Undated letter (Near end of World War II), 1940-1945
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of 12 letters from Archie Royer, a former circus clown and Van Buren County resident, to his friend and fellow circus performer Bert Cole in New York. The collection also contains two pages of poems apparently composed by Royer, and a drawing with writing in Spanish.
The letters in this collection detail Royer’s life on his farm in the 1940s. They range in date from November 1941 to July 1948. They are all addressed to Bert Cole (1875-?), a friend whom Royer presumably met while touring with the Cole and Lockwood Circus in 1894. Cole was the son of one of the circus’ directors, and also served as the circus treasurer. He lived in New York at the time the letters were written. Royer’s letters all generally follow the same formula. Royer opened the letters with a description of the state of his farm and garden. He often gave lengthy lists of everything he had planted, harvested, and canned. He then turned to the subject of his and his family’s health and wellbeing. He commented many times on Mizpah’s poor health, and alluded several times to his own aging body. Royer usually closed his letters with nostalgic sentiments of his old circus days. Nearly every letter contains some reflection on his glory days and shows Royer’s desire to relive them.
Occasionally Royer expressed his opinions about contemporary political and social events. However, he often displayed racism in his comments. For example, he wrote about World War II a handful of times, and referred to the Japanese people as “Japs” on each occasion. Royer also wrote to Cole twice about African American neighbors who had recently moved into his community. Royer repeatedly referred to them using derogatory terms and expressed surprise at finding them “respectfully kind.”
From the Collection: 1 boxes
Language of Materials
Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository
Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US