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 }

Music Without Borders

27 November 2015

These children have traveled a long way from home. I know where they started, and I know how they joined my photograph collection, but their journey in between is a mystery. Is it mother who draws their gaze off to the side of the camera? In later years did their children marvel at their youthful likenesses. Did some grandchild safeguard this photo inside the family album while emigrating to a new country? What great great niece forgot their lineage and sold their photo to an antique dealer? We can never know, as all that remains of their names or lives is this charming image of a sister and brother. 

The two siblings are posed artfully on a photographer's studio chair and pedestal. The girl is perhaps 6 or 7 years old, with her hair either cut with a boyish style or drawn back behind her neck. She stands on a chair with a book in one hand and a protective arm around the shoulder of her little towhead brother. He sits on a pedestal and looks about age 4 or 5. He holds a kind of recorder or penny whistle instrument. Though his hands are in the right playing position, both the whistle and book may only serve the photographer as props to limit the natural fidgetiness of small children.

Despite some scratches the image has a lot of clarity, the mark of a good camera. The photographer's name and location is printed at the bottom of this small carte de visite photograph.

J. Poruznik — Bieltzy



The back of the card has an elaborate engraved design.

Photographisches Atelier
J. Poruznik
vormals (formerly)
A. Kluczenko


Surrounding the proprietor's name are eight impressive medallions depicting awards won in 1875 by the photographer in Wien, Linz, Stanislawow, and Brussels. I would judge the photo to be a bit younger than the 1875 date, maybe 1880-85. The German words and names are because the city of Czernowitz was then part of the vast Austrian Empire. Today it is called Chernivtsi and is in Ukraine.

In one corner are Russian words with Cyrillic letters made by a rubber ink stamp. The second word means photographer so I suspect they indicate that copies may be had at any time, or words to that effect. But the language difference is due to the place name, Bieltzy, on the front of the cdv. It was quite common for successful photographers to open branch studios in other towns that were run by former apprentices. In 1880, this small town called Bieltzy, or Beltzy, was in Bessarabia, then part of the Russian Empire. In the 21st century it is now known as Bălți, Moldova.


The Austrian Empire comprised dozens of ethnic and national peoples under the authoritarian rule of Kaiser Franz Josef. The city of Czernowitz was about 600 miles east of Wien and was the capital of the Duchy of Bukovina. At one time Jewish residents were the largest percentage of the population, at over 25%, followed by Romanians, Germans, and Ukrainians. It is said that the famous Jewish melody, Hava Nagilah, was composed in Czernowitz. After 1918 the city became part of Romania, and after 1945 it was taken over by the Russian Soviet Union. 

Bieltzy was a much smaller town located another 125 miles east in what was then a Russian province. By 1890 it was an important rail hub of Eastern Europe. And it too was a center of Jewish culture. According to this website, in 1897 it had a population of 18,478 residents, divided into the following ethnic groups.  
  • Jews - 10,323
  • Russians - 3,627
  • Moldovans - 3,157
  • Ukrainian - 581
  • Polish - 533
  • Germans - 103
  • Armenians - 50
  • Greeks - 16
  • Bulgarians - 7
  • Gipsy - 6
  • Gagauz - 3
  • The rest - 72

Source: The Internet


This postcard shows another brother and sister, perhaps ages 11-13. The taller boy wears a large wool cap and heavy peasant boots while playing a recorder-like instrument very similar to the Bieltzy boy's whistle. His barefoot sister clutches his arm as she looks apprehensively into the camera lens. The caption reads:

Russian Types - Shepherds  

This pair might have considered themselves Russian citizens, but as the postcard was produced for the soldiers of  the Kaiser's German Army advancing toward an Eastern Front in 1914, they more likely spoke Polish or Ukrainian. The back of the card is dated 17 June 1916 and sent by German military Feldpost.

