I've been reviewing several US World War I Draft cards. Who determined whether someone was "tall", "medium", or "short"? Was there a standard range for "tall"? "medium"? "short"?

Just thinking it might be helpful in "picturing" ancestors.

To view representative images of the three US WWI draft card forms, click below:

  • Welcome to Genealogy.SE, missusmcvities. I edited your question; added links to images of the different US WWI draft cards.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 25, 2012 at 1:56

4 Answers 4


Kudos to Fortier for his rapid answer and his exhaustive collection of data. We have yet to ascertain if such a scale for WW I measurements existed, but if it did I feel it may be included in the large volume of anthropometric data and statistics on World War I soldiers was published by the Medical Department of the U. S. Army in 1921. Mentioned in the Tech Report 72-511-CE, supra, on p. 2.

"In this monumental work, Davenport & Love analyzed data on some 2,000,000 draft recruits of 1917-1918, and on 100,000 troops demobilized in 1919. While a large part of the material in this volume consists of medical or clinical information, it is significant that extensive analyses were made of the correlations between body size and clothing size. In fact, many of the procedures utilized today in applied military anthropometry may be traced to the work of Davenport and Love in 1921."

The study is available as a free downloadable Google e-book: (http://books.google.com/books/about/Statistics.html?id=DX2vRuAh6WMC).

Good luck

  • Kudos to the valuable reference contributed by your answer, too, George.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 25, 2012 at 17:13

The standard military interpretation of "tall" in 1917 probably lies one of these books:

Baxter, J.H., Statistics, medical and anthropological, of the Provost Marshall General's Bureau, derived from records of the examination for military service in the Armies of the United States during the late War of the Rebellion, of over a million recruits, drafted men, substitutes and volunteers. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1875.

Davenport, C. B. and A. G. Love, The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, Volume XV, Statistics; Part I, Army anthropology. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1921.

Finding them may be something of a challenge. They were included in the References list of this paper

TECHNICAL REPORT 72-511-CE THE BODY SIZE OF SOLDIERS U.S. Army Anthropometry-1966 by Robert M. White U.S. Army Natick Laboratories Natick, Mass. and Edmund Churchill Anthropology Research Project Yellow Springs, Ohio

which is available at http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=AD0743465

  • Great effort George Parris in meeting the "challenge" of locating a digital source for the reference I suggested (more in hope).
    – Fortiter
    Oct 26, 2012 at 2:29

The answer might be pretty mundane. The entry seems to simply be an estimate made by the registrar at the time of registration:


Question 1.—Tall, medium, or short (specify which)? Slender, medium, or stout (which)?

The answer in each case should be a single word, as "Tall," "Medium," or "Short." Do not try to give additional information.

Question 2.—Color of eyes? Color of hair? Bald?

State whether eyes are gray, light blue, dark blue, light brown, dark brown, or black. Color of hair should be given as light, light brown, dark brown, black, or red. Whether bald or not should be answered simply as "Yes," "No," or "Slightly." Do not add anything else.


See Registration Regulations (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1917), p. 19. (Included in Acts and Resolutions Relating to the War: Passed During the Sixty-Fifth Congress, First Session... (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1917), p. 111.)

  • Welcome to G&FH SE! As a new user be sure to take our 2 minute Tour to see the features of this site which works differently to discussion forums, bulletin boards and other Q&A sites. Your first answer is much appreciated - it's never too late to provide answers here.
    – PolyGeo
    Oct 28, 2015 at 7:46

About 6 feet and below was considered "medium". I think about 5'6" or 5'7" and below was "short". Anything above six feet was "tall", generally not including the six feet. Sorry for being late.

  • Hi Hmph, welcome. Do you have a source for the information in your answer?
    – Harry V.
    Feb 27, 2018 at 3:49

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