This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Another Tuba Baby

20 May 2016

   A very small fiction   
   sketched from an old postcard photo  

Time seemed to slow down on warm days like this. Even with drapes the skylights kept the studio uncomfortably hot. Franklin was half asleep when the jingle bell on the front door announced a visitor. He quickly jumped to his feet and greeted his afternoon clients. "Hello, hello, hello. Right on t..t..time," he stammered even though they were 30 minutes late. "Very pleased to have you come in today, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey." Which indeed he was, as tardy business was still business. "And is this our subject for today?" he exclaimed at the small face peering from under a froth of coverlets.  

The young woman lifted the infant from its perambulator. "Yes, this is Albert Bailey... Junior," she said, giving a smile to her husband. "I do apologize for our delay, but we've just come from his christening and Reverend Joyce did go on a bit longer than we'd planned." She removed the child's cap.

"Quite alright, I'm sure," said Franklin. "I've got everything ready in the next room. The camera is very quick and we will be finished before little Albert will hardly know it." He led them into the studio. "I've selected a number of chairs and stools appropriate for posing small infants. N...n...not that Albert is all that little, of course. You may also choose between several sheepskins and Persians as well. It adds a bit of texture and hides the pillows that keep him upright. This backdrop has been very popular."  He pointed to a gauzy forest scene.  

Mrs. Bailey sat on a large wickerwork chair and placed the child on her knee, as Mr. Bailey swung a large satchel case from off his shoulder. "We was wondering if we could do something different, Mr. Wilson," he said as he began unfastening the clips on the case.

Franklin squinted at the bag getting a glimpse of bright silver. He had a funny feeling about this. "And what would that be, Mr. Bailey?"

"Yesterday we showed off Albert to Clara's Uncle Gus. You know he plays piccolo in the town band with me. Anyway, Gus says, 'He's a real corker!' he says, and that got me to thinkin' that Albert's just the right size to actually be a corker." Reaching into the case, Mr. Bailey hoisted a large tuba into the air. "We wanta take his picture sitting inside the bell of my tuba. Kinda like a mute. We though Clara and I'd be in the picture too." 
Franklin looked at the gleaming instrument and blinked a few times, speechless. Wherever did people get these odd notions? "Well, yes, I suppose we can do that. But you'll have to hold onto him. Perhaps my standard cloud backdrop will be best to highlight young Albert here."  He went over to a chest and pulled out a sheepskin, spreading it onto the carpet. Then with a long pole, he adjusted the skylight drapes to let in the afternoon light. "If you will put your tuber horn right here, Mr. Bailey, so's I can check the focus." He turned the camera on its tripod and peered through the viewfinder. "Very good. Now lets try young Albert to see if he f...f...fits."

The mother lifted her child into the bell of the tuba as the father crouched beside it. Franklin took a quick glance at the lens setting. If he knew anything about children, this babe was about to protest. As the parents gazed fondly at their son, he squeezed the shutter bulb. 

The whimper began in the next breath, like a hesitant breeze preceding the storm. As father grasped the babe to lift it out, the little cries became a cyclone. "He won't come out! He's stuck!" shouted Mr. Bailey, as he gave the boy a twist. 

"Good lord! Don't pull him, Al," shrieked Clara. "His knees and toes are wedged into the tuba!" The baby's alarm climbed to a higher level of urgency.

Franklin rushed into the maelstrom. "Mr. Bailey! Blow! Blow long and loud!" He clasped his hands around the baby's waist. After a second of confusion, father bent down and gave a mighty toot on his tuba. BWAAAAaaaaa! The muffled vibration momentarily startled the child so that its bawling paused. Its little toes relaxed. Out he popped like a champagne cork into Franklin's arms, who hastily passed the baby over to its tearful mother.   

