Generally my WWI photo identifications come with a name, unit, and typically a home state or region. In this case, the only direct ID information to come with the photo was a first name – Harry- and the name of his brother. The rest of the information was hidden in the nuanced details of the photo postcard. See below for the main photo included in the eBay listing.
The eBay listing also made reference to the fact that the studio stamp was an Italian photographer. With this in mind, I bid to win.
After successfully winning the photo I began the laborious process of identifying the photo. Here’s the info I was basing my research on:
1. The photo depicted a US pilot who had served at least 6 months overseas at the time the photo was taken.
2. The pilot was named Harry and had a brother named Robert.
3. The pilot had a distinctive signature and handwriting style with large crossed H’s and a penchant for flourishes.
4. The pilot was in Italy at some point during the war.
I first started my research with a general reference search to find out how many US pilots were in Italy during the war. Lots of websites popped up and generally pointed towards the Fiorello’s Fogiannia, a group of US pilots who trained in Italy on Italian bombers. We’ve all been stuck in LaGuardia airport at some point in our lives, so I instantly recognized the reference to Fiorello LaGuardia. I had no idea he was in WWI! Further research made it clear that only 500 or so US pilots were in Italy during the war.
I started by tracking down a copy of the roster of the pilots who trained with the “Fogianni” during the war. A good friend, Chuck, was extremely gracious enough to take photos of all the pages and send them to me. I finally had the whole roster to reference. With this in hand, I identified all the Harold’s and Harry’s in the roster. This helped narrow it down to less than 30 candidates! From there I looked at the 1900 and 1910 roster for each of the men in hopes of finding a brother named Robert. A small handful of candidates trickled through.
My first cross reference for the Harry’s with brothers named Robert brought me to Harry S. Manchester from Canfield, Ohio. The signature on his WWI draft card almost knocked me over! A perfect match. Note the intense cross on the H and the overly dramatic crosses on his T’s. With further research I was able to find a TON of information on Harry. He was indeed a pilot in Italy during the war and also served in France as a test pilot, testing new US planes as they were unloaded in France. His brother was Robert Manchester Jr. I was able to find Robert’s son (Robert Manchester III) and grandson (Robert Manchester IV) online, both prominent lawyers in the midwest.
Also, the National WWI Museum apparently received a donation of a series of photos from the Manchester Estate. Check out these additional portrait shots of Harry from the collection! (Used without permission but with watermark)