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Identifier: MC 1512

Cole Family Papers


  • Majority of material found within 1910-1940, ( 1917-1920)

Biographical Sketch and Letters Scope

George W. and Maude Cole: Biographical Sketch and Letters Sent

George W. Cole was born in New Jersey in 1863. According to Plainfield city directories, he was a partner in a funeral home business (Cole and High: Funeral Directors) before turning the business over to his son Clifford and partner John High. He and his wife Maude, a homemaker born in New Jersey in 1869, resided at 200 West Second Street in Plainfield. The pair may have owned a farm, because in letters written by Maude to Clifford, she mentioned that she had been doing a lot work on the farm that included collecting eggs selling milk, making butter, and the addition of a calf to the "stock farm" (May 1, 1918 and March 6 and 23, 1919).

The eight letters included in the collection that were sent to Clifford from Maude describe news about the family, Plainfield, and the funeral home business. In a letter dated November 19, 1918, Maude desc1ibes an epidemic in Plainfield that led to much illness and death, and thus a rise in the family business. During the epidemic, phone use in Plainfield was restricted to only necessary or very urgent calls to leave the lines free for emergency calls. She writes that because doctors and nurses were away for the war, it accounted for many deaths. People were fo11unate if they got a nurse to visit their home, otherwise they had to go to the hospital, where the death rate was "awful." Maude states that women with spare time aided the sick by going into their homes and doing housework. In this letter, she also mentions "a war work" campaign where they raised Plainfield's Quota $150,000.

George W. and Maude Cole: Letters Received

The bulk of the letters received by Mr. And Mrs. Cole were from Clifford, ranging from February 1917 to July 1919. Also included in the collection were pictures sent on February 18, 1918 by Clifford of him and his friends in Jacksonville, Florida and newspaper clippings of the new Enlisted Men's Club. The remaining correspondence primarily consisted of postcards from their daughters and other postcards and holiday cards from assorted friends and family spanning the years 1914-1940.

Postcards received by the Coles included 16 from Florida, 3 from Washington D .C ., 10 from Atlantic City, 6 from Connecticut, 2 from Cape Cod, 2 from North Carolina, 2 from Virginia, from 3 Niagara Falls, 2 from New Hampshire, 2 from Oklahoma, 1 from South Carolina, 1 from Morristown, New Jersey, and 1 fold-out postcard set from Montreal, Canada. The Coles received a total of 16 holiday cards, including 10 Christmas cards from 1931.

George H. Cole: Biographical Sketch and Letters Received

George H. Cole, the eldest son, was born in New Jersey on June 10, 1890. All of the correspondence he received from friends and his siblings were sent to his parents' address in Plainfield and span the years 1910-1925. Included in the collection are 11 holiday cards as well as postcards from Florida, and the following locations in New Jersey: Lebanon, Morristown, Asbury Park, and Atlantic City. George received one letter from a woman named Florence on November 29, 1914 in which she professed her love for him. He also received a postcard inscribed with a love poem from an anonymous source on May 5, 1916.

Edna Cole: Biographical Sketch and Letters Sent

Edna Cole was born on April 8, 1892 and resided in Plainfield. She married Russell (last name unknown) and had two children, Eleanor and Russell, Jr. Postcards sent to her family indicated that she traveled to such places as Florida in 1930, 1936 and 1940, Connecticut in 1930, and Atlantic City in 1930 and 1931.

In a 1918 letter to Clifford she describes homemaking and entertainment activities, including a canoeing trip with Russell and the great amount of time she had to spend "canning everything in sight (August 28). In a later letter dated January 24, 1919 to Clifford she writes briefly about a second flu epidemic that struck Plainfield. In this same letter she describes a number of dances, including a masquerade hosted by the Plainfield Elks and the Annual Banquet of the Bankers Institute in New York.

Clifford E. Cole: Biographical Sketch and Letters Sent

Clifford Cole was born in New Jersey June 6, 1894. In December of 1917, Clifford left New Jersey for Camp Johnson in Jacksonville, Florida to begin his service for the United States in World War I. Soon after, he was assigned to the embalming division and was stationed on two ships. The collection includes letters addressed to his parents dated from December 12, 1917 to July 7, 1919. The letters contain very few historical or military details. Instead, Clifford discusses the weather, a few of his trips to various locations, his homesickness, the people he encountered, sermons he heard at church, and the dances he attended.

