Photo Mystery: What’s the insignia or medal?

Joseph Zawodny, c.1914

Joseph Zawodny, c.1914

This photo of my great-grandfather, Joseph Zawodny, is one of two that I am fortunate enough to own. It’s a nice portrait, though slightly damaged – the top of his head missing was not the fault of my talent (or lack thereof) at cropping photos. But what intrigues me the most is what I don’t know – what’s the lapel pin or medal he’s wearing? I’ve tried to enlarge it, but the original photo is not high quality and attempts at enlarging just the pin haven’t made that area any clearer as you can see below. So now I’m calling on all armchair photograph detectives for help – can you solve the mystery?

Here are some facts for background information:

Subject: Joseph (Józef) Zawodny

Date: approximately 1914, based on a notation on the back of the photograph, “age 35”.

Place of Photograph: taken at “J. Peel” studios in Philadelphia. The photographer had two locations listed, but based on where the Zawodny family lived it was probably taken at the studio at 3060 Richmond Street.

Joseph was born in 1879 in Poland in a small town near Dobrosołowo, Konin. He married Waclawa Ślesinska on 28 January 1902 and left Poland two months later, arriving in New York in April, 1902. His wife would follow in 1903, and they settled in Philadelphia to raise a family. Although he was rumored to have served in the military (whether it be the German, Prussian, Russian, or Polish army), I have not found evidence of this in the marriage record. He was only 23 years old when he left Poland. However, could this be a military insignia from one of those armies? He did not serve in the US military, at least not that I have found so far. Another legend puts him in the Merchant Marines, but my grandmother was a good story-teller and enjoyed flash over fact so I’ve put little faith in that one.What is this?

Could the medal be related to some sort of Polish fraternal society?

Joseph was active in his parish, St. Adalbert’s in Philadelphia. He also had an insurance policy with the PRCUA, the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America. He became a naturalized US citizen in 1927 and died in 1944.

If anyone has any ideas on the mystery insignia, please leave a comment!

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2 thoughts on “Photo Mystery: What’s the insignia or medal?

  1. I would suggest that he was a member of one of the church groups. The “Dom Polski’s” had many subgroups for men and women, veterans etc. Poland was not big on medals, so there too it might be concerning a church. Might even be a symbol of PRCUA. Good luck and happy hunting

  2. I read your post several tiimes to see if I missed any information.
    I myself have been looking at a medal on the military german ancestor. I have even researched a bit on line at military posts. I have wondered about the shape. I might look again too.

    I wanted to mention masons or woodsman or some kind of lodge fraternity. I know our Danzig ancestor was suppose to have been a Mason there before he came. Not well received there either. I say this with out having seen any kind of pins etc.

    Policeman or pilot or bus driver?

    I wanted to see what his occupation was when he came to Pennsylvania wasn’t it. Coal miner or factory. I am not sure about the time frame for unions.
    My grandfather worked coal mine in Illn around 1900. He had to be a union. Lately, I think I may have found a tie tack kind of jewlry that might have had something to do with mining. Maybe part of the union piece or a gift from someone. Unfortunately the picture we had faded from improper care. And his helmets and other things burnt in a house fire. So eagerly I will check to see if it is our only souvenir of his days as a miner. The wages went towards his farm purchase.

    I was thinking maybe some kind of union… or group.
    Something about the shape of it is in the back of my mind.
    I am wishing you the best luck for your search.
    just me here.

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