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E Pluribus Wilson

July 2024
1min read


In 1918 Arthur Mole, a Chicago commercial photographer, climbed a seventy-foot-high tower at Camp Sherman, a U.S. Army training base in Ohio, and took this awesome shot of officers and enlisted men massed together to form the familiar profile of President Woodrow Wilson.

Mole had developed this kind of stunt photography in 1912, posing members of various conventions in unusual formations. When America entered World War I, he traveled to military camps, using the trainees as subjects for patriotic themes. Preparations for each shot took him days. The ground was staked out in patterns that he had drawn, while he shouted instructions through a megaphone from atop a tower. Group leaders then herded the men into assigned positions.

Mole hoped that he could sell the pictures wholesale to the soldiers, but one doughboy recalled, “When they came to sell the pictures, most of the men had shipped out or died.”

The photographer executed many different compositions—flags, eagles, regimental insignia—but the Wilson portrait was undoubtedly his most ambitious achievement. Twenty-one thousand men stood in the sun for hours, each one patiently—or impatiently—keeping his place in the President’s earlobe, nostril, eyebrow.

This exercise in human pointillism was sent to us several years ago, and we continue to invite our readers to send us unusual, dramatic, or “what’s going on here?” photographs that they might own.

Such photographs should be at least thirty years old, sharp and clear, and have some interesting story connected with them.

As we cannot be responsible for original material, we request that a copy be sent at first. Under no circumstances should glass negatives be mailed. Pictures can be returned only if accompanied by a stamped, selfraddressed envelope. AMERICAN HERITAGE will pay $50.00 for each one that is run.

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