The first correspondence is a postcard from Newark where he states he is leaving for Fort Alocun (December 12, 1917). On December 17 Clifford wrote that he was traveling via train through Richmond, Virginia and was now in North Carolina. In this letter he also mentions that the Red Cross gave out food and supplies before they got on the train. Clifford was stationed at Camp Johnston from approximately December 20 until around April 1918. A number of letters describe his experiences at Camp Johnston. For example, on Janua1y 14, 1918 Clifford writes that he ate steak for dinner at the camp. In another letter, Clifford states that the military was sending people to Mexico, Texas, and New Jersey who enlisted prior to the draft (January 1, 1918). January 23, Clifford writes that he volunteered for the hospital corps and might become a second lieutenant. In a letter dated February 14, Clifford mentions that he gets $15 a month from the military. Other events that ocurred during this time include that his company was picked to be in Washington's Birthday parade (February 18, 1918), a trip to St. Augustine and South Beach (February 1918), his first "elimination examination" (March 18), dances (March 24 and April 20), and a course he was taking (April 15, 1918).

Postcards he sent to his family from Florence, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia in May 1918 indicate that Clifford was traveling from Florida to Newport News, Virginia. In May 1918 Clifford was stationed in transport on the U.S.S. Kentuckian and "assigned to good quarters" (May 11, 1918). In August 1918 he was transferred to the U.S.S. Monticello because he missed his ship earlier that month. He wrote that the Kentuckian left without him and he was court marshaled because they considered him to be AWOL (August 3, 1918). On August 11, Clifford indicated that provisions were running low in Newport News, as they had accommodations for 20,000 but 100,000 people were there. Later that month, the ship was in dry-dock in Norfolk, Virginia waiting to sail to France on September 1 (August 21, 1918). He also wrote that 30 embalmers had been assigned to different ships (August 29, 1918). Clifford indicated that he left for France on September 3, 1918.

On November 12, Clifford writes of the celebration to mark the end of the war. During the celebration, soldiers destroyed restaurants that were charging high prices, but he managed to make it back to camp safely (1918). He made a second trip to France from December 1918 to January 1919. Following the end of the war, Clifford remained stationed on the U.S.S. Monticello until at least April 1919. Clifford wrote that at that time he was trying to get off the ship and get discharged because he is "seasick" (April 7, 1919).

In May 1919, Clifford arrived in Newport News and stayed there until he was released from the military sometime shortly after July 7. A letter to his parents dated July 3, 1919 mentions a stay at Camp Hill, where he was on his first stretch toward home, and on July 7 he states that he would be "leaving by Wednesday." After his term of service, Clifford returned to Plainfield, New Jersey to work as the funeral director and undertaker for Cole and High.

Also included in the collection is a draft of a letter sent to Maude Morris of Plainfield dated November 9, 1914. The letter expresses his anger at her "unexpected and unwelcome letter" and of his disgust over her actions from the previous week. He also mentions his regret at taking her to see "Thirty Leagues Under the Sea." He signs the letter "A Lost Friend."

Clifford Cole: Letters Received

Clifford received letters dated from 1912-1940. The letters he received prior to December 1917 were mostly written by female friends and describe his relationship with them and recreational activities. From 1912-1914, Clifford received friendly letters a female friend named "Birdie" from Bound Brook, New Jersey. He also received significant correspondence from Florence, from Newark, in 1913 and 1914. Letters in the collection includes a picture of her (September 8, 1913) and descriptions of the dances she attended. From 1913-1914, approximately 40 letters from Clifford's girlfriend Josephine, from Westfield, described the dances they attended, their relationship, and her rejection of his advances. Clifford also received letters from Jennie McCabe of Yonkers in 1914 and Elva in 1915.

Correspondence with Clifford's friend Betty from Plainfield spanned from 1915 to 1919. The three letters received in 1915 were friendly descriptions of their relationship, summer camp, and their friends. He also received a letter in 1918 where she writes of school, the dances she attended, and her work as a stenographer at the M. Hospital (January 17). A letter the following year describes the boys who are returning home: including George Noonan, who was a prisoner in Germany; Voorhees, who was wounded three times; Carl Taylor, who is now an officer in the navy; Ralph Runyon, a lieutenant in the army. In the same letter she writes that " the boys who didn't enlist are not in it now and I know none of them regret it not even those who have lost am1s, legs, (brains?) etc." (January 4, 1919).

Maude Morris, later Staats, from Plainfield begins her correspondence with Clifford in 1914, and continues to write him in 1918. The initial correspondence consisted of descriptions of vacations and their relationship. In 1918, Maude writes mostly about her family and inquires about Clifford's experiences.

