[PTSD by Postcard? Disabled Veteran and Cachet Designer Leonard Borkowski’s Hand-Illustrated Postcards, showing Soldiers and Nurses at the Veterans Administration Soldier’s Home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin].
First World War “Shut ins” at the VA Hospital
Note: Proceeds from the sale of this item will be donated to the Milwaukee Soldiers Home’s donation campaign on behalf of the buyer, either in their name or anonymously.
Gassed in Alsace-Lorraine, is this disabled World War I veteran’s artwork illustrating PTSD by postcard?
Leonard Borkowski’s illustrations evoke themes of the bald eagle, the American flag and “bombs bursting in air.” Vignettes depict soldiers seated in chairs (one with a cane) or in bed being tended by nurses.
One illustration shows a soldier in arms on a battle field. Bombs explode behind him. In contrast, diametrically opposite, is a nurse and her hospital “battlefield” —in the background a nurse cares for a wounded soldier.
In what seems a poignant reminder of that part of the battle field, one that both soldiers and nurses bring home from war, a small explosion can be seen nearby where the nurse cares for the soldier. Even in a place of healing trauma can still happen.
From the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum we first learn that Leonard Borkowski was a cachet designer. Then, elsewhere: “Milwaukee-born [he] is one of this era’s seldom-heard-of cachetists, even though he made quite an impact in the Hobby during his own day. As a matter of fact, on pages 23-26, in the September 1, 2009 issue of the Hobby publication, First Days, the expert writer, David Zubatsky’s thoroughly researched article on Mr. Borkowski reveals that he ‘...produced at least 46 hand painted patriotics… [He] served 16 months overseas as a private in the cavalry field-artillery of the 32nd Division.’ Not only that, but ‘because Borkowski was gassed somewhere in Alsace-Lorraine, France, during World War I, the injury caused him, over the following years, to become more and more of an invalid.’ In steadily declining health after his service to his country, Mr. Borkowski passed away in 1946.”
Addressed to fellow Legionnaire, Col. Charles M. Pearsall of the Veterans Administration, and manager of its Milwaukee Soldier’s Home, Borkowski congratulates Pearsall for a favorable write-up in the Milwaukee Journal. He informs the colonel that the National Commander of the American Legion is planning to “visit the Shut ins at the Veterans Administration Wis.” as part of the annual celebration of Armistice Day, the end of the First World War.
What is especially remarkable about these two postcards is that they are not just examples of Borkowski’s postcard art that he created as a cachet designer and likely sold to others; their handwritten contents authored by their new owners and then mailed.
Here, Borkowski has created these two postcards for himself and as a personal gift and mails them from one veteran to another. His sentiments couldn’t be expressed more clearly. In part: “Dear Colonel and Legionnaire. You’re like the Great American Eagle with your arms spread like the American Eagle wings .... Col. the Armistice participation at the Soldier’s Home will become greater in the coming years and remains a Disabled Legionnaire’s greatest memory.”
Today, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home is still active, a national historic landmark, and described as one of three Soldiers homes which have survived in the United States.
Description: [PTSD by Postcard? Disabled Veteran and Cachet Designer Leonard Borkowski’s Hand-Illustrated Postcards, showing Soldiers and Nurses at the Veterans Administration Soldier’s Home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin].
[Milwaukee, Wisconsin (postmark), November 2 and November 10, 1935]. 3¼ x 5½ inches. Two handwritten postcards with a pen and ink drawing, the second of which is hand colored. Small water stain affecting one pen and ink vignette; Very Good.