"Yes, indeed a real corker!" said Franklin. "Well, no harm done and I've got one good photo, but perhaps you'd like to come back tomorrow when Albert's quieted down." He hesitated, letting out a long sigh. "However, I would recommend we try a more conventional pose." The ashen faced mother nodded as she held the now sobbing infant. The father looked down the tuba bell with dismay. Franklin noticed the damp christening gown. "And if you would be so kind to empty your tuber horn outside, Mr. Bailey." 

He impatiently ushered them out the studio door. "The prints will be ready tomorrow at 10."


This tiny story is set around another example from my collection of Tuba Babies.  Most babies require training before they voluntarily cooperate to be used as tuba mutes. After an initial break-in period of soft long tones, they eventually learn to enjoy brass band music and usually are not frightened by the low noise of a tuba. On the other hand, a close proximity to piccolos and E-flat clarinets will cause undue distress to tiny ears.

This postcard photo of an unknown infant and its mother and father has no date or message. It does have the name of the photographer and his studio's location embossed on the lower border.  

F. H. Wilson
Byesville, O(hio)

Byesville is a village in Guernsey County, Ohio about halfway between Columbus, OH and Wheeling, WV.  With a population today of about 2,400, in 1910 Byesville reached its zenith when the number of residents nearly tripled from the 1900 census to 3,156 people. I suspect that was the decade when this tuba baby's charming photograph was taken.

Byesville City Band, circa 1910

The vast collection of vintage band photographs at the website provides a grainy image of the City Band of Byesville, OH. Standing center at the back of this band of 16 musicians is a tuba player who bears a rough resemblance to the father in my postcard photo. There are no babies visible.

Did Mr. F. H. Wilson take this photograph too?

Byesville City Band, circa 1910

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where this weekend there is a Special Sale on Babies.
Buy two and get the third for free!


15 May 2016

Corn oil. Corn Starch. Corn Syrup.
It's in nearly everything we eat today.
One might say it made America a great ...
big nation of corn-fed people.
But where does it comes from?
Who makes it?
Why is it musical?

The sign dominates the photo.
It was important to keep it in the photo.

Salads – Cooking
Corn Oil – Corn Starch

{click any image to enlarge}

Standing in the foreground of this large format photo
is a band of about 40 African-American musicians
arranged in marching formation.
They are dressed in neat two-tone uniforms
with double breasted coats embellished
with piping on the collars and cuffs,
and topped off with dashing military style berets.

Two men wearing ordinary suits and hats
hold a banner at the back of the group.
The banner reads:

Walter Mays, Director
Use CONN Instruments
American Maize-Products Company
New York       Chicago

The band's name is also on the head of the bass drum with the logo of the AMAIZO Brands company showing a globe resting on an ear of corn. In the background a parked car has an old fashioned leather strapped trunk attached to the rear of the car. A spare tire perches on the front running board. It's an automobile style dating from the late 1920s to early 30s. 

AMAIZO Brands Stock Certificate Logo

The front line of the band has four burly trombonists. It's the traditional place for trombones as a long slide arm can be a annoyance to other musicians unfortunate to be placed in front of them. 

In the center facing the camera are two men who command our attention. The black man on the left holds a conductor's baton and wears a single color uniform with a military officer's style cap. The man on the right wears a regular suit but sports the same beret as the bandsmen. He is quite tall and is also the only white man in the photo.

It's a company band whose members are employees of the American Maize Products Company or AMAIZO. They pose for the photographer on the grounds of their factory in the Robertsdale section of Hammond, Indiana just across the Indiana/Illinois state line from Chicago and only a short walk to the southern shore of Lake Michigan.

Images of America
Whiting and Robertsdale, Indiana

By Kimberly Eck, Jennifer Linko

The factory was established in 1905 by the Western Glucose Company. In 1908 it was bought by the the American Maize Products Company of New York who hired Raymond Daly in 1910 to manage the plant. The company manufactured corn sugar, cereal sugar, refined corn oil, special starches, dextrins, and other corn products. In 1928 the Hammond plant comprised 42 buildings containing 645,000 square feet of floor space, with a grinding capacity of about 35,000 bushels of corn per day. By 1930 the company had over 1000 employees keeping the plant running 24 hours a day in three shifts.

