The men of Camp Clansman (yes, it is exactly what you think it is…)

RPPC. Private Collection.

RPPC. Private Collection.

I love everything about this real photo postcard, such a lovely photo; the great composition, the dapper subjects, the details like the hats on the wire, the white polka dot tie…but then there is the sign on the door like an elephant in the room.  Camp Clansman? I’ll go ahead and strongly assume this is a photo of Ku Klux Klan members showing their faces too…

I wondered if I should post it as is, or go ahead and avoid the controversy by digitally erasing the door sign. This picture has been in my collection for many months and I finally decided to post it as is.

Why doctor the past to extract the good and hide the ugly? And as such…

This particular image is a Velox taken between 1907-1914.

Some facts about the second emerging of the KKK:

The KKK of the 1910s-1920s was the second incarnation of the group first emerged in the 1860s. While the Southern chapters still focused on racism against blacks, the Northern and Midwestern ones were fueled by the liberalisation of society, mounting integration and increasing tensions between established whites and Eastern European/Jew immigrants and southerners (black and white) moving into the cities and competing for jobs.

Members of the South were patriarchal staunch anti-Catholic protestants, but all -North or South- were prohibitionists. Violent incidents were frequent between bootleggers and KKK members. The movement reached its peak in the Twenties. Some estimates put the membership total at the time to about 8 million members. In Indiana alone 40% of men were members and the group elected a governor. The manufacturing city of Detroit counted an astonishing 40,000 members within the city limits.

Not surprisingly, the turnover was high when people realized they didn’t agree with the extreme views of the group, and by the end of the second decade the KKK lost most of its members, and consequently -and thankfully- its voting power.

The charm hanging off his pants pocket looks unsettling...a skull?

The charm hanging off this man’s pants pocket looks unsettling…a skull? 

Well dressed group.

(Click for larger image)

While some in my category of “Bad Boys” are jokingly there because they look the part, these men looked respectable, even upper class, and still they were motivated by hate…This is where the true danger is. For the boy’s sake I hope the gentlemen on the photo finally woke up and left the group too.

As a side note, I think these were men of one family. Many seem to share similar physical traits.

RPPC: VELOX diamonds 1907-1914

8 responses to “The men of Camp Clansman (yes, it is exactly what you think it is…)

  • Photobooth Journal

    Amazing photo and the history of the KKK was fascinating! Thank goodness they don’t have that many members now. Re the skull, I think in this context it can be seen as sinister but the tradition of wearing a skull talisman of any description was more of a memento mori. It reminds the wearer that death is inevitable and thus reminds one to make the most of every minute of life. He may have worn it with that intention, while not giving a damn about other people’s lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • bowlersandhighcollars

      I really debated whether I should erase the door sign, because it IS a great picture. ALAS…I didn’t know about the memento mori aspect of the skull. Who knows in this context!

      Hopefuly I don’t end up on some FBI file for posting this LOL!! I think I made it pretty clear where I stand. I posted it on tumblr too. Usually pictures catch on there, but I think people are afraid to like it, and I understand. I just think it’s worth sharing though. I’ve never seen a picture of Klan members openly showing themselves like that, even if they’re not wearing the robes, there’s still the sign.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Photobooth Journal

    It is a great photo! I have one or two with swastikas proudly displayed in German family homes in the 1930s. These types of photos are important reminders about how easily people can be swayed by corrupt and dangerous ideologies. As social history they are worth sharing and you did make it clear where you stand.

    I wonder if they had forgotten the sign was behind them when they posed for the photo? I guess that the reality was that they were proud of it and that they never dreamt it would be seen by more than a select number of like minded people.

    Were you the only bidder? (if you got it at an online auction.) The two I have were overlooked by others as you needed to look carefully to see the Nazi emblem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • bowlersandhighcollars

      I think those pictures are even more important than just the pretty ones everyone likes. Like you say they represent history, and there’s a tendency today to hide the past because it offends, but what are we without learning what brought us here in the first place? And knowledge is so easily gone if a generation fails the next.

      There are lessons to be had I think. Like your pictures with the Swastika. They ARE history. Another example: no one wants to see pictures of lynchings (I understand they’re graphic), but everyone comes to an age when those should be shown, so it doesn’t happen again. Too often, and I see it on Facebook especially, people are reported for posting such pictures, or people say they shouldn’t because it’s not appropriate. SIGH…then don’t join a photo history group…I could go on with artistic nudes too, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

      Ok, off my!!

      I was the only bidder! I couldn’t believe it. I expected to get outbid by some crazies, or even collectors of the same theme as me…but no one caught on. It happens.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Photobooth Journal

    Ps it is disturbing that there is a child with them. Then again none of them look to be much older than 24/25, barely out of childhood themselves!

    Liked by 1 person

  • D.L. Wood

    I think your ” Camp Clansman? I’ll go ahead and strongly assume….” Is a bit of stretch but I guess it did generate some comment.

    Could your group because as you state “As a side note, I think these were men of one family.” really just be that – a family picture of a group with the last name of maybe – Clansman? Maybe they are all men of a Scottish descent on some kind of camping get together thus being “clansman”? The group looks more like there is frivolity going on with the grins and smirks on their faces than anything sinister.

    Oh and your ominous skull fob – maybe the gent was a member not of the KKK but of a less sinister fraternal group that incorporated a skull in their symbolism. Maybe like the Modern Woodmen of America who was known to use a skull in their fraternal symbols.

    I would agree that this group with their touching, grins and smirks and attitude look more like a family than members of some secret society. But as with all photos – if you don’t know the actual story of the image – you are free to make up your own.

    D.L. Wood


    • bowlersandhighcollars

      Thank you for your comment. Of course it’s all up to interpretation. I did say I *strongly assume*. I can’t be 100% sure, but to me that’s what’s most likely. The group is from the United States. European real photo postcards have a different backing.

      But I am aware there is a chance (slight IMO) that it could be something else altogether. Like you said, we are free to make our own interpretation, and this includes my visitors!


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