VFW's History - As Told By James Romanis
The American Veteran of Foreign Service
A Brief History of American Veterans of Foreign Service, and The Veterans of Foreign Wars
Formerly published monthly in the interests of the Association American Veterans of Foreign Service
The American Veterans of Foreign Service
Fortieth Anniversary Edition
James Romanis – Editor
EDITORIAL COMMENTS AND GREETINGS
by James Romanis
Upon the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the American Veterans of Foreign Service the surviving
founders desire to extend their greeting to all American war veterans, believing that there are no worthier men than they
who mortgaged their lives to their country in time of war.
And in reviewing the valorous records of their achievements we like to image them in the role of Cyrano de Bergerac, whose
language is so aptly descriptive of the true American spirit, for he is not on cultivate a supple spine and wear out his belly
groveling in the dust! Not one to dedicate poems to pawnbrokers or use the fire God gave him to persecute, oppress, slay,
torture or malign for some self-anointed bag of bones! Nor yet is he one who calculates, schemes, is afraid: seeking
introductions, favors, influences!
No! He is none of these, but one who sings, laughs, dreams: walking in his own way, free to see things as they are.
Traveling any road under the sun, under the stars and doubting not that fame or fortune lies beyond the bourne.
Never making a line he has not heard in his own heart... too proud to be a parasite and, if his nature wants the germ that
grows towering to heaven, like the mountain pine, or like the oak, sheltering multitudes, he stands not high it may be but, if
he chooses, alone.
Like this individuals have been our patriots of the past: men who in time of war chose to forsake home ties to sacrifice financial
opportunities that they might fight in a righteous cause.
If we turn to the pages of history where they chronicle the history of men dignified by the titles of king, czar or emperor, we find
a record of tyrants, robbers and conquerors renowned mostly for the magnitude of the misdeeds and the stupendous wrongs
and miseries which they inflicted upon mankind. Yet it was the American patriot who first upset the dignity of these monarchs!
That practice so exceeding offensive to the governments of Europe—the indulging in the freedom of thought and speech-
received its first sanction in the wilds of our country under the sponsoring of our patriot forefathers: and here the sophistry of
divine right received its first setback.
It was the action of these patriots, which demonstrated to the old world that no self-seeking dictator with a pompous title could
rule the new world with his bluster of force a narrow-minded, selfish government upon intelligent, freeborn men. And the lives
and ideals of these men live ever after them.
In the wars of ‘76 and 1812 we see our first patriots engaged in strenuous wars for Freedom! Again in the 60's we see Victory
perches upon the banners of those who fought for Equality. These patriots having gained for their mother country the full
blessing of these basic principles of popular government, we find their descendants in "98 plucking the glory flower of Victory
from lofty crest of Santiago, braving the wasting diseases of torrid tropics, under foreign skies, to lower the bloody standards of
a testy, trampling monarch and reaching out to the natives the long-sought for blessing of Justice!
And again we have lived to see another generation of patriot daring submarine infested waters to engage in an inferno of
entrenched warfare of liquid fire, poisonous gas, machine-gun nests, bursting shrapnel and hand grenades, for the cause of
There was nothing selfish or mercenary about the heroic deeds of any of these men and because the public and government
are too forgetful of such facts, it becomes a sacred obligation of war veterans to see to it that the widows and orphans of their
fallen comrades are properly cared for, and that their disabled comrades are given a square deal. This can be best
accomplished through organizations, and such is the purpose of war veteran’s organizations.
And as patriots, we have a further duty before us, that of preserving our cherished birthright of a democracy in republic, we
received it as a heritage from our forefathers without a taint of the foreign isms of dictatorship. And so we are in duty bound to
pass it on to our posterity as we received it-a republic guaranteeing the freedom of initiative and enterprise by which the
lowliest individual may successfully aspire to the urge of his fondest dreams.
of the American Veterans of Foreign Service, First organization of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Built on the Principles of
Mutual Assistance without the aid of subsidies.
