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Mrs. Ruth Van Haaften Collection

Identifier: RH-A-1624

Scope and Contents

Lieutenant Colonel Edward C. Van Haaften papers, 1917-1946, include letters by Edward C. Van Haaften during his World War I Army service, as an electrician, 102nd Aero Squad, American Expeditionary Forces; French motor repair manual; a letter written after active duty in World War II; numerous photographs from both World War I and World War II.


  • Creation: 1917-1945


Biographical / Historical

Ruth (Sanborn) Van Haaften was born in South Haven, Michigan in 1896. She moved with her family to Kalamazoo in 1911. She lived with her parents Alice and Waldo Sanborn, who worked as a contractor and stone mason, and her three sisters and two brothers. Ruth married Edward Van Haaften on July 19, 1919, after he had returned from service overseas in World War I.

Edward Van Haaften was born July 18, 1894, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His family, which included his father Peter (an immigrant from the Netherlands), his mother Gertruda, his three sisters, Bessie, Evelyn, and Alice, and one brother, John, lived in 234 Burr Oak Street. Edward worked at the Armour Company in Detroit, Michigan until he entered Army service on August 21, 1917. He was assigned to the 102nd Aero Squadron, and served overseas in France. During his service he rose to the rank of Master Electrician.

When Edward was released from service in 1919, he returned to Kalamazoo, obtained a job working for the Roamer Auto Manufacturing Company, and married Ruth on July 19, 1919. They lived at Summer Homepark on Long Lake and soon built and moved into their home located on 6368 Douglass Avenue in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Edward remained active in the Army Reserves as a Second Lieutenant, and began working with Consumer’s Power Company. He was called into the Civilian Conservation Corp in both 1933 and 1940. In 1941 he was called into active duty and was assigned to the Signal Corp attached to the Air Force. He was stationed in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Alabama. Ruth accompanied him for these assignments. Soon afterwards, Edward was transferred to the Strategic Air Command in Florida and subsequently sent overseas for six months during which time Ruth moved back to Michigan and lived with Edward’s sister, Bessie, and mother. Edward was released in 1946 from his station in El Paso, Texas, and returned to Kalamazoo to work until retirement in 1959 for Consumer’s Power Company, and to live until his death on May 5, 1967. Ruth died on February 11, 1990 in Kalamazoo.


6 boxes : The collection amounts to 2.35 cubic feet

Language of Materials



The collection is composed of photographs, artifacts, and documents from Edward Clarence Van Haaften who was a Kalamazoo resident and veteran of both World Wars I and II. The collection ranges in date from 1917 to 1945.

Physical Description

The collection amounts to 2.35 cubic feet and contains various photographs (and negatives of some of those photographs), documents, and artifacts (mostly German) from Edward Van Haaften’s service in both the World Wars. The documents vary in size from a Draft Registration Card to letters written by Van Haaften. The photographs range in size from 10”x12” to 4”x5”. The artifacts vary in size from a large cookbook to small Nazi Germany war medals.

The condition of the collection varies. The photographs contained in boxes 3 and 4 are in excellent condition. However, many of the photographs contained in box 5 had previously been stored tightly rolled for many years. Despite attempts to correct the tendencies of these individual photographs to roll, many still revert to that shape, and must be handled with care. The documents tend to be in delicate condition. Often times, yellowing has caused problems with legibility to varying extents. As for the artifacts, they range greatly from the war medals, which are in good condition, to the cook book which is extremely fragile with many brittle pages and a loose binding.

Mrs. Ruth Van Haaften Collection Finding Aid
Christopher Miller
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

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
(269) 387-8490