[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist in the Special Collections Section.]
Polk Denmark at L.L. Polk Historic Hwy. Marker, Polkton, N.C., 1948. From Non-textual Materials Unit, State Archives of North Carolina, Neg. 55.9.55
Private Collections are constantly expanding with new material and collections that encompass a range of historical periods. This posting highlights just one set of private papers recently processed, described, and made available to researchers: an addition to the Leonidas Polk Denmark Papers, PC.1417 (first installment received and accessioned in 1968).
The addition features Denmark’s correspondence, primarily of a genealogical nature, and material that pays homage to his illustrious grandfather, Leonidas L. Polk (among other contributions, founder of the Progressive Farmer). A modest but important part of the papers is a sketch of Denmark’s own life, with reference to his training as a pilot during World War I and his service in France during 1918 as an aerial surveillance instructor. Though the addition lacks letters and photographs of Polk’s service (see the first accession for letters), the Non-textual Materials Unit, has nine negatives that illustrate and document Denmark’s military service during World War I. (See listing below of all titles, dates, and negative numbers).
Polk Family Tree from Leonidas Polk Denmark Papers. PC.1417. Addition, 2012. OS Box
Leonidas Polk Denmark (1892-1964) was a 1915 graduate of North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now N.C.S.U.), in the field of civil engineering. Denmark entered military service in May 1917 and was subsequently commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Engineers, and assigned to the 105th Engineers Regiment at Camp Sevier, Greenville, S.C. Later, he volunteered for the Air Service and entered training, ultimately receiving his wings, then completing aerial gunnery training as part of the first class at Selfridge Field, Mt. Clemons, Michigan. Denmark sailed for France in July 1918, and subsequently served as instructor in aerial observation for seven months at the 2nd Aviation Instruction Center, Tours, France. He returned to the United States three months after Armistice. Additionally, Denmark was one of three men selected to represent the state of North Carolina at the burial of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, November 11, 1921.
Denmark’s main professional work was with the Highway Commission, from 1937 to 1960, as chief draftsman and cartographer with the Division of Statistics and Planning. A little known fact was that Denmark over many years engaged in genealogical research as a hobby and as a side-profession. This interest was undoubtedly stimulated during the 1920s when he served as land grant clerk in the office of the Secretary of State.
List of selected Leonidas Polk Denmark Photos in the Non-Textual Materials Unit, Special Collections, State Archives of North Carolina
- 2nd Lt. L. P. Denmark, 105th Engineers, WWI, Wake Co., N. C. 1919 (1998) N.98.1.89
- L. P. Denmark, with Brunet Family, Tours, France, W.W.I ca. 1918 (1998) N.98.2.128
- 2nd Lt. L. P. Denmark: “In My Office”, W.W.I ca. 1918 (1998) N.98.2.129
- 2nd Lt. L. P. Denmark in Flight Gear, W.W.I ca. 1918 (1998) N.98.2.132
- Ralph Jordan, L. P. Denmark, and the “Sop”, France, W.W.I ca. 1918 (1998) N.98.2.138
- L. P. Denmark with Unidentified Aviator, Tours, France, W.W.I ca. 1918 (1998) N.98.2.141
- 2nd Lt L. P. Denmark, et al, in Atlanta, GA 1917 (1998) N.98.2.142
- The “Famous 14th Squadron”, W.W.I ca. 1917 (1998) N.98.2.146
- 105th Engineers Corp, Camp Oglethorpe, Georgia ca. 1917 (1998) N.98.3.23