The factory manager, Raymond E. Daly, was noted for maintaining an aesthetically pleasing work environment at the plant, and promoting a progressive program for employees and their families that encouraged social activities, sports, and music.  According to the caption found on the excerpted picture of the AMAIZO factory, Daly managed the plant for 30 years. 

Raymond E. Daly (1877-1950)
1923 US Passport Application

I wasn't absolutely certain that he was the tall man standing center. But the archives of provided a US passport application that Daly made for a family trip to Europe in 1923. The virtual page has a grim photo booth image stapled to the back of Raymond Ernest Daly, born in Chicago in 1876. It's rare to find as close a match as this.

Chicago and Hammond newspapers reporting on various events and news of the AMAIZO plant never failed to include his name. There were baseball games, picnics, and parades that always needed music. Daly did not lead the band but he paid for it.


The other man was Walter Mays, the band's director. For readers who remember last weekend's post, behind him you can see two versions of the lowest of brass instruments. A traditional tuba on the left, with the player peeking out from under the bell, shows why it is such an awkward instrument to play in a marching band. And on the right is a Sousaphone, an American style helicon, demonstrating that even short people can play one.

Unfortunately Mr Mays left no records in the census that I could confidently confirm as his. But in 1942 the US government urgently needed to count its reserves of potential soldiers. Draft Registration card #U2026 belonged to Walter Mays of 5718 Indiana Ave., Chicago, age 58, born Sept 3, 1884 in Oakland, Cal. Employer's Name:  American Maize Products - R. E. Daly. 

With two men identified and a short history
this s
tory of a photo of a company band
might stop here.

But as my readers know,
there's always more to discover
than what we see in the photograph.

In 1917 the War Department had the same problem
and needed a count of our national manpower.
Draft Card 664-3653 belonged to Walter Mays
of 3434 Forest Ave., Chicago, age 34, born Sept 3, 1884.
Occupation: Musiacan (?!)
Employer: Charles L Cook, Riverview Park, Chicago.

Charles L. Cook(e) (1891–1958)
Source: Internets

Charles L. Cook(e) (1891–1958) was one of the African American pioneers of jazz music. He started with bands in Detroit and Chicago, gaining the nickname "Doc Cook", (dropping the last e,)  which he deserved as he was one of the few professional musicians in this era who earned the title with an actual Doctorate of Music degree awarded in 1926 by the Chicago Musical College. In 1910 he began working in Chicago clubs and theaters, with bands called   Cookie's Gingersnaps, Doc Cook and his 14 Doctors of Syncopation, and Doc Cook's Dreamland Orchestra. In the 1930s he moved to New York and worked as an arranger for Radio City Music Hall and Broadway shows.

As America entered the World War in 1917 Walter Mays was a member of Cook's band playing at Chicago's Riverview Amusement Park. At that time jazz music was just developing and sounded more like the ragtime of Scott Joplin or Eubie Blake than the improvised blues and dixieland styles that would come later in  the 1930s.

This clue led the discovery of the next part of Walter May's career. In November 1919 the San Francisco Chronicle listed his name as one of the musicians on clarinet and saxophone in the American Syncopated Orchestra. This professional orchestral ensemble of thirty negro musicians was on a long tour through the the less segregated regions of the United States, and in Canada too. For many audiences this was the first time ragtime, jazz, and spirituals were presented to the public in a serious concert by an African-American orchestra and conductor. 

San Francisco Chronicle
16 November 1919

Sacrament CA Union
23 November 1919

On 23 November 1919, the Sacramento Union printed a notice of the upcoming concerts.

