Some of the Most Creative and Patriotic Photos of the 20th Century


June 11, 1918

American Flag Made Up of Americans

On This Date in History:  Once American committed to participating in the Great War, American patriotism rose to great levels.  A young commercial photographer by the name of Arthur Mole rode the wave of patriotic zeal with a series of creative photographs.   So popular was his work that it continued after World War I was over.  Mole was an Englishman by birth and worked with an American photographer by the name of John D. Thomas.  One must remember that, in those days there were no technical tricks to enhance a photo.  What the camera lens saw was what was recorded on the film.   Today, there is a photographer, Spencer Tunick,  that uses masses of human bodies who are naked to make some sort of artistic statement or merely to add to the shock value.  But,  Mole choreographed people to form patriotic images on a large scale. 

A Close-Up of the Wilson formation; note the people who make up the nose and glasses

Look at the photo at the top of the page of Woodrow Wilson carefully.  It’s not a drawing. It’s perhaps Moles most famous  photo taken from a 70 foot tower On This Date in 1918 by Arthur Mole.  He got some 21,000 soldiers at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio to stand in formation such that it looked like President Wilson from his perch above.  It seems like to me these guys were supposed to be “army training” as Bill Murray said in Stripes.  But, somehow they found time to fill in a carefully detailed outline on the ground.  Mole then got a megaphone and barked instructions.  One soldier was so excited about standing around for the photo that he wrote his mother, “Hey Mom!  I was part of President Wilson’s left eyebrow today.”  I guess it was a nice diversion to the prospect of going “over there” to fight World War I.  Then again, maybe they never went overseas because the war was over by the end of the year and Mole went on to use thousands of soldiers to pose for numerous patriotic pictures.  I can hear it now, “what did  you do in the Great War, Grandpa?….I stood around and represented a dot on huge human portraits!”    It’s kinda silly but kinda cool too.  Mole inspired innovative ideas in photography in the 20th century. 

Arthur S. Mole "Human Liberty Bell" (1918) Camp Dix (sources claim anywhere from 12,500 soldiers to 27,000)

With the popularity of his photos, Mole and Thomas were commmissioned after the war to continue to use military personnel to create numerous photographs of symbols.  We often see this type of effort used in large stadiums in which people hold up cards to create a large scale image and it’s often quite impressive.  But, if you look at the detail on the images, Mole’s work is quite remarkable.  The eyeglasses on President Wilson are so clear and distinct it’s hard to believe that those eyeglasses are made up of people.  Now, aside from the popularity of the photos, the US government had an ulterior motive for commissioning the work of Mole and Thomas.  During the war, they were intended to help combat public support for isolationism.  After the war, they were used as a way to inspire a patriotic spirit and ward off the socialist movement that had been building since the early part of the 20th Century.    I’m not sure if how much these photos lived up to the political expectations but the imagery is certainly timeless.  In my mind, Mole must have had a keen imagination; not just for the entire concept but also how he had to have envisioned in his mind how a photograph would appear if he dressed certain people in a certain manner in a certain position.  He had no computers; it was all in his mind. 

Wonder Who Got to Be the Point of Uncle Sam's Beard?

There is no doubt that Mole and Thomas had tremendous creativity flowing through their brains to conceive of the project and then envision what it would look like before they started.  Beyond that, there was also a remarkable ability related to logistics.  It’s difficult to get thousands of people to stand in straight lines.  For this project, they had to get thousands of people to dress appropriately and then stand in a specific spot that was rarely in a logical place from an earthbound observer.  Only someone perched high above could see the rationale behind the placements.  It is difficult to ascertain just exactly how long each photograph took to create. 

US Marine Corps

Naturally, snapping the shutter wasn’t the issue but the time it took to get everyone in place.  Imagine if you were the first guy.  You might be standing in the same place for hours.  These photos were generally taken in the summer months so the participants had to be fed and watered and also allowed to find restroom facilities.  Everyone involved had to have great patience.  Perhaps the military was the only organization that would be able to pull such an effort off.  Their soldiers had discipline and had the sheer numbers necessary. 

There are so many photos available, that it is impossible to show each one individually.  So, I”ve added a bunch of thumbnails so that you can click on each one to see a better view of that image.  Curiously, it’s difficult to find much reliable biographical information on Arthur Mole.  Wikipedia is not really a realiable source but even that entry is relatively small.  Although Mole died in 1983, I suppose that its fitting that we don’t know much about the man because an artist tends to tell his story through his work. 

So, while there is not much text regarding Arthur Mole, the images he left behind will last forever.  One might say that his work is a living legacy to the United States, but then again, one might say that it’s a living legacy to a creative genius whose story must be quite interesting, yet, seems to take a backseat to his legacy of art.  I suppose he’d probably like it that way.

SPC Severe Outlook Saturday

Weather Bottom Line:   I fully expected Friday to be a warm and humid day.  As of this writing, it was exactly that.  However, in the middle of the day some strong storms popped up in the western part of the viewing area around Dubois county.  I wasn’t surprised by the scattered thunderstorms or that they could individually drop heavy rain and feature some strong winds.  What did surprise me was the time of the day.  What this indicates to me is that we obviosly have a very unstable environment and that there are little upper disturbances coming through flow.  These disturbances are so small that its difficult to pinpoint as to timing or location. 

SPC Severe Probability Outlook June 12 2010

One feature that does show up on both the 12Z GFS and NAM models is a fairly robust vormax that comes from the southwest almost right  over the top of Louisville on Saturday morning and that has actually been fairly consistent over the past model runs.  Given that the feature would come through in the early morning, my guess is that we get some heavy rain with gusty winds but that the liklihood of it being severe in nature is somewhat limited.  Having said that, it is possible.  I should think that if another little shortwave appears in the afternoon that there would be sufficient heating and enough time for the atmosphere to reload from any morning activity that we may have some potential for rough stuff Saturday afternoon.  I’m seeing on some models that another fairly significant disturbance shows up on Sunday morning but that goes into the “who knows” category given that it is so far out and that it is not a consistent feature on all of the models.  But, the front is not going to come through so we’ll stay warm and humid and if the boundary doesn’t lift far enough north, then Sunday may be active too.

NAM Calls for Over 1.5" of rain from 8P to 2AM Saturday Night

The GFS vertical profile derived parameters for the next few days advertises rain off and on through Monday.  There is a bunch of energy but it does not just go bananas on severe parameters.  However it does advertise the heaviest rain for Saturday evening and night.  The NAM has pretty high levels for Saturday morning but not much rain and then on Saturday afternoon and evening the severe parameters just go bonkers and it calls for well over an inch of rain Saturday night through midday Sunday.  The RUC was convinced that there would be strong stuff Friday afternoon, but that does not seem to be in the cards.  So, as you can see, its all over the place but its safe to say that at some time, we will probably be under the threat for thunderstorms; most likely Saturday morning and then Saturday evening with I would think the best chance for strong stuff late Saturday.  I would also keep in nmind that rain chances will be relatively healthy all  weekend.

One Response

  1. Hi,
    I just ran across your story on Arthur Mole. I too take Patriotic people pictures. I have been shoot over 22 live patriotic symbols consisting of 750-1600 students dressed in red,white and blue. I began after 9/11 to teach the students a little lesson on patriotism. I had’nt seen mole’s work untill after my 3rd or 4th image. Four of my images are on their way to the Smithsonion the flag,Liberty Bell, American Eagle and Statue of Liberty. I am working on a couple of projects as a tribute to 9/11. I have videos and many photos I could share with you if you were interested.
    I do not use a computer to help with my aerial art.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: