10 Favorite Historic Military Portraits

Military Trader's editor tries to pick out favorite soldier pictures from personal collection
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A lot of readers know that over the past decade, I have been an active collector of WWI US Tank Corps material. Like many collectors, I go through “collecting” evolutions. What most don’t know is that I have been a lifetime collector of antique photography.

I “acquired” my first carte de visite when I was about 9 years old. I had been digging through trunks and boxes in the attic of the family’s Victorian home. I stumbled into a bunch of images and I had hoped to find a Civil War soldier. As it turned out, there were none. My dad sensed my disappointment as I showed him the handful of photos. He gave me one of a family that he said were ancestors who lived during the Civil War. I promptly labeled the back of “John F. Graf collection.”

Over the next few years, I acquired more images covering a variety of topics. By the early 1980s, I was elected to be president of the Daguerreian Society, an international organization of photo historians and artists dedicated to the world’s first form of photography.

In those many years, I have amassed a rather large collection of images—nothing fantastic, but I do have a few that I will share:

10 of JAG’s FAVORITES

No. 10. Two Marines, ca. 1921

Unidentified, this photo embodies the spirit of the Corps after WWI. One of the Marines is wearing his pistol low, in a swivel holster while the other shows off his Browning Automatic Rifle.

Unidentified, this photo embodies the spirit of the Corps after WWI. One of the Marines is wearing his pistol low, in a swivel holster while the other shows off his Browning Automatic Rifle.

No. 9. Dr. Eugene Lemieux, Boer War

Dating from the Boer War image of 1900-1902, this photo shows a a Canadian in his full kit. It was likely taken in Canada before his departure for South Africa.

Among the Canadians sent to South Africa in 1899, were two civilian dental surgeons, namely Dr. David Baird of Ottawa and Dr. Eugene Lemieux from Montreal. This photo shows a a Dr. Eugene Lemieux in his full kit — rather warlike for a dentist!  It was likely taken in Canada before his departure for South Africa in 1899. He was assigned to the  2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.

No. 8. Unidentified Korean War BAR man and Jeep

The BAR man is wearing leather gloves, a few grenades, and his helmet at a jaunty angle. The fellow in the Jeep behind him is looking away from the camera while leaning on a dash-mounted .30 caliber—an uncommon set up for a Jeep.

I like this image for depicting conditions in the field. The BAR man is wearing leather gloves, a few grenades, and his helmet at a jaunty angle. The fellow in the Jeep behind him is looking away from the camera while leaning on a dash-mounted .30 caliber—an uncommon set up for a Jeep.

No. 7. Belgian bicycle troops, 1914

The little nation used Napoleonic-era tactics to stand against the German invasion in 1914. This “Carabiners” with their bicycles folded and on their backs just represents the strong disparity between the Belgians and Germans.

One of the areas of WWI photography where I have really concentrated is Belgian troops. To me, the little nation used Napoleonic-era tactics to stand against the German invasion in 1914. These “Carabiniers” with their bicycles folded and on their backs just represents the strong disparity between the Belgians and Germans.

No. 6. US WWI Soldiers Demonstrating How to Carry the Wounded

Two soldiers of the US 6th Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop demonstrate the technique of carrying a wounded soldier from the field, ca. 1918. Don’t worry, the inscription tells us the wounded man is a result of the battle of “cognac.”

Two soldiers of the US 6th Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop demonstrate the technique of carrying a wounded soldier from the field, ca. 1918. Don’t worry, the inscription tells us the wounded man is a result of the battle of “cognac.”

No. 5. 90th Division WWI Soldier in full gear

90th Division soldier posing in full battle gear in a German studio, 1919.

I have actually had two large collections of WWI US doughboy photos over the years. I sold my first collection in the early 1980s. But, as we all know, it is hard to stop collecting. This was my first doughboy of my second collection—a 90th Division soldier — a "Tough Ombre"— posing in full battle gear in a German studio, ca, 1919.

No. 4. WWI Belgian in trench armor

WWI Belgian soldier wearing a Farina helmet and wearing trench armor. He holds a Mauser bayonet in his teeth.

The Belgian Army didn’t capitulate when the Germans invaded in 1914. They pulled back, re-equipped, and returned to the fight. This soldier is wearing an Italian Farina helmet and body armor. He is clenching his Mauser bayonet in his teeth—ready to give it to the Germans!

No. 3. Russian Soldier, 1917.

This Russian is typical of the Czar’s infantry of pre-1917. He is wearing his blanket roll with the ends stuffed into his mess kit, and his Mosin-Nagant rifle.

When it comes to WWI images, I really like any that show soldiers in full gear…especially those who fought against the Central Powers. This Russian is typical of the Czar’s infantry of the era, wearing his blanket roll with the ends stuffed into his mess kit, and his Mosin-Nagant rifle.

No. 2. A Mexican Insurrecto, 1911.

This real photo postcard was sent from El Paso, Texas, on June 5, 1911. It reads, “This is my Insurrecto uniform.' It was signed, F.C. Freeman and sent to his son in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This real photo postcard was sent from El Paso, Texas, on June 5, 1911. It reads, “This is my Insurrecto uniform, but you know your Dad is better looking than that…Had invitation out to dinner today with the General Agent of the Singer Machine Company.” It was signed, F.C. Freeman and sent to his son in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

No. 1. Group of kids playing army, ca. 1920

Kids playing "army" wearing a variety of World War one souvenirs including helmets, gas masks, and a German Pickelhaube.

This photo has always spoke to the “kid” in me. I remember playing “Army” with my Dad’s WWII gear. Just like this group of kids playing with Great War souvenirs. I wonder how many grew up to be collectors?

WOW! This was HARD to do. Sorting through thousands of photos, I can’t say these are my TOP favorites, but are just a few that help me connect to the history I enjoy. I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of my images and look forward to sharing more in the future.

Preserve the Memories,

John Adams-Graf

Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine

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