Collecting WWI Portrait Photos – More Than What Meets the Eye


The title idiom of this post is an apt description when it comes to the wild world of collecting World War One photography, and especially portrait/studio shots.

More than meets the eye: A hidden significance, greater than is first apparent, as in This agreement involves more than meets the eye. [Mid-1800s]

The hidden significance, as stated in McGraw Hill’s Diction of American Idioms is what makes pursuing,collecting and  sharing “lost” photos from the world wars so interesting and important to researchers. The individual men and women who lived and breathed the history of our past are often presented as watered-down versions of the average Joe or Jill of their time period. By finding, researching and publishing these photos, I hope to help the public realize that every story is worth telling, irregardless of perceived heroism involved.  In the case of this blog post, I’ve decided to pick a current (May 31st, 2017) eBay auction that will certainly meet the criteria of the Mid-1800s idiom seen above.

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May/June 2017 eBay Auction

I will post auction details  at the conclusion of this blog post, but I wanted to start with a breakdown of why this photograph will sell for hundreds of dollars more than a normal, unidentified U.S. soldier/Marine/sailor from WWI. First, lets see some of the auction details (the seller did a great job of pointing all these out and deserves credit for his research!) that make this a 10/10 snag for the lucky bidder.

What makes this a 10/10 photo for the WWI portrait collector?

  1. Photo aesthetics – The young man in the French studio photo (Carte Postale postcards are French)  is striking a casual pose with the intention of showing off multiple pieces of his uniform/accessories. He’s sporting a bold eagle/globe/anchor (EGA) insignia on his cap, a very nice privately purchased trench watch on his left hand (indicating that he’s right handed), an overseas chevron, wound chevron and a nice set of sergeant stripes on his right sleeve.
  2. Identification – The period inked identification on the bottom right hand corner gives the intrepid researcher a good place to start searching. I own dozens of shots signed in the same manner. Jos L Moody 6th Marines, ex “SS San Juan” is a good jumping off place…
  3. Written content – The back of the postcard gives a vivid description of his service time to a friend who he appears to have some strong connection to. He mentions the occasion of his wounding, his promotion of sergeant “I was made charge of Bombers” as well as an ominous mention of being “bumped off” as well as his pending commission. Further, the reverse tells us that the photo was taken and sent at least two months before the end of the war, being dated September of 1918, and therefor raises it a few notches in desirability.
  4. Research! – The most vital piece of elevating the significance of a photograph is the story behind the photo. What do all the other key elements tell you? In this case we have, with further research, a photograph of a U.S. Marine who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Chateat-Thierry. His Silver Star valor award reads:

    By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved July 9, 1918 (Bul. No. 43, W.D., 1918), Corporal Joseph L. Moody, Jr. (MCSN: 92820), United States Marine Corps, is cited by the Commanding General, SECOND Division, American Expeditionary Forces, for gallantry in action and a silver star may be placed upon the ribbon of the Victory Medals awarded him. Corporal Moody distinguished himself while serving with the 79th Company, Sixth Regiment (Marines), 2d Division, American Expeditionary Forces at Chateau-Thierry, France, 6 June – 10 July 1918

    Additionally, he is further mentioned in the unit history for the 6th Marines and some additional info can be gleaned: “The six men above {Moody included} named delivered messages through intense machine gun fire from the front line to their battalion commanders , going and returning with important messages…”

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Postcard back (officer censured)

So where does this leave us? I’ve pointed out all the salient points that make an interesting photo. But my observations don’t need to be valued in any specific way. I enjoy collecting extraordinarily interesting portraits that don’t need to include identification or a “cool story”. On the flip side, a junky shot of a well-identified soldier/Marine/sailor with a cool history won’t make me open my wallet. It’s really about what you want. Go with your gut!

Ok – so here’s my prediction based on my 10+ years of buying/selling/trading WWI portrait photos. This photograph should sell for anywhere between US $175-$275. It may go for much more if someone has Sgt. Moody’s uniform, medals or has a specific affinity for the 79th Marines. I wouldn’t be surprised if it topped $350 on a good day. Tax returns are coming in?

