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Detective Story: The Great Lakes Naval Team Photo at the 1919 Rose Bowl
One of the benefits of writing a blog is that some people, like you, actually read my posts. A handful comment on the posts or contact me regarding their connections to the individuals in the stories. The children, grandchildren, and other family members of the people mentioned in the stories are among those who have reached out. Those contacts are particularly fun, but so are contacts from folks who have images, programs, or other memorabilia related to the players, teams, and events discussed here.
One recent contact came from a father-son combination after the son found some old Rose Bowl material at an estate sale. Among the items he purchased was an old photograph showing a group of twenty-three sailors with the following written on the back: “Great Lakes Naval Training Station vs Mare Island Marines, Rose Bowl, January 1,
The father, a photographer, verified the photograph was printed on period paper, but asked for my assessment of whether the photograph showed the Great Lakes team that played in the 1919 Rose Bowl. If so, he wondered if I could identify the individuals in the image. Since I had spent several years researching the 1918 and 1919 Rose Bowl teams and had not previously seen this image, I was eager to apply the detective skills I used to solve an earlier photographic mystery.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
There are two issues with the label on the back of the photograph that cast doubt on it being genuine. Take another look at the image of the label on the back of the photograph to see if you can identify them. One issue is that the person who added the label inadvertently wrote “195” before recognizing their error, crossing it out, and adding “1919.” The error suggests the label was added in the 1950s when the incorrect year was written by force of habit. While that is a logical explanation of the error, it does not prove the label was written after 1919.
The second, deeper problem with the label is the use of the term "Rose Bowl" which tells us conclusively that the label was added after 1919. Although we now refer to the football game played as part of the 1919 Tournament of Roses festivities as the Rose Bowl, the Rose Bowl term was coined several years later. In 1919, the game was known as the “Tournament East-West Football Game” and was played at a wooden bleacher-stadium in Pasadena's Tournament Park. The stadium we now call the Rose Bowl was not built until 1922 and was initially called Tournament of Roses Stadium. During the run up to the 1923 game, the first to be played in the new stadium, a newspaper reporter referred to the stadium as the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl name was later adopted for the stadium itself, the annual Tournament of Roses game more broadly, and "bowl" games became the term describing postseason games in general. All this tells us that while the photograph might be from 1919, the label on the back is not.
Despite the caveat about dating the label, my primary tasks were to determine whether the sailors in the photograph were members of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station team, determine the identity of each person in the photo, and ascertain where the picture was taken.
I had previously found an image of the full Great Lakes team taken late in the 1918 season. That picture showed thirty-four players and three coaches or trainers on the steps of a building at the training station. Given the number of players, the poor resolution of the image, and the fact that many players wore helmets on that cold day, the full team picture provided limited assistance in identifying who was who in the Pasadena image.
However, since I knew the identity of the twenty-three individuals who traveled by train from Chicago to Pasadena for the game, I compared the faces in the Pasadena photograph to images of those men in their college yearbooks and other sources from the years before and after they played for Great Lakes. I made the comparisons using the sophisticated facial image matching technology embedded in my brain and the “Yeah, it looks like him” technique. Using that process, most players were easily matched against other sources, though I am not sure which of the identical twin Barnard brothers is Chester and which is Lester (Their coaches could not tell them apart in 1918 either.) You can check my work at the end of this post where images of each individual cropped from the Pasadena photo are compared to images from other sources. While my matching process might have switched one player for another, I am one-hundred percent certain the photograph shows the Great Lakes football team rather than another group of sailors during the WWI era
A further piece of evidence that the image shows the Great Lakes team are the initials "P.D." above the second player from the left in the back row. That player is John "Paddy" Driscoll, the team's star player and future NFL Hall of Fame inductee. Presumably, the photograph was once owned by a friend or relative of Driscoll's since none of the other players are similarly marked.
Knowing the photograph showed the Great Lakes team, the next step was to determine where the picture was taken. Knowing the Great Lakes team stayed in bungalows at the Hotel Maryland during their time in Pasadena, I compared the background in the photograph to period images of the Hotel Maryland, particularly its Bungalow Court.
The team image has a striped canopy immediately behind and to the left of the team and what appears to be a home or cottage behind the players on the right.
Now, look at the postcard showing the Hotel Maryland's Bungalow Court. Look familiar? The similarity confirms the picture was taken in the Hotel Maryland’s Bungalow Court. In combination, the detective work confirms the authenticity of a previously unknown image of the Great Lakes team that played in the 1919 Rose Bowl, and allows us to identify where the picture was taken.
Of course, if anyone reading this blog that has vintage Rose Bowl or other football memorabilia you are interested in submitting for review, please use the Contact Us to initiate a discussion.
The images on the left are clipped from the team photograph taken at the Hotel Maryland in Pasadena. Those on the right are images of the same individuals from other sources.
Standing, left to right
Kneeling, left to right
Sitting, left to right
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