A Passport Without A Photo

A Passport Without A Photo 150 150

Before affixed photographs were required in 1914, applicants swore “solemnly and sincerely” to be U.S. citizens and identified themselves by facial features, hair, eye, and complexion color. This is one of the oldest passports in our collection from 1859-belonging to Samuel Waller (1824-1864). A New York City dry goods importer, Waller traveled frequently to Europe to buy fine clothing for resale. While passports for international travel were not required until 1941, U.S. travelers often did so to prove their American citizenship for protection during foreign wars; in Waller’s case, the Franco-Austrian War. His economic forays served him well, for at the time of his death at the age of 40, his estate was valued at $166,000 (2.5 million today)! Waller identified himself as having a “straight” mouth, “round” chin, and “florid” (ruddy) complexion. But how could anyone tell under that fashionable beard!