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A German cigarette case kept by Binkley, presumably from the souvenir business.

At the beginning of February Binkley returned from the Riviera to rejoin his ambulance section in Château-Thierry. He was looking for a way out of the army into more interesting work. In January he wrote about an opportunity to travel to Poland with the Red Cross; now he heard of a chance to go into Germany, and seems to have missed it only by an accident of scheduling. He evidently wrote about these plans or others like them in letters home, for a few weeks later his friend Merv Crobaugh asked: "Have any more wild plans about vagabonding across and around about the world hit you?"1 Binkley was stymied in these hopes, but in February he heard of a program allowing American soldiers to attend French universities. This would be his path at the end of the month, when he was assigned to the University of Dijon.

While on leave in Paris after missing the Red Cross mission to Germany, he saw the sights, including celebrity-spotting at the entrance to the Quai d'Orsay where the Peace Conference was meeting. Wilson was in Paris working on the League of Nations Commission in early February, and left for home on Feb. 14. The crowds who had given Wilson a raucous welcome wherever he went in December no longer turned out. The optimism for a peaceful future built on the Fourteen Points and the League of Nations was subsiding into politics-as-usual.

This month includes part of the poignant story of Binkley's relationship with Renée Decout.

While in Paris Binkley indulged his surprisingly intense love of opera, which we will follow through the rest of 1919. Operas attended: 2 (Thaïs, Otello).


  1. Doc. 34: Crobaugh to RCB, 1919-03-24.

Diary: February, 1919

  • I drop letter to Y in morning. Long confab with a Miss Barnhard in evening.
    Miss Agnes Wollaston
    Hotel Beauregard
    Menton (A.M.)
    France
    offers to write to mother. I provide lunch for trip.

  • Morning at Marseilles -- Red Cross coffee -- Secour[?] -- Car very cold, so we make bonfires. Evening at Dijon. We get train at 2:00 A.M. and ride 1st class to Paris.

  • Go to Red Cross for breakfast, then go down to Louvre, which is partly open. Get out to section in early afternoon. go to Y in evening with Bill.

    Notes:

    Bill is probably William F. Adams of SSU 578, Binkley's close friend and the son of Binkley's mentor Prof. E.D. Adams of the Stanford History Department. Bill taught History at Yale and at UCLA, and with his wife Lucy Wilcox worked in the field of adult education during the Depression. He died suddenly in 1935 leaving two young sons, a striking parallel to Binkley's death five years later. Binkley dedicated Realism and Nationalism to his memory.

  • Spend day studying French. Have much work to do on car, but don't do it. Get lesson at Decout, and read Moliere in Y afterward. Leaf assigns topic for history of section. / M. Laplanche. / 28b Ave de la Republique. / calls on me in connection with souvenir business.

    Notes:

    Edward G. Leaf, member of SSU 578.

  • Do a lesson in French book and answer all my mail. Souvenir business declares 20 f dividend.

  • Loaf around, do a little studying. Listen to Bills class in evening

  • Go out to La Croix and Le Charmel. ride woman to Epaux who offers 5 francs.

  • Go to Armentieres late in afternoon. Get Austrian medal at Soponay. Also a few coins

  • Go out with Archivist to Baulne & St. Aignan See Mayor of Nogentel [?], and have tea in school house of St Aignan.

  • See show at Y. Win franc by betting that it is a boy. get private lesson in Moliere.

  • French lesson at night. Seribia [?] discussed Maltby going to hell. Debate organized.

    Notes:

    Joseph M. Maltby, member of SSU 578.

  • We steal stove for our room -- great success. Visit Cecile Dartois in evening -- am kidded by J. Maltby & Co.

  • Go out in morning to Soponay and Le Charmel -- then to Bonne. Car runs wretchedly. Get French lesson at Dartois --

    Notes:

    I haven't identified Bonne; perhaps Baulne-en-Brie?

  • Rain begins. I apply for admission to French University. Answer letters in evening.

  • Go out with Archivist. after two cars have broken down.

  • Debate in evening on resolved that men of A.E.F. have right to be dissatisfied with work of the Y.M.C.A.

    Notes:

    Presumably connected to the notice he had posted at the YMCA in Nice in January.

  • Go on K.P. -- take French

  • Proposition from Red Cross -- offer to go into Germany -- comes thru

  • K.P. -- start packing up souvenirs to send home

    Notes:

    It's likely that Binkley sent his papers home as well (and they were destroyed in the fire at his parents' house in October), for only one letter to him from before this date survives.

  • K.P. -- take boxing lesson unload bombs

  • Leave for Paris 10:30 -- Red Cross Expedition already gone -- See opera "Othello" with canny Scot. Stay at Red Cross L.O.C. 9.

  • Go to Invalides with 35th Div man -- Pantheon de la Guerre with Donque [?] Watch for Big Men at Quai d'Orsay -- see Sonnino, Orlando, and others -- House & Lansing -- Britishers too. Afternoon go to Louvre & Palais de Justice -- then to Gardens of Luxembourg & Pantheon. Opera Thais, followed by pleasant time at Red Cross.

    Notes:

    The Panthéon de la Guerre was a huge commemorative panorama, the largest painting on canvas to that time. A few years later it was sold to an American buyer and Binkley would have another chance to see it at the Great Lakes Exhibition in Cleveland in 1935-36 (though there's no positive evidence that he did).

    The Council took the important decision this day to prepare a draft treaty covering military and other matters during Wilson's absence, rather than waiting for his return. Clemenceau was absent because of the assassination attempt three days before, but Balfour and House called on him in his sickroom to get his approval.1


    1. Charles T. Thompson, The Peace Conference Day by Day (New York: Brentano's, 1920), p.223.

  • Try to find Albertine at Rue Tournefort -- but don't. Wander thru Mouffetard Quarter -- Jardin des Plantes -- walk around with little munitionette. later go past Sorbonne. Pantheon and Musee de Cluny and so on out to Louvre. Wander around Metro -- meet Foxy.

    Notes:

    "Munitionette" was a British wartime term for a woman who worked in the munitions industry.

  • Go to Quai d'Orsay to try to meet Floris [?] -- but don't meet him. Go thru Tuilleries Gardens again. Home in afternoon - French lesson in evening.

  • Spend day unloading little one pounders and fuses.

  • Go to Laon with Buck's car -- meet Renee Decout -- and agree to take her back to Chateau Thierry on Fri morning. Call on her in evening.

    Notes:

    Buck: perhaps SSU 578 member Arthur A. Buchanan.

  • Work on car all day. Finally get it fixed.

  • Take Renee & her fiance Jacques back to Château. Find that I am to go to school -- get packed up and ready.