Saturday, February 26, 2011

Registering for World War I

At the rather ripe age of 41, at least in military terms, my great grandfather, John Bowie, registered for the World War I draft. By 1918, the US government required men between the ages of 18 to 45 to register, so he wasn’t quite at the top of the age pool.

In browsing these records, I also came across the records for Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. Only Armstrong described himself as a musician at the time. Ellington was a government messenger in Washington, DC, while Ferdinand Joseph Morton gave his occupation as actor. According to Morton biographies, in his early years he travelled the country as part of a vaudeville troop.

On this form, he gave his date of birth as September 13, 1884. As far as I can tell, this date hasn’t been reported anywhere else. I’ve seen dates of September 20, 1885 and October 20, 1890. His tombstone has 1890 for the year of his birth. (He died here in Los Angeles in 1941.) Morton was also known to stretch the truth quite a bit. Some of these dates may have been due to vanity or in support of his claim of inventing jazz in 1902. Or course, it may have been simpler than that – in the days of home births and non-recorded births, he might not have known when he was born!


Tom said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome post! I look forward to reading more. I am so glad I discovered this site.

Gedeon said...


Just a quick word to let you know that you are featured in our blogroll on Radio.Video.Jazz

Please check our site. If you like our work, do link back to us.

If you feel like contributing, let us know.

A lot of thanks.

The Radio.Video.Jazz Team

Steve Bowie said...

Thanks to both of you!