Monday, May 5, 2014

The Mystery of the Man in the Uniform

Take a close look at the gentleman shown in this mystery photo. A friend of mine saved this picture from going to the landfill and we are both curious about his story. Was he in the Army? If so, do you know what unit or regiment wore this style of double-breasted wool jacket?

I don't see any obvious clues about the rank of this man. There are no stripes, badges or insignia. The buttons may hold the key. Unfortunately, the image is too fuzzy to make out any details. The photograph was mounted in a large, oval frame, the style that was popular in the twenties and thirties. Could this be a World War I era photo?

There is not much detail shown in his shoes or legs, so it's hard to tell if he is wearing leather boots, canvas leggings or wool puttees.

The cap looks similar to old ones worn by members of the American Legion, but once again, there are no visible post numbers.

Please leave a comment if you have any knowledge about the uniform or, better yet, the name of the man in the picture.

Find more historical facts about northwest Pennsylvania on the Erie history blog Old Time Erie.


  1. This is a WWI issued wool overcoat. Unfortunately, it's going to be hard to identify the soldier without someone recognizing his face. Good luck.

  2. Hi Debbi: This appears to be a World War I-era US Army Private. I suspect from the uniform (muddy boots, wrinkled uniform, etc.) that the photo was taken overseas, c.1917-18. The wool overcoat was worn by all US Army enlisted personnel and normally had dark bronze (black) metal buttons. These appear to be gold, the Army switched to gold buttons in the early 1920s. However, the face in the photo appears to have been retouched--perhaps they also "brightened" the buttons when they did that.
    The soldier is wearing an "overseas cap" so called because when the US Army went to England and France they were wearing Campaign Hats (think of the hat worn by Smokey the Bear or old Boy Scouts) these hats were impractical overseas when the troops were issued steel helmets and the overseas caps that could be put in pocket or pack came into use. They continue in use to this day as military headgear. The soldier appears to be wearing wool wrap puttees over low quarter boots. The only insignia I can see is a "V" chevron on the lower left cuff (just visible above the button tab on the cuff) that indicates 6 months service overseas during WWI. As a private he would not have had any rank stripes on his arms.
    --Mark Weber

  3. World War I U.S. overseas cap; the footwear is WWI era, and those are puttees.