German Empire passport with an fantastic photo

A passport photo was mandatory in German passports from 1915 onwards. In the beginning, there were no photo rules as long as the photo would fit on a passport page. Recently I got this travel document with an awesome passport photo, a great example of a non-existing photo policy. German Empire passport photo

German Empire passport photo
A locomotive drivers-wife with her son and husband (who is not mentioned in the passport).

This passport from the Kingdom of Prussia, the most common passport-type within the German Empire, was issued to Margarethe Drescher on 26 August 1916 in the midst of WWI (just two days later, on 28 August, Kaiser Wilhelm appoints Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg as Germany’s new Chief of the General Staff, replacing Erich Falkenhayn following the disappointment at Verdun and recent setbacks on the Eastern Front).

According to the passport entry, 27 years old, Margarethe wanted to travel to Russia with her five-year-old son Herbert. Her travel document was valid for only one year. We can see stamps from the border control at the train station in Skalmierzyce. The town was German from 1908-1920. Skalmierzyce is nowadays Polish and about 100 km away from the south-east of the regional capital Poznań. Furthermore, a stamp of the local chief in Kalisch for traveling (border crossing?), valid for 7/8 October 1916. German Empire passport photo

In August 1914, the town was destroyed by German artillery fire and then rebuilt in a modern style.

In 1918, after 123 years, Kalisz became part of a Polish state again, after its reconstruction. From 1939 to 1945, Kalisch was part of the German Reichsgau Wartheland as a district administrator’s city district and seat for the district of the same name. On January 23, 1945, Kalisch was taken almost undamaged by the Soviet army. From 1975 to 1998, Kalisz was the Kalisz Voivodeship capital, which also included parts of Lower Silesia.

We are looking at the photo and see Margarethe with a large hat, the son in a marine outfit and a cap. But the interesting part is that Margarethe’s husband is also in the photo, in the full uniform of a locomotive driver. However, he is not mentioned in the passport. If I read old German handwriting correctly, then her occupation is written as “locomotive drivers-wife.” German Empire passport photo


The text on page five confirms that the passport holder (Margarethe) is the person shown in the photo, but why is her husband there? This German Empire passport is a fantastic example of how photos were handles in those days due to the lack of clear rules. He should not be on the passport photo—a unique aspect of this passport, which I never saw before.

Passport photos are a most interesting characteristic and I have photos showing their bearer on a horse, with a dog, sitting on a bench, with a guitar, and even with a rifle and hunting dog.


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  1. Tom, I just love the picture in the German Empire passport. I haven’t seen it but I’m told that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a passport photo which featured himself, his wife, and children as well as the family dog! Stay safe and keep up the good work. Best wishes

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