A Yard-Long Old Photo Brick Wall

A Yard-Long Old Photo Brick Wall

Cathy Jordan found three panoramic photographs in her father's old trunk. These oversize photos can cause eye strain and headaches as you try to find your relative in them!Thankfully, Cathy's been able to locate her father in two of them, but the third one baffles her. It's a group...

Cathy Jordan found three panoramic photographs in her father’s old trunk. These oversize photos can cause eye strain and headaches as you try to find your relative in them!

Thankfully, Cathy’s been able to locate her father in two of them, but the third one baffles her. It’s a group portrait of students at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. Her father lived in Conway, but didn’t attend Hendrix.

She photographed it in sections to make it easier for me to see it and share it with you.

There are lots of clues in this long picture.

  • She contacted the Hendrix College archives. Staff told her that the building is College Hall. They looked in college newspapers and yearbooks for more information. The school’s 1918 Troubador yearbook contains a photo that shows the same 18 band members. The archivist felt that this photo was taken around 1917-1918. At that time, College Hall was called Martin Hall.
  • The clothing clues and hairstyles agree with the 1917-1918 time frame.
  • One of the mysteries is why this is an all-male group. Women attended the school at that time.

These military style haircuts were very popular. Just about every young man in the picture has the same cut.

In 1917, Hendrix was both a secondary school and a college. In the first image, you’ll notice some boys who look younger than college freshmen.

Hendrix did its part for the WWI war effort, building a Student Army Training Center during that 1917-1918 period. At the same time, more than half the student population contracted the Spanish flu. Two died of it.

No one knows why this picture was taken. There were no significant events at the school. The band played for football games and other school functions, but the all-male nature of the group rules out a school-wide event.

Cathy doesn’t know why her father owned the picture. He graduated from Little Rock Senior High in 1924. She has his report cards from the Arkansas Normal School, a teacher’s college also located in Conway. Maybe this is a joint event between Hendrix and the Arkansas Normal School?

Today the Arkansas Normal School is the University of Central Arkansas. I’d follow-up with the university archivist and see if they have a copy of this picture.

These yard-long pictures were very popular in the late teens and early 1920s. Identifying them is one problem but so is storing them. When I was a photo curator, we placed them in a large folder made from acid- and lignin- free cardstock in an oversize archival box.

Do you find vintage panoramic photos as fascinating as I do? Last summer I wrote about a panoramic photograph of the Pershing Family Reunion.


Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
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    1. You were asking about other panoramic photos. I have one taken in France during World War I. I’ve looked but my grandfather who served from Alexandria, Virginia is not in the photo. Unfortunately, my grandparents kept it rolled up. I tried hanging it in the laundry room by a skirt hanger but it would not unroll. (Don’t faint yet). It ended up splitting into sections which I keep in acid free sleeves. They overhang a bit but to not force them anymore I let them be. The group is identified as "Casual Company #938 from St. Aignon, France." Under that is the identifier "Meh.16th.1919". Very heavy photo paper, obviously black and white, still very clear, a lot of cracks from being rolled.

    2. Given the date, and the fact that this is an all-male group, I would think it has something to do with the WW1 Draft, or the Student Army Training Center set up by the college. Could the college have been used as a Draft registration center, and the photo was taken of the young men who went to register? It’s possible that the band were there to lend a patriotic air to the proceedings.

      NARA’s website says the following about the Draft: "During World War I there were three registrations. The first, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. The second, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. (A supplemental registration was held on August 24, 1918, for those becoming 21 years old after June 5, 1918. This was included in the second registration.) The third registration was held on September 12, 1918, for men age 18 through 45."

      The most likely would be the 3rd Draft as the lower age limit was 18, which could include the younger men in the photo. My main hesitation is that the photo appears to have been taken in the fall as there are no leaves on the trees and the men are wearing jackets or heavy sweaters, so the date for the actual Draft day doesn’t quite seem to work. So perhaps it was the first day of the men turning up for training at the Center? Does the college have any records relating to that specifically?