WWI RPPC Photo – African-American Infantry Doughboy William M. Richardson of Washington, D.C. Posed in France


Reverse Side

Reverse Side

The hidden treasures of the eBay world still turn up genealogical treasures with a bit of background research.  A recent auction listing provided me with a solid base for some in-depth research.  I actually timed myself on this one – it took me exactly 1 hour and 32 minutes to research this piece from beginning to end.

Mr. William Maccihammer Richardson of 814 Michigan Ave, Washington D.C. enlisted for the draft on June 5th, 1917 at the age of 24.  He had a dependent mother and presumably a deceased /absent father.  William, according to his draft registration card, was already in the service of the War Department and was likely added to the roster of the 93rd Division.  The 93rd was comprised of National Guard units from New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Massachusetts.  I’m assuming he was in the 93rd Division given the presence of his infantry regiment crossed rifle cap insignia and his military service in D.C.  He was a messenger before the war while working for the War Department in Washington, so it’s an easy jump assume he served in a similar role with an infantry regiment of the 93rd.  William was one of over 1,000,000 African-American men to register for the draft and one of only 370,000 to be inducted into the army.


CSI Style Signature Comparison

Those familiar with WWI draft cards will notice the clipped corners.  This was required of men of color in order to easily pick them out during draft board review.  It was apparently  a common practice that I was not aware of until researching this image.

Richardson Draft Card

1917 Draft Card

The next definite genealogical entry I found for William puts him in District 221 of Washington, D.C. in the census of 1930.  His entry is easily misread as a William N. Richardson.  He is shown as being married to a Mary E. Richardson.  His profession is listed as being a Chauffeur with the U.S. Government – another link to his prewar position.

1930 Census Record

1930 Census Record

In the 1940 census record, William is listed as being a chauffeur for a private family.  His yearly income is $1,700 – almost exactly the average annual income of $1,900 in 1940.  He lived in an apartment building in Block No. 18 of Washington and had two “lodgers” living with him and his wife.  June and Cleo Adams were sisters to Mary E. Richardson.


The last and final genealogical reference to Mr. Richardson comes in the form of a death registration.  William died at the ripe age of 81 on June 3rd, 1973.  The trail ends with his death, but the possibilities for future research lay wide open.  Which unit did he serve with?  Did he see direct combat?  How did he meet Ms. Adams?


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