As of  8:00 PM Eastern Time on 5/31/2017 the bid is at $23.49. I will update the post once the auction ends.

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Here’s the address for those of you who have some cash to spend! (Also, $7.75 is a crazy price for shipping!)

http://www.ebay.com/itm/WWI-US-Marine-Silver-Star-Winner-Signed-RPPC-USMC-AEF-79th-CO-2nd-Bn-6th-Mar-/182599306597?hash=item2a83c44d65:g:5LwAAOSwblZZLgWN

Gossip Column

Los Angeles Times, April 16th, 1937

FILM PRODUCER’S EX-WIFE SUES Divorce Action Filed Against Retired Officer Faith Cole MacLean Moody, ;former wife of Douglas Mac- ‘Lean, film producer, yesterday filed suit for divorce from’ Capt Joseph L. Moody, United States Marine Corps, retired, charging , incompatibility. Capt. Moody, a brother-in-law of Helen Wills Moody, tennis star, married Mrs. MacLean in Shanghai in January, 1932, while he was stationed in China as an adjutant in charge of American shore forces during the Sino-Japanese troubles. He now is in theatrical work here. The couple separated March 19, according to the complaint filed by Attorney A. S. Gold- ‘flam. There are no children.

 

eBay Auction Result

Surprisingly enough, my estimate on the final result of the photo sale came in slightly higher than the exact average of my original estimate of $175-$275. Well, maybe it’s not that surprising given that I’ve bid on over 1,000 WWI portrait photos in the past decade….

Here’s the result! – The photo sold for $239.50 plus shipping.

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6/6/2017 Final Price

 

WWII Amateur Photo Discovery – Concentration Camp Family Photo Captured by US Soldier


Photo Background

From time to time new information comes along to help identify photographs from my collection.  In this case, I stumbled across an image during research into the liberation of Nordhausen (Mittelbau-Dora) concentration camp.  The image in my collection (seen below) was originally misidentified as having been taken at Dachau, but I just recently learned that it was actually taken at Nordhausen (Mittelbau-Dora) and captures a moment that US Signal Corps photographs also snapped at different angles.  According to information I’ve picked up in the past few days, the young boy was named Michael Kallaur and the father is Walter; both men buried the boy’s grandmother (Walter’s mother) after finding her body in the unfortunate lineup at Nordhausen.  Elizabeth Kallaur was killed at the camp only a few days before the liberation.

According to information at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Kallaur family was sent to Nordhausen as punishment for helping Jews in the Pinsk region.  The coat seen covering Mrs. Kallaur was given to Michael by John Florea, the Signal Corps photographer. Walter and Michael would not allow German citizens to touch the body of Elizabeth, and she was the first to be buried (at a deeper level) in the first burial trench.

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A Moment of Sorrow at Nordhausen (photo purchased from eBay that launched this post)

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Walter holding Elizabeth’s legs

 

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Michael watches on (note wounded hands)

 

Extensive Research

After hours of internet research, I came across the following Signal Corps photo and instantly recognized the boy….

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Walter and Michael looking over Elizabeth (Walter’s mother)

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A lesser quality image

This is the info attached to the image: (Click link for source)

Figure 1.–Here a Polish boy weeps over his grandfather’s body at Nordhausen after it was liberated by the Americans. It was dated April 21, 1945. That may have been when the photographed was released rather than taken. The press caption read, “Weep for the dead: A Polish boy weeps bitterly after he and a man at left buried (the) youngster’s grandmother who had died while a political prisoner of the Nazis in concentration camp at Nordhausen. Germans in the town were ordered to dig graves and bury the 2,500 dead, unburied prisoners found there by occupying American forces. The Polish boy refused to let the Germans touch his grandmother and insisted he bury her himself. Yanks look on in quiet sympathy.” We doubt if his grandmother was a political prisoner, but like the boy a slave laborer at Dora. He probably searched for her after the camps were liberated. Notice the German civilians at the right.