The association American Veterans of Foreign Service, the earliest organization of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was founded
at Columbus, Ohio, Friday evening September 29, 1899. The object of the meeting, which evolved the association, was the
perfecting of an organization of members and ex-members of the 17th United States Infantry, a regiment of the regular army,
which had participated in the Cuban campaign of the Spanish-American War and had been stationed at Columbus Barracks
prior to the war. The prime motive for founding the organization was the establishing of a medium through which needy
ex-members of the regiment suffering disabilities incident to the war could be assisted for at that times there were no
hospitalization provisions of the government to which they could look for medical attention and incidentally, no such provisions
were established by the government until 23 years later, or not until 1922.
Place of Meeting
The meeting was held in the tailoring establishment of Francis Dubiel located at 286 East Main Street, Columbus, Ohio.
Those attending the meeting were: Francis Dubiel, James Romanis, James C. Putnam, George Kelly, Bert J. Du Rant,
Walker Waddington, John Malloy, O.S. Brookins, Charles Click, John H. Clark, David Brown, George Beekman,
Andrew S. Grant, and, later, Simon Heiman.
The meeting was called to order by Francis Dubiel, who was chosen by a vote of those present as temporary chairman, and
James Romanis was chosen as secretary. While the meeting was in session it was visited by Simon Heiman, an
ex-serviceman of the Spanish-American War who had served with the 4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in Porto Rico, whereupon
Francis Dubiel and Bert J. Du Rant both urged that the membership qualifications of the prospective organization include all
veterans of the Spanish-American war having had foreign service, as well as 17th United States Infantry men. The
suggestions met with unanimous approval and a committee consisting of James C. Putnam, Bert J. Du Rant and George Kelly
was appointed by chairman Francis Dubiel to draft a suitable constitution.
The second meeting of the embryo organization was held on Saturday evening, October 7, 1899, at 286 East Main Street,
Columbus, Ohio, with Francis Dubiel presiding as chairman and James Romanis as secretary, In reports of committee at the
home of William P. Stevenson, a veterans of the Porto Rico campaign submitted his choice of an appropriate name for the
organization which was American Veterans of Foreign Service. The name met with instant favor and was unanimously
adopted. A written constitution submitted by James C. Putnam was also adopted.
The meeting then proceeded to the election of officers for the ensuing year, the following members being chosen for the
various offices: President: James C. Putnam; Vice President: George Kelly and Bert J. Du Rant; Secretary: James Roanmis;
Treasurer: Francis Dubiel; Chaplain: David Brown; Trustees: John H. Clark, John Malloy and Oscar S. Brookins; Sergeants-at
-Arms: Walker Waddington and Andrew S. Grant.
A few days after the election of officers, five of the newly elected officers incorporated the organization, signing their names to
the articles of incorporation in the following order; David Brown, James Romanis, John Malloy, Francis Dubiel and
James C. Putnam.
In order to stimulate the growth of the order locally the national officers officiated as local camp officers of the first local unit
names: Headquarters Camp. Number One. This service necessitating the frequent attendance of officers at camp meetings
the office of Chaplain was - resigned October 21, 1899, by David Brown whose personal affairs requires his presence out of
the city. A few weeks later, December 1,1899, President James C. Putnam also resigned; his personal affairs preventing his
attendance at meetings.
The office of president having become vacant through resignation on December 1, 1899, Captain Will S. White, a veteran of
the Porto Rican campaign was elected to the position. The post of Chaplain was given the ex-President, James C. Putnam,
who was however unable to officiate as such and the post remained vacant the remainder of the year.
Insignia and Ritual
Under the popular administration of National President Will S. White the organization grew rapidly in and about Columbus,
Ohio, while the national secretary, James Romanis advertised its merits by mail to good advantage throughout the United
States and possessions securing a number of member-at-large. In collaboration with John B. Davie, a former member of the
4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the national secretary designed the first lapel button and assisted in originating the first initiation
ritual. Other desideratum required for the proper functioning of the organization such as membership cards, certificates,
national constitution, etc., were also originated by James Romanis.
