Wednesday, June 27, 2018

U.S. Signal Corps Cameraman Wesley Strait (1918-1919)

A private photo album of an official World War I cameraman is something extremely rare. So we were surprised to find such a collection recently on Niles Laughner's Military Antiques weblog. These pictures all come from U.S. Signal Corps photographer Wesley Strait's personal estate.


Wesley Strait (France, 1918)

Strait was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1893. At an early age Wesley shared an interest in photography with his twin brother Jess and both young men soon started working as a press photographer for the New York newspapers. When the motion picture industry expanded across the country Wesley also learned how to handle a movie camera and in 1917 he became a cinematographer for the Vitagraph Company which was then operating in Flatbush, Brooklyn.


Filming for the U.S. Signal Corps

When the U.S. entered World War I both Strait brothers joined the U.S. Signal Corps which has been assigned to cover the American theater of war in France. In a production file of a Signal Corps film, now at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., we recently found a reference to Wesley Strait, mentioning his work at the Filing Department of the Signal Corps photographic laboratory near Paris during World War I. This department was responsible for filing all film and preparing all original negatives for shipment to the United States.

Niles Laughner has this wonderful description on Strait's World War I pictures:


His album, in the permanent collection, is huge. Somehow, Strait managed to get into most of the images, as in the ambulance shot ... he is on the stretcher!  He had lots of girlfriends, some of which are shown here. He witnessed the wonders that most Americans then (and perhaps now) had only read about ... the Moulin Rouge for instance. He colored many of the shots, an example here has him with North African French troops ... and that's him with the movie camera. The image with his mom (family resemblence ...!!) and either a sister or girlfriend and the family cat is a lovely shot taken before he left for Europe. I suppose no one really remembers him, but his photos, and his sense of humor in some of them, survives him in this album.  



Strait's personal autographed picture of World War I military commanders (1919)



Work after World War I

After his return to America Wesley Strait worked for the New York World, the World-Telegram and the Daily Mirror. He was the official photographer of the New York World's Fair (1939) and a member of the Press Photographers Association of New York. After his work for the World's Fair, he did freelance photography up to 1942 when he was employed by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, a war industry.

On December 16, 1942, Wesley Strait died unexpectedly at the age of 49 as a result of a stroke at Adelphi Hospital in Brooklyn, New York City.

We have uploaded a selection of pictures from his personal album on our photo channel. 





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