Willmund Reaux Glaeser Diary

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Reference code

US TxAM-C 114

Level of description



Willmund Reaux Glaeser Diary


  • 1919-1920 (Creation)


1 box

Name of creator

Biographical history

Willmund Reaux Glaeser (7 June 1897-Aug. 1966), of Houston, Tex., was a wireless operator working out of the office of Kilbourne and Clark, on freighter ships and tramp steamers plying routes up the coast of South America, through the Panama canal (22 Jan. 1920), and up the Gulf and east coasts of the United States as far as New York. Several times during his sailing career, Glaeser also took ship for New Orleans and Galveston, Tex., then traveled by train to visit family and friends in Houston, Tex., and the surrounding area.

As a soldier in World War I, Glaeser was first based in a training camp, Camp Logan, Tex., now Memorial Park in Houston, Tex., but probably received the majority of his wireless training when he served with Company C of the 221st Field Signal Battalion, based at Camp Alfred Vail, N. J., from which he was demobilized sometime around Feb. 1919.

The first half of Glaeser'sdiary records life aboard the freighter S.S. Sag Harbor, on which he signed 21 Oct. 1919. As of 8 May 1920, having been relieved by another radioman on the S. S. Sag Harbor, Glaeser transferred to the S.S. Chester W. Chapin, a tourist excursion ship with the New England Steamship Co., based in New York City, sailing to New Haven and New London, Conn.Glaeser transferred again 6 June 1920 to the S.S. Richard Peck, a Long Island passenger steamer which sailed down the Connecticut River to New York City and back.

Having bought stock in the Century Adding Machine Co., Glaeser eventually was offered a job to set up an exclusive "Texas Sales Agency for Century Adding Machine Co.," but it seems Glaeser thought better of accepting the offer.

Along the way, Glaeser also completed a La Salle Extension University CPA [Certified Public Accountant] course, receiving a "2A rating." By 18 Nov. 1920 Glaeser had secured a position with the New York based A. H. Bull Steamship Company in its Accounting Dept.

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Scope and content

This collection contains a diary (December 9, 1919 - November 25, 1920), signed by hand in ink on recto of the first leaf "Willmund Reaux Glaeser", held on top and bound with three-hole-punched loose-leaf ring binder memo book, with imitation brown leather covers, measuring about 14 x 9 cm. Filler paper (120 leaves) is narrow-ruled in blue, with most entries closely handwritten in ink, a very few in pencil, on both sides of the leaves, with only 21 leaves left completely blank. Some leaves preceding the diary entries are filled with names and addresses of friends and family, lists of traveler's cheques and numbers, as well as other miscellaneous lists. Unused index divider sheets labeled A-Z are included in a group at the back of the main body of diary entries. Diary entries begin on leaves just after the group of index dividers, continue for only two leaves, then begin again starting from the other end of the diary. Typed transcript on 39 pages of 8.5 x 11-inch white bond paper is undated, untitled and the author is unknown.

Entries in the diary are fairly evenly divided between Glaeser's service on the tramp steamer Sag Harbor, and on the New York-based excursion ships, the S.S. Chester W. Chapin and S.S. Richard Peck.

As a wireless operator aboard the "tramp freighter" S.S. Sag Harbor, Glaeser sailed the coast of South America to the port of Antofagasta, Chile, to take on a cargo of "nitrates and saltpetes." Glaeser describes hordes of migrating birds, ducks, whales, sea lion, sharks, and pelicans. With great gusto Glaeser includes much detail on life aboard ship, including a crew of mixed nationalities, contending with furious storms at sea and drunken brawls ashore, often ending in arrests and wounds. One steward, in particular, addicted to both "booze and cocaine," proves especially disturbing, since ships stores of food are being sold off to fund the man's habit. The S.S. Sag Harbor puts into port at Malon, Panama, then Balboa and Panama City, passing through the canal on January 22, 1920, with orders to proceed to Baltimore. Storms are reported disabling and sinking several ships off the coast of Georgia (January 30, 1920 - February 3, 1920), but the S.S. Sag Harbor reaches Baltimore safely on February 9, 1920, proceeding on to Washington, DC. With a new captain and much better steward, hence better meals, the S.S. Sag Harbor takes on a cargo of coal bound for Havana, Cuba, where a long longshoreman's strike holds up both delivery of cargo and taking on new cargo, from early February to mid-March 1920. Finally free to take their new cargo of phosphates to Wilmington, NC the S.S. Sag Harbor continues on its journey, finally arriving on May 8, 1920, in New York City.

In New York City, Glaeser stays at the YMCA intermittently as he is transferred May 28, 1920, to the S.S. Chester W. Chapin, an excursion steamer based in New London, Conn., and later (June 5, 1920) to another excursion boat, the S.S. Richard Peck. While in New York, Glaeser has quite a social life, visiting restaurants, theatres, and the shore on dates, but also looking for an office job. He buys stock in the Century Adding Machine Co. and is offered a job starting a sales agency for the company in Texas, but Glaeser declines that offer, later taking a position as an accountant with the A. H. Bull Steamship Co. in New York.

Glaeser includes vivid descriptions of life in the ports of Havana, Cuba, Miami, and Tampa Bay, FL, Charleston, SC, Wilmington, NC, as well as the cities of Baltimore and New York in 1920. He is attuned to the unrest of longshoremen in Cuba, observes the unsteady nature of trading on the stock exchange, and aware that, although life on a tramp steamer is romantic to a young man fresh out of the Army in World War I, it is eventually not that attractive a life considering the storms, brawls, and other natural vicissitudes of peacetime seafaring life. Glaeser's sense of adventure and humor are both keen, so he manages to infuse the diary with both in equal measure.

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Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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  • English

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Archivist's note

Record updated by Jaime Janda, January 2, 2023.

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