Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Charles W. Chase, Jr., and Harriet P. Chase Letters, 1911-1939

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, January 2012

Summary Information
Title: Charles W. Chase, Jr., and Harriet P. Chase papers
Creator: Chase, Charles W., Jr. and Chase, Harriet P. Johnson
Inclusive dates: 1911-1939
Bulk dates: 1912-1919
Extent: 1 linear foot
This collection contains correspondence between Charles W. Chase, Jr. ("Pete") and his wife, Harriet P. Johnson, during their courtship and throughout the early years of their marriage. The couple's courtship letters highlight social aspects of everyday life in the Florida Keys just before the First World War, and a series of letters from Charles illuminates the experience of a naval officer stationed along the Atlantic coast during the war.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2000. M-4114.5.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Charles W. Chase, Jr., and Harriet P. Chase papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


Charles W. Chase, Jr. ("Pete") was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1886 while his parents were in the middle of a theatrical tour. His father, a playwright, and his mother, an actress, traveled throughout the United States during his childhood. Pete traveled with them until the age of 13, when he entered military school, which he attended for six years in Nyack, New York, and in New Hampshire. Later, he moved with his family to Sugarloaf Key, Florida, where his father attempted to start a sponge-growing business. Pete worked for his father at the Florida Keys Sponge & Fruit Company, and eventually started the Chase Tobacco Company, for which he sold sponges, cigars, and automobiles. He entered the navy around April 1917 and initially joined the crew of the U.S.S. Barney , based at the Charleston Navy Yard and, later, in Norfolk, Virginia. He began his career as an ensign and engineering officer, and ended it as a lieutenant onboard the Anniston , again in Charleston. After the war, he worked for various real estate companies and lived in Key West and Miami Beach, Florida. He married Harriet P. Johnson of Key West in October 1913, and the couple had at least one daughter, Sarah.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains correspondence between Charles W. Chase, Jr. ("Pete") and his wife, Harriet P. Johnson, during their courtship and throughout the early years of their marriage. The couple's courtship began around 1912, and they wrote each other frequently before their marriage in mid-October of the following year. Pete, who worked for his father at the Florida Keys Sponge & Fruit Company, often mentioned aspects of his work and frequently made arrangements to see Harriet, who lived in Key West and who shared details of her active social life in her own letters to Pete. As the wedding approached, the couple focused on plans for the day, and both anxiously anticipated the ceremony, with Pete counting down the days by early October. After the wedding, they wrote less frequently until April 1917, when Pete joined the United States Navy in anticipation of the nation's entry into World War I. An ensign, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Barney at the Charleston Navy Yard, and though his military service was voluntary, he greatly missed his wife and young child, who lived for a time in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Several letters from 1918 reflect his efforts to find a local apartment where they could join him. While at Charleston and, later, Norfolk, Virginia, Pete regularly wrote of daily naval life, which he found tiresome, and about his leisure activities, which included many trips to movies and, occasionally, to the theater. By 1919, Chase, a lieutenant stationed on the U.S.S. Anniston , focused his efforts on obtaining a transfer to inactive duty following the war; his father intervened on his behalf, but it is unclear whether their efforts were successful. Pete later wrote to Harriet while he worked for several real estate companies located in Miami Beach, Florida, and also received several letters from his young daughter Sarah between 1931 and 1939.

Subject Terms

    • Anniston (Cruiser)
    • Barney (Torpedo boat)
    • Charleston Naval Shipyard.
    • Courtship--United States.
    • Florida Keys (Fla.)--Social life and customs.
    • Key West (Fla.)--Social life and customs.
    • Miami Beach (Fla.)
    • Norfolk (Va.)
    • Separation (Psychology)
    • United States. Navy--History--World War, 1914-1918.
    • United States. Navy--Military life.
    • World War, 1914-1918--Naval operations, American.
    • World War, 1914-1918--Social aspects--United States.
    • World War, 1914-1918--United States.
    • Chase, Charles W., Jr.
    • Chase, Harriet Johnson.
    • Chase, Sarah.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-14
     February 20, 1911-November 22, 1913
    Box   2 Folders   1-12
     February 18, 1914-July 19, 1939, and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Chase, Charles W., Jr. Interview with Polly Redford. September 28, 1966. University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.