Interior of the backshop of the Chicago & Alton Railroad at Bloomington, Illinois, in 1918, on the occasion of a "patriotic sing" for management and employees during World War I. A large and transparent U.S. flag hangs from trusses above the singers, who number in the hundreds. In the photo, despite women and African Americans playing a larger role in railroading during World War I, there are no women or people of color in the picture. Fourth from the right in the front row is Helmuth Mau, a German-trained tinsmith and master sheet-metal worker. McLean County Museum of History has examples of his metalwork.
Captures the fervor of management and many union members in support of U.S. World War I patriotic efforts. However, numerous persons in the photograph appear to be less enthusiastic than than the men in the front row who are wearing business dress, compared to the hundreds in work clothes. The local union and management jointly organized the "sing." Some workers were immigrants or children of immigrants from countries on both sides of the conflict, and they doubtless had mixed feelings about such an event. The communnity had a history of Socialist Labor Party candidates for municipal office and for labor militancy.
While the shop was a c. 1910 facility for locomotive repairs, the number of people in the picture prevents seeing much of significance.
The lighting of this large group picture, emanating from clerestories and locomotive-sized openings at the ends of the buildings, gives the image more character than is found in many group shots. The cross section of the world of railroad workers encourages the viewer to examine faces, postures, and clothing to conjure up stories about individuals, their work, and their emotions about this event.