Lots of photos of Walter here. I’m pretty sure that’s Walter with the Wanderer motorcycle in the first photo, as well as on the horse and standing on the front of the train.
The photos at the desk make me wonder if they’re doing paperwork or planning something. I wish I could make out what the packaging in the foreground says, or the map on the wall.
These photos have a lot of writing on the back, all pretty much indecipherable to me. I’ll post that separately.
Page 4 of 105
Today: cannons! Walter was in the reserve artillery battalion, so most of his work involved moving and preparing cannons for war. These photos have notes on the back marking them as from 1914. One of the cannon photos is marked as “German 130 m/m gun”. Reddit previously suggested that these might be this 7.7cm cannon, but I think that because of the time and Walter’s note it might actually be this earlier Krupp cannon.
These are mostly unsent postcards. It’s unclear if Walter took them and printed them on card himself or if they’re professionally done. I love the photos of the band and the precision measuring equipment they’re using with the cannons. It seems strange that they’d have a band with this group, how things have changed!
On the left is Walter Koessler, my great grandfather. This is printed on some kind of board and pasted into the book, so it can’t be easily removed and scanned. This photo appears to be taken at home, before he left for war. I like the little spots on his coat where the raindrops have hit it. I don’t know much about German uniforms, perhaps someone can help out there. Handsome, isn’t he!
The remaining photos I’ve scanned from the book. I haven’t had time to sort all the negatives to match their pages yet just because there are so many, so some of these may have better images when I find their negatives. All the photos in the album appear to be contact prints from the negatives. These are about an inch and a half by two inches in size (4x5.5cm), a common size for the album.
First, we see Walter again, carrying a tube of some sort. This is also the first photo showing his place in the army: Walter was in the reserve artillery battalion. You can see a small stack of ammunition off to the left, and a cannon in the background. Smoky back there, I wonder if they had just been firing.
The remaining images are also probably early in his training or before leaving home. A few houses, men washing in a trough, and a field. The back of one of the images marks these as taken in 1914, with some other markings that don’t mean much to me.
First post here, trying to get the format right for how to document these pages. Gotta go sort through all those negatives, too…
As I was getting ready to leave home after Thanksgiving, almost two years ago, my mom said she had something to show me. She pulled out a big black photo album from under our coffee table, casually laid it out in front of me, and blindsided me with the most meaningful, wonderful project I have ever undertaken.
This is my great-grandfather Walter Koessler’s photo album from when he was an officer throughout all four years of World War One. It’s incredible for many reasons:
- Walter was German, and he was an independent photographer. Most surviving photos from the war are from the Allies, and they tend to be propaganda or journalistic. Walter’s photos are very personal.
- Walter was trained as an architect. When he left Germany after the war, he moved to Los Angeles and became an art director for some of the first talkie films. His photos are beautifully composed and well-shot.
- Photography was going through big changes at the time, and Walter was a major early adopter. Film cameras were fairly new, and he took his in the trenches and everywhere else. WWI saw the first major use of airplanes in war, and Walter took aerial reconnaissance photos from biplanes and hot air balloons. Stereographs were also becoming more readily available at the time, and Walter made his own 3D images of life in the war.
- Since Walter moved to Los Angeles so soon after the war, he preserved pretty much everything. The album was made in Los Angeles, and it’s about a hundred pages long, with over 700 photos in it. Since then, the album has been tucked away in Southern California, so it has no mold and hasn’t faded hardly at all.
As soon as I saw this, I knew I needed to research it carefully and share it with the world. For the most part, there are no captions for the photos, so that research has been a big challenge. I’ve gone through the album many times, interviewed family members, reached out to people online, and visited one of the places in the album.
My family has also saved a box of about a hundred more stereographs that show WWI in 3D. I’ve since found that my grandma saved hundreds of the original negatives from both the album and the stereographs, and they’re practically pristine. It’s a formidable, and frankly somewhat intimidating collection. Nearly a hundred years later, it seems almost impossible that these things have been kept in such great condition, and I’m so grateful my family has let me take charge of it.
Finally, I think I’m prepared to start the process of scanning and sharing them here. I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as I do.
I’m finally committing to scanning and sharing my family’s collection of photos from WWI. There’s a lot to do, and it’ll take a while, but I’m excited to have you follow along. If you know anything about the people, places or things in the photos, please let me know!
octopus limply trying to computer