Laurel and Hardy
and the
Sons of the Desert
are at the heart of
Bowler Dessert Online

US WW1 registration cards

Mark Potts investigates


There have been many books and articles written about the Boys, and it seems that every part of their lives has been studied and debated - bar one. With 2018 being the final centenary year of the Great War commemorations, I had been researching some men who fell during the four-year conflict, when I came across the U.S. registration cards on the internet.

On 6 April 1917, the United States had declared war on Germany and officially entered WW1. Six weeks later, on 18 May 1917, the Selective Service Act was passed, which authorized the president to increase the military establishment of the United States. As a result, every male living within the United States between the ages of eighteen and forty-five was required to register for the draft. The period of 1880-1920 was a high immigration period to the United States. Young men were required to register for the draft regardless of their U.S. citizenship status. Of course, not all the men who registered actually served in the armed forces, and there were some who enlisted and served in the war but did not register for the draft. This draft consisted of three separate registrations and the first took place on June 5, 1917, for men aged twenty-one to thirty-one - men born between 6 June 1886 and 5 June 1896.

Now one question that I have not seen answered regarding Stan and Ollie was their role during the Great War and did they in fact step forward to serve. I had heard a story that Ollie had been keen to serve, but was turned down owing to the fact he was overweight. But where was the evidence?

So after discovering the U.S. WW1 registration documents, I decided to input the names of Oliver Norvell Hardy and Arthur Stanley Jefferson, but didn't expect to find anything apart from namesakes. Imagine my surprise when I found both registrations!!! The reverse sides of the papers are a bit difficult to read (especially Ollie's) but they state that Ollie was 'very stout' and Stan was 'slightly deaf.' I wonder whether these were the reasons they never served?