The two children from Bieltzy might be Jews, or Catholics, or Eastern Orthodox Christians. Who can tell? The young shepherds  might be Poles, or Ukrainians, or Romani (i.e. Gypsies). It is now too late to know, and does it really matter?  At some time over the next several decades, 1900 - 1991, people of every language, religion, and culture in this part of Eastern Europe became refugees. Families compelled to abandon their homes and property and take to the road. Constantly on the move, displaced by violent forces and in fear for their lives, people sought sanctuary anywhere that seemed safer than where they were.

Entire populations of Polish and Ukrainian towns were forcibly moved east, then west, and back again by one despot after another. Some ethnic groups like the Jews and the Romani, were murdered on a horrific scale still too monstrous to completely comprehend. People with contrary political beliefs, considered just as suspect as religious faith or national origin, were terrorized into secret prison camps. It begs repeating that history demands we not forget their suffering.

Which brings me to an unexpected feature that I found when browsing through the infinite internet. I wanted to convey the disquieting quality that I see in these two antique images of children. There is something chilling about knowing the location of their homelands and the time frame of their future. I went in search of an image of 21st century refugee children.

I found this.

A real story of our time
about a small Syrian child with a musical instrument.
An "instrument" so silly it only adds to the pathos of the boy's life.
Please watch it and t
hink of this boy's courage, his dream of peace.
Then consider what you would want for your children.

The following video was made for CNN and broadcast on November 27, 2014.
The original CNN article follows as published on their website.



In the busy streets, shoppers and workers rush by the homeless little boy with a flute -- some dropping change, but most ignoring him.

Sitting on the sidewalk in Istanbul, Turkey, his head is barely above knee height of the adults around him. But he plays on -- for hours, knowing that each coin or note can help his family survive another day.

The flute is a cheap one, but it is key to their struggle. The money he makes -- usually about $10 a day -- will help feed his mom and four siblings.

The family escaped the horrors of war in Aleppo, Syria, and he says they now live in a park. He does not say which park or if they have a tent for shelter at night.

According to U.N figures, there are about 1 million registered refugees in Turkey, but the country says the total is closer to 1.6 million. Research from the Migration Policy Centre adds that in the last couple of months, there has been another spike as Syrians flee the rise of ISIS.

The boy says he has been in Turkey for about a year.

He plays falteringly and his young face looks innocent, but he knows the cruelty of war. He says his dad died in Aleppo, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting in Syria and is a rebel stronghold that President Bashar al-Assad's army has attacked.

The boy, who says he is 6, complains that his head hurts and talks of the guns back in Aleppo.

As he plays on, he is relying on the kindness of strangers and watching for police patrols, as begging on the streets is illegal.

When police do see him -- this time as he walks back to his makeshift home -- an officer confiscates his flute.

But he cannot be kept down. A new flute is $5 -- half is daily profit -- but if he is to play on, if he is to help feed his family, if they are to have some hope, it's a small expense.

And tomorrow, he will play again.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link for more children at play.

The Kid Band of Caldwell, Ohio

20 November 2015

I don't see color very well. It's not because I am colorblind, but because I collect antique photographs that record images only in monotones. Early cameras produced lovely ochres, robust sepias, vibrant ambers, and distinguished greys. But they were never able to represent the true colors of reality. Negative films and glass plates still preserved a genuine likeness but we view these old prints through a kind of prism that converted colors into a smaller range of monotone hues. The result is that we may only guess at the actual pigments and shades. That is why this postcard image of a boys band is unusual. Someone corrected the "deficiency" of the original photograph by painting color washes onto the photo print. Instead of grey tone, we see that the young musician's uniforms are a russet red fabric. Their instruments are silver plated. Their faces a creamy beige.

They were the Caldwell Kid Band.

These 14 boys lived in Caldwell, Ohio and played in a band of mostly brass instruments with two clarinetists and two drummers. The youngest looks to be about age 7. The tallest might be 13. At the back stands their bandleader, a man wearing a bowler hat and an ordinary suit coat. 