Musicians Interpret Jazz

American Syncopated Orchestra
to be heard in Latest Hits

Real syncopation will be revealed to Sacramento musicians and music lovers at the Clunie next Thursday afternoon and evening, November 27, by the American syncopated orchestra.

This orchestra consists of thirty negro musicians who play the latest hits according to their own version of syncopation. They have attained fame throughout the country and are considered the best orchestra of its kind in the world. They play under the leadership of Will Marion Cook, a distinguished looking negro who knows music from A to Z.

There are Harvard graduates among the musicians. Many of them saw service in France as members of the "Black Devil Band" commended personally by General Pershing and French officials.

There are musicians among the men also. The solo violinist is a graduate pupil of the great masters of the violin and plays his numbers upon a violin valued at $500.

The American syncopated orchestra and singers bring to the performance of "jazz" rhythm and piquancy, and almost "perpetual motion", so smooth and flowing is the stream of melody evoked from banjos, strings, wood, wind and brass. The rendition of the negro spirituals is different from the interpretations that have been here, richer in harmony and more interesting.

Will Marion Cook (1869-1944)
Source: Wikipedia

Will Marion Cook (1869-1944), was another celebrated African-American musician, composer and violinist.  Born in Washington D.C., his father was then dean of Howard University School of Law. When his father died in 1879, Cook was sent to live with his maternal grandparents in Chattanooga, TN, where he experienced more authentic African-American music culture. His musical talent first took him at age 15 to Oberlin Conservatory and then later to the renown Berlin Hochschule fur Musik where he studied violin. In 1894 he went to New York and studied composition under the great Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.

In the 1890s he organized one of the first touring orchestras of professional black musicians. By 1919, he had produced several Broadway shows, published a number of music compositions, conducted choral and orchestral groups, and was a recognized leader of African-American culture.


One of the few beneficial consequences from the tragedy of WW1 was an increase in opportunities for African-Americans to advance into professional fields previously closed to them. In 1918 as audiences around the world became infatuated with ragtime and jazz music, Will Marion Cook, created a new ensemble called the New York Syncopated Orchestra. The following year it changed its name to the American Syncopated Orchestra and expanded its tour to the west coast, where Walter Mays is listed as clarinet/saxophone on two different rosters that I found.

In January 1920, the Chicago Music News published a review and photograph of Cook and his ensemble. Judging by the posture, I think Walter Mays is standing in the front row, 6th musician from the right. The reviewer, Redfern Mason, heard the orchestra perform in San Francisco, and wrote a generally favorable critique, but he uses such offensive racist and patronizing language to make his point, including chauvinistic views of Hungarians and Bohemians, that I won't repeat it here, but I encourage readers to click the image below and read the type of bigotry that black musicians faced during the 1920s.

Chicago Music News
07 January 1920

Chicago Music News
24 December 1920

Walter Mays was probably with the American Syncopated Orchestra in 1921 as its concert tour continued with a grueling schedule not unlike that of the Hungarian Boys Bands that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

The orchestra's programs were described as "jazz" music but they should not be mistaken for the big band styles of Duke Ellington or Count Basie that came decades later. The word syncopated was more about a Ragtime musical style which did not rely on improvisation. The orchestra also included a number of singers performing African-American spirituals, not to be confused with gospel music, that were familiar African-American folk tunes to many audiences who had heard them from other black vocal ensembles that toured earlier in the 19th century.

The American Syncopated Orchestra also played "blues" music derived in part from the kind of music popularized by W. C. Handy who created this now iconic American form from his experience in traveling minstrel shows. Minstrel music and blackface humor was immensely popular from 1870 to 1930. The music that Will Marion Cook programmed was deliberately intended to reject that stereotype by presenting his musicians as sophisticated and professional, but they still needed to sell tickets.


It is ironic that a 1921 advertisement for the American Syncopated Orchestra concerts at Los Angeles' Philharmonic Auditorium appears directly beneath an advert for shows of the Georgia Minstrels at the Mason Opera House.