In the year 1900 National President Will S. White was reelected to office and again in 1901. National Secretary James
Romanis and National Treasurer Francis Dubiel were also re-elected to office in these years. During the year 1900
Headquarters Camp Number One was renamed Camp Henry W. Lawton preparatory to turning it over for local administration.
In 1901 a campaign to organize member-at-large throughout the United States into camp units resulted in the second camp
known as Camp Peter C. Haines, being organized at Washington C.H., Ohio. In this year also a Philippine war veteran named
Henry Smith, an initiate of Camp Henry W. Lawton, returned to his home in Altoona, Pennsylvania, promising to publicize the
order there. Inasmuch as another order of similar name originated at Altoona the incident seems significant.
In 1902 the first national convention of the order was held in Columbus, Ohio at which convention James Romanis who had
served continuously as national secretary of the organization since its founding in 1899, was chosen national president. Louis
M. H. Potter was chosen national secretary and Francis Dubiel was again re-elected national treasurer.
In 1903 the national convention was held at Washington C.H., Ohio, James Romanis being re-elected national president,
Theophilus F. Malloy, national secretary and Francis Dubiel, national treasurer.
In the year 1904 the last organized camp of the Columbus organization was instituted at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, taking
the name of Camp W.S. Schley, Number 24.
The year 1904 also saw the last convention of the Columbus organization, which was held at Cincinnati, Ohio. At this
convention the titles of all officers of the organization were changed from the civil to the military form. For the third consecutive
time James Romanis was chosen to head the national organization assuming the new title of National Commander. Other
officers elected were; Vice Commanders, Thomas P. Edgar, Sparta, Illinois; Francis Dubiel, Columbus, Ohio; Adjutant General,
Geo. Kelly, Columbus, Ohio; Judge Advocate General, Fred Peaslack, Newport, Kentucky; Quartermaster General, Thomas
Sparrow, Columbus, Ohio; Historian, Theo F. Malloy, Columbus, Ohio; Inspectors General, E.C. Johnson, Portsmouth, New
Hampshire; Charles J. Cronin, Cincinnati, Ohio, Willis A. Ward, Columbus, Ohio; Chaplain, H.C. Pritner, Columbus, Ohio.
Visiting the Cincinnati convention as representative of another organization bearing the title of American Veterans of Foreign
Service was George Metzger of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who extended an invitation to the officers of the Columbus
headquarters organization to attend a convention of the organization he represented which was to be held the following week
at Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Acting upon this invitation the Cincinnati convention voted to send its national commander, James
Romanis, as its sole representative giving him plenary power to arrange any adjustment between the organizations that his
judgement might deem advisable.
Upon visiting the convention at Allegheny, Pennsylvania over which Captain Robert S. Hansbury presided Nationals
Commander Romanis was greatly impressed with the evident enthusiasm and high caliber of the delegations in attendance
and suggested that the newer organization immediately adopt the insignia of the older order and that each order retain its
current government for the ensuing year at the end of which both organizations should meet jointly for the purpose of arranging
terms of amalgamation and the election of one set of officers. The suggestion was instantly adopted by the convention and the
lapel button of the Columbus organization at once became the insignia of both organizations.
Returning to Columbus, National Commander Romanis established the first monthly organ of the organization called
"The American Veteran of Foreign Service", which Commander Romanis edited and published at his personal expense during
the ensuing year. The organ served as a medium for promoting the spirit of good will between the two organizations during the
interim preceding amalgamation.
In 1905 the joint convention of both organizations was held at Altoon, Pennsylvania and the amalgamation of the two bodies
bearing the same name consummated. Herbert O. Kelly of Altoon being elected its first national commander.
