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Kissell Family papers

Identifier: RHC-148

Scope and Contents

Collection contains letters, postcards, and ephemera of the Kissell and Messersmith families during the World War I and World War II eras. The materials document the courtship of Thomas F. Kissell and Grace Messersmith, the World War I service of Grace's brother Walter W. Messersmith, and the World War II era military education and service of Grace and Thomas' son Leo "Gate" T. Kissell. The collection is organized into three series: 1) Messersmith-Kissell papers, 1915-1958, 2) Leo Kissell letters, 1943-1946, and 3) Ephemera.

Series 1. Messersmith-Kissell papers, contains letters between Grace Messersmith and Thomas F. Kissell during their courtship from 1916-1918 as well as one folder of letters from Walter W. Messersmith to his mother Ida Messersmith during his service with the U.S. Army in France during World War I. Of particular note is a page in very poor condition that describes a mail system in place to notify kin of the service-member's safe arrival in Europe. In other letters, Walter describes popular music available to listen to on gramophones at the YMCA, his wishes regarding his property and money should he not return from war, his reaction on learning of the Armistice, and his pleasure at learning the Kissell family is moving to Columbiana, Ohio. The series also contains a small amount of correspondence from others and one folder of John Messersmith's receipts.

Series 2. Leo Kissell letters, contains three distinct groupings of materials. In the first grouping are letters from Leo "Gate" Kissell to his family from the Army Specialized Training Program at Stanford University and during his service in Company C, 66th Infantry Regiment, 71st Infantry Division, between 1943 and 1944. Of particular note is one 28-page letter written to his brother "Flash" while on furlough. In the letter, Kissell describes all of the planes he saw while on a road trip in California, including experimental craft, and including several sketches. The letters also include several written by Leo from Germany, Austria, France and England in 1945. The second grouping of letters in Series 2 are those to Leo from his family. Most letters were written by his mother, Grace, and are enclosed with newspaper clippings and sometimes letters from his brothers or father. The third grouping of letters in Series 2 are letters to Leo from his friends and acquaintances between 1943 and 1944.

Series 3. Ephemera, contains a small amount of unidentified photographs, loose newspaper clippings, and a folder of programs, matchbooks, and other miscellaneous items.


  • 1915 - 1958


Access to the Materials

Collection is open for research use. Materials may be accessed by request at Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House. Materials do not circulate.

Publication Rights

The collection is the physical property of Grand Valley State University, but all literary rights are retained by the original creators of materials, their estates, heirs, or third parties. It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure appropriate permissions for publication beyond the bounds of fair use.

Biographical Notes

Leo Thomas "Gate" Kissell (b. 1923) was the son of Thomas Franklin Kissell and Grace J. Messersmith Kissell of Columbiana, Ohio. Leo had two younger brothers, Kenneth "Flash" Kissell and James "Demon" Kissell. Leo Kissell graduated in 1941 from Columbiana High School. He attended the College of Wooster and was enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 6, 1943. Once enlisted, he attended the Army Specialized Training Program, based at Stanford University. By July 1944, he was training with the 66th Infantry Regiment in Georgia, and then went overseas to Europe. After the war Leo Kissell married Helga Karthe Glembowski in 1948, and may have moved to Colorado to work as an artist.

Grace J. Messersmith Kisell (b. 1899) was the daughter of Harry Messersmith and Ida B. Messersmith, and was born in Pennsylvania before her family moved to Columbiana, Ohio. She had several siblings, including Walter W. Messersmith, who served in Company M, 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.


1.67 Linear feet (5 boxes)

Kissell Family papers
Annie Benefiel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Seidman House
1 Campus Drive
Allendale MI 49401 United States