Clifford corresponded with Doris from Jacksonville, Florida beginning May 6, 1918 until December 21, 1918. The 6 items of correspondence in the collection include a newspaper clipping titled "Soldiers at camp barred from city all day Saturday'' (May 10, 1918), a newspaper clipping of a picture of Doris singing and a program (June 8, 1918), a postcard depicting soldiers (June 18, 1918), a postcard from New York (July 17, 1918), and a Christmas card (December 21, 1918).

Constance from St. Augustine, Florida corresponded with Clifford from May 14, 1918 until June 13, 1919. In the letters, she wishes him luck when he "goes over the top" and "over there" (May 14, 1918), describes local dances (August 9, 1918), and news that the boys were coming home fast (June 13, 1919).

Clifford received 21 items of correspondence from Ethel M. Hartman of Brooklyn, New York from May 2, 1918 to June 26, 1924. She writes about going down to the "Battery'' to see the battle ships (May 2, 1918), describes a program that roasts the Kaiser (May 25, 1918), and mentions Clifford's assignment to the Monticello (August 10, 1918). In a letter addressed to Sergeant Cole written March 27, 1919 Ethel writes how she saw the movie "The Heart of Humanity" and how she "had the horrors ever since and keep[s] thinking of the awful things those wonderful Belgians suffered and it seems impossible to believe the Germans could be so beastly but no one really knows what countries went through before we entered the war but thank God it is all over." Remaining correspondence included a birthday card (June 2, 1919), and two get well cards sent in June of 1924.

Margaret Eckardt from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania was Clifford's pen pal from August 14, 1918 to February 28, 1919. She writes how her friend found out that Wanamakes has an overseas department in which they sell everything needed by the soldiers and then send it over to France (August 16, 1918) and also of a brother fighting in the war who came home and was walking around without a cane or crutch and that he says "the electric treatments are wonderful" (August 29, 1918).

From 1918-1919 Clifford received over 75 items of correspondence from various friends and family. Most of the letters describe their concern for Cliffs well-being and news from home. Letters that contain items of interest include: a letter from Helen stating how she was sending food to Europe in order to "lick the Germans" (April 3, 1918); a newspaper clippings about how white soldiers were forbidden to enter sections where "colored" ones lived (June 4, 1918); a letter from Marian Heyman of Plainfield where she writes that she tried to visit the hospital and enlist in the Mother Corp. but was turned down. She writes, "that's the worst of being a girl during war-times. You are too young for this and too old for that" (January 15, 1919); a letter stating that a number of the boys were coming home from France (January 27, 1919); a letter from business partner John High where he states how he has someone on the job to try to get him out of the army (March 26, 1919); and pictures of Clifford's friend Ham and his sister dressed as a man (August 14, 1919).

Correspondence to Cliff from various individuals dated 1920-1940 included 24 Christmas cards, 4 New Year's cards, postcards from Daytona Beach, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., and the announcement of the opening of Benjamin Glass's doctor's office.

Clifford also received letters from his mother, Edna, and Adelaide beginning in 1918. The letters mostly described life at home, work, and family. Correspondence also includes postcards from Florida sent by Adelaide in 1940.

Adelaide Cole: Biographical Sketch and Letters Sent

Adelaide Cole, born July 3, 1896, was the youngest child in the Cole family. She resided in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was married and had two children, Edna and Jack. Postcards sent to her family showed that she visited such locations as Atlantic City in 1936 and 1938, Washington D.C. and New Hampshire in 1938, and Florida in 1940.

In letters sent to Clifford she describes her job and social life (April 29, 1918), news of the baby (May 8, 1918). In a later letter, Adelaide mentions a rhyme recited by her daughter that dealt with "kicking Kaiser Bill in the pants" (December 26, 1918). On January 21, 1919 Adelaide sent a letter to Clifford describing the post-war conditions in Bridgeport when she writes that large quantity of people who were unemployed because the munitions plants were shutting down.


1 Cubic Feet (2.5 manuscript box)

Language of Materials



The Cole family correspondence is a collection of approximately 500 mostly handwritten letters spanning the years 1910-1940, the bulk of which were received from 1917-1920. In addition, the collection includes newspaper clippings, wedding invitations, photographs, holiday cards, and postcards. The Cole family was centered around the Plainfield, New Jersey area, but during the war correspondence to and from the family members reached such parts of the world as Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, France, and U.S. ships at sea. Family members included father George W., mother Maude, sons George H. and Clifford, and daughters Edna and Adelaide. The bulk of the letters were those received from family and friends by Clifford and letters he sent to his parents.

Inventory to the Cole Family Papers
Edited Full Draft
Stacy Adduci and Mary Ellen Valverde
May 2002
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.