A Monday Mystery Photograph

Previously I said I would be posting some of my “mystery” photographs and other curious mystery items. I thought I would begin with this one. Maybe someone out there can solve this mystery for me.

I purchased a portrait a few months ago by Atlanta photographer William L. Brockman, an African-American photographer who once worked in Atlanta.  Other than a few in the collection of the Atlanta History Center, I haven’t seen any portraits or other images by this photographer “out there,” so I was very happy to get it.

And it’s signed, which is always a plus, because I collect primarily for the photographer, not solely for a “good” image.  It’s always nice when I am able to get both.  This particular portrait is of an unidentified man in uniform. It appears to have been heavily touched-up so that the braid frogs (?) on the front of his uniform are no longer prominent.

Brockman, Wm. L. photo cropped

Although Brockman is later chronologically than the group I am currently working on (1862-1885), I am curious about the uniform. The left side of the badge, I believe, reads “uniform rank”.

Below is a detail of his hat and another of his badge and an epaulette, which I have scanned at a higher resolution and I hope that allows you to see them well enough.


BrockmanBadge600I would love to hear your comments on which fraternal organization or other type of brigade you think this gentleman belonged to.  This is something I have not investigated fully. I do, however, know some things about William L. Brockman, although my research is not exhaustive by any means.

He was born in South Carolina in March 1879 (if one can believe the 1910 census, which may well prove to be “not quite” correct). By 1900, according to the census, he was working as a photo printer in Greenville, South Carolina.  By 1905 he was in Atlanta working at McCrary & Co., where he worked as a photo printer at least into 1908. By 1914 he was managing The Princess Studio at 160 ½ Auburn Avenue, and in 1916 he was partner to Edward W. Meek in Meek & Brockman.  By the time information was collected for the publication of the 1916 Atlanta city directory, his Auburn Ave. location had been taken over by N. H. Mondul, who was there to at least 1929. Brockman was in Cincinnati, Ohio as a photographer by 1920, and married to his second wife, Lina.

Here’s Brockman’s snappy 1914 Atlanta city directory advertisement for The Princess Studio.



  1. Wesley Chenault · · Reply

    Hi, Lee,

    Congrats on the blog!

    At first glance, the gentleman pictured looks very much like Dr. Henry R. Butler, Sr.

    According to his entry in the online New Georgia Encyclopedia, he “served in 1891 as surgeon of the Second Georgia Battalion, Colored Volunteers, with the rank of first lieutenant.” There is an image for the entry, low res, but it is a visual point of reference. Higher res versions are accessible via the finding aid for the Selena Sloan Butler papers at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History.

    I can send you an e-mail with links if you’re interested.


  2. prosenbloom2012 · · Reply

    I believe the shield is possibly Knights of Pythias. Until I load the image in Picassa, I won’t be able to tell for sure but it looks like top of the shield might read “K of P” or something to that effect. The insignia all relate to Knights of Pythias, anyway. The white uniform has me thrown, however.

    Do you have any other dates for Brockman? Did you purchase the photo locally or on the Internet?

    This blog is exciting!

    1. Take a look at the comment re possibly being 2nd GA, Colored Vols. I haven’t checked into that fully yet, but I will, and if you find that is really K of P I would really be interested in knowing more. I will take a look via Picassa again as well. Yes, I bought this via the Internet. I usually am interested in earlier photos but this one caught my attention. Thanks for your comments!

  3. prosenbloom2012 · · Reply

    Wesley has a great eye! My best guess for the photo identification is : Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler in uniform as grand Medical Register of the Knights of Pythias (see http://books.google.com/books?id=39R1AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA220-IA2&lpg=PA220-IA2&dq=%22second+georgia+battalion%22+henry+butler&source=bl&ots=WqL9YSwgqX&sig=8BwD2cVtk7ToJshCIU1t3p08Z9g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=69iaUbbVIoSY8gTT5YHQDQ&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22second%20georgia%20battalion%22%20henry%20butler&f=false ) The “Twentieth Century Negro Literature” was copyrighted 1902. This falls into our time frame nicely.

  4. Hi, Lee! Following up on the previous comments, here is another website that has photos of Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler that may help to identify him: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=14140272.

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