The back of the postcard has no postmark but does have a cryptic message.

 Pick your
fellow out
 now for it
 will be to late
 some day

The front of the card has a caption in case we missed the band's name painted on the bass drum. No. 208,  Caldwell Kid Band, Caldwell, Ohio, which is repeated on the back with the information that it was Made in Germany. Until the advent of WW1 in 1914, most of the world's souvenir postcards were printed in Germany, so this card dates to around the beginning of the 20th century. 

Caldwell, OH is a small village in eastern Ohio and is the county seat of Noble County. In 1900 it had a population of  927, but in 1910 it could boast 1,430 citizens. Today that number has expanded only a bit more to about 1,700. Yet despite its size the townspeople supported both a men's band and a boy's band too.

In 2005, Pat Parks, a feature writer for the Cambridge, OH Daily Jeffersonian wrote a short history of the music making in Noble County. He said this about the Caldwell Kids Band.

An unparalleled musical organization was organized in 1906 by John Calland that was not composed of adults but was formed with youngsters ranging in age from nine to 13 years. They soon gained popularity and often traveled to neighboring villages for social functions. Calland moved from the Caldwell area in 1908, and an accomplished musician U.H. Shadwell, took over the reins when he left. The band became known as the youngest group of organized musicians in southeastern Ohio. They were called the Caldwell Kid Band.

Their repertoire included a wide variety of sacred and patriotic music, and their music attracted a crowd wherever they traveled. Members were Edgard Artman and Irwin Quick, tubas; Oscar Noble, baritone; Donald Dye, Benson Day and Earl Schob, trombones; Robert Shively and Miles Racey, altos; George Williams, Thomas Keenan and Frederick Schob, clarinets; Clare Shadwell, Danner Hastings and Harry Richcreek, cornets; Paul Conner, bass drum and Charley Ferguson, snare drum. Shadwell also sat in with his cornet at times.

The Noble County Historical Society was fortunate to receive several of the uniforms that were worn by the Caldwell Kid Band from Mary Richcreek several years ago. It is hoped to feature these uniforms and other memorabilia in a display at the historic old jail. The first annual assembly of the Noble County Chautauqua was held at Chautauqua Court on west North Street, Aug. 14-21, 1910, and the Caldwell Kid Band performed every afternoon and evening. C.C. Caldwell was the general manager of the affair. By 1913, the Caldwell Kid Band had grown up. The quality of their music was better than ever, but the novelty of youth had faded. They played their last concert in 1913.

The article includes a small image that was the same photo used in June 1907 by the Cincinnati Enquirer to promote the band. The caption says that the oldest member was 13 years of age and the youngest only 9. It then includes the surnames of the 14 boys. The scan of the newspaper is not clear but I think the two drummers on either side are the same boys as in the postcard. If I'm correct, then the man standing with the band is its first leader, John Calland. 

Cincinnati, OH Enquirer
June 7, 1907

Cincinnati is about 200 mile west of Caldwell, but in 1907 the Kid Band was beginning to make a statewide reputation.

Hillsboro, OH News Herald
April 22, 1909

Besides performing at local functions around Caldwell, the Kid Band also worked as the entertainment for a land company auctioning off building sites. In April 1909, an Ohio realty broker took out a full page advertisement for the sale of residential property sites called Highland Terrace in Hillsboro, OH, about 140 miles west of Caldwell.

Prospective buyers were offered free carriage rides to the grounds, and enticed with $500 of beautiful silverware given away free to people who attended the sale. Grand open air concerts were given by the Famous Caldwell Kid Band and the Hillsboro Military Band.

Reviews of the event the next week reported that seventy lots were sold at prices from $50 to $500. The Kid Band performed before hundreds of people.
The features of this land sale make me wonder if the strange message on the postcard refers to picking out home sites.


