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Joseph F. Ware Collection

Identifier: Ms-2010-022

Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence, photographs, and ephemera. The majority of the letters are from Joseph Ware, but the collection includes a few other letters from extended family and friends.

Joseph Ware wrote many letters while he was in military service to his wife, Susie, back home in Blacksburg, Virginia. These letters were written while Ware was stationed in Panama, New York, France, and Germany, and detail the challenges of military life. The European letters were written during WWI and include descriptions of Ware's time in the trenches and his responsibilities as Chief Signal Officer. A significant portion of the letters denote family events and relationships.

In addition to letters, the collection also contains approximately 200 photographs of the Ware family and friends. Other materials include miscellaneous photographs, cards, receipts, and memorabilia.


  • 1900 - 1971
  • Majority of material found within 1915 - 1920


Language of Materials

The material in the collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.

Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Joseph Fulton Ware served as Commandant to the the Virginia Polytechnic Institute Corps of Cadets and professor of Military Science and Tactics from 1911 to 1914. Ware was First Lieutenant of the 16th U. S. Infantry and was assigned the State Militia rank of Colonel. Ware was nicknamed "Bald Knob" in reference to his lack of hair.

Joseph Ware was born December 22, 1880 in Fort Monroe, Virginia from an Army family. He enrolled at Virginia Tech as a cadet and graduated in 1903. While a student at Virginia Tech, Ware excelled in sports and academics. He played both baseball and football and was an All-Southern end for the Gridmen. He was a cadet Lieutenant in the Artillery Battery, assistant manager of The Bugle, vice-president of the Athletic Association, and Captain of the baseball team and was voted "Best All-Around Cadet."

After his tenure at VPI, Ware received a Second Lieutenant of Infantry commission in the Regular United States Army and served in the Philippines, Alaska, and Europe during World War I. In World War I, Ware served in three divisions: the 4th, 80th, and 83rd; two corps: the 3rd and the 9th; and two armies: the 1st and the 2nd. Ware received the position of Chief Signal Officer and the rank of Major. Ware was a part of the major American movements in France: Soissons, Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, the Argonne, and the push of the 2nd before Armistice Day. He received injuries from gas and shrapnel from fighting in the trenches and was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross from the United States government. The French Ordre de 'lEtoile Noire awarded Ware the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre.

Ware married Susana "Susie" Howe Robinson on October 29, 1914, at the Blacksburg Presbyterian Church in Blacksburg, Virginia. Susie gave birth to their son, Joseph Fulton Ware, Jr., in 1917. Joseph Ware, Jr. also attended Virginia Tech and received one of the first mechanical engineering degrees with an aeronautical option offered by Virginia Tech in 1937. Joseph Ware, Jr. subsequently received a master's degree from Cal Tech and spent his career as a flight test engineer at Lockheed Corporation. Virginia Tech has an engineering lab named after him, the "Joseph Fulton Ware, Jr. Advanced Engineering Lab."

External sources: 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.

Temple, Harry Downing, and Floyd Richard Vranian. The Bugle's Echo: A Chronology of Cadet Life at the Military College at Blacksburg, Virginia, the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. [Blacksburg, Va.]: Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Alumni, 1996.


0.8 Cubic Feet (2 boxes)


The collection contains 102 letters from Joseph F. Ware to his wife, Susie, in Blacksburg, Virginia, while he was serving overseas during and after World War I. The other significant portion of this collection contains nearly 200 photographs.


The collection is arranged in three series:

Series I: Correspondence, 1910-1928, contains over 100 letters written by Joseph F. Ware or members of the Robinson-Ware families.

The early letters were written to Susie from Ware's station at Empire, Panama at the beginning of what would become their extended separation. One letter describes this painful separation when Ware writes, "I cannot explain the terrible agony of this separation and if I think of it I will go mad. Surely you know . . . you can never doubt my love." Typical letters reflect the difficulties of communication in a long-distance marriage and discuss family events like the birth of Joseph Ware Jr. and the loss of their second child soon after his birth. The separation took a toll on their relationship, as well. In one letter, he refers to a note previously written by Susie that compared being married to a man she never sees as being "worse than a myth-not present or tangible but still a reality."

The letters from Europe are purposefully vague to abide by the military censorship standards of the time. As Ware tells Susie, "my letters must all go through the Central Censor's Office so you must learn to read between the lines." Throughout the European letters, Ware gives us hints of the military life and his action "in the trenches". He makes mention of his many responsibilities and frequent travels as the Chief Signal Officer. Ware refers to himself as being known as "the hardest-boiled officer in these forces." Ware contemplates resigning from the military when he bemoans that the "services are run by politics." Ware captures the sentiment of many at the time when he writes, "When I think of the many excellent men who did not come back, it seems that we have paid an awful price." This series is arranged chronologically.

Series II: Photographs has three subseries. Subseries A: Identified, contents identified by first name only with a few exceptions. Subseries B: Dated, c.1900s-1971, contents include photographs that are dated, but have little to no additional information. This series is in chronological order. Subseries C: Unidentified, contents include photographs with no information.

Series III: Ephemera, 1912-1950s, n.d., contents include cards, announcements, programs, and receipts. This series is arranged by material type.

Source of Acquisition

The Joseph F. Ware Collection was purchased by Special Collections in November 2009.

Existence and Location of Copies

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Joseph F. Ware Collection by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Joseph F. Ware Collection commenced in March 2010 and was completed in May 2010.

Joseph F. Ware Collection, 1900-1971 (Bulk 1915-1920)
Carmen Boggs-Parker, Graduate Assistant
2010 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US