Click on the image above to see a larger (signature-less) version of this World War I-era Christmas card.
Ray Alger Pennington (1895-1953) originally hailed from Pewamo, Michigan. The son of John H. Pennington and Eva Shumway Pennington, Ray earned a degree in Engineering from the Michigan Agricultural College (present-day Michigan State University) and worked for the Hoertz Construction Company at the time America entered World War I. Pennington entered Camp Custer, Michigan, on September 19, 1917. He achieved the rank of Corporal in Company C of the 338th Infantry. Within a month, he transferred to Company C of the 310th Engineers. The Army then sent Ray to Columbus Barracks, Ohio, where he was assigned to the Meteorological Service of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Landing at Brest, France, on April 17, 1918, Pennington went for additional training at the meteorology school in Langres. After that, he was detailed to an aerial gunnery school at Saint-Jean-de Monts in order to install and maintain a Weather Bureau station. Pennington was promoted to Sergeant on November 1, 1918. The Army honorably discharged him on April 29, 1919. Ray returned home to East Lansing, Michigan – and to [Clara] Louise (his wife), Phyllis (his daughter), and the rest of his family.
This Christmas card is interesting for its simple graphic, deftly evoking the bittersweet reality that while the war is over, Ray is not yet home. His letter of December 27, 1918, speaks of “wooden shoes,” referring to the French practice of placing your shoes or wooden clogs on the hearth ready for Pere Noel to leave gifts in them. This material is part of the Mary Pennington Collection, 1840-2001 (MS 2006-2), housed at the Archives of Michigan. Mary Pennington was Ray’s youngest sister.
A World War I Christmas Letter
Ray A. Pennington’s two-page letter of December 27, 1918 appears below. To read a page, continue clicking on the image until a large image appears.