Having learned of a movement to elect him as commander of the consolidated organizations National Commander Romanis
remained away from the joint convention, believing that the honors of the order should be rotated among its members. And
having already served six consecutive years as national officer at a great personal sacrifice of time and money felt that with
the permanency of the organization assured his goal had been reached and his retirement from continuous activity permissible.
In the year 1913 the Army of the Philippines and the American Veteran of Foreign Service consolidated. In 1914 this
consolidated organizations chose the name Veterans of Foreign Wars.
John B. Davie (Deceased) Designer of lapel button and origination of ritual.
Bert J. Du Rant, Buffalo, N.Y. National Vice President 1899-1901 Originator of Organization Name
John Malloy, Columbus, Ohio National Trustee 1899-1901
Walker Waddinggton, Columbus, Ohio National Sergeant-at-Arms 1899-1901
Simon Heiman, Akron, Ohio One of the Founders
Francis Dubiel (Deceased) Chairman of First Meeting National Treasurer 1899-1904 National Vice Commander 1904-1905
James Romanis, Columbus, Ohio Secretary of First Meeeting National Secretary 1899-1902 National President and
Commander 1902-1905 Editor of first monthly publication, etc.
James C. Putnam, Kansas City, Missouri National President October 7 to December 1, 1899
George Kelly, Columbus, Ohio National Vice President 1899-1904 Adjutant General 1904-1905
FOUNDED FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29,1899
EARLIEST DATE ERRONEOUS
Contrary to a general belief that the first organization of the V.F.W. the American Veterans of Foreign Service, was founded
September 23, 1899 is the indisputable evidence contained in back filed of the Columbus, Ohio newspapers of that period
which place the date Friday September 29, 1899. A preliminary notice that such meeting was to be held appears on page 7 of
The Columbus Dispatch, issued Monday, September 25, 1899. The notice reads:
"There will be a meeting of the Seventeenth U.S. Infantry at 286 East Main Street, Friday evening, September 29 at 7 p.m.
standard time for the purpose of effecting an organization. It is to the interest of all old seventeenth men to be present at this
meeting as an association for mutual benefit in getting pension claims, etc. is to be formed."
Confirming the date in the above notice are the contents of the newspaper clipping pictured in the photo engraving of the
V.F.W. records appearing on page 8 of this paper. The clipping the authenticity of which was verified through back files if from
the Ohio State Journal of Monday morning, October 2, 1899, and read verbatim as follows:
"Veterans Now Are These Soldiers of the 17th United States Infantry"
"A very successful and enthusiastic meeting of the ex-members of the Seventeenth United States infantry was held at 286
East Mains Street, Friday evening. By a vote of those present Francis Dubiel was chosen temporary chairman and James
Romanis, secretary. James C. Putnam, George Kelly and BJ. Du Rant were appointed a committee to draw up a constitution
and by-laws and select a suitable name for the association. It was decided after discussing the matter to admit all
ex-Seventeenth infantry men and all soldiers and ex-soldiers of the Spanish-American war having seen foreign service.
"A vote of thanks was tendered Francis Dubiel for his kindness in providing a place of meeting after which the meeting
adjourned till 8 p.m. Saturday, October 7. The enrollment of members was large and every indication points to a strong
association. Prominent among those present were: James C. Putnam, Walker Waddington, B.J. Du Rant, George Kelly, John
Malloy, O.S. Brookins, Charles Click, John H. Clark, David Brown and George Beekman."
There are 7,083 islands in the Philippine archipelago, which covers an area of 115,026 square miles. Manila the capital is
7,164 miles distant from San Francisco, California. It requires an average of 30 days traveling by transport service to reach it.
The islands are populated by numerous tribes of natives. Eighty dialects are spoken.
The first pension act enacted by congress was passed March 18, 1818. It granted officers $20 a month and privates $8 a
month during like for service in the Revolutionary War.
Prior to the year 1818 ex-servicemen of the Revolutionary war were given grants of land in lieu of pensions. It is recorded that
General George Washington was given 40,000 acres of "near west" land for war service.
EARLIEST RECORDS OF THE V.F.W.
