The Human U.S. Shield

Artist: Arthur S. Mole (American, born England, 1889–1983)

Artist: John D. Thomas (American, died 1947)

Date: 1918

Medium: Gelatin silver print

Dimensions: 32.5 x 26.4 cm (12 13/16 x 10 3/8 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

Accession Number: 1987.1100.478


Arthur Mole first developed his technique of collective portraiture in a religious context, photographing fellow church members gathered together in the shape of religious symbols. When the United States entered World War I, Mole and his colleague John Thomas turned to patriotic themes. They choreographed thousands of soldiers into formations such as the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty. Their largest production was the U.S. Human Shield, photographed at Camp Custer, Battle Creek, Michigan, which comprised 30,000 men.