Colorado man donates engraved copy of Treaty of Versailles, other memorabilia to State Department

Grandfather founded US Diplomatic Courier Service

DENVER -- A treasure trove of World War I memorabilia, including a personal, engraved copy of the Treaty of Versailles, is being donated to the Department of State by a Colorado man, whose grandfather founded the U.S. Diplomatic Courier Service following the Great War.

Robin Peaslee Dougall told Denver7 that his grandfather's spirit can rest knowing that everything he collected trying to maintain postwar peace is no longer in limbo.

Dougall says his grandfather, Maj. Amos J Peaslee, wrote letters to General John J. Pershing, wrote a book about the three wars with Germany and founded the courier service, which he called the "Silver Greyhounds."

"Those early diplomatic couriers were tasked with re-opening the diplomatic routes to U.S. embassies and diplomatic posts across post-war Europe and into Bolshevik Russia," said Eddie Salazar, the Director of the Diplomatic Courier Service, which operates under the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service.

Salazar noted that the year 2018 marks the 100th Anniversary of both the end of World War I and the founding of the Diplomatic Courier Service.

During an early afternoon ceremony at the Diplomatic Security Service's Office at the Denver Tech Center, Salazar presented Dougall with a commemorative coin and a letter of appreciation for the donation.

Family Discussion

Dougall said there was a great deal of discussion in his family about what to do with the treasure trove of memorabilia. He said some family members wanted to hold on to the copy of the Treaty of Versailles, thinking it might be worth a great deal monetarily.

"Certain family members, that thought did occur," he said. "There was a little bit of a tussle about who got this."

In the end, he said, his mother left it up to him.

"I wanted to give it to the State Department because they had a museum," he said, adding that he went through all the boxes of the collection to see if there was any personal stuff.

"I did find a few documents that had to do with his will," he said.

He said he's confident that his decision will please his mom, and help his grandfather's spirit rest.

"(Mom) is in her early 90s and this is probably the last major legacy thing that she has to clear up," he said. "My grandfather's spirit couldn't rest knowing that he collected this all his life and to have it in limbo, floating around the country without a home... now his spirit can rest."

Collection Pieces

In addition to the personal, engraved copy of the Treaty of Versailles, the Peaslee Collection includes photographs of the original group of Silver Greyhounds, including one which shows a courier re-purposing a German biplane to deliver classified packages across Europe.

There are the letters from Maj. Peaslee to General Pershing, and a journal of his travels abroad.

There is also a riding crop souvenir.

Shane Morris Sparks, a current diplomatic courier, told Denver7 that Maj. Peaslee and his original band of couriers were accompanying the French Army to Paris at the end of the war when the army got tied up.  

"The couriers had to keep their schedule," she said, "so they continued on."

Once they got to Metz, she said, the people were so happy to see them. 

"They were the first allies to liberate the city," she said. 

When the couriers asked where the Germans were, the people replied, "They're over there, you're chasing them away."

Sparks said, "In order to commemorate that day, he got a riding crop and had it engraved - "Metz, November 17, 1918."

The collection also includes the Peaslee's passport with stamps, photos of the Palace of Versailles and the banner of the Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch, which includes the flags of all the allies.

It also includes a newspaper account of Peaslee's death. He had served as an ambassador to Australia. 

Modern Day Service

Today, the Diplomatic Courier Service operates within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the State Department. 

The courier bags used are much, much larger.

She noted that modern day communication doesn't always involve letters written on paper, it involves email sent on systems which can be hacked.

So modern day couriers move items larger than letters.

"We are moving the communication equipment," she said, "like the computers over which we would be sending those emails, to make sure they're secure all the way there."

Display

When asked when the collection may be put on display, Dougall said he hopes it will be later this year.

He noted that Armistice Day, which ended the Great War, is held on November 11. And this year is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. He said it would be nice to include the collection in the Armistice Day observance at the State Department's Diplomacy Museum.

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