PHOTO ENGRAVING SHOWING: CLIPPING WITH FIRST NEWS ITEM; PRINTED CONSTITUTION;
FIRST ISSUE OF MEMBERSHIP CARD WITH FIRST LAPEL BUTTON DESIGN BETWEEN;
CAMP LAWTON CARD; PARADE BADGE; CERTIFICATE OF MEMBERSHIP; FIRST MONTHLY PUBLICATION.
AMERICAN VETERANS OF FOREIGN SERVICE
James C. Putman, Commander-in-Chief, elected at Columbus, Ohio
Major Will S. White elected at Columbus, Ohio
Major Will S. White re-elected at Columbus, Ohio
James Romanis elected at Washington Courthouse, Ohio
James Romanis re-elected at Cincinnati, Ohio
James Romanis re-elected at Cincinnati, Ohio
George Metzger elected at Altoona, PA
Charles H. Devereaux elected at Cincinnati, Ohio
David T. Nevin elected at Jamestown Exposition Grounds, VA
J. Alfred Judge elected at Lebanon, PA
J. Alfred Judge re-elected at Pittsburgh, PA
Robert G. Woodside elected at Jersey City, NJ
Robert G. Woodside re-elected at Philadelphia, PA
Robert G. Woodside re-elected at Pittsburgh, PA
AMERICAN VETERANS OF FOREIGN SERVICE, EASTERN BRANCH
ROBERT S. HANSBURY, ORGANIZER
Capt. Robert S. Hansbury re-elected at Altoon, PA
H.O. Kelley elected at Pittsburgh, PA
Amalgamated as above
THE ABOVE TWO ORGANIZATION AMALGAMATED SEPTEMBER 1905 AT ALTOONA. PA ARMY OF THE PHILIPPINES
Francis V. Greene elected at Denver, CO
Irving Hale elected at Salt Lake, Utah
General Irving Hale re-elected at Council Bluff, Iowa
General Charles King elected at St. Paul, Minn.
General Wilder S. Metcalf elected at St. Lois, MO
Col. Alfred S. Frost elected at Chicago, IL
General Arthur MacArthur elected at Des Moines, Iowa
Capt. H.A. Crow elected at Kansas City, MO
Major P.J.H. Farrell elected at Galesburg, IL
Col. Charles L. Jewett elected at Pittsburgh, PA
A.H. Anderson elected at Chicago, IL
F. Warner Karling elected at Detroit, MI
F. Warner Karling re-elected at Lincoln, NB
THE AMERICAN VETERANS OF FOREIGN SERVICE AND THE ARMY of the PHILIPPINES amalgamated at DENVER, CO,
AUGUST 1913, forming the VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS as it is today. But, the birth of the Order dates from September
29,1899, when the first national officer were elected and the eligibility clause was adopted. The original charter was granted
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT
THE VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES.
DID YOU KNOW
*VFW was first to Demand Congressional Recognition of "THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER" as the NATIONAL ANTHEM.
*VFW was first to establish a National Home for Orphans of Veterans.
*VFW was first to Demand Pensions for Widows and Dependents of World War Veterans.
*VFW was first to Demand Legislation to Abolish War-Time Profiteering.
*VFW was the first Veterans organization to launch a nationwide educational campaign in Defense of Democracy.
*VFW was first to Demand "JOBS or PENSIONS" for all World War Veterans.
*VFW was first to Demand Legislation of Armistice (Veterans Day) day by Congress as a legal holiday.
*VFW was first to offer overseas Veterans exclusive gold chevron order.
*VFW was first to Demand cash payment of the called war "BONUS."
*VFW was first to advocate and introduce pension legislation for the Spanish American War Veterans.
*The Veterans of Foreign Wars was founded in Columbus, Ohio on Friday September 29, 1899, at
286 East Main Street in the Tailor shop of Francis Dubiel.
"THE START OF IT ALL"
Department of Ohio Founders Day