide to another, See: a How-To webpage with more options. (You can also click on the small arrow images in lower right corner.)
  • Phone/Tablet: Swipe left/right on your screen to move from one slide to another.
  • Select Image for Table of Contents menu (in upper left corner) to view Table of Contents.

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Acknowledgements:

Examples from the collection of Bob Swanson

Mini-Presentation updated 14 May, 2017

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Table of Contents

Title Page
About This Presentation
Ground Rules on Trooptrains
Wyoming 'En Route' Cover and Letter
Posted on Special Military Hospital Car
Little Rock Transit Clerk Marking
RPO Handstamp on 'En Route'
'En Route' from Sailor
Instructions for Reading Presentation
Acknowledgements/Notes

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