One of my closely held collecting secrets is that I love WWII and WWI photographs of soldiers holding or interacting with their dogs. My recently dearly departed furry companion Violet originally led me to start collecting shots of soldiers with their canine friends nearly eight years ago. Without her I would’ve never thought twice to bid on a dog photograph.
I dedicate this post to her. In this particular case, I bid on and won (eBay) a photograph of a US soldier holding a young puppy during wartime in France. Typically, shots of US soldiers holding dogs or other mascots were taken (at least that I’ve found) in the post-war era following the 11/11/18 Armistice. This studio photograph was taken on September 10th, 1918 and shows Thomas (Tom) Gray Jr. posing in a French studio with a puppy cradled in his left arm while sporting a custom knit necktie.
The photo was taken in September of 1918 and the writing on the back (see below) notes that Thomas had been overseas for ten months at this point. Additionally, he addresses the postcard photo to his mother, Mrs. Thomas Gray of 329 North Pearl Street, Bridgeton, NJ. After my normal run of extensive research it appears that his father and brothers worked, at some point, for a local glass factory as glass and bottle blowers. This company was likely the Cumberland Glass Works which was located not far from their duplex home. Additionally, the factory could’ve been the More-Jones factory that appears in a series of Lewis Hine photographs depicting child labor. In fact, Thomas appears in the New Jersey State Census of 1905 and is listed a “Snapper Boy” in the occupation column. So, at age 14 Thomas was working in a glass factory… Could he be one of the young boys captured by Hine?
As far as I can tell, Thomas served with Company B, 501st Engineers and shipped out in November of 1917 and served until mid 1919 when he eventually went home to New Jersey with no mention of a companion. I wish I could learn more about the dog in his hand and about his service in this obscure unit, but I can only do so much research before moving on. I hope that a relative finds this post at some point and can help fill in the gaps. Crazier things have happened on this blog.