WWI Artifacts of Maurice Sweeny of Richmond Va

If only theses WWI artifacts could talk… Well, they can and they will. Their voice will speak in this blog of amazing historical connections.

Back in 1980, Mike Culver, was helping his Grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Cole Culver, move from her Ginter Park home and found the WWI artifacts in a box.

Mrs. Culver`s sister Blanch Cole Tobien Sweeny was the wife of Maurice Sweeny and the artifacts were from his service in WWI as 1st. Lt. Field Artillery attached to the Air Services as a Balloon Observer.

Below is Maurice Sweeny`s WWI photo and Identity Card for A.E.F. Balloon Observer stamped Headquarters Ninth Corps and signed by Capt. W. Hemphill, his Taylor U.S. Corps of Engineers compass, his 1 3/8″ brass cigarette lighter, 2 sided, one cast image of a derrigible, the other a cast image of a monoplane (unusual in that only Sopwith Camels seem to have been monoplanes). The rest are personal photographs of the operations in France belonging to Sweeny.

The U.S. Army Air Service played a major role in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel.

Maurice Joseph Sweeny was born Nov. 18, 1891 and was one of nine children of a pious Catholic family raised in Richmond`s Church Hill. He married late in life to Mrs. Blanch Cole Tobien, a widow he had known all his life. There were no children. He died at home at 1412 Wilmington Ave. on Aug. 21, 1955 and was buried in the Mount Calvary Cemetery in the City of Richmond and his funeral was handled by L.T. Christan in the old casket shaped building at Park & Boulevard Avenues.

Maurice Sweeny`s wife, Mrs. Blanch Cole Tobien Sweeny, drove ambulances in both World Wars and was quite independent. After WWII she was an interior decorator for Jones and Davis, twice decorating the Governors Mansion and much of Colonial Williamsburg. She was the adored daughter of David J. Cole, manager and later vice president, secretary – Treasurer of Murphy`s Hotel, which in the early 1900s, was the largest and most widely known hotel in Virginia.

Colonel John Murphy had served in all three branches of the Confederate Army before he was captured in Dublin Va and held prisoner at Camp Chase Ohio until the end of the War. He built Murphy`s  Hotel in 1886. The hotel was a rival of Major Lewis Ginter`s Jefferson Hotel although the two were good friends. Ginter asked David J. Cole to be his manager at the Jefferson, but David J. Cole`s father, John Cole, had been Col. Murphy`s buglar in the 15th Infantry Virginia Volunteers during the Civil War. D. J. Cole declined saying his loyalty lay with Murphy.


1918 Richmond City Directory showing David J. Cole as sec-treas of Murphy`s hotel. In 1889 he was listed as a clerk there.

The Art Nouveau coffee service given to David J. Cole and Mary Katherine Williams Cole by Lewis Ginter as a wedding present, is still in posession of the great-grandson.

Coffee service, wedding present from Lewis Ginter to David J. & Mary Katherine Cole

The photographs and material in this blog belong to the family and are protected by copyright laws and are not to be reproduced in any form without written permission.

Please contact me here with any questions. Thanks for viewing.

Rare Glimpse: WWI AEF Balloon Observer 1st Lt. Maurice Sweeny of Richmond Va

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: