Additional State Agency Records
Military Training Commission
A0401. Administrative Reports and Correspondence on Physical Training and Military Instruction, 1917- 1921. 15 cubic feet
Arrangement: Roughly by subject. Some correspondence is alphabetical by name of correspondent. Some reports and/or statistical tabulations are grouped by city/village within geographic zones.
The series consists of correspondence, reports, statistics, and instructional material produced and collected by the Military Training Commission in carrying out its mandate to provide physical and military training for boys during the World War I era. The records reflect the important, and often strained, interaction of military and educational establishments at the time; the confusion encountered in distinguishing military and physical training; and early attempts to formulate and implement a State policy of public service for young people.
The commission was created by Chapter 566 of the Laws of 1916 to provide military and disciplinary training to boys 16 through 18 years of age. Its chairman was the Major General commanding the National Guard ex officio, John F. O'Ryan. Education Commissioner John H. Finley (or Thomas E. Finegan, acting commissioner in 1919) was a member appointed by the Regents. In 1917 Finley made a trip to France at the request of the Regents to study how the French school system provided physical and military training to its youth. The commission's secretary was Thomas C. Stowell. Other leaders of the commission included Howard G. Burdge (and later Dr. Arthur D. Dean), supervising officer for vocational training; Brigadier General William H. Chapin, supervising officer for military training; and Dr. Thomas A. Storey, inspector of physical training.
To accomplish its training, the commission divided the State into the following six military training zones (roughly following judicial district boundaries): New York and Long Island, both headquartered in New York City; Hudson Valley, headquartered in Albany; East Central, headquartered in Syracuse; West Central, headquartered in Rochester; and Western, headquartered in Buffalo. Each zone had a supervisor in charge of military training who selected instructors to conduct the military work. Any school wishing to take charge of the military drill for its pupils had that option, subject only to mandated time and course requirements.
Some records in the series are apparently from the files of secretary Thomas C. Stowell. The bulk of the series consists of consolidated weekly reports (in tabular format) of instruction and/or training drills, and reports by supervisors of training. The series also includes forms, pamphlets, memoranda, reports, enrollment cards, delinquency files, and a small number of posters and plans relating to the Corps of Cadets training camps run by the commission, as well as information on the complementary training program for physical instructors and male teachers to qualify as instructors in the military training corps. There is statistical information gathered from the city/village level on boys 16 to 18 years of age subject to military training, including detailed tabulations of data submitted to the commission on the boys' employment, parentage, family environment, education, and future prospects.
Reports were prepared and sent to the chief supervisor by zone supervisors to account for services rendered whenever an expense to the commission was involved. These consolidated weekly reports have headings giving zone name, inclusive report dates, and the signature of the zone supervisor. Sheets list administrative zone; company/regiment number; place; instructor; drill area (name of armory or hall); date; time; attendance totals; character of instruction (lecture, physical exercises, games); and sometimes a detailed narrative by the zone supervisor (on the verso).
Correspondence generally covers issues of enrollment, confirmation of employment, exemption from service, delinquency, and authorization to discontinue training in schools. Administrative material includes information on commission policy and procedure in areas such as vocational training; cooperation with schools in assessing numbers of eligible pupils, planning enrollment and training programs, and eliminating duplication of instruction for boys attending school; and directions for governance of the Bureau of Technical Military Training under provisions of the State's military law.
In 1918 the commission's Bureau of Vocational Training surveyed cities and villages for information on boys subject to military training. Responses were cumulated and aggregate statistics reported by city/village. These aggregate statistics include information on: whether foreign or American born (boy and parents); foreign country of boy's birth; boy's guardian; number of children in family, with age breakdowns; reason for and age at leaving school; last grade completed; kind of school last attended; kind of shop work done in school; best liked study; kind of employment while in school; beginning and current weekly wage; who helped to get the job; number of jobs held; length of present job service; reason(s) for job satisfaction; how job obtained; if doing war work; on what advancement depends; if attended night school; savings (if any); and amount spent weekly in support of family.
Other types of materials in the series include:
- orders to report for military training and gubernatorial proclamations
- enrollment files, including application forms, confirmations of employment, and enrollment cards
- delinquency files, including lists of boys who failed to report for training, summons forms, lists of cadets who failed to appear at "Delinquency Court," letters to employers urging suspension of boys until they comply with the law, and appeals to the police to help locate delinquent cadets
- plans for housing quarters for the Farm Cadets (a unit formed in 1917 to recognize farm work by boys during wartime and allow its application toward the military training requirement), with a description and estimate for materials and construction instructions
- Corps of Cadets attendance books
- payment cards apparently documenting fees paid to drill instructors and the location of and rents for drill exercises (typically armories or civic halls rented without charge)
- list of speakers and subjects for military classes and educational talks to cadets
- a tentative hygiene syllabus (1918) for a Regents program of physical training
- training materials, such as a manual for physical training of the Corps of Cadets, standards of discipline and deportment, and copies of general and special orders
For further information, including details of commission recommendations, researchers may consult the reports of the commission available at the New York State Library. The commission published the survey results of its Bureau of Vocational Training in Howard G. Burdge's book, Our Boys: A Study of the 245,000 Sixteen, Seventeen and Eighteen Year Old Employed Boys of the State of New York (1921).
Finding aid: Rough container list. The series is unprocessed.