Dr. Louis Livingston Seaman (1851-1932), originally of Newburgh, N.Y., was a military surgeon in the Spanish-American War, Boxer Rebellion, Boer War, Russo-Japanese War (on the Japanese side), Balkan Wars, and World War I (for Belgium, France, and finally, for the U.S.). From the 1880s through the 1910s, he traveled to many parts of the world to conduct research on diseases and other medical conditions, and contributed important findings on yellow fever in Cuba and on the effects of the tse-tse fly in German East Africa and the hookworm in Puerto Rico.
Seaman actively campaigned for improved rations and sanitation in the U.S. military, and proved through his studies on the Spanish-American and Russo-Japanese Wars that more soldiers were killed by preventable diseases in camp than by enemy fire on the battlefield. Seaman was also a fierce advocate of U.S. Army Post Canteens, and in 1901 delivered a series of speeches that caused the American Medical Association, National Association of Military Surgeons, and several other key medical societies to pass resolutions in favor of the Canteen, which had recently been abolished by Congress at the urging of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
Seaman's experiences in the military and as a civilian medical doctor served as his source material for many books, articles, and lectures, including "Why the Army Canteen Should be Restored" (1903), From Tokio through Manchuria with the Japanese (1905), The Real Triumph of Japan, the Conquest of the Silent Foe (1906), and The Crucifixion of Belgium: An Address on Germany's Deportation of the Innocent People of Belgium and Northern France (1916).
A member of Cornell University's first graduating class (1872), Seaman was also a Freemason, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London, President of the Cornell Club and the China Society of America, and a member of the Players Club of New York City and many other clubs and societies.
This collection mostly consists of correspondence, speeches and writings, photographs, and newspaper clippings documenting Seaman's experiences as a military surgeon all over the world. The correspondence file includes letters on Seaman's efforts to restore U.S. Army Post Canteens, on witnessing the horrors of colonization in German East Africa, and on his experience near the Battle of Verdun in World War I. Seaman's speeches and writings, both in manuscript and published form, detail his experiences in and perceptions of China, Japan, Puerto Rico, the Balkans, and Western Europe. The photographs in the collection (some of which were used as illustrations in his publications) record Seaman's experiences in the Spanish-American and Russo-Japanese Wars, and in Cuba, German East Africa, North Africa, and the United States. Additionally, the collection features a large file of newspaper clippings on the debate over the Army Canteen.
The collection also contains a painting of Seaman in Hong Kong, in traditional Chinese dress (1882); production stills from "Hiawatha", The Messiah of the Ojibway (1903), the first dramatic narrative film made in Canada; color photographs from the Russo-Japanese War (1904); and Hamlin Garland's manuscript revision of the poem "Prairie Memories," inscribed to Seaman.
The collection was donated to the Illinois Historical Survey in 1971 by Helen Moffett Hay of Urbana, Ill., who was the granddaughter of John Moffett, a close friend of Seaman's.