Wounded WWI AEF Chaplain Poses in French Studio – Can We Identify Him?


It is never easy to identify someone from a photograph taken nearly 100 years ago, but it’s even more difficult solely based on obscure details from his/her clothing. In today’s blog post I will focus on a photograph purchased on eBay from a fantastic seller named Colleen ( eBay name: cacdivi) who recently sold me a superb French real photo postcard of an American chaplain posed in a studio during World World I (WWI). Here’s the shot:

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Wounded American Chaplain in WWI

The scene is fairly typical of what was common of the time period: WWI soldiers/sailors/marine/nurses posed in photo studios in far off places in order to document their experiences to send to relatives and friends. In this case, a currently-unidentified US chaplain (see the crucifix on his shoulder and cap?) strikes a chin-up pose for a French photographer. How do we know that the photo was taken in France?

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French Postcard Paper

French postcard paper during WWI almost always contains a central vertical dividing mark with CARTE POSTALE emblazoned across the top. I’ve noted a fair number of varieties likely due to differences in production, but the main bulk of French postcard paper of the period look very similar to the above scan.

 

Dissection of Photographic Context

What are we looking at? I’ve already mentioned that the man posed in the photo is a US chaplain in a French studio during the war. But what details have I been pondering while waiting for the photo to arrive in my mailbox? (Thanks to Colleen – you rock!)

  1. The chaplain has served at least six months in Europe

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    His Left Sleeve (6th Months Overseas Service) Right Sleeve (Wound Chevron)

  2. He was wounded or gassed at least once during his service

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    His Right Sleeve: Wound Chevron

  3. The photo was likely taken during wartime (before the armistice)
  4. He is oddly sporting a mustache and goatee

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    Rarely Seen Facial Hair in WWI

  5. He is wearing an identification bracelet made in France

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    WWI Bracelet Made in France

Why is a photograph of a wounded chaplain posed in a wartime studio worthy of devoting hours of research to? According to a website devoted to military chaplains, the number of wartime chaplains during WWI was incredibly low:

In 1918, Congress passed an act that called for one chaplain for every 1200 officers and enlisted men. Bishop Hayes, in a letter to Cardinal Farley, informs Farley of the current number of chaplains overseas. As of June 1918 there were 301 chaplains in the Army, 30 in the Navy, 7 with the Red Cross, 2 interpreters, and 95 volunteer or Knights of Columbus chaplains.

This photo most likely represents an Army chaplain included in the above June 1918 census: any US chaplain who served at least six months service would’ve been present in France in June of 1918. And to have been wounded or gassed, our unidentified chaplain was likely present during the earlier battles of the US involvement of the war.

Our Chaplain?

Okay, so we know our chaplain was wounded, was photographed at some point in the  spring or summer of 1918 and likely served in an Army division that arrived early (for the Americans). His identity, based on date, is narrowed down to 1 in 301 – a pretty good number when it comes to identifying a photo taken 100 years ago. Also, based on rules, he has to be less than 45 years of age.

But what was required to be a US chaplain in WWI? Before researching this photo I had no idea of the low number of volunteers or the actual requirements for acceptance. My personal photo collection contains a half dozen photos of chaplains, which is a surprisingly high number based on the scarcity of the subject matter. I was lucky to track down a copy of the rules and regs of chaplainhood here: http://archnyarchives.org/2015/11/10/military-chaplains-in-world-war-i/

Official Chaplain Requirements

Requirements for Commissioned Army Chaplaincies

  1. The law provides that no person shall be appointed chaplain in the Army who on the date of appointment is more than forty-five years of age.
  2. Applicants must be a citizen of the United States either by birth or naturalization. Must produce at examination proof of naturalization and must not have been born in enemy alien territory.
  3. Health and eyesight must be in excellent condition; if glasses are worn sight must be at least 12:20 in each eye without glass.
  4. Weight must be proportionate.
  5. Must produce an examination certificate of graduation from an approved College or Seminary which includes collegiate course. If not a graduate candidate must be prepared to stand mental test in general subjects: history, geography, arithmetic. etc.
  6. It is most desirable that each applicant write a letter addressed to the Secretary of War setting forth fully his qualifications such as experience with societies, clubs, dramatic circles, and knowledge of foreign languages. This letter must be be enclosed with application and sent to the Chaplain Bishop.
  7. Formal application must be made on regular blanks made by the War Department. These Blanks should be applied for to the Ordinariate, 142 East 29th Street, New York City.
  8. Must enclose to the Chaplain Bishop a formal letter of permission from his Ordinary.
  9. Must send a small photographic print of himself.
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1918 Chaplain Application Form

 

For now I have a good bit of information to extend my research with. Until then, stay tuned!

 

Kent, CT High School’s First Baseball Team – A Waterbury, VT Flea Market Find


I apologize to Portrait of War’s dedicated followers for this brief divergence from the military-related post norm.  A recent flea market find has been screaming to me from my pile of “to research” photos and I can’t resist any longer; this photo has a lot going for it.  Crisp details, a fully identified roster, and a historically significant moment in Kent, CT’s town history have been captured in this 1931 photograph of the seminal baseball team of Kent High School.

