Historic Documents, Photos from Post No. 5’s Walls Illuminate Preservation Possibilities

When Washington, D.C., archival photography expert Franz Jantzen stepped inside the Post No. 5 home and began to carefully examine the portraits, official documents and certificates lining the walls, he was amazed at what he found.

Nestled inside dusty, in some cases broken, frames were portraits of the Post’s namesake James Reese Europe and others taken by the Scurlock Studio, likely by famed photographer Addison Scurlock. The U Street-based photography studio emerged at the turn of the 20th century as the key documenter of the emerging black middle class in a segregated city.

“It’s in gorgeous condition,” Jantzen said of the James Reese Europe portrait, “which is even more incredible given its age.”

The Post also has James Reese Europe’s original Army commission, and his appointment as 1st Sergeant in Company K of the 1st Infantry of the New York Army National Guard. Other photos and documents tell the story of a Post actively engaged in the community, with photos of its band and drill team.

These scans, carefully captured by Jantzen with some digital restoration of acid damage and color fading, give a glimpse into what could be possible if a large-scale archiving project could be funded and undertaken at Post No. 5. While some photographs, like the Europe portrait, are in excellent condition for their age, many of the valuable documents badly need to be restored by a paper conservator.

“They can all be brought back from the brink” Jantzen said. The artifacts just need some loving attention, and the generosity of granters or donors who would be willing to underwrite the next stages of the preservation project.

  • M.C. Herod

    An undated Scurlock Studio portrait of M.C. Herod that was hanging on the Post No. 5 home's walls.

  • James Reese Europe

    An portrait of James Reese Europe by the Scurlock Studio, most likely taken by Addison Scurlock. It is also undated.

  • James Reese Europe's commission by the State of New York as 1st Lieutenant in the New York Army National Guard, dated Dec. 11, 1916.

  • James Reese Europe's appointment to 1st Sergeant in Company K of the 1st Infantry, New York Army National Guard, dated Sept. 26, 1916.

  • A hand-colored montage pays tribute to James Reese Europe's role a a renowned military bandleader.

  • Honoring its namesake's legacy, Post No. 5's band has a long history of winning awards and engaging with the D.C. community. This undated photo depicts the Post No. 5 band in front of Garnet-Paterson Junior High School.

  • One of two September 1939 photos in front of the Lincoln Memorial. This one depicts the Post No. 5 band.

  • This companion Sept. 1939 photo in front of the Lincoln Memorial depicts the Post No. 5 drill team.

  • The original charter for the American Legion James Reese Europe Post No. 5, dated Feb. 20, 1921.

  • The back of the charter has a list of charter members, a brief history, and a roster dated 1938.

  • An undated charter member roll.

  • Commander Clarence Sliger

    A portrait of Commander Clarence Sliger, who served as commander 1952-1963

  • Commander James R. Bell

    A portrait of Commander James R. Bell, who served as commander 1974-1976

  • A photo titled "D.C. American Legion Boys State 1968" documents Post No. 5's longstanding support of local youth.

  • "D.C. Boys State June 17, 1975, Fort Belvoir"

  • The back of the Boys State 1975 photograph

  • Some of Post No. 5's documents, like this one, date back to the Spanish American War.

  • Commander Claude P. Curley

    1953-1954 and 1954-1955—The Post moved from 1314 Vermont Avenue NW to its present home, 20217 North Capitol Street, NW during Claude P. Curley’s administration. Past Commander George H. Rycraw, Clifton C. Anderson and Commander Curley purchased the building with the approval of The James Reese Europe Post No. 5

  • Commander Elford Edwards

    Commander Elford Edwards was the Post Commander from 1986-1987.

  • Walter A. Jackson, Sr.

    Walter A. Jackson, Sr. 1945-46. Commander Jackson’s administration had the largest membership in the Post history to date: over 2000 members. He was elected Department Vice-Commander in 1947.

  • Benny L. Lucas

  • Lawrence Morton

    Lawrence Morton was the Post Commander from 1969-1970.