Edward Eldred Potter Memorabilia
Potter Club Alum Bob Umholtz ‘51 recently located two books that were owned by 1st Lt. Edward E. Potter while serving in France in 1918. These books were probably given to the Club by Cordella Potter Lackey, sister of Edward, at one of the Potter Club’s anniversary reunions.
The two volumes were:
Homer’s Iliad, translated by T. A.Buckley, 120 pp.
Essays, by Francis Bacon. “Everyman’s Library” edition; edited by Ernest Rhys, 199 pp.
Homer’s Iliad, is in very good condition. This book is attributed to Homer, was written in the 8th century B.C. and is among the oldest extant works in Western literature. It contains the history of the Trojan War as well as other material.
Bacon’s Essays is quite worn with a broken binding indicating it was very well read. Cordella inscribed on the title page:
“This book Edward evidently bought while in France. It came home in his trunk.”
Also just above the book title she wrote: “Francis Bacon, born 1561 – died 1626”.
Inside the cover of the volume Edward inscribed his name “Edward E. Potter – ASSC”
(American Section Signal Corps) Note: There was no designated Air Corps at this time and the Signal Corps was the then designated U.S. Army air service.
Francis Bacon was a famous 16th/17th century English statesman, philosopher, lawyer, and scientist. He was knighted in 1603 and later became a Baron and Viscount. His book includes 58 essays written on a variety of subjects e.g., ‘Of Truth’, ‘Of Death’, ‘Of Friendship’, ‘Of Studies’, etc.
Anyone who has read, The Memoirs of Edward Eldred Potter, written by his sister Cordella in 1935, would have to agree that Edward was a voracious reader. From excerpts from his diary, selection of his favorite poems, and the several letters he wrote home from his U.S. training sites as well as France, his love of books was palpable.
It is interesting that there is a probable connection in one of his letters cited in the Memoirs to the above mentioned volumes. In a letter dated 17 January 1918 Edward wrote about his initiating getting orders for “Everyman’s Library” books for his comrades:
“I got the ‘Everyman’s Library’ list of books from Brentanos, Paris, a week ago. Altho it is of the older best literature and does not contain a great deal of what we want, I posted the list on our barrack bulletin board and said I’d send in other orders along with mine, I received orders for nearly 200 of the heaviest books of that heavy list. … The order was for $638 …amongst a bunch of about 150 men.
This was probably when Edward received his ‘Everyman’s Library’ copy of Essays and perhaps his copy of The Iliad?
Edward continued buying books as well as receiving books from his sister. In a 29 March 1918 letter to his sister he wrote:
“My books from everywhere are coming now. I’ve so many, I hardly know which to read first.”
In another letter written 12 July 1918; just 19 days before his death, he wrote about his library collection:
“Concerning the library, they are mostly small volumes and altogether don’t fill much more than the tray of my trunk. While at this camp, I’ve placed my whole library in the Red Cross Library. They will gradually disappear anyway, as I loan them and I shall probably leave those I’ve read in the different libraries for the soldiers. They’ve been worth far more than they cost me already, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be useful to others.
Edward evidently kept a few of his favorite books that were shipped home following his death on 1 August 1918. We are pleased to have these books in the Edward E. Potter archives at the University at Albany. These, and one other book, are the only tangible items, excepting photos and documents, that we have which belonged to Edward... We were also fortunate, however, to be the recipient of a woodworking book that belonged to Edward while he was a student at Albany State given to us by his nephew, Edward Eldred Potter II.
Paul Ward ‘53