STOP!!! If you haven’t read my previous blog post “The Wrong War?” go back and read that first… and then come back to this update.
I wanted to include a picture of William in that blog post…. And I did. It just wasn’t my first choice. There aren’t many of him, but I certainly had some options. The one I initially planned to use gave me pause when I looked at it with fresh eyes.
William is seated in the middle with his wife Mary (neé Gerling) and their eldest son Otto. Otto was born in December 1883, and the next son was born in February 1887, so I’d guess this photo is from 1885-ish. Further, the photographer on the card, A. J. Aubert, was Andrew J. Aubert whose studio was at 305 North Ave from 1884-1887. 1
Why did I hesitate with this image and use my second choice? Well, it’s a little game of Eye Spy. I had to get a second (and third… and fourth…) opinion to be sure I wasn’t imagining things or seeing what I wanted to see.
Any guesses? I’ll give you a minute…
Take a closer look at Mary and what she’s wearing.
For a moment I thought maybe it was a pocket watch. But that chain is far too short to be practical. She may be able to view the time on it, but it wouldn’t be easy or comfortable.
I sincerely think that Mary is wearing the commemorative war medal on that chain. The size looks about right as does the orientation of how the ring is affixed to the top of it.
This picture would have been roughly 14-ish years after the war. For perspective: I’m 18-years from my first deployment and I most certainly still have treasured items on display from that time.
I don’t know how much William was able to bring with him when he left Germany, but I presume it wasn’t a lot. This medal is small enough to fit in a pocket and easy to carry. Maybe it serves as a remembrance of his homeland.
It clearly meant a lot to him, as it’s been shared from generation to generation. Mary could be wearing it in a way similar to how people wear the dog tags of their significant other today. Or, given the hefty chain, maybe it was a way to keep it safe?
If I was at all uncertain about the medal’s provenance before, this photo adds a bit of legitimacy to my case.
Now if I could just find that passenger list to help prove or disprove the timeline……
1 “Chicago Photographers 1847 through 1900 As Listed in Chicago City directories”, published 1958, page 11 (http://livinghistoryofillinois.com/pdf_files/Chicago%20Photographers%201847%20through%201900,%20as%20listed%20in%20Chicago%20City%20Directories.pdf), accessed 9 Aug 2022.