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Lots of medals...mostly for his ancestors


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I just acquired this photograph of a young Captain in the Pennsylvania National Guard dated 1898. He is wearing the regulation uniform for national guard officer. One can see the double silver bars of his rank--Captain--on the paddle form shoulder boards.

Why I purchased the photograph was the row of medals on his chest. Wearing military and civilian hereditary society medals on your uniform was permitted during this period. So what is he wearing....from viewer's left to right:

1) Members medal of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Founded in 1865 by Union army officers who served as pall bearers for President Abraham Lincoln,  it became a hereditary society that still exists for male descendants of Civil War officers.  Our subject, based upon his age, was probably the son of a Union army officer who was a member of MOLLUS. The original sons had a blue center on the ribbon while heredity members had a red center ribbon. 

2) Members medal of the General Society of the Sons of the Revolution. There is a great deal of misunderstanding between the Sons of the Revolution (founded 1876) and the Sons of the American Revolution (founded in 1889). While both organizations are hereditary societies of men who are descended from soldiers (and by extension certain others who supported the American Revolution), the Sons of the Revolution is a smaller and some would argue more prestigious invitational organization. The badge is a gold circle of stars with a central figure of a standing figure of a patriot. The suspension is a golden eagle.  The Sons of the Revolution were, and still are,  strong in Pennsylvania and particularly in the Philadelphia area. 

3) Members medal of the General Society of the War of 1812. This handsome medal was  worn by those who are descended from American veterans of the War of 1812.  This is the smallest of the three noted hereditary societies. Founded in 1815, the General Society evolved over the 19th century and still exists today. 

4) Pennsylvania National Guard marksman medal. This medal (probably more correctly called a badge) is the only official National Guard medal on his uniform. The badge is in the shape of a keystone (Pennsylvania is known as the keystone state) and a pendant was hung from it with the number of years qualifying as a marksman. It probably was silver. 

The national guard in many states, particularly Pennsylvania, was a very social organization in the late 19th century. I recall reading about the funeral of one National Guard officer ---not this young man--who was both a Civil War veteran and a high ranking Freemason. The newspaper story noted that his funeral reached the cemetery before the last elements had left the church which was almost a mile away!

A fascinating image that reveals the social side of National Guard service in Victorian America. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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