This mystery has fascinated me since I was quite little. My grandfather loved going through the old family albums with us, even the ones complete devoted to Grandma’s side of the family.
He always described this portrait as that of “one of the Dellingers.” I don’t remember ever getting Grandma’s opinion on it.
When I was older, I wrote Grandma’s sisters, Charlene and Lily. They agreed it was probably a Dellinger. Their mother, Nelle had three brothers who were of an age to serve in World War 1: Earl (born 1892), Charles (born 1895), and Raymond (1898).
I have one record of Earl serving, and that only through a letter he wrote to his sister, Nelle (Glad is Gladys, their younger sister; it also indicates that Charles served in France):
How are you by now? and are you going to send me a picture of yourself? Had a letter from Mother with pictures of Glad Chuck Mother and cap enclosed.
I was just telling Glad in a letter to her – about walking over to a fellow’s bunk the other night, he raises the lid on the box and I lamped (?) out a picture of Alby Smith pasted on the lid.
This fellow was an operator once at Dalhart – John Reeves is his name. Rec’d a letter from Chuck a few days ago and he said they would soon be leaving for France. Glad was telling me she had “Homesickness Blues” – our band plays it and “Back to Alabama in the Spring.” I’m in the Y now and the band is stalking in one by one – suppose we will have some music. Some band this – it is getting to be a good one.
The band master has just returned from the Capital where he had taken some instruments to have repaired. The capital does not happen to be Sitka or Buenos Aires – but maybe more beautiful than the latter or was at one time.
I’ll be bringing this creation to a close.
Earl C. Dellinger
Co B 13th Engr’s (RY)
A.E.F. Via (NY)
Censor Signature: SE Mueller (?)
Based on the document below, it is possible that Raymond may have been drafted and/or served, as well. It’s interesting to note that none of his other brothers are listed here; it could be that they had already enlisted or had moved away from home (these Dellingers were quite adventurous and migratory, as I’ll discuss later!)
Aunt Charlene said of her uncle, Charles:
Charles was Mom’s brother that everyone called Chuck… [he] was a handsome man — brightest blue eyes you ever saw.
Based on this description (and the general acceptance from other family members that “he is probably Charles”), Charles is a good candidate for this portrait.
It is odd that this portrait is completely unlabeled, it wasn’t even labeled in Grandma’s album. This opens up the possibility that it might not be one of the Dellinger brothers; it might not be a Dellinger at all. It could have been one of Nelle’s or her younger sister, Gladys’s, beaus.
It is possible that more photos of this mystery man will “appear” in family albums… it’s just a matter of time before I get to travel across the country to get to those albums!