The 2005 newspaper account of the music in Noble County provided a nice list of the full names of the Kid Band and I was able to find most of them in U.S. Census records for Caldwell. Most boys had a birth year between 1896 and 1900. They were sons of farmers, merchants, managers, tradesmen, physicians, and lawyers and came from middle class rather than working class families. One boy, Miles H. Racey, was born in 1895 and was in the 1900 census where his father listed an occupation of Photographer. In the next census of 1910, father was gone and Miles' mother, Lindey Racey, was listed as divorced.

Her occupation?  Retoucher Photograph.

Did Mile's father take the original photograph of the band and did his mother paint the colors onto it? There were probably very few photographers in such a small town and I'd expect Mile's father gave a discount if his son was to be in the picture too. And Mrs. Racey must have taken some pride in her photo artistic skill to enter Retoucher as an occupation.  Miles H. Racey played alto according to the information in Mr. Park's article. That would be either the boy holding an alto horn and standing second left in the first cropped image,  or the boy seated center with a mellophone in this next enlarged image. Of course, a German print shop may have applied the colors to the postcard print but I like they idea that Mile's mother colorized her son's face.

The Caldwell Kid Band performed for a only very short time from 1906 to 1913. In a way their story reads a bit like Meredith Willson's famous musical The Music Man. At the beginning of the 20th century, public schools did not include band programs, or athletic sports for that matter. All across the country, adult musicians like John Calland organized similar bands for boys, and girls too, that would serve to train children in a useful skill and a satisfying discipline. I have found dozens of groups like this.

But by strange coincidence, this is the third boys band from the same area of Ohio. Unfortunately we see the boys in the other two photos only in sepia tones.

Back in 2009, I wrote about the Famous Cadet Band of Malta-McConnelsville, OH in my post entitled The Boys in the Band. The cards postmark dates this band of 12 boys and one dog to December 1909. McConnelsville is on east bank of the Muskingum River, opposite Malta which is in a different county. Their photo is in my top 10 favorite musical mages in my collection.

{ Be sure to click the images to enlarge them. }

In 2012 I wrote a post about one of my most challenging cases of photo detective work, the Boys Concert Band. This large format photo had the full names of the 9 band musicians and a date of 1908, but there was no location noted. After a lot of research I discovered that the boys all came from Pike Township in Perry County, OH. Alas, as much as I love this photo, I will never know the color of their uniforms. Red? Green? Blue?

In 1910, Pike Township, Malta, McConnelsville, and Caldwell had nearly the same population of approximately 1500 citizens. Pike Township is 22 miles west of the twin towns Malta-McConnelsville, which are 26 miles west of Caldwell.

The close arrangement of towns strongly suggests that they knew of each other, and could have met and played concerts together. But that is research for another day.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
Click the link for more boys at play.

Any Way the Wind Blows

13 November 2015

This is an uncommon photograph of a musician. His instrument, an oboe, is rare to find pictured in photographs, but it is because he is actually blowing into it that this becomes an uncommon musical image. With his lips clamped firmly on the reed, his eyes closed in concentration, we can almost hear the note he plays.

It's a small unmounted photo without any identification. His wool suit and tie gives him a vague 20th century style. There is a calendar on the wall behind him but the focus is too unclear to read a date. The room's plate rail, ornate radiator, and light fixture suggest a house style from 1900-1920. The curious phantom on the left is in the photo print and is not a paper tear.


Unfortunately we must imagine how this next man played the flute under his splendid mustache. He sits for the camera in a photographer's armchair that has elaborate carving and turnings. A flute made of African blackwood rests on his leg. He is well dressed with bow tie and dark suit that may be a bit older fashion than the oboist. The man's confident pose suggests a professional musician but not a vaudeville performer. This steely eyed flutist was not intimidated by any imperious conductor.

