Sunday, June 2, 2013

Donning a Uniform

The only thing I can presume, as I riffle through Bill Bean’s box of unidentified photographs, is that he kept these pictures because of the meaning they held for him. Memories of past experiences—and Bill was a traveler as well as a businessman—and keepsakes of relatives and friends mostly made up the collection. That these were people familiar to Bill is a given, for he seldom marked the pictures (unlike his sister, Leona, whose characteristic wide scrawl seemed almost desperate to insure somebody would remember these forgotten folk).

While I will eventually get to the few photographs that Bill labeled—once I have the chance to attempt researching the names and clues—I thought I’d begin the process this week with some early photos from the 1920s and possibly even earlier.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t start out with one Bill was assuredly proud of—a four-man portrait on a postcard format. I can see right away that Bill, himself, is in the grouping, seated the farthest to the left. While I’d love to discover the identities of his three companions, I will probably never know. All I can guess is that none of them are relatives.

What I am puzzled with—and someone with military background can perhaps help here—is the identification of the clothing these men are wearing. Looking for all the world like uniforms, they provide absolutely no insignia or designations to identify the organization these identical outfits represent.

I do know that Bill served in the Marine Corps, apparently enlisting in the Bay area in August, 1918. Of course, that was at the tail end of the first World War, but no one knew that at the time. Many of the muster rolls I was able to find on showed Bill stationed in or near San Francisco, and listed as a reserve. By early 1919, though, Bill was included in the Marine Aviation Detachment at the Marine Flying Field in Miami, Florida.

Perhaps the photograph below captured Bill and his three companions at the start of their military career?

William Samuel Bean with three other men all in unmarked uniforms during World War I


  1. They might have been part of the "Home Guard" which was local and the men bought their own uniforms. OR this was a boot camp photo taken right after they got their uniforms..and would be "slick sleeves" having not earned any rank yet. The insignia on the cap my tell you something:)

  2. That IS a happy photo. Don't you just love that cigar? I have several photos - professional as well as non- in which people couldn't be bothered putting their cigarette/cigar/pipe down for the picture.

  3. I wonder if any of these guys are in this photo?

  4. Is Bill the one in the back? That looks like a Bean face to me -- sorry if I'm wrong. Oh, I hadn't noticed the cigar until Wendy said it. Festive! I agree with "Far Side of Fifty" that they must have just got their uniforms, and ready to pose! What is that sign/symbol that they all have on their hats? A cheerful picture.


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