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Pancho Villa and the Pennington Boys

July 19th, 2006 · No Comments

Pancho Villa

Vintage postcards can often be used to document family history and historic events. This post is prompted by the purchase a few weeks ago of a small collection of c. 1916 real-photo postcards (RPPC) of what at first appeared to be unknown doughboys from World War I. Closer inspection revealed the first RPPC to be a 1916 image of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, never shy of cameras, on a white horse. The card was sent from Hamilton, Ohio native Jasper Pennington to his brother, Alva Pennington, also of Hamilton, OH.

General Villa, a Mexican folk hero, led troops in the Mexican Revolution between 1911 and 1914, and he was the provisional governor of Chihuahua in 1913 and 1914. He was held in such high regard then that banks in El Paso, Texas accepted the paper pesos he had printed, at face value. Pancho Villa’s leadership also earned the admiration of the U.S. military; he was invited to meet General John J. Pershing at Fort Bliss, TX. Unfortunately for Villa, the U.S. government under President Woodrow Wilson ultimately supported one of Villa’s rivals. Villa reacted by attacking the 13th U.S. Calvary at Columbus, New Mexico on 9 March 1916, killing 10 soldiers and eight town residents, and making off with horses, mules and weaponry. President Wilson sent 8,000 troops under General Pershing into Mexico to pursue Villa, and launched the first-ever air combat mission with eight airplanes. Villa was never captured.

Defunct Camp Willis, Which Was in Columbus, Ohio

Eight thousand troops for the Pancho Villa Expedition were trained at Camp Willis, which was hastily created in 1916 (and torn down the same year). From this scarce RPPC of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment at Camp Willis, in what is now the Upper Arlington neighborhood of Columbus, OH, we learn that Jasper Pennington was one of the soldiers at this camp in 1916, which explains his possession later that year of the real photo postcard of Pancho Villa which was postmarked in El Paso.

Jasper Pennington and Charlie Black, World War I Doughboys

The final military image in this vignette is a nicely presented patriotic view of Jasper Pennington and his friend Charlie Black, both of Hamilton, who joined the Army together on 21 June 1916. Written information on the back of an old postcard can often flesh out the image seen on the front.


Other Pennington family pictures from this small but charming collection depict one person dressed in cowboy garb in a studio setting;

Banjo Player

an unhappy-looking banjo player caught in the crossfire of politically incorrect mock gunplay;

Halloween Costumes

and family members costumed as if for Halloween. If you have such images of your family, treasure them. Learn more about dating real-photo postcards on our reference page at

Learn research techniques that will help you document vintage postcards on the Internet.

Copyright ©2006

Tags: Postcards

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