Fondly, Pennsylvania

Theophil Bock and the SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm

Wednesday, 12/25/13

In 1915, the German passenger liner turned auxiliary cruiser, Kronprinz Wilhelm, interned in Philadelphia. After capturing 15 merchant ships since the outbreak of World War I, the ship was low on fuel and ravaged by sickness in its crew. While the ship was laid up in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, its crew lived in a nearby camp. However, when the United States joined the war in 1917, the United States seized the Kronprinz Wilhelm and relocated its crewmembers to Fort McPherson in Georgia as prisoners of war. 

Theophil Bock was one of the German sailors, probably a stoker, brought to Fort McPherson. Bock’s collection of photographs and postcards document both his wartime service on the Kronprinz Wilhelm and the years of his internment in Georgia. While serving, Bock photographed everything from the use of airplanes during warfare to his fellow Kronprinz Wilhelm crewmembers.

 

Once relocated to Fort McPherson, Bock’s photographs capture how these prisoners of war entertained themselves with activities ranging from theatre productions to card games.

Although the men on the Kronprinz Wilhelm lived in the United States beginning in 1915, they remained proud of their German roots, integrating names like "Mozart" and "Bethoven" on street signs. 

During his time in the United States, Bock wrote multiple postcards in English to Miss Elsie Badholzner in Philadelphia, often signing his cards “as ever yours Theophil Bock.” After the end of World War I, Bock appears to have remained in the United States, returning to Philadelphia. A postcard sent to Bock in January 1928 was addressed to “Mr. Th. Bock, 4615 Frankford Ave, Phila, Pa,” an address in northeast Philadelphia.

Comments

researching former Kronprinz Wilhelm merchant marine

Hello,
I am researching the life of Joseph Kanske, my great grandfather. My grandfather told me that he was a German merchant marine on the Kronprinz Wilhelm and illegally jumped ship before settling in Detroit, MI. Where are the photographs you discuss in this blog post located? I'm looking for any proof my that my great grandfather was ever a crew member and/or passenger on this ship (his name is not on any publicly available passenger lists that I've found online). Thanks!--Lauren

Kronprinz Wilhelm photographs

Hi Lauren,
Thanks for your comment. Your research into your great-grandfather's life sounds really interesting! The photographs I discuss in this blog post are part of the Theophil Bock collection, which is located at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It's a pretty small collection, with about 50-100 of Bock's photographs and postcards. Feel free to reach out to the Historical Society if you're interested in looking further into the collection.
--Becca

Kronprinz Wilhelm

I'm always amazed at the historical records which contain information about the Kronprinz Wilhelm, Civil War stories, etc. It's very interesting and always sparks a process of discovery. Thank you.

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