As professional catalogers going about our business of creating electronic records for photographs there are many steps we have to complete in order to ensure the work we do is thorough and accurate. For the majority of the photos we work with the U.S. Army Signal Corp has included descriptive captions on the backs of the prints. In the case of officers these captions usually include their name, rank, a serial number, and hometown with additional details being attached to more senior officers. The information may be minimal, but it is absolutely crucial to us!
In the photograph below we have two brigadier generals and a major belong to the 10th Mountain Division preparing to embark for northern Italy, January 1945. Their junior staff lurk in the background. The Signal Corp has provided the names and basic info on each individual. Now its time to go to work.
Its my job to look up each person in a proprietary database run by the Library of Congress. Usually the name is not in the database and so I can create a new entry for The Mariners’ Museum using the Signal Corps’ information. But if their name is already entered in the database I need to do further research on Ancestry.com in order to come up with some extra detail to distinguish my subject’s name from the name that already exists.
So when the young man on the far right, “Rawleigh Warner Jr.,” appeared in the Library of Congress database, I was intrigued. When you have a “Patrick Kelly, hometown Boston, Mass.” or “Samuel Goldman, hometown Brooklyn, NY” you expect those very common names to show up. But Rawleigh with a W? That’s not the typical spelling. And then having the suffix “Jr.” in the name makes it just a little bit more rare. It was very likely that the person I was looking at and the person referred to in the Library of Congress was the same person. What was this dogface doing in the Library of Congress?
As it turns out, I was looking at the future chairman of Mobil Oil.
Rawleigh Warner Jr. (1921-2013) entered the war a 2nd Lieutenant and according to his obituary in the New York Times, “He was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart and was discharged as a captain.” To say he went on to become a successful businessman is an understatement! After the war he worked at the Standard Oil Company of New York and then Mobil Oil, where he served as chairman from 1969-1986. He was known to the public for introducing Mobil’s famous Pegasus logo and courting public relations by sponsoring the PBS program, Masterpiece Theater.
But before he became one of the most powerful men in one of the world’s most powerful industries Warner passed through Newport News, Virginia, as a low ranking Army officer. His division embarked from Hampton Roads on the steamer General M.C. Meigs pictured below.
Arrivederci, Chairman Warner! Who knows what famous names we will discover in the collection next!