Memorial Day, and a Mystery Photo

On this day, Memorial Day,  I have chosen some images from my collection depicting soldiers in the United States military. Two are related to the Spanish American War, and the other, the  Mystery Photo, was apparently taken just  after WWI.

The Monday Mystery photograph for today is a photo postcard postmarked “Atlanta May 1919” and captioned “3002 – Infantry Drill – Port Arms.” These are African American soldiers and I cannot help thinking that in only a few short months, during the summer and fall of 1919, our country would be in the midst of several race riots in cities across the country. Three of the most violent ones occurred in Washington D.C., Chicago IL, and Elaine, Arkansas. This was the height of the Jim Crow era.

Infantry Drill Atlanta 1919

The postcard is addressed to Gertrude Jackson in Macon, from her brother, who inscribed it to “my dearest little sister”.  The brother may have been named Clarence, (although it looks to be signed “ChailXX” and I thought perhaps “Charles” if that “i” is really an R, but the last letters are rubbed off).  I did find a Gertrude Jackson in Macon with a brother Clarence in 1910 —- BUT the writer  is not the mystery.

Where were these photographed  soldiers  stationed? Was it indeed Atlanta, or nearby? Was the photo even taken in Georgia?

I have done only cursory research on this item. Again, this is not the era I mean to concentrate on right now, but it would be wonderful to know exactly where these African American soldiers actually were.   Are there any takers out there —  to solve this mystery?

The two images below are details of stereograph views of soldiers at Camp Chickamauga Georgia made by the Keystone View Company,  copyrighted 1898 by B. L. Singley (Benneville Lloyd Singley, 1864-1938).

The first (#9233), called “Bouncing a New Recruit” is one of my favorite images, a stereo with very nice tones.

Keystone New Recruit Camp C detail

The second (#9231) is not quite as nice an image, but it gives more detail on the who, what, when, and where with the title of “Dinner in Camp – Battery E., 1st Regiment”.Keystone Dinner Camp C detailThe Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park had only recently been created when the area was chosen to play a useful part in the Spanish American War. Chickamauga was near the Chattanooga rail line so it was a good place to gather our troops and prepare them for service in Cuba, etc.

Singley, a photographer, began the Keystone View Company to sell his Pennsylvania views in stereo.  Later his company began to sell views from all over the country. As of about 1898, Singley was no longer the sole photographer and he hired others to work for him.  Keystone also began making and selling stereoscopes in 1898, and in 1905 the company was incorporated, becoming the largest business of its kind in the world, with branches in the United States, Canada, and England. The company was in business quite awhile, from 1892 through 1963.

There is more information on Keystone here: 

These two views above are fairly early ones for the company, which had been in business six years – they were then  located only in Meadville PA and St. Louis MO.  These could very well be photographs Singley himself made, and it’s true that they are copyrighted in his name only, but we just don’t really know – yet – exactly who may have taken these photographs at Chickamauga.

Another Georgia military view is in the Keystone-Mast Collection at UC at Riverside (California) – it’s called “Reviewing Infantry at Savannah Ga., 1899”

I hope your day was a good one and that you enjoyed yourself, but I hope  you also had a little time to reflect on the true meaning of our Memorial Day.


  1. Great photos and some solid research being done here. Check out my history blog: Thanks!

    1. Like your blog! Thanks for your comments on mine. I see you know Jimmy Leiderman, too. I was with Turner Broadcasting in mid 90s and worked with Atlanta Braves as archivist, taking my Archives Institute students there to work on their scrapbooks, so have a soft spot for baseball and its history. I am also on Twitter @galpix

  2. […] few days ago while researching my Ancestor Sgt. Pierce DORSEY I discovered a Memorial Day Mystery post that caught my […]

  3. […] it turns out, the “original poster” of my WWI 1919 Atlanta Infantry Drill mystery is none other than Lee Eltzroth of Hunting […]

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