This photograph presents a bit of a mystery. What organization does this couple represent? Their uniforms appear to be salvation army garb. However, many salvation army workers wore the letter “S” on their collar while this couple has the letter “F”  on their collars. Many salvation army members wore a collar badge with “Salvation Army” written on it. The gentleman in this image doesn’t appear to be wearing such a badge, but the woman may have one,  but it is unreadable. The individuals each have a bar on their shoulders which may indicate a higher than basic rank. Note the wire rim glasses that the gentleman is wearing and the magazine that he is holding. The reverse of the photograph has the name Swanson written on it.  The photographer who produced this image is James E. Purdy.The reverse of the photograph indicates that Purdy was the successor to Hastings, the former operator of the studio.  Purdy’s studio was located at 146 Tremont Street, in Boston, Massachusetts. He operated his studio in Boston between 1896 and 1930. He was a popular photographer in Boston. He was considered to be in the same caliber as the celebrated photographer, Chickering (to view photographs by Chickering, click on cabinet card gallery’s category “Photographer: Chickering”). One of the many famous people he photographed was Winston Churchill, who was in Boston (1900) lecturing about the Boer War. This is not the same Winston Churchill who so ably led Great Britain.


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22 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s likely to be a Salvation Army uniform from Norway.

    “The Salvation Army” in Norwegian is “Frelsesarmeen”, hence the “Fs” on the collar today.

    Hope you find this helpful


    • Thanks for the informative comment. Now we are faced with an interesting mystery. Why are there Norwegian Salvation Army workers in Boston? Perhaps they’re visiting friends, or attending an International Salvation Army meeting. It seems that every time a question is answered; the answer creates additional questions.

      • … or recently moved from Scandinavia to America?

  2. The “today” made it into the sentence because I had been about to say “and you will still see it today on Norwegian Salvation Army uniforms


  3. I’ll ask around…The Salvation Army world is a small one.

    I figure I can find out more info for you


  4. I can confirm that they are Swedish/Norwegian Salvationists who wear Fs on their collar. The Finnish have Ps, the Germans have Hs etc etc depending on how ‘Salvation’ translates in that country.

    You will see that the woman bears a broch on her collar which is a Salvation Army shield. Its not normal for the gentleman to have such a badge. THeir trimmings indicate that they are probably soldiers (memebers) of The Salvation Army rather than Salvation Army officers as they have no rank insignia which is why there would be no crest on the mans collar.

    It is a very early picture, late 1800s given the style of the epaulletes on their shoulders.

    Hope that helps.


  5. The magazine/newspaper he is holding is likely to be ‘The War Cry’ – the Salvation Army newspaper.

    One more point…the trimmings appear to be the same colour as the uniform, which again points to the fact that they are likely to be SA soldiers rather than officers. If they had rank, there would be stars or something in the epaullet bar.

  6. Another interesting aside is the name “Swanson” on the back.

    One of our current International Leaders shares the same surname.

    Here’s a brad new news post about Barry Swanson:

  7. The Salvation Army in the United States had a very large Scandinavian work in those days. We still have special celebrations for the Salvationists of Scandinavian descent every year and a newsletter that comes out several times a year in the USA Eastern Territory. We still have a Scandinavian consultant and there are still corps that have annual Lucia Fests and other special Scandinavian events.

  8. I just want to add that the ranks were also different in those days, and that they were not necessarily on the collars, but could be on the sleeve.

  9. Until 1958, The Salvation Army in the United States Western Territory had a Scandinavian Division under which all Scandinavian (Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian) corps in the territory reported to. It was a marvelous ministry with their string bands, wonderful Lucia Fests, and joyously loud singing. After the division broke up and the remaining corps were transferred to the divisions in which they resided, they lasted for a while longer.

  10. My grandfather and grandmother were Salvation Army officers in the Boston area in the early 1920s and their ministry was to Scandina.vian immigrants during their whole career in the Army.

  11. Hi! I have a few of Purdys photos that I found on a beach in Nova Scotia back in 1987. I was wondering if they have any value?


  12. This is definately The Salvation Army, who in America had Swedish speaking corps for many years (because of the millions of Swedish immigrants). The F stands for Frälsningsarmén which is Salvation Army in Swedish.
    Lovely picture!

  13. This is Colonel Sven Andersson Wiberg and his wife Anna Charlotta Petersdotter Andersson. They were Salvation Army officers and served both in the United States of America and in Sweden.
    He was born 1865-04-28 in Örtofta, Malmöhus län, Sweden and died 1947-10-29 in the USA.
    She was born 1871-02-23 in Rogberga, Jönköpings län, Sweden and died 1960-07-10 in the USA.

    • Thank you so much for identifying the Salvation Army couple pictured in this cabinet card. How were you able to identify them? Are they your ancestors? Thanks again.

    • This couple are in fact my ancestors. Anna Charlotta is my 1st cousin 3 times removed. Her father, Peter Magnus (where the Petersdotter comes from ) is the brother to 3 sisters with the last name Andersdotter. These 3 sisters, to this day, have a group picture residing in the Huskvarna Kulturhuset. There is an area called Smedbyn in Huskvarna. It’s an original factory workers housing. It’s now arts, crafts, and small food shops. An ancestor of Sven and Charlotta did extensive family research which allowed me more contact. When I saw the picture above, I did in fact recognize them. This is a picture I had never soon, so this is a pretty cool find for me.

      • I am happy that you found your way to the Cabinet Card Gallery and discovered this photograph of your ancestors. Finding photographs of ancestors, or photographs taken by ancestors, is not an infrequent occurrence at this site. Thank you for sharing the information about your family and Smedbyn.

  14. No, the couple are not my ancestors.
    But I am very interested in the early history of the Salvation Army in Sweden and that´s why I could identified them.

  15. […] sometimes came to America specifically to work with Swedish immigrants here.  (See for example this portrait from Boston, Massachusetts, and the comments underneath it from […]

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