The NSHS Library/Archives Reference Staff help researchers from all over Nebraska and the world answer countless history, genealogy and research questions every day. With the vast resources available at NSHS, the answers are seemingly at our fingertips. Sometimes, however, even we the supposed experts get stumped. So, we are asking our blog and Facebook friends for a little help answering a particularly vexing question from one of our patrons.
A little while ago, we received the four photographs featured in this blog with the request for any additional information we could find regarding the images. The four images appear to be snapshots from slightly before or during World War I of some type of military themed gathering or encampment.
Bugle Corps (at left)
In the first image, two women pose with a very dignified man in an Army uniform. To the right of the ladies is a young man, also in a military uniform, holding a bugle. The group is standing in front of a canvas tent with a wooden table and chairs inside.
The above left image features a group of six young men in Navy World War I style uniforms and one young man that appears to be wearing a cadet uniform. All seven men are holding swords and might be a drill team of some sort.
Thirteen young women pose around one very lucky young man in the above right image. The group is standing on the shore of a river or lake. The swimwear styles were popular from about 1910 to 1915.
F.A.U. Ladies all in a row
The last image is the most challenging. Seventeen women pose in a line also in front of canvas tents. The two women at the far left are the only ones not holding an American flag. They seem slightly older and may be leaders of some sort. The women are all wearing identical costumes. The buttons on the skirts indicate a military influence popular during World War I.
Most intriguing in this picture are the sashes the young women are wearing. Printed on the sashes is “Co. C 2nd NEB FAU.” This is the part that has us scratching our heads. What was the F.A.U.? We have looked into several possibilities, like Female Auxiliary Unit, Female Ambulance Unit, and First Aid Unit. The NSHS military expert suggested Friends Ambulance Unit, which was started in England by Quakers to provide a service outlet for conscientious objectors to WWI. Unfortunately, we have not found any evidence to support this idea.
We are asking you, our many Facebook and blog friends, for help. Does anyone know what the F.A.U. was? Please help us identify these photographs and unlock a mystery.
-Karen Keehr, Curator of the Visual and Audio Collections