The American Field Service World War I Photographic Collection consists of photographs and negatives, glass-plate negatives, lantern slides, and albums depicting activities of the American Field Service (AFS), and to a lesser degree of the French and United States militaries, during World War I. Some of the photographic material appears to have been used by the organization in press releases and publications to increase awareness of the cause and to recruit volunteers, and also in fundraising efforts to encourage donation of ambulances. Examples of public relations use include a published book entitled Friends of France (Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1916), and postcards of headquarters (as seen in Series 1, Subseries 1A.) Some photographs were also used in post-war AFS commemorative publications, such as the three-volume The History of the American Field Service in France (Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1920). The photographic material was created by professional photographers or individual AFS ambulance and camion drivers, and donated to AFS headquarters either during or after the war. It is not always possible to determine what was donated versus what was commissioned or created by AFS during the war.
The photographic records of the American Field Service’s ambulance and camion service in World War I are useful in the study of American involvement prior to the United States’ Declaration of War in 1917. The collection depicts the voluntary activities of AFS (including assisting injured soldiers and transporting supplies), local landscapes and civilians (including images of Paris), major events and battles in the war (including Verdun), and groups and individuals involved in the war (including ambulance and camion drivers, and members of the French military.) While the majority of the photographic material depicts AFS activities from 1915 to 1917, there are also some images of the pre-AFS American Ambulance Hospital and of the post-AFS U.S. Army Ambulance Service, which absorbed AFS after the United States entered the war in 1917. Other later materials include an album featuring American Expeditionary Forces World War I photographs (ca. 1917-1919), with a particularly large number of photographs of heavy artillery and of the ordinance repair shops and salvage depots in Mehun-sur-Yevre. There are also color photographs of a restored AFS World War I ambulance, which were taken in 1987 by the Fondation de l’Automobile Marius Berliet.
See the individual series descriptions for more information.