Skip to main content

Eva Sesmer and Herbert Mitchell Snyder papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1980_009-UA

This collection is foremost a reflection of the numerous interests of Eva Semser Snyder. There is a body of letters, with a few photographs interspersed, from Allied soldiers that she met during World War I. A few items illustrate her work as a Public Health Nurse during the 1937 Flood. For the World War II era and following, there are commendations, citations, and numerous job applications, usually for positions utilizing her skill in Russian. Newspaper clippings, with related correspondence, of her "Letters to the Editor" are also found.

The papers of Herbert M. Snyder consist largely of snapshots from his naval service both in World War I and II. The photographs were removed from a large album; the bulk of them were taken by Snyder while on duty aboard the U.S.S. Towner, which visited numerous remote native villages in the South Pacific. There are also scenes (some of which appear to have been purchased) from Japan, China, the Phillipine Islands, and Hawaii, from both the pre-war and the close of the war and early occupation periods.

Also included are Herbert Snyder's printed and typescript articles on pharmaceutical topics and related articles by Eva, and the Snyder's daughter, Agnes Snyder Crume. Ms. Crume prepared the explanatory notes found scattered throughout this collection.

A few items, such as an oversized photo of Company "D" Forty-fifth U.S. Infantry at Camp Taylor, Kentucky, and several oversized awards and diplomas, are stored separately from the collection.


  • 1907-1979


Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has been transferred to the University of Louisville and there are no additional restrictions.


2.575 linear feet

Biographical / Historical

Eva Sesmer (Snyder) was born November 21, 1894, in Odessa, Russia, an ancient Black Sea port. Her father, Samuel Paul Sesmer, was a physician and graduate of the Medical Faculty of the (old) University of St. Petersburg. A Tsarist, Dr. Sesmer feared Bolshevik take-over of his country and emigrated to the U.S. in 1909. He established a practice at New Castle, in Henry County, Ky., and, a year later, sent for his family. Eva Sesmer, his eldest daughter, turned 16 soon after.

The following year, falsifying her age, she entered nurses' training at the (old) Jewish Hospital in Louisville, and was graduated in 1913. She remained on the staff of the Jewish Hospital and also did private-duty nursing in Louisville.

In 1917, immediately after America's entry into World War I, R.N. Eva Sesmer volunteered as a Red Cross nurse at Camp Taylor, a large Army training installation in Louisville. Soon after, she volunteered and was accepted for overseas duty with the Army Nurse Corps, then administered by the American Red Cross. She joined an all-Kentucky medical cadre, Unit #40, which was mobilized by Dr. (Col.) David Barrow of Lexington and which included physicians, registered nurses, male orderlies and ambulance drivers. Sailing for England immediately, the group established U.S. Base Hospital #40 at Sarisbury Court, a converted country house and estate just outside Southampton, England (and reputedly the former home of dancer Isadora Duncan).

Lieut. Eva Sesmer also served with detached-duty units of Base Hospital #40 at Paignton, England; Edinboro, Scotland, and behind the lines in France. The Kentucky medical unit received many honors for its service to the casualties of the American Expeditionary Force and of Allied forces from Canada, England and France. Lieutenant Sesmer also received several personal commendations.

Returning to Louisville after war duty, she nursed military personnel at Camp Taylor during the disastrous influenza epidemic of 1919. Following military discharge, she nursed in Louisville until her marriage in 1920 to former Navy Hospital Corpsman Herbert Mitchell Snyder. During the 1920s and 1930s, although not actively nursing, she served as obstetrical nurse at the birth of six nieces and nephews--delivered by Drs. Henry Enos Tuley, Oscar Bloch and Leo Bloch, for whom she had worked. During the 1937 Ohio River flood, she volunteered as a Public Health Nurse and traveled by boat giving typhoid shots and first aid to victims.

Strongly patriotic and deeply grateful for the opportunities offered by her adopted country, Eva Sesmer Snyder taught citizenship classes to emigrés of the 1930s and '40s, at the (old) Neighborhood House. She and her husband stood sponsorship for numerous immigrant families of many faiths and nationalities--all strangers to her, and all subsequently fine citizens.

In World War II her husband returned to active duty as a Chief Pharmacist's Mate in the Navy, serving throughout the Southwest Pacific. During this period, Eva Sesmer Snyder served as a Russian instructor for the Navy V-12 unit at the University of Louisville, and as a translator. From the 1950s to the early 1970s, she taught Russian classes at the YMCA and YWCA. She was also a poet--her work was published extensively in The Courier-Journal during the 1930s-1940s and in Veterans' Voices, a national literary magazine of the Veterans Administration, 1950s-1970s.

In 1963, Mrs. Snyder was honored by the Fincastle Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution as Louisville's `Distinguished Foreign-Born Citizen of the Year.'

Eva Sesmer Snyder, R.N., died October 4, 1979. She was nearly 85.

by Agnes Snyder Crume

As a teenager, Eva Sesmer Snyder and her family immigrated from Russia to the United States, where they settled first in Henry County, Kentucky, and then in Louisville. In 1914, she was graduated from Louisville's Jewish Hospital School of Nursing. During World War I, Eva served as an Army nurse at Camp Taylor, Kentucky, and later at an Allied hospital in England. On returning to civilian life, she was active in a women's unit of the American Legion; when it was disbanded, she joined the Legion's Jefferson Post Number 15 in Louisville. During the 1930s and 1940s, Mrs. Snyder taught citizenship courses for immigrants at the Neighborhood House and, during Louisville's devastating 1937 flood, worked as a Public Health Nurse. Between the World Wars, she was employed by Dr. August Schachner, M.D. who in 1931 published an account of his travels to the Arctic Ocean.

During World War II, Eva Snyder aided the Russian relief effort and worked as a Russian language instructor and translator. In the post-war era, she continued to teach Russian and frequently wrote "Letters to the Editor" of Louisville Courier Journal on a potpourri of topics. In 1963, the local Daughters of the American Revolution named Eva Snyder, its "Foreign Born Citizen of the Year."

Herbert Mitchell Snyder, Eva's husband, was born in 1894 in Brooklyn, New York, and was graduated from the public schools there in 1911. In 1920, he was certified as a registered pharmacist and was employed by the Newman Drug Company as a druggist, and later, as a pharmaceutical chemist. During World War I, he served in the United States Navy and in 1943, returned to active duty. As Chief Pharmacists' Mate, Snyder was first assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and then, for sixteen months, aboard the U.S.S. Towner in the Pacific Theater.

Related Materials

Eva Sesmer Snyder's student notes in nursing, World War I uniform, and medical equipment have been donated to the Kornhauser Health Science Library at the University of Louisville.

Eva Sesmer Snyder and Herbert Mitchell Snyder Papers
Archives Staff
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752