New Providence Historical Society Uniform Collection Part of Morris Museum Exhibit

A number of WWI and WWII military uniforms and accessories from the Society’s garment collection are included in a newly opened exhibit at the Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, NJ . The exhibit is titled “The Evolution of Military Fashion”, and runs from July 5 – November 26, 2017.

Members of the Morris Museum originally visited the Society’s garment collection, at our Salt Box Museum, back in November of 2016 with the purpose of inspecting a number of pieces in our garment collection in order to provide an expert opinion on what we have in our collection. When they discovered that part of our collection contained a number of military uniforms, dresses, and accessories dating from World War I and World War II; their interest was heightened. Most of the military uniforms and Red Cross dresses in our collection had been worn in service by New Providence residents.

Alexandra Willis and Ruth Zippler in Salt Box Attic

Ruth Zippler inspects uniforms






Morris Museum Curator, Alexandra Willis and Museum Volunteer Ruth Zippler returned to our Salt Box again on June 15, 2017 to take a closer look at the uniforms and dresses, and selected pieces they wished to borrow from our collection; boxed them up and transported them to their museum.

Alexandra and Ruth, with Barbara Pape, of our Society, packing up uniforms for loan to Morris Museum

Alexandra and Ruth, with Barbara Pape, of our Society, packing up uniforms for loan to Morris Museum

World War I Army Uniform

One of the military uniforms in our collection is from WWI and was worn by John Dodge Clark(1896-1998) New Providence’s first borough administrator(1967-1976).  In 1917 he volunteered to serve with the Allied Expeditionary Forces in World War I. He received the Silver Star and the Croix de Guerre and kept a diary of his war experiences. He later transcribed the diary as a 45-page typed manuscript that preserved his wartime experiences in his own words. The book was the subject of a Veteran’s Day article in the Independent Press Newspaper on Nov. 11, 1998. He volunteered for a commission as a second lieutenant in the artillery. His first assignment was an aerial observer flying with the French Escadrille.  His battery joined the U.S. 2nd Division and fought in many of the war’s most famous engagements, including Chateau Thierry, Belleau Wood, Soissons, the Argonne Forest and finally the crossing of the River Meuse. His memoirs describing each in vivid detail. His memoirs end with the signing of the peace treaty, his regiment’s return to the U.S. and his parade up Fifth Avenue. He returned to Brooklyn and married Emma Marie Zangler, an army nurse he courted in France. He worked for Monroe Calculator Company in Orange and in 1926 as a sales manager with A.R. Meeker in Newark. He retired from the company in 1962 as president.  He was New Prov. Borough Clerk in the 1960’s and when he retired as borough administrator in 1976 he was 81.  He passed away at the age of 103 at Heath Village, Hackettstown, NJ.

World War II Navy Uniforms 

From our WWII uniform collection, the following pieces were loaned to Morris Museum:
Navy Seabee uniforms worn by William C. Sawyer(1891 – 1996). Born in Basking Ridge, lived in New Providence for 84 yrs. Enlisted in U.S. Navy Construction Battalions (CB) or Seabees, during WWII and saw action in South Pacific on Saipan. Husband of Marie Hoag Sawyer. Employed for 47 years by the D.L. & W. Railroad in Hoboken, retiring in 1975. Member of New Providence Fire Dept., joining in 1931, serving as Fire Chief, Fire Inspector, Fire Commissioner and Treasurer. He was Deputy Police Officer in Borough in 1940. He also served as a councilman in the Borough in 1949, and also was a member of the N.P. Senior Citizens Club, serving as president and chairman of Board of Trustees. He was a member of American Legion Post 433 of New Providence. The Society has 4 Navy uniforms of Mr. Sawyer.

World War II Woman’s Red Cross Uniforms

There are three Woman’s Red Cross Dress Uniforms in our collection, two of which we know who wore them. One dress was worn by Marie Hoag Sawyer(1913-2004), wife of William C. Sawyer(above).  Born in Brooklyn, she lived in New Providence for 70 years. She was a secretary for N.P. Board of Education for 20 years, retiring in 1972. She was a member of the Women’s Club, N.P. Garden Club, and the Senior Citizens Club. We understand she was a Red Cross Volunteer during WWII at Overlook Hosp., in Summit, NJ. The uniform consists of a jumper, pale blue cotton, square neckline, back button closure, calf- length skirt gathered into waistband; a white cotton blend blouse, short sleeves, front closure; fabric label inside neckline: “HOOVER MFG. & SALES CO./ NEW YORK/SIZE 38”; cap, pale blue cotton with white brim.

The second Woman’s Red Cross Dress Uniform was worn by Jane Keisler Parcells(1909-1988), wife of Dayton Balcom Parcells. Born in Chatham, NJ, she graduated from Kent Place School, Summit and Wellesley College. She was active in the community, serving as treasurer, tax collector, and custodian of school funds for the Borough of New Providence for 30 years. She helped found the League of Women Voters, New Providence Historical Society and served with the American Red Cross Canteen during WWII. She acted as trustee and treasurer of the New Providence Presbyterian Church; past president of the Lincoln School P.T.A.; acted as a Cub Scout leader, and was involved with the Care and Concern group in N.P. An active member of the Republican Party. She was named “Woman of The Year” by the United Way of Summit- New Providence.  St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, New Providence was established through her efforts and dedication, and she later served as the first woman warden of the church and its Treasurer. The uniform has a fabric label inside neckline “Sterigarm, Altro Work Shops, 1021 Jennings St., NY; size 18.”

The third Red Cross Uniform is light blue with long sleeves, and dark blue epaulets, also with the label in neckline “Sterigarm, Altro Work Shops, 1021 Jennings St., NY”. We don’t know who may have worn this garment.

Our collection also includes WWII military helmets and caps.

We also have two framed WWI group panoramic photos, taken of the NJ State Militia, Sea Girt, NJ, 1917. One photo is approx.. 8” H X 30” L. Other panoramic photo not quite as long.

All of these items were loaned to Morris Museum for their “The Evolution of Military Fashion”, exhibit.

Here is the link to the Morris Museum website.

The Evolution of Military Fashion
July 5 – November 26, 2017

Highlighting the significant changes American military uniforms have undergone since the country’s inception in 1776, the uniforms featured in this exhibition include examples from the Revolutionary War through World War II.

Men’s Army Uniform, 1943, Gift of Robert Stoll
Red Cross Uniform, c.1918, Gift of the Beaver Family

Thanks to Society member & Trustee, Barbara Pape for assisting with this uniform project.

The Society will be organizing a personal tour the  of the Military Fashion Exhibit, with a Morris Museum Curator.

If you’d like to join in this tour, please contact Rick or leave a message at the Society Mason Archive Room at 1-908-665-1034.

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