The musical term Woodwind refers to the group of instruments made of wood and sounded by a musician's wind, i.e. breath or air. The flute is the most ancient of this family and was originally made of wood though most modern flutes are now made of silver and gold. It is the only woodwind that does not use a reed to make the vibrating sound, but instead the whistle comes from blowing across the open tone hole at one end.


In this case we do know the name of the musician as he signed the back of his postcard.   

June 5 / 1915

Respectfully yours    | Alfred
Wm Levi                  | Levi

The postcard was also made in Canada, but despite my best efforts I've been unable to trace the name. Is the flutist William or Alfred? I think it is William Levi and the card was addressed to Alfred Levi who is perhaps his brother.

This next woodwind musician boasts a similar bold gaze. He holds a clarinet or clarionet as it was often called in the 19th century. The gentleman sports a fine mustache and goatee with a carefully groomed hairstyle that belongs to a decade that predates the flutist's postcard photo. His suit and broad bow tie are a men's fashion of 1870s-1880s.



This carte de visite or cdv has square corners, no border, and a simple imprint on the back for the photographer's studio.

Excelsior Photographic
Malone, N. Y.

The cdv fits into the type produced in the 1860s. Malone is the county seat for Franklin County in far upstate New York, very close to the Canadian Border and Montreal. In 1860, Malone's population was 6,565, and Charles Ferris, born in 1828, was the town photographer from around 1860 to 1890.

If it were not for the 50 year difference between the photos, the resemblance of this New York clarinetist with the Canadian flutist could almost make them brothers.


Here is another clarinet player with an impressive goatee and self-assured manner. Like the previous clarinetist, this man also wears a dark suit with piping along the collars and cuffs, which I think is typical of the dress of a 19th century professional musician.


This is a larger cabinet card photograph without decorative borders and only a very plain photographer's stamp on the back.

Justus Zahn,
High Street
Bet. Main St. and P.O.
Belleville, IL
All Work Guaranteed

This fits the early style of  cabinet cards that places it in the 1880s. Though the stout little clarinetist must remain anonymous, the photographer was prolific enough to be found on the internet.


Justus Zahn (1847-1918)
Source: Rosenberg Library Museum

Justus Zahn (1847-1918) traveled from Germany to the United States as a young man in the 1870s, after service in the German Army during the Franco-Prussian War. After first living in Chicago where he started work as a photographer, and then St. Louis, in the 1880s he moved just across the Mississippi River to Belleville, IL which was then a center for German immigrants. His studio there did not last long, as by 1887 he opened a new photography studio in Galveston, TX, another hub for German Americans. It was there that he made his career until the Great Hurricane of 1900 destroyed Galveston. He and his family survived, but he subsequently moved to Montana, which was safely above any ocean storm surge.

The history of Belleville, IL describes this influx of Germans. In 1880 the population was 10,683 and German was the language commonly spoken in town. In 1866, the community formed a Philharmonic Orchestra Society that remains active today. So it seems fair to say that German was probably this clarinetist's mother tongue.


The previous musicians are not dressed in band uniforms though they undoubtedly played in a band from time to time. However the next two woodwind players were members of military bands, specifically French army regimental bands. This oboist sits in a photographer's studio chair with his instrument, le hautbois or "the high wood" neatly resting in the crook of his arm. The oboe's double reed is clearly visible too.

The collar of his long great coat has his infantry regiment number 97 and his epaulets are in the style of a military bandsman.

This is another cdv and the style is similar to the late 1870s to 1880s. The photographer was H. Perla of Avenue du Verney, Chambéry, France. Monsieur Perla won an award in 1879 for his photography skill. Chambery was also noted for a base for the French army. I've found several similar photos of French soldiers by Perla that fit an 1870 to 1885 date.


This last musician also wears the uniform of a French military bandsman, but he holds a bassoon, which he is only pretending to play. His collar is hidden so his regiment number is unknown. He does have a military musician's lyre shoulder patch.

