Mole’s Other Masterpieces

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The question of how many angels can dance on the point of a pin stimulated debate among medieval scholars. Absurd, we say. But before we chortle, we might recall that a latter-day photographer once spent his time figuring how many men would be required to form a giant profile of Uncle Sam or a really big Liberty Bell.

The camera artist’s name was Arthur S. Mole, and in our December issue we published his living portrait of Woodrow Wilson (right). Interested readers from all over the country wrote in about it, prompting us to publish a further sampling of Mole’s monumental images.

Mole—who is eighty-eight and now lives in Florida—made about forty such photographs at military camps during World War I, shooting from specially constructed towers that were 65 to 85 feet high.

Perspective posed a special problem for him. The design had to be staked out on the ground according to an outline drawn on the glass of Mole’s 11 by 14 inch view camera. In the case of the Liberty Bell, for example, one eyewitness—M. M. Cosgrove of Ossining, New York—points out that the length of the beam across the top was 368 feet, but the width of the bell at the bottom was only 64 feet.

Another reader, Bob Lee, editor of Black Hills Publishers, Inc., of Sturgis, South Dakota, interviewed Fred Young, a ninetyyear-old veteran who had appeared in one of Mole’s photographs. “Mr. Young,” Lee writes, “said the formation was reflective of the discipline so prevalent in the Army at that time. He regrets that this sort of discipline appears to have diminished among young people of today.”