Ralph G. Adams and Elnora Cress Letters, 1917-1919 – MS133

Provenance: Purchased by the Portsmouth Athenaeum in 2019

Citation: Ralph G. Adams and Elnora Cress Letters, MS133, Portsmouth Athenaeum

Size: .25 linear feet (1/2 Hollinger box)

Access: No restrictions

Processed by: Roland Goodbody in 2019

Scope and Content:

World War I letters between Private Ralph G. Adams in France and Elnora Cress in Portsmouth, N.H. and South Eliot, ME. The collection contains 44 letters from Ralph Adams to Elnora Cress and five letters from her to him, as well as a copy of an official order sending Ralph as personal orderly to Brigadier General George D. Moore to Center of Information, A.P.O. 71.

Ralph George Adams was born in 1897 and grew up at 47 Marcy Street in Portsmouth. He worked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for 22 years and lived in Eliot. He died at age 55 in 1950. Elnora Cress was born in 1894, lived on Aqua Avenue in South Eliot. She was working at St. Clair Studio on Congress Street, Portsmouth during the period the letters were written. She worked for over 50 years at Kimball’s Department Store on Market Street. She died in 1981.

The couple did not marry, although they lived together in Eliot.

The first letter from Ralph in France is on March 10, 1918 at the beginning of his service. He starts most of his letters by saying that he doesn’t know what to say and that everything is the same where he is – that is, fine. It is not clear what he did in France as a member of what was called the American Expeditionary Force under Gen. Pershing’s command, but his time there seems to have been uneventful. The letters mainly talk about life back in Portsmouth.

He mentions in his letter of Aug. 18, 1918 the news that Portsmouth has gone “dry” – the result of prohibition. “It must look funny to see all the saloons closed up.” Elnora’s letter of Oct. 10, 1918 talks of the ‘flu pandemic, that it started on the New England cost, but has spread inland, that schools have been closed the last two weeks, that certain individuals she mentions by name have died. The Elks’ Home has been turned into a hospital. In a letter written in return, on Oct 21, 1918, Ralph says that he had it two months previous, but seems oblivious of the extent to which it is devastating the population. The 1918 killed 50 million people worldwide.

Most of Elnora’s letters (all but one) were written while Ralph was still at Camp Devens in Ayer, MA before being sent to France.

Content Listing:

Box 1
F.1 Ralph G. Adams to Elnora Cress, Dec 1917-July 1918 (16 letters)

F.2 Ralph G. Adams to Elnora Cress, August 1918 (8 letters)

F.3 Ralph G. Adams to Elnora Cress, Sept-Oct 1918 (12 letters)

F.4 Ralph G. Adams to Elnora Cress, Nov 1918-Jan 1919 (8 letters)

F.5 Elnora Cress to Ralph G. Adams, 1917-1918 (5 letters) and an official order, Nov. 19, 1918