Uniform Confusion: Readers Offer Suggestions, Part 1

By Maureen A. Taylor

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A reader sent in a photo of a man in an unidentified uniform and it was shared in a blog post. I bet you’re wondering what happened to that curious picture puzzle. There were so many emails it’s taken me a bit of time to sort it out.

In the article I presented the clues:

  • It’s not a military uniform.
  • He wears a feathered cap, sword, and sash.
  • There is insignia on his sleeves that look like crowns.

I’d done some research and discovered that he wasn’t a member of The Knights of Columbus or the Knights Templar. The insignia and hats weren’t an exact match.

I thought it would be fun to turn to readers of this column to get your opinion. Matching fraternal uniforms and insignia can be a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. I wondered if anyone had a photo of their ancestor wearing a similar outfit.

Other than studying the clues, I’ve seen enough similar photos to know that he’s in a studio and that the picture likely documents a key moment of his membership in the organization.

Thank you for all your responses. There were so many answers I see a multi-part series in the works.

How the matches or near matches lined up

Theresa thought he could be a Freemason because the hat resembles those worn by them. She also wondered if he could be Canadian or British due to the crown elements. She spied the badge at the top of his sash and pondered his membership in a Masonic group.

She loves a good mystery and so do I. Seems like many of you do too.

Solving fraternal mysteries can be hard. There is no comprehensive guide to uniforms for these groups. It’s all about researching the details, reaching out to experts, and finding photo matches.

Google Images

If you have a challenging uniform picture Google Images is very useful. You can narrow a search by qualifiers such as “Masonic insignia” or “Masonic hats”.

uniform confusion

I love the way that Google Images subdivides and groups images by type at the top of the screen. You can narrow matches that way. I selected Antique and then moved on. Nope. Nada. No match.

On to the next response.

Want to become a photo detective? Our Family Photo Detective book will teach readers how to identify and verify people in family photographs by comparing facial features in a collection of photos.