Los Angeles Herald
24 February 1921

Hammond IN Times
05 October 1934

In 1934 the president of AMAIZO, D. K. David,  dedicated a new recreation hall for the employees of the American Maize Products company. It was named Daly Hall in recognition of Raymond E. Daly and his service to the company and employees. A bronze plaque was placed on the cornerstone with the inscription:

This Recreation Hall is erected in
recognition of true friendship and loyalty
as a lasting symbol of cooperation.

The building cost $50,000 and was built entirely by the plant employees on their own time, the company contributing to construction cost. The dedication was a surprise to Vice President Daly.

At noon, all 973 employees stood at attention and the AMAIZO band of 40 pieces, directed by W. H. Mays, played the national anthem.

This was not the only newspaper reference I found of the AMAIZO band performing at numerous events at the plant, but it is the one that seems closest to the photograph of Walter Mays and Raymond E. Daly.  Certainly the company photographer would have recorded the occasion taking care that the AMAIZO sign was in the picture.


Culture is never static. It's constantly in a state of flux influenced by changes in politics, world events, society, and people. This photo gives us a glimpse of a time when someone like Raymond E. Daly was honored for his efforts to make a large manufacturing company a good place to work for both workers and their families too. I've no doubt that the relationship between management and labor at the American Maize Products company had its share of struggle and strife. But Daly stayed with the Hammond plant for over 30 years and clearly was proud of his employees in the band.

Walter Mays represents another thread in the fabric of American culture. I feel certain that he stands next to R. E. Daly because he earned respect for leading a first-rate band that instilled pride in both the AMAIZO employees and the citizens of Hammond too. Walter's musicians surely knew of his background as a professional musician and admired him for his experienced musicianship.

In the 1960s and 70s the American Maize Products company swallowed up a series of companies manufacturing everything from sugar to tobacco products. As a result of various corporate mergers the Hammond plant is now part of  the Cargill global conglomerate. I am uncertain when Raymond E. Daly ended his career with AMAIZO or when Walter May's and his AMAIZO band gave their final concert. The last newspaper reference I could find is from 1941. A report of German advances on Leningrad is on the same page. It seems likely that WW2 intervened with a new and deadly influence on world culture. We can only imagine how many of the younger men in the AMAIZO band served their country during the war. When they returned things were never the same.     

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link to find more letters of the alphabet.

Austrian Plumbing

05 May 2016

A man of pride.
That's the person I see in this photograph.
It's in his self-confident stance with one arm akimbo.
It's in his simple but crisp uniform complete with medals.
It's definitely in his tall bowler hat worn with a jaunty tilt.
And if you look close, it's in the three signet rings on his right hand
that steadies the bell of his great brass instrument,

the helicon.

My estimate is that this proud helicon player posed for his photograph sometime between 1865 to 1875. The photographer of this small carte de visite was J. A. Sequardt, printed on the lower border. On the back is the photographer's elaborate imprint showing a checkered imperial eagle and medallions celebrating three pioneers of photography: Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833), Louis Daguerre (1787-1851), and Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877).

Herr Sequardt's photo studio was at No. 159. I. Stock in Prossnitz, also known as Prostějov, which is now in the Czech Republic. In the 19th century, Prostějov / Prossnitz was a small city in Moravia, a Czech province of Austria, hence the use of two languages in the imprint. Wikipedia notes that it is known for its fashion industry.

The Coat of Arms of Moravia
Source: Wikimedia

The Helicon is a bass brass instrument made with the same length of tubing as the more compact tuba. Typically the B♭ helicon is 18 feet (5.5 m) long. Four rotary valves add more tubing for another 12 feet that allows the instrument to reach all musical pitches. Unlike the tuba, the helicon's plumbing is designed to be worn around the player giving him a comfortable position for marching or while riding a horse in a mounted band. This musician's uniform coat has epaulets, but I would not label him a military bandsman as he may be a member of a civilian town band. Notice that there is a high shine on the helicon and the musician's shoes too. At the top of the bell is a shield emblem for the instrument manufacturer.

