Little Boys in Military Dress in Old Photos

By Maureen A. Taylor

Patsy Ellinger’s picture of 3-year-old Paul Robert Engemann and his older brother Karl Engemann, age 5, is a charming portrayal of two little boys playing dress up. It was taken circa 1902. Both boys wear miniature military uniforms, copying those likely worn by soldiers in Silesia, Prussia. This is nothing new.

During the U.S. Civil War, mothers could make their son’s Zouave outfits like those worn on the battlefield.

Godey’s Lady’s Book January 1862

Dress-up was more than play-time activity. Children often wore costumes for community events. The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, currently has an exhibit Mirrors with Memory: Daguerreotypes in Canada. One of the images on display shows a group of boys dressed in historical costumes taken in 1855. You can see it here.

To relive your childhood dress-up kits look no further than the Sears Catalog. You can browse your childhood holiday wish list using the catalogs on

The photo of the Engemann boys captured them in one of their last moments in Prussia. Their widowed mother brought the two boys to the United States in 1903. Karl served as an American soldier and died in 1918 during World War I.

If you have photos of your ancestors dressed-up as children, I’d love to feature them. Here’s how you can submit them.

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor: