What did deployed service members hope to receive? Overwhelmingly they wanted the comforts of home. Newspapers and merchants promoted goods that could be practical and useful, but also personal. When US Army pharmacist David Friedman wrote from France on November 2, 1917, he told his “folks” to send gifts that, unsurprisingly, would be popular again during the 1918 holiday season.
“If it is possible I should very much like a box of good things to eat. Let Molly bake a few of her good cookies with nuts in them and have mother send a bottle of pickles or preserves. . . . Then a little candy and a couple more tubes of . . . Tooth Paste. Three or four pairs of sox, heavy woolen ones and a few handkerchiefs. That's all. It may sound like a great deal but really it doesn't amount to much. And it sure will help to cheer me up.”
Courtesy Center for American War Letters, Leatherby Libraries, Chapman University, CA
The contents of the parcels were important to postal workers as well as to the recipients. The contents and containers had to withstand the challenges of the long voyage, which could take from two to six weeks. Perishable items were not allowed, and busted packages and ripped or lost labels caused delays. Postal and military officials intended that the standard packages for the AEF would protect the contents while helping to speed the processing of mail and loading it on trucks, trains, and ships.