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Walter and Michael by John Florea, 1945

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An open burial spot (note the depth of Elizabeth’s burial)

And another series of Signal Corps photos showing the burial:

A Polish boy and his father bury the body of the boy's grandmother, who died in the Nordhausen c

A Polish man, Walter Kallaur and his son, Michael, bury the boy's grandmother

Walter and Michael Kallaur

A Polish boy, Michael Kallaur, weeps while helping his father bury the body of his grandmother

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Walter buries his mother – note the shallow nature of the other bodies vs. the above image for Elizabeth

German civilians from the town of Nordhausen bury the bodies of former prisoners

A view past Elizabeth’s burial spot

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Walter continues to fill the grave

American soldiers walk along an open, mass grave prepared by the German residents of the town of

Walter and Michael at a distance

The boy, Michael,  traveled to the United States after the war ended.  Using the information in the image as a jumping off point, I was able to find some immigration travel information:

Michael Kallaur Arrival

1949 Border Crossing

The information on the card all matches up.  As seen in the previous images, he had a visibly wounded left hand; the card confirms this and the fact that his place of birth was Pinsk, Poland.  At the time of his arrival in the US at Niagara Falls, he was 18, putting his birth year at 1931.  The Signal Corps photographer noted his age in 1945 at 14, which matches up with the immigration card.  A website dedicated to the Kallaur family tree referenced a Walter Kallaur arriving in the Niagara region after the war; this jives with both the Signal Corps caption and the fact that Walter is referenced in the above 1949 border crossing documents.  He arrived in Quebec in April of 1948 on board the MV Beaverbrae (listed as the SS Beaven Bren in the document, a ship that eventually transported over 30,000 European refugees to Canada between 1947 and 1954.

Sadly, it appears that Michael passed away in Decemeber of 2000, so my hopes of reuniting this photo with him has been dashed.  His SSN confirms that he lived in Pennsylvania and was issued his card in 1955, six years after his entry into the US.

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Social Security Death Index (he lied about his DOB)

 

Living Family Identified

My internet sleuthing tends to be obsessive at times, and I’m fairly certain with the following deduction.   I will leave out the details of the research in respect for the Kallaur family; some things are best left unsaid.

From what I can deduce, Michael married Eileen Gallagher at some point in the 1960s. Eileen was born in 1944, and was only five years old when Michael came to the US in 1949.  Ancestry.com doesn’t provide marriage records for the couple, but I’m basing my marriage dates in accordance with the birth of their forthcoming children.

My hopes are that a family member will google themselves, or possibly have a Google Alert set…….. All are originally from the Philadelphia, PA area.

 

Michael Kaullaur – 1931-2000

Eileen C. Kallaur – 1944 – LIVING

John Kallaur

Robert Kallaur

Christopher Kallaur

Walter Kallaur

 

 

 

 

Image Details:  Nordhausen Outdoor Generator

The major defining landscape feature of my eBay image is the presence of an outdoor generator.  This can be seen here:

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Generator? Most photos were taken on the opposite side

 

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Generator? from the other direction

HOT ON THE TRAIL OF THE FAMILY

APRIL 27th, 2013 POST BELOW

Casual followers of this blog will know that I never post photos of death or destruction.  My main goal is to present historic photography in a way to help educate internet followers about the world of war.  In this case I will post a photo that may be hard for some viewers to see.  I have hundreds of photos of concentration camps in my collection, yet have never been moved to post any of the photos to the web.

This image called to me.  The composition, the subject, the setting.  It’s all there.  A soldier snaps a shot at Dachau of a man holding the feet of his dead wife while his injured son watches on.  A procession of 3rd Armor Division soldiers file by as this tragic event unfolds; the event captured through the lens of an unknown soldier of an unknown family.  This scene was likely replicated tens of thousands of times at the tail end of the war.

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