The Great War
The worst war that the world had ever known ended on November 11th, 1918. Exactly a year later Woodrow Wilson led his countrymen in observing Armistice Day to honor the lasting peace that our soldiers had earned through combat. Across the United States, parades were held in which veterans and active service military were celebrated. This tradition continued through to World War II, after which the holiday evolved into a tribute for both wars. In the mid-1950s, veterans’ groups advocated that the holiday should be renamed Veterans Day as a lasting day to celebrate those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. To celebrate Veterans Day this year the Bowers Blog looks at our collection of photographs and memorabilia pertaining to veterans.
Despite a pencil written note on the back of the top photograph in this post indicating that it was taken in 1918, the very first celebration of Armistice Day in Santa Ana would not have happened until at least the following year. What this image and the one above it do impart is the scale of the parades. An impressive column of troops marches opposite to two soldiers, a nurse, and a frighteningly blurred Uncle Sam jointly bearing an enormous flag. Other photographs of the day show automobiles and floats in the parade. Here a particularly substantial float is being pulled by a group of Boy Scouts who appear to have missed the meaning of the day amidst their manual labor.
Civility of Dress, Uncivility of War
Of course, soldiers served and retired as veterans long before the Great War. An officer’s frock worn by the Union Lieutenant Carl Jayne shows what military dress looked like when the nation was at war with itself. When compared against the coat worn by a Mr. Bowland, Master Electrician in the Signal Corps 413th Battalion in World War I, we can see just how much the uniform changed in half a century. For a closer look at the experience of one Civil War soldier, read The Bonney Sketch Artist: Avoidant Glimpses of the Civil War.
Most historic photographs pertaining to wars and veterans are donated to the Bowers because of their importance to the history of Santa Ana. Of the three portraits here, the left one depicts Henry Ashley Chase and the right one is of Captain S.H. Finley. Both men served in Santa Ana’s Company L, originally part of the State Guard. This group was deployed to assist with the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake but was best known for their role in the Spanish-American War. The central figure above is key to the Bowers’ photographic collections. That portrait shows Leo Tiede in a uniform almost identical to the World War I-era coat above, indicating that he likely served during the war. After the war he would go on to become an important photographer in the Santa Ana area. A longer biography of Tiede can be found in Two Photographers Outside of Orange, California.
(Click and drag or swipe on mobile devices to move through images in this section)
Other photographs in the Bowers Collections are of different groups of soldiers and veterans through the years. The earliest of these shows the men of Company L outside of an armory at the corner of 4th and Birch St. as they prepared to fight in the Spanish-American War.
A similarly dressed, but unrelated group is photographed while camped along the border of the United States and Mexico. That image was taken some time in the 1910s and there is unsubstantiated information that this same group was involved in the border incident between the United States and the Mexican Revolutionary Pancho Villa.
An iconic photograph shows Santa Ana’s first draftees for World War I in 1917. Leo Tiede can be picked out of this lineup just the left of middle in the bottom row. What is perhaps of equal interest is that this photograph was snapped on the steps of the Old Orange County Courthouse.
The posed photograph of men standing on and around a parade float seems to have been taken during an Armistice Day parade sometime shortly after 1918. Though there is a soldier in a World War I-era uniform, the older men on the float identity as Union veterans of the Civil War. Their organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), championed rights and privileges for all veterans. They worked hard to ensure Black veterans had equal access to voting, fought to give veterans access to education, and paved the way for later veterans’ groups such as those that pushed for the creation of Veterans Day.
This flag is made in memoriam of World War I—though curiously selects an end date of 1917. While most of the objects in this post look at soldiers themselves, this is a perfect representation of what a holiday like Veterans Day is really about, reminding all those who have served just how grateful we are for what they have given.
Text and images may be under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. References are available on request. Information subject to change upon further research.
Very nicely and respectfully presented; especially clear photographic work.
In your second sentence, “lasting peace”: Mark, your N. Chamberlainian optimism (even in hindsight) has made you a Docent FAVE!
May your House be safe from Tygers