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Stephen A. Douglas World War Two Envelopes

Douglas, Stephen A., 1912- (World War II soldier)  Search this
Aviation Engineer Battalion.  Search this
0.25 Cubic feet (1 box)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Cachets (philately)
Scope and Contents:
This collection is divided into two series.

Series 1: Illustrated Envelopes contains envelopes drawn by Stephen Douglas and mounted on mat boards. This type of painted envelope is also called "patriotic." See Lawrence Sherman, United States Patriotic Envelopes of World War II, 2006.

Series 2: Unit History, documents the engineers in the South West Pacific, The 864th Aviation Engineers in World War II by Bob George, a member of the unit. The history contains anecdotes and photographs of many of the locales Mr. Douglas drew.
The collection is arranged into one series.
Biographical / Historical:
The Stephen Douglas Collection consists of eighty-one envelopes that Mr. Douglas mailed to his family from U.S. Army posts in the Pacific during World War II. Mr. Douglas decorated the front of the envelopes with watercolors depicting the life of a GI in the South Pacific.

Mr. Douglas grew up in Wewoka, Oklahoma and trained for one year at the Art Institute of Chicago. He then worked in the Oklahoma oil fields and sold paintings of scenes of oil production. He was drafted in the Army in 1942 and served as a corporal with the 864th Engineering Aviation Battalion, Army Corps of Engineers until war's end in 1945. After mustering out he worked thirty-three years in the Postal Service, retired and continued to paint.

Corporal Douglas began mailing the illustrated letters from Geiger Field, Washington, where his unit trained, then from Los Angeles where it shipped out. By the time the men arrived at Townsville, Australia in September 1943, US forces had already won the battle of Guadalcanal and were occupying much of the Solomon Islands. The rest of the Southwest Pacific including New Guinea had yet be taken before the Japanese could be driven out of the Pacific. His unit's mission was to build and maintain the airstrips and facilities that the allies would use as they advanced on Japan. The 864th moved through various bases in New Guinea then to Cape Gloucester in New Britain, and finally to Luzon in the Philippines.

Using a child's watercolor set, he captured both the deprivations of GI life at these bases and the romance of the islands with their colorful natives, lush foliage, lagoons and tropical moons. Some of the illustrations depict battle scenes involving aircraft and ships, others provide commentary on Army food, housing and recreation, or the lack thereof. They are all humorous or upbeat. The US aircraft or ships are always depicted on the envelopes defeating the enemy and one is a fanciful illustration of Hitler and Tojo on the run. But only fifteen of the eighty-one depict planes, ships, guns or fighting, and most of those are sketches of guard duty. The rest show GI's successfully coping with such mundane activities as laundry, showers, and latrines and overcoming boredom. Illustrating the envelopes was his way of escaping the tedium.
Related Materials:
Mauldin Cartoon Collection, 1946 1987. Believed to contain all of Bill Mauldin's published cartoons during those years; also periodical and newspaper articles about and by Mauldin, personal items, including his genealogy, and an original sketchbook used by Mauldin while he was in Vietnam, February 1965.

War posters, ca. 1914 1960s (mostly 1942 1945). Isadore Warshaw donated this collection of 350 items. Artists such as Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg and Norman Rockwell are represented. It is part of the Smithsonian's Warshaw Collection of Business Americana

Jes Wilhelm Schlaikjer Poster Collection, 1942 1952. Twenty posters designed by Schlaikjer during World War II and after.
This collection was donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History by Mr. Stephen A. Douglas, the artist, on January 7th, 2001.
This collection was donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History by Mr. Stephen A. Douglas, the artist, on January 7th, 2001.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Wit and humor  Search this
World War, 1939-1945 -- Art and the war  Search this
Postcards  Search this
Cachets (Philately)
Stephen A. Douglas World War Two Envelopes, 1942-1945, Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Gift of the artist.
See more items in:
Stephen A. Douglas World War Two Envelopes
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Online Media:

President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, Final Report

Collection Creator:
Davis, Benjamin O., Jr., 1912-  Search this
Box 8, Folder 3
Archival materials
Collection Restrictions:
No restrictions on access
Collection Rights:
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.
Collection Citation:
Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Collection, Acc. 1992.0023, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Collection
Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Collection / Series 2: Military Career / 2.3: Materials Arranged by Posting / 2.3.10: Air War College (Maxwell AFB, AL), Student
Archival Repository:
National Air and Space Museum Archives
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