In June of this year Tom Laemlein sent me an advanced copy of his latest Book, The Browning Automatic Rifle produced by Armor Plate Press. I had had a small part in the production of the Book. I was surprised by a Photo on P.13 of the Book captioned: “#14 – A U.S. Congressman takes his turn with the BAR on the Congress Heights Range in late spring, 1918.”Had I seen this photo I could have corrected the date, as it was Feb.27, 1918, I immediately recognized the Place and the People by their web gear. I felt strongly the face and figure were also familiar, none other than John Moses Browning, Himself. From the snow on the ground it is Mid Winter at best. My own Book had a statement to the effect that John Browning was not present at the Demonstration. That does not preclude his arrival after it was over to evaluate the First Public showing of Winchester’s early Production.
How does one prove beyond a shadow of a doubt a Photograph that is almost 100 years old? There exist three Publications that covered the Event. Two of them have been meticulously examined by the Author. The first was, “Arms and the Man,” the early version of the NRA’s Magazine, the “American Rifleman.” The second, a Hearst Publication was sent to the Author in the late summer, this year. The third was ,”Vanity Fair.” What positive statements can one make regarding this historic photograph? It is obviously a man in his sixties, of great height, six foot or greater. He knows proper firing techniques, having complete control and is comfortable with the BAR. He has a slight paunch from years behind a desk or drawing board. He is well dressed with a hat identical to JMB’s favorite hat. From his vest there appears to be a single large linked Gold chain similar to one seen in contemporary photographs of the great man. He appears to be clean-shaven, but since he has white hair it is difficult to see his chin or mustache due to his proper weld on the butt stock. Even his nose is obscured; more is the pity, since noses are a Positive ID point. Which brings us to his ears another positive indicator; all of the Browning brothers have a unique dimple in the lower lobe of their ears.
The photograph in question was sent to The Cody Museum and to the Railroad Museum in Ogden Utah. No one there could positively prove or disprove the identity as John Moses Browning. This author would very much like to have it authenticated, as this would be the only photograph that was not posed and he is firing his greatest rifle in History. To this end, I will offer an Autographed, one of two hundred series of, Rock in a Hard Place to the first one who can either prove or disprove the authenticity of this photograph as being John Moses Browning, or not!
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V14N8 (May 2011)|