Two of the most interesting eras in American military history (in my opinion) are the two inter-war periods between the end of the Spanish-American War and the beginning of World War One and that between the end of World War One and the beginning of the Second World War.
Both time periods saw the downsizing the U.S. military forces to ridiculously low levels and numerous small but little heralded military actions in Central America, the Caribbean and the Far East. And while the military changed drastically during both these eras since there were no major wars being fought it receives far less attention that it should.
This real photo postcard come from the first of these time periods and depicts a private from the Michigan National Guard. He wears a 1902 pattern service hat which was creased fore and aft with blue infantry hat cords. His uniform is the cotton khaki 1908 summer service uniform. He seems to be wearing a version of the 1907 web field equipment which was possibly a variation particular to the Michigan National Guard. He is armed with the M1903 Springfield Rifle and associated M1905 bayonet.
The photograph it of superior quality and we owe a debt to the unknown photographer who created it circa 1910. It is of remarkable clarity and contrast and in many ways harkens back to the finest quality of photographic images created during the glass plate days of the American Civil War. The painted backdrop may actually date to the earlier period and when examined closely the base of Civil War era cast iron head rest stand be seen behind his feet. In fact the image appears more like a high quality tin type that it does a paper photographic post card.
During the American Civil War the tin type and carte de visite photographic formats became almost ubiquitous and during the early 1900s the real photo post card tended to fill the same niche low cost and affordable photographs. Generally they are not of the highest quality suffer in composition often having a look of careless rushing on the part of the photographer. This image bears all the hallmarks of a superior studio image and belies an otherwise mundane format.