World War One-Era (WWI) Photo Album Depicting an American Family and Military Scenes10287
On offer is a superb photographic record of an American family before during and after WWI. The owner of the album is unknown as is the identity of this American family. A label on the back cover shows that the album was made in Chicago, Illinois.
The photographs depict the life of this family. The first several pages show the classic group family pictures, baby photographs and couples with children. However, not far in come the first pictures of military life. One picture shows an airship/dirigible passing overhead. Others show various scenes of camp life. Many have notations on the reverse.
Early on is a photograph of tent encampment at Harfleur, outside of Le Havre, France. The next photograph showing a group of sombre men is labelled simply “Prisoners”. Other pictures show camps in Boulogne, Rouen and other locations.
The American Expeditionary Force that went to France saw tens of thousands of soldiers set up home in the Gascon and Gironde regions of France, accompanied by several thousand civilians supporting them through humanitarian associations. In Gironde, on 1 October 1918, the American workforce comprised: 3,202 officers, 89,027 troops, 4,366 civilians, and 168 nurses. They lived in a wide spectrum of military bases, most of which were dismantled when they left. Nearly 3 million tons of equipment passed through the ports. In October 1918, day and night, an average of 7 men, 2 horses and 7 tons of equipment landed every minute. 1,500 steam locomotives and 23,000 wagons were provided by the United States, most of which were left behind at the end of the hostilities.
One of these was Pauillac-Trompeloup, of which there are several photographs. This camp served as a major maritime base with over 3000 men stationed there in 1918 – covering a range of activities such as the unloading, assembly and repair of all US Army seaplanes in service in Europe, as well as a station for a squadron of seaplanes participating in the surveillance of the Gascony coast. There is a photograph of a Lt. Ed Merwin, 1st Batt, 7th Cavalry.
Another annotated photograph was taken in Thuringia, Germany in 1915. Another photograph bears this inscription: “Mr. & Mrs. Col F.A [ ], Ballygown, Isle of Mull. Two of Gods’s noble people ... Over 30 years in the Queen’s Service, 32 years a Christian. Three sons in the army”.
There are postcards with addresses which may offer clues as to the person who put this album together. Despite its anonymity, or perhaps because of it, this album paints a wonderful picture of the many generations and members who make up this family. Whether enjoying a day by the sea, leading a team of oxen, or serving overseas in the army, it depicts in many ways the archetypal American family and experience.
For a historian, it is replete with visual details and clues about life in America a century ago. It is an excellent record for military historians. For genealogists, it is a challenge and a tease – there are dozens and dozens of people, likely all related, who await only one clue to begin to unravel their identities. This is an excellent addition to any photographic record of this period.
Measuring 7 inches by 5.25 inches, this album contains 78 pages, holding a total of 92 black and white photographs. The front cover is missing but the back cover is firmly attached to the binding. The spine is intact and the pages are in good condition. The photographs are, with few exceptions, all secured with mounting corners.
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