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1931 Kent High School Baseball Team

Being a CT prep school alumni myself, I instantly recalled battles on the pitch against Kent School, the private college prep school located in Kent, Litchfield County, CT.  Although I don’t have access to the school records, I’m guessing their baseball team started significantly earlier than the 1931 date inscribed on the photo.  With that in mind, I came to the conclusion that the image likely depicts the public Kent High School.   This makes the research process much easier.  Prep schools of the time were typically filled with students from around the country, often from larger American cities and/or England/Canada.  In summary, my next avenue of research involves searching keying in every name inscribed on the reverse using on ancestry.com.  Doing some quick math (not my strong suit) I searched in the 1910-1920 range based on average high school ages from the time period. It turns out that most of the boys in the photo were born between 1915 and 1918.

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Cropped Version

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“First Baseball Team in Kent High”

With all the information listed above, I took some time after work this week to research each and every one of the legible names in hopes of finding a living ’31 Kent player…. to no avail.  Below are my results.  This post was made in order to link future family researchers with crisp photos of their “starting nine” relations.

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John E. Austin – Captain

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1920 Kent Census Listing

Second

Charles F. Taylor

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Charles F. Taylor’s 1940 Census Record

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George C. Page in 1931

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George Charles Page’s 1920 Census Record

GeorgePageDeath

George Charles Page’s 1998 Death Record

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Charles W. Stone in 1931

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Charles Stone’s 1940 Census Record

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Charles W. Stone’s 1997 Death Record

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Charles W. Stones WWII Record Information

last

Paul M. Richards in 1931

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Paul M. Richards’ Census Record

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Paul M. Richard’s 1998 Death Record

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Walter Pacocha in 1931

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Walter Pacocha 1930 Census Record

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Walter Pacocha’s 1981 Death Record

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Carlos Jennings in 1931

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Carlos Jennings’ 1930 Census Record

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Carlos Jennings’ 2000 Death Record

 

WWI Photo: Research Uncovers 33rd Division Veteran’s Identification! 130th Infantry Regiment Wounded!


Sometimes it takes a good bit of time to lock down the identity of the sitter in a photograph. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of dozens of research friends and an equal number of archive websites.  With that said, I was able to purchase, research and identify and post a positive identification of a recent eBay purchase!  It’s not an easy endeavor, but it’s something that will be worthwhile at some point in the future.

Russell Studio Portrait

Russell Studio Portrait

 

Backside of the RPPC

Backside of the RPPC

What are we working with for an identification?  The soldier has a definite first name of Russell and is cousins with a male named Forrest Martin of Watson, Illionois in 1919.  Given the intro and body wording, he’s likely to be close to the recipient.

 

I started by researching the recipient, Forrest Martin, and found his 1900 census entry:

1910 Census Forrest Martin

1910 Census Forrest Martin

From here I decided to research his mother and father in search of a series of siblings to track down as aunts and uncles to Russell.  An aunt or uncle would produce a cousin which should provide me with the proper identification for the 33rd Division soldier!

After over an hour of searching (tiring for sure) I was able to identify his mother’s sister as a Laura A. Humes. Laura had a son named Russell in 1897!  When I clicked on his military burial record it all came together. Please keep in mind that this took hours of research!

Forrest's Aunt Laura

Forrest’s Aunt Laura

 

Russell Humes' Burial Card

Russell Humes’ Burial Card

Russell Humes, first cousin of Forrest Humes (recipient of the postcard), was in Company G of the 130th Infantry Regiment of the 33rd Division in WWI.  He achieved the rank of Corporal and was wounded in action at some point during his service.  His portrait photo was taken in 1919 long after his wounding. He passed away on 11-5-1957 at the age of 61.

WWI 42nd Division Doughboy Sends Home a Real Photo Postcard


Ever wonder how doughboys sent their photo postcards home?  I actually don’t own a single example of a postmarked photo postcard from the war, but recently came across a grouping that contained an envelope and postcard sent home by a 42nd Division soldier.  A member of the 151st Field Artillery, Frank Svec sent home a studio portrait shot of himself.  Not incredibly rare, but a good example of how WWI photos were sent during the war.  The 42nd Division is one of my favorite divisions, so this is an addition “kicker”.

WWI Wounded 78th Division Soldier – Exciting Research Update!


I’ve been recently turned on to the magic of ancestry.com, one of the best tools for researching WWI images I’ve yet to discover. I decided to start a search for one of the names written on the back of one of my better WWI images. Alex Lindell poses in his WWI French portrait photo showing off his missing finger – likely a battle wound while he was with the 78th Division. After a search of draft cards through the National Archives, I came across a pair of WWI and WWII draft cards with the presumed identity of Alex Lindell. After comparing the signatures on both my photo and the draft cards, I realized I had a match! Success!

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Photo Colorized by the Photo Alchemist

Signature on Obverse

WWI Draft Card

WWII Draft Card

Signatures Compared

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388th Bomb Group – Visions of Wartime London – Summer 1944


 

Alva Alegre took every opportunity to shoot in and around London while on pass.  His images capture wartime London as seen in 1944, at a time when the Luftwaffe was still a real threat to the civilian population.  Please enjoy the view through Alva’s lens as he travels throughout the city of London!

 

 

Alva and Muse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Arcade

 

 

Close Up View of Sign