Today’s post comes after a bit of head scratching and internet searching that eventually lead to an interesting discovery (for me) of a WWI story that has somehow remained unknown to me until this blog post. It involves the Czech Legions of WWI…
The above photo, and the postcard below, were sent to a Mike Stendronsky of Cleveland, Ohio in the waning months of 1918 from his brother who had just arrived in France to fight as part of the Czech Legion. Check out the video at the bottom of this post to learn a little about the Czech Legion in WWI…
Clark B. Potter (at center) was born on October 3rd, 1891 in Kimball, Brule County, South Dakota; eventually landing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Clark went on to serve as an officer with Company E, 126th Infantry Regiment of the 32nd Division during WWI. He was wounded by friendly fire in August of 1918 during the Battle of Fismes (Second Battle of the Marne) where he was sent to a hospital for the remainder of the war. This incredible photo of Clark posing in a Paris photo studio on Christmas Day, 1918 includes two other wounded soldiers of different regiments. Of interest is the leg-amputee who seems to be keeping his jolly composure during the photo; an additional veteran attempts to pick Clark’s pocket during the photo, adding a bit of joviality to what should be a somber photo.
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here to PortraitsofWar, so I’m taking a quick moment to add a recently acquired real photo postcard of a St. Bernard mascot from the 67th Coastal Artillery Company. He’s even sporting his own uniform! Check out the 1st Army variant patch with the 67 denoting the unit number and a double overseas chevron for a year of service. Good work Barney!
Mascot photos are one of my favorite avenues of WWI photo collecting. They are relatively hard to come by and are tough to research. All the better for a unique challenge when trolling through the pages of eBay.
The identity of the sitter is lost to history, but I’m hoping someone on the WWW may help put a name to the sitter. US Marines sporting District of Paris patches are hard to find photographically, and this unnamed leatherneck is begging to be identified.
Material related to wartime (and postwar) activities of the YMCA can be easily researched through the help of internet databases, digitized books, collectors forums and various other digital avenues. What is lacking, however, is information directly related to the individuals who volunteered their time and money to travel to a foreign county to serve donuts to war-weary doughboys waiting to return to their families in the US.
I was lucky enough to track down a large grouping of ephemera collected during the war by a YMCA canteen entertainer, a Miss Kittie Kunz. Included in the grouping is a selection of rare YMCA “unit history” paperwork which gives names and identities to many of the women and men who served alongside Kittie. I researched each of the names in hopes of tracking down passport application portraits. I was overwhelmingly successful and found nearly 75% of the names in the US Passport database that matched perfectly. Each was listed as being a member of the YMCA or Red Cross, and each matches the date range for the YMCA hut. A neat find! Please read on to see the faces of the women who served alongside Kittie. You will also find a smattering of hard-to-find ephemera related to the YMCA. It’s amazing that Kittie saved some of these items. Not all the paperwork is contained in this post, but the scanned material gives a quick glimpse into the typical material a YMCA canteen worker would deal with.
Here is where my favorite piece of researching WWI material came handy….. I was able to research the names of the women listed in the distribution section and track down their WWI era passport applications. Here are my results:
RED CROSS WOMEN
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)
World War One studio photography is dominated by shots of male soldiers posing in European studios in hopes of documenting their wartime experiences for hometown family and friends to enjoy. Little did they know that historians in 2014 would be researching their names, hometowns, photos and military rosters to help paint a picture of the American experience during WWI. One of my favorite research topics is the wartime culture of US nurses while stationed overseas in 1918 and 1919. In this case, I’ve done an extensive series of searches in hopes of tracking down the WWI nurse posed in the photo. I hope you enjoy the research!
Miss Ella Kettels (mispelled on the photo) eventually went on to marry at the age of 35 to a man named Theodore Voged. He is listed as a janitor in the 1929 city directory for Clinton, Iowa. The couple lived at 576 1st Ave. in Clinton, IA. I’ve identified the house they lived in and have posted it below:
Her wartime experience is included in her1965 obituary:
“Mrs, Ella Voged, 80, of Clinton, saw the grim side of World War I. She went to France as a Red Cross nurse but soon found herself enrolled as an Army nurse. She had been graduated from nursing school at a Clinton hospital in 1910. Mrs. Voged served as a nurse in a hospital near Paris to which American wounded came in a steady stream from the big front-line battles of that war. . “Sometimes we thought this boy would be all right and they would be gone in the morning,” she recalled. “This was long before the day of antibiotics. They would develop infections in their wounds.”
Although we may never know the full extent of Ella’s wartime hardships, we do know that she will be immortalized on the world wide web as a subject of potential research in the future.
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.
Followers of this blog know that I love to identify WWI photographs using obscure bits of information to track down census and military records. In this case, I purchased a series of three postcards on eBay with no solid identification in hand. When the postcards arrived, I realized that I had a slight chance to identifying the Marine. His hat is sporting a Marine Corps EGA insignia as well as some unit designation. 13 M identifies him as being in Company M of the 13th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Division. Included with the photo was a postcard note sent to a loved one when he returned from overseas service.
The unknown Marine scribbled his first name and middle and last initials. Evald A J. He also sent the postcard to a Mrs. C F Poulson of Idaho Falls, Idaho. A quick census search for a C Poulson of Idaho Falls brought up a record for a Mr. Christian Poulson and a Esther A. Poulson. My gut instinct told me that he was likely sending the card to his sister to announce his arrival back home in the states, so I did a series of census searches to find some clues………
The 1910 US Census record for Esther and Christian Poulson show a mystery resident. Ms. Ebba Johnson is listed as being a sister-in-law who happened to be living with the couple in 1910. Bingo! Now I have a last name to research for Esther. I quickly found the 1900 census record for Esther and Ebba………..
Bingo! Evald Johnson is listed as a brother to both Esther and Ebba. The mystery is solved! Now to confirm his service with the 13th Marine Regiment.
I easily tracked down his WWI draft card and matched up the signature with the postcard. A perfect match.
From here I had a hunch to track down the Marine Corps muster role for Company M of the 13th Marine Regiment. Another solid hit.
And to top it all off, I did a newspaper search for the Idaho area in 1919. With some luck I found a brief article mentioning his return and his service with the Marines.
“They have come back bigger and better men than when they went away and have taken up their work with the Register and filling their places with credit. The three men are Evald A. Johnson, who has been with the Register for some fifteen years, and who resigned the position of foreman to enter the service, enlisting in the marines, going to France, where he put in abmout one years of service.”