Headlines from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day will soon be part of the library collection at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, after a family donated scrapbooks from World War II newspapers to the museum — the news as the first rough draft of history.
Dorris William Wilton, of Alton, was a manufacturing executive with McDonnell’s aircraft division while his son, Dorris Wilbur Wilton, served with the U.S. Army in north Africa, Sicily and Italy during World War II. While his son served overseas, Wilton carefully followed the news of the war, selecting and assembling news clippings into 23 scrapbooks that preserved the news of the war for history.
Now his descendants’ families have donated the scrapbooks as the Dorris William Wilton Collection, to be permanently preserved and accessible for researchers in the SIUE library archives and special collections.
History professor Jeffery Manuel called the scrapbooks a form of 1940s “news aggregator,” and said they are important beyond the history of the war, to a history of how people consumed the news in previous generations.
“As a historian, it’s a thrill to encounter historical documents and artifacts,” Manuel said. “Viewed as a whole, this collection of lovingly compiled scrapbooks shows how average Americans followed the war from the homefront. … The collection is a reminder that people were organizing and rearranging news stories long before the web came along.”
University archivist Stephen Kerber noted that the Wilton collection is unique in that it includes complete coverage of print media throughout World War II, including Alton and St. Louis newspapers.
“We express our deep appreciation to (family members) Douglas Wood and Terry Wilton for their thoughtfulness and generosity in arranging for the permanent preservation of the Dorris William Wilton Collection in Lovejoy Library,” said Lydia Jackson, interim dean of SIUE’s Library and Information Services.
The scrapbooks are being processed by university archivists, and will be available for interested researchers in early 2018.
Dorris Wilbur Wilton survived his service in World War II, living to age 70. He died in 1993 and is buried in Bethany Cemetery in Godfrey. A grave that appears to be his father’s is also in Bethany Cemetery: Dorris W. Wilton is memorialized as having passed away in 1965 at age 63.