F. Furman Betts papers

Collection 3655

1917-1919, 1997, 1998
(0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box)

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Betts, Franklin Furman.
Betts, Richard F.
F. Furman Betts papers
1917-1919, 1997, 1998
0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box
Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Randall M. Miller.
Mixed materials [Box]
This collection contains the letters and photographs of Germantown resident F. Furman Betts, who served overseas with the American Friends Reconstruction Unit of the American Friends Service Committee in association with the American Red Cross during World War I. Additionally, there are newspapers and other ephemera that he collected, a small diary from his time aboard the Rochambeau and his first few days in Europe, and collections of excerpts from Betts's letters and memorabilia by Richard F. Betts, 1997 and 1998.

Preffered citation

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], F. Furman Betts papers (Collection 3655), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Background Note

Franklin Furman Betts (who usually went by "Furman") was born on March 21, 1895, to a Quaker family in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of 22, in 1917, he wanted to help out with the war effort and joined the American Friends Reconstruction Unit (AFRU) of the American Friends Service Committee in association with the American Red Cross. This unit was sent to France to aid refugees by rebuilding homes and reestablishing agriculture and farming in devastated areas.

After six weeks in training camp, Betts's and his unit began their journey to Europe from Haverford, Pennsylvania. From there they traveled to New York City and boarded a ship, the Rochambeau, which was bound for Paris. Betts worked alongside other Friends primarily in Ornans, Doubs, France, though he occasionally went to Paris and Malabry. His overseas service with the AFRU lasted from September 1917 to June 1918. From June to August 1918 he worked directly with the Bureau of Reconstruction of the American Red Cross in Paris. In August 1918, he enlisted in the U. S. Army Ambulance Service (USAAS) and worked in conjunction with the French army. He was discharged from service in early 1919 and returned to America in May of that year.

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Scope and content note

The F. Furman Betts papers chronicle Betts's World War I service through his own letters, diaries, notes, photos, and memorabilia. The bulk of the papers span from 1917 to 1919 and they are housed in eleven folders in one box. Betts's son Richard compiled transcribed excerpts from some Betts's letters and some original materials into two scrapbooks. One was created for the 80th Anniversary of the American Friends Reconstruction Unit and contains material from September 1917 to June 1918 (Folder 10). The other scrapbook is a remembrance of Betts's work with the Army Ambulance Service and was compiled from items dated August 1918 to May 1919 (Folder 11).

While in France and England, Betts wrote home frequently. He wrote to his family generally, as well as to individual family members, his mother, father, sister Helen, and a brother nicknamed "Fatty." There are also letters addressed to "Aunt Bessie," "Dutch," as well as a few letters addressed to people not directly associated with the family. He numbered almost all of his letters, and they remain in number (and chronological order) in Folders 1-4. Though he never discussed his exact work with the AFRU or the USAAS, he was very detailed in his writings about his travels and the people he met, the French people and refugees, and the affects of the war on the places he visited. He also occasionally discussed American politics and how the Europeans viewed Americans at this time. All of his letters are very cordial, some are quite lengthy, and he remained very positive about his decision to serve and the work he was doing.

In addition to his letters, Betts summarized his time aboard the Rochambeau and his first several days in Europe in a personal diary (Folder 5). He also took numerous pictures, which he placed into two photo albums (Folder 8-9). The photos generally follow Betts's movements chronologically, and he wrote captions for each one. A number of loose photos that were laid into a modern notebook have been removed from the notebooks, re-housed, and now reside in Folder 7.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania ; 2012

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107


The collection is open for research.


Provenance unknown.

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Related Materials

Related materials

At the Historical Siociety of Pennsylvania:

Edward James Baker letters (Collection 3665)

Historical Society of Pennsylvania collection of World War I posters (Collection 3349)

Historical Society of Pennsylvania War Service committee papers (Collection 1561)

Mrs. E. Russell Jones collection of World War I papers (Collection 738)

Frederick Mankey Sr. papers (Collection 3419)

Mary Bartol Theiss collection (GSP123)

Mabel Brice Wheeler collection of papers related to the Belgian Relief Committee of the Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania (Collection 1799)

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • American Friends Reconstruction Unit.
  • American Friends Service Committee.
  • United States. Army. Ambulance Service.

Personal Name(s)

  • Betts, Richard F.


  • American Red Cross--World War I
  • Military service, Voluntary.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Civilian relief--France.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Economic & industrial aspects--France.
  • World War, 1914-1918--France--Ornans.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Participation, American.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Personal narratives, American.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Reconstruction.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Refugees--France.
  • World War, 1914-1918--War work--France.
  • World War, 1914-1918--War work--Great Britain.
  • World War, 1914-1918.

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Correspondence 1917 

1 1

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Correspondence 1918 

1 2-3

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Correspondence 1919 

1 4

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Personal diary and notebook 1917-1919 

1 5

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Newspapers and ephemera 1917-1919 

1 6

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Photographs removed from notebook 1917 

1 7

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Photograph album 1918-1919 

1 8

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Photograph album 1919 

1 9

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Letters and memorabilia, September 1917-June 1918 (copies), compiled by Richard F. Betts March 1997 

1 10

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Scrapbook compiled by Richard F. Betts October 1998 

1 11

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