Raleigh H. Sears Photograph collection, 1917-1926 and undated

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Sears, Raleigh H.
Raleigh Sears was a member of the American Expeditionary Force, stationed in Siberia during World War I. Collection includes photographs and postcards from Sears' travels during his military service. Some of these are labeled as being from Vladivostok, Russia; others are of an unidentified Asian country, and still others are of Honolulu and miscellaneous naval vessels. The majority of the photographs are black and white prints or images sized 3.5x5.5 inches; most do not have labels or descriptions. There are also 4 panoramas that will require additional conservation work. In addition, there are some miscellaneous papers from Sears' post-war work on railroads, as well as research and photocopies about his military service.
0.6 Linear Feet
300 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

This collection consists largely of unlabeled photographs dating from Raleigh Sears' military service in the American Expeditionary Force during and immediately following World War I. The photographs are supplemented by captioned postcards, some color tinted, which appear to date from the same period. The postcards and photographs include images from the travels of Sears' unit, including stops in Hawaii, Asia, and Siberia. The majority of these photographs are of scenery, rather than of the troops or military images. However, there are notable images of ships, posing sailors and soldiers, and buildings like a YMCA.

Hawaii appears only briefly in images that are labeled as Honolulu. The photographs from Asia document the scenery, buildings, and people of an unidentified country: it is likely either Japan or China. Occasionally these photographs include images of an American soldier interacting with local people or posing for a picture. There is no label confirming that this man is Sears. The postcards also include images from Asia, at times uncaptioned. Some of the Asia postcards are scenery in Yokohama, Japan.

The scenes from Siberia are easier to identify. There are several photographs of dead, snow-covered men on the ground, usually with other soldiers looking over the corpses. It is unclear where in Siberia these events occured, and no labels exist for those photographs. The postcards from Siberia are typically of scenes from Vladivostok, including the arrival of troops and views over the port.

The collection also includes 4 panoramic images: 3 rolled photographs and 1 folded postcard. Two photographs and the postcard are scenic photographs of Vladivostok. The third panoramic photograph is a formal portrait of troops, unlabeled and undated.

There are also five photographs of Raleigh Sears' family members.

The photographs in this collection are accompanied by David and Robert Alexander's research on Raleigh Sears' military service, as well as a few miscellaneous papers from his post-war life. The most significant of these his an insurance policy from a railroad company, which reveals that he was a coal chute man in 1926. The rest of the collection includes some documentation on the life of Robert Alexander.

Biographical / historical:

The Raleigh H. Sears Photograph Collection was acquired by Duke University through David Alexander, whose father, Robert Alexander, was the collector of this material. The Alexanders spent a lot time researching the life and military service of Sears, whose collection has no identifying information. Their research and photocopies are available in the collection for researchers using this material.

According to the Alexanders, Raleigh Sears enlisted in the U.S. Army on 5 March 1917, and was stationed in San Diego during much of World War I. Muster rolls reveal that he was on the USS Albany by April 1919, and in June 1919 was serving detached duty at the U.S. Naval Radio Station on Russian Island, near Vladivostok. Records show he was sick in April 1920, and he appears to have been transported to the Marine Barricks National Station in the Philippines by September 1920, and was back in the United States at the Navy Yard Mare Island, California, by November 1920. He was discharged with the rank of private, first class, in January 1921. Nothing is known about his activities post-war, except that an insurance policy dated 1926 reveals he was a coal chute man for a Montana railroad company.

Acquisition information:
The Raleigh H. Sears Photograph Collection were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2010.
Processing information:

Processed by Meghan Lyon, May 2010

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, May 2010

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.

Black-and-white photographs
United States. Army. American Expeditionary Forces
Sears, Raleigh H.
Alexander, Robert
Sears, Raleigh H.
Alexander, David
Russia -- Pictorial works
Siberia (Russia) -- Pictorial works
Asia -- Pictorial works
Vladivostok (Russia) -- Pictorial works


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Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Raleigh H. Sears Photograph Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.