Week 3 – Ochs Collection

I completed a few more transcriptions for the Ambuehl Collection, and then Mark instructed me on how to upload the collection and metadata to Omeka using a .csv file. All of this is new to me, as I haven’t worked with .csv files before. Unfortunately, not all of the files transferred.


On Wednesday, I began working with a new scrapbook from the Ochs Collection.  I can’t tell yet who compiled the book, but the documents mainly involve Liet. Col Adolph S. Ochs Jr., a young soldier in charge of the Stars and Stripes newspaper in Paris, his father, Milton B. Ochs, at the New York Times branch in Chattanooga, TN, and Milton’s brother, Adolph Sr., editor of the New York Times in New York. There’s plenty of drama in the letters, including a vague “escapade” in 1914 that required Adolph Sr. to have his nephew shipped straight home from Germany. Adolph Jr.’s temperament continued to be a cause for concern, as Milton asked a family friend to spy on him at the Stars and Stripes in Paris during the war. So far the friend has reported Adolph Jr. as being hard at work and contented, despite Adolph Jr.’s complaints to his parents about the high cost of living in Paris and having to work a desk job in the middle of the war.


I am separating the papers from the scrapbook pages and putting them in folders for archival storage. This as a tough job, as the pages are dirty, and almost all the items have been clipped to the book with metal paper clips. I’m trying to remove each clip without a) tearing the documents and b) getting tetanus from the rusty metal. Once that’s complete, I will begin entering data for each item into a spreadsheet so it can be posted online. 



I can’t divine any kind of order to the organization of the scrapbook, but in an attempt to preserve provenance, I’m filing materials in order of scrapbook page.


It seems that despite his earlier “escapade” and “temperament,” Adolph S. Ochs, Jr. did very well managing the finances of the Stars and Stripes, the wartime newspaper of the American Expeditionary Forces. A post-Armistice audit of the paper’s finances proved that he had balanced the books correctly, and he seems very proud of himself. Given some of his other comments in letters to his parents, his 1914 “escapade” may have been a financial failure, which makes his success at the paper especially important.


He also has several documents related to his efforts to get Captain Viskniskki, who had been in charge of the Stars in Stripes, fired for a variety of reasons, including mental instability, profanity, disloyalty to President Wilson, and antisemitism. Viskniskki does get fired, but Adolph Jr.’s attempts put his own job at risk.


Adolph Jr.’s letters are often very colorful, and he doesn’t hold back on describing his opinions. He met with a very influential American expat in Paris and in a letter to his parents compared her to a talkative machine gun.


I also learned that Adolph Sr. and Milton Ochs have a brother, George, who also works for the New York Times. However, George spells his last name “Oakes.” I found this interesting in light of the class on genealogy that I took last semester, when we considered why people’s last names are spelled differently in different documents, or how immigrant families changed their names over time. George may have wanted to avoid association with Germany during wartime, or there may be other reasons. Milton, at least, was Jewish according to a newspaper clipping included in the scrapbook. After reading some of Viskniskki’s comments about Jews in the news industry that are recorded in the reports, I feel it would be reasonable for George to want to avoid those kinds of prejudices, too.


There’s also a letter from a female New York Times reporter, and she writes about reporting from the trenches and the attention she received from the officers there.


I look forward to working with the Ochs collection more closely so I can learn more about this interesting family!

Author: Rachel Dark

Rachel Dark is a MLIS student at Kent State University and has been interning/volunteering at Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library since 2014, completing various odd jobs to gain as much experience as possible in the wonderful world of archives. She is currently an archival intern at WWPL for the Spring 2017 term. Her goal is to gain hands-on experience with digitization techniques and archival description by digitizing oversize photos and photo albums and creating a WWI-focused online exhibit that will highlight some of her exciting discoveries during this project.