Please help my identify things in some old pictures
June 13, 2013 3:51 PM   Subscribe

I inherited a bunch of pictures. There area a few I am curious about but there is nobody left to ask about them, so I'm turning to the amazing people of Metafilter. Can you tell me anything about these photos?

For this picture, what sort of uniform is it? Any details that anyone could provide would be interesting. My guess is that it was taken around 1920 (but that's only a guess).

For these two photos, where were they taken: First photo, second photo. My guess on the date is somewhere around 1950, and they look like somewhere in Asia.

posted by DrumsIntheDeep to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My guess on the date is somewhere around 1950, and they look like somewhere in Asia.

I am confident those were taken in Japan during the occupation, but I cannot determine which one. The statues are of Agyo (open mouth - he says "ah") and Ungyo (closed mouth - he says "nn").
posted by Tanizaki at 4:04 PM on June 13, 2013

I think the uniform is a West Point Cadets uniform.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

The uniform in the first picture appears to be a '30s era "service dress" cadet uniform. As Confess, Fletch indicated, similar styles were worn by West Point cadets, but also by ROTC members in various colleges. Pretty sure it would consistently be worn by someone at the cadet level (with various rank insignia consistent with their seniority in the cadet corps), as opposed to full-fledged military members.

My strange point of familiarity with this type of uniform is that I've seen pictures of the Alabama Polytechnic (now Auburn University) marching band circa 1901 with a similar uniform, which would also be consistent because the band was then an ROTC unit. I have a friend who was in that band in the late 1930s - still alive and playing trumpet into his 90s...

I said '30s era, but these uniforms have changed slowly over time so a similar uniform was in use for decades. The leggings make me think 1910s, because I associate them with WWI, but I could of course be wrong.
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

The first one looks like either a military academy uniform or ROTC or he's dressed up for a play. It's too light in color to be West Point (and too dark to be the white uniform.) The hat doesn't seem to match any service academy or VMI.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:18 PM on June 13, 2013

Hm, the West Point uniforms of the time do not appear to have puttees (gaiters?) as the uniform in the photo does.
posted by elizardbits at 4:22 PM on June 13, 2013

Based on the insignia on his "cover," I don't think the first picture is of a West Point cadet.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:37 PM on June 13, 2013

I may be wrong but that first one looks like the part of Forbidden City that's across the street and up the big hill from the rest of the Forbidden City. I don't know the name of it.
posted by juliagulia at 7:57 PM on June 13, 2013

randomkeystrike and Ideefixe, ROTC may be right. I suspect this picture is of my grandfather, who went to UC Berkeley in the 1910s. I don't know that he was in ROTC, but I wouldn't be surprised. A quick Google search brought up the picture on the top of this page which is too low-res to be certain, but it looks like the uniforms are similar.

juliagulia, the pictures of the sailor are most likely 1950's or 1960's at the latest. I don't know much about the time, but wasn't China closed off to Americans during that time?

Thanks for all the guesses and information!
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 9:42 PM on June 13, 2013

It's no direct help, but the sailor is a Second Class Petty Officer with more than eight years of service. I can't make out his rating.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:27 PM on June 13, 2013

I'm pretty sure it is Japanese - I think the wood of the gate would probably be painted if it were Chinese.

The fishy-shaped ornaments on the ridgeline are Shachihoko or Chiwen. I think it's the former and that most Shachihoko look similar whereas Chiwen take a variety of different shapes.

I don't know much about this stuff at all, though.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:31 AM on June 14, 2013

ROTC participation was far more common in colleges than it is now. In 1910 I don't think someone in the US would necessarily see the Great War coming, but there was always a war brewing somewhere, and ROTC meant you would likely be a commissioned officer when they came and got you, rather than a draftee in the non-commissioned ranks.

And I did nail the decade, didn't I? :-)
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:58 AM on June 14, 2013

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