WWI Photos of Vermonters are hard to find and I continually search for superlative examples at flea markets and yard sales. This past May I was lucky enough to encounter a Vermonter dealer at a Massachusetts flea market. Low and behold, the seller had a fantastic image of a WWI Vermonter for sale! Herbert L. French is identified as being from Stratton, VT and as being a member of the 307th Field Artillery of the 78th Division.
A recent Walter J. Fuller poses for the camera near his home in Westminster before shipping off for training in 1917. The photo was originally part of a much larger scrapbook which was broken up and sold on eBay in 2012. Luckily they included a bit of context to the sale listing, enabling me to track down the identity of this brave Vermonter. A member of the 103rd MG Bn., Walter shipped out from Fort Ethan Allen down to Camp Bartlett in Massachusetts. It was here that he contracted the bronchial pneumonia and passed away at 3:30 (yes, we know the exact time!) on October 27th, 1917. His family was contacted via telephone about his worsening condition and were able to be present when he passed away.
I was able to track down a few articles in the 1917 Vermont Phoenix
A recent eBay auction had me literally drooling on my keyboard. Could it be? A WWI image of the University of Vermont? I attended UVM between 2004 and 2011, graduating with an undergraduate degree in anthropology/archaeology and a masters in historic preservation; two fields that helped forge my passion for historic photography. I placed a desperate last minute bid in hopes of winning the panoramic photo and victoriously won with a high bid. Other comparable WWI Vermont “yardlong” images were usually taken at Fort Ethan Allen, but I’ve never seen one taken at UVM.
From outward appearances the photo, taken by famed Burlingtonian (Vermont) Louis L. McAllister, depicts a group of uniformed soldiers on the central campus. Converse Hall is visible on the far right hand corner of the photo, followed by the hospital, Colchester Ave homes, and finally Billings and Williams Hall. Looking at the visible trees
gives a good indication of the season; this photo was likely taken in the fall, after the trees defoliate, but before the dreaded Vermont winter sets in. The soldiers are wearing WWI era uniforms, complete with campaign hats, single snap button ammo belts, and M1910 leggings. These leggings were used extensively during WWI training but
switched out overseas for puttees.
After referencing a few books on Vermont during WWI, I believe that the image was taken in October of 1918, during the opening ceremonies for the university. I’ve added an excerpt below that helps flesh out some of the details.
“The opening of college was postponed until October 23rd, due to the prevailing epidemic of influenza, which was then sweeping the country. At noon on that date, however, the new members of the S.A.T.C. were drawn up on one side of a hollow square on the front campus, and formally inducted into the service of the country. On the other two sides of the square at this impressive ceremony were the Signal School and the Mechanical School. First the flag was raised, and then after swearing the men into service Lieutenant Colonel Leonhaeuser read a message from President Wilson. The men were then divided into companies, assigned to barracks and for the first time in over a hundred years the University of Vermont was again an armed camp. “
(Source: Cushing, John T., Arthur Fairbanks Stone, and Harold Pearl. Sheldon. “The University of Vermont in the World War.” In Vermont in the World War: 1917-1919. Burlington, VT: Free Press, 1928.)
The photo was doubly exciting for me, as the photographer was a well known Burlington resident and Vermont photographer. Louis L. McAllister was born in Nebraska in 1876 and lived in Burlington for nearly 60 years before passing away in1963. He was famous for his panoramic photography, which he used extensively to document school groups, political events, and various Burlington scenes. This example dates to 1918, but I’ve seen dated examples from Fort Ethan Allen reaching as far back as 1917. McAllister is renown statewide for his photographic work, which is sought out by Vermonters for his its composition and documentary nature. The University of Vermont’s Special Collections inherited 45 crates of his photography. A fabulous website was created by Special Collections in order to display some of his work to the public. Interested parties can visit the collection or view it online at http://cdi.uvm.edu/collections/browseCollection.xql?pid=mcallister&title=Louis%20L.%20McAllister%20Photographs