Mystery Photo No. 55

February 23, 2014

Last week, our Mystery Photo was solved quickly and definitively, with all people in the picture identified by our readers. That’s what usually happens. We have only the slimmest hope for this week’s photo, however. This one will be a real challenge.

This picture was made from a glass negative found in the Observer-Reporter’s archives. We assumed the men were members of a Washington & Jefferson College football team around 1900, but that is not the case. W&J has fielded a football team since 1890. None of the men in our Mystery Photo appeared in W&J team photos from that year through 1915.

So, if these guys were not playing for W&J, for whom were they playing? They are too old to be high school students. One possible clue: One of the men at lower right has an “M” on his breast. If this was another college team, what was the negative doing in our archives? Could this have instead been a club team?

The photo is unusual because the men are posed so casually, with a few of them almost smiling. Team photos of that day were most often formal, with players dressed in matching uniforms.

We are hoping that one of our readers might possess the same image, or perhaps others might be able to recognize a great-grandfather in his youth and thus unlock this puzzle. If you think you can help us, email Park Burroughs, retired executive editor, at, or call and leave a message for him at 724-222-2200, extension 2400. With a lot of luck and help from our readers, we may be able to solve this mystery and publish our findings later.



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