 Kaiser Franz Joseph I. von Österreich , 1877
by Edmund Mahlknecht (Austrian, 1820–1903)
Source: Wikimedia

Today Austria is a small country, but for centuries it was the largest nation in central Europe, ruled by the House of Habsburg and containing dozens of ethnic peoples and languages. Kaiser Franz Josef was its ruler from 1848 to his death in 1916, which covers both the beginning of photography and the development of modern brass instruments with valves. To judge by this 1877 painting of Kaiser Franz Josef wearing hunting garb and a bowler hat, he and the Prossnitz low brass musician shopped at the same haberdasher.

This young Austrian boy, aged 12 or maybe 14, is wrapped inside a helicon that is less circular and shaped more like a smooched doughnut. The instrument has four rotary valves and a bell with a straight conical flare. He stands in the photography studio of A. Obersteiner of Graz, which is a large city in the Styria province of Austria, about 240 miles southwest of from Prostějov/Prossnitz. The capital city Wien is about halfway between. It is known for its six universities.

At the lower left corner, someone wrote the year and possibly month, 1879 Julie (?). It is one of the oldest photos in my collection. The studio imprint on the back of the cdv has a simple design for the initials of A. Obersteiner at Annenstrasse No.12, Graz. Only a short walk from the studio and across the river Mur, is the Akademisches Gymnasium a grammar school founded in 1573 by Charles II, Archduke of Austria. The boy's suit and tie gives him the look of a young scholar, so he may a low brass player in a school band.

The lad looks somewhat self-assured
as he grapples with his ungainly instrument.
The helicon has a bit of polish but mostly has a dull patina of tarnish.
The bell looks like it was made of a red copper metal

and has a large medallion of the manufacturer
I imagine Herr Obersteiner asking the boy
to play a tune on his helicon.

Ommpah, ommpah, ommpah.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where a good shepherd always keeps close watch over his sheeps.

Pretty as a Picture

29 April 2016

Taking a group photograph requires real artistic skill to get it right. A photographer needs good timing to recognize that one second when all eyes are on the camera lens. Setting a correct focus and fixing a flattering light are equally important.  And of course in the age of film, no photographer could check the image for its success or failure until after the negative was developed and printed.

A photographer's dark room is a place of  almost mystical alchemy. Complete blackness cloaks the room except for a red safety light. Strange odors emanate from chemical soups. Like a conjurer the photographer watches the image slowly materialize onto the paper. He must judge the best moment to rescue the paper and transfer it to another bath before the ghosts dissolve into shadows. Only then does he know if his incantations have worked.

The anonymous photographer of this photo postcard smiled when thirteen lovely faces revealed themselves for the first time. These young ladies are a mandolin orchestra. We can not know their names, nor their home town. But it shouldn't stop us from admiring their fine portrait. 

The mandolin has eight strings but the pitches are doubled and share the same tuning as the violin. Like the violin family, the mandolin comes in different sizes and collectively mandolin instruments can play the same range of notes available to a string orchestra.

If you search for "mandolin orchestra" on YouTube, you will discover that there are thousands of videos from groups all around the world. These plucked and strummed instruments have a devoted international following that have arranged an astonishing variety of music. This splendid performance by the Madeira Mandolin Orchestra demonstrates why the mandolin is so popular. It's also a fine video portrait of young musicians concentrating on their music.  



Here in Appalachia, far from the Portuguese island of Madeira, the mandolin is often heard as the treble voice in traditional American bluegrass music. In August 2012, a record number of 389 mandolins played together in one gigantic mandolin ensemble at the Galax Fiddler's Convention, in Galax, Virginia. The music is the well known tune, Cripple Creek.

The video has some fun portraits of musicians too.
Bet you can't stop tapping your foot.



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone always likes a pretty picture.


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