In earlier centuries, before the advent of valves for brass instruments, military bands depended on the double reeds of oboes and bassoons to carry the march tunes. As brass instruments became the dominant sound in the 19th century bands, the use of the oboe diminished and the small piccolo E-flat clarinet replaced it as the treble woodwind instrument.  However the bassoon retained its position as the bass woodwind instrument, and one or two bassoons were still commonly used in military bands until the First World War.  

For a bonus, at his feet lies another instrument, an alto saxophone. This instrument is usually associated with woodwinds because it has a single reed and key work like a clarinet, but it was never made of wood and was originally manufactured in conical shaped brass metal, making it a kind of hybrid instrument. It was patented in Paris in 1846 by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax.  This instrument came in several sizes corresponding to soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass, which made it more versatile and adaptable for band music.


This cdv dates from a later decade that the French oboist, perhaps 1890s or possibly 1900s. The photographer was E. Verry of 53 Boulevard de la Liberté, Rennes, France.  Whereas Chambéry is in the Rhône-Alpes region of south-eastern France, Rennes is in northeast Brittany.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone is going
Up, up, and away
in a beautiful balloon.



The Friendly Maids of WEEI

31 October 2015

Music depicts the beauty of sound. And very often beauty portrays the allure of music. A beautiful young violinist turns her gaze away from a moon-like vignette of a man. His name is crudely painted below his face – FREDDY.

They make a very romantic arrangement, but the couple are part of a larger image of five women, a musical quintet called The Friendly Maids of WEEI.  Marge is our violinist. On the left is Ethel on flute; Lilian on string bass; and on the the right, Mildred with her elbow on a piano; and Elizabeth on cello.

There's a saxophone too.

Postcards like this were a useful promotional material for a radio station. Based on the requests from listeners, the station management could judge both the popularity and signal strength of its programs. Since this new medium of show business lacked the visual cues of theatrical stage and cinema, programming needed a hook to attract an audience. Female musicians had a special appeal that worked for radio.

Radio Digest
March 1928

In 1928 this group provided music for WEEI radio, broadcasting from Boston, Massachusetts. If you tuned carefully to 590 kHz you could hear them play daily from 11:15 to 12, and after a short break for the noontime news, once again from 12:15 to 12:45 pm. The station's call letters came from the first owner of the station, the Edison Electric Illuminating Company, which began transmitting its signal on September 29, 1924.

Like many radio stations around the country, WEEI had a slogan, "The Friendly Voice", hence the name for the Friendly Maids. They appeared at midday after the 6:45-8 exercises; 8-8:45 musicale; 10-11:15 home service features. The afternoon brought market and garden reports with varied musical features. The evening changed to entertainment produced by NBC's Red Network in New York, which included symphony and band concerts.

One of the WEEI announcers was named Frederick Hawkins, and I suspect that Frederick is Freddy. He probably read the news with a great baritone voice too.

* * *

The earliest mention that I found of the Friendly Maids of WEEI was in newspaper radio schedules for 1927. Some time after 1928, they became the Metropolitan Dutch Girls. Even though it was radio, they still had to dress the part, and this next clipping shows the quintet in elaborate Dutch folk costumes, complete with wooden clogs. A footwear that must have annoyed WEEI's sound engineer to no end whenever any of them tapped a foot to the music.

Source:  Diana Lewis Burgin All Rights Reserved.

The image gives us the full names of the Friendly Maids: Lillian Arnold, string bass; Mildred Goodwin, piano; Ethel Hobart, flute; Elizabeth Lobdell, cello; and Marjorie Posselt, violin, who was the leader of the quintet. (Hobart was misspelled Kobart) I don't believe any of them was of Dutch ancestry, so I presume the name, Metropolitan Dutch Girls (which I found as a full name on several radio schedules) came from an advertiser's sponsorship. I don't know if this was their everyday dress for broadcasts.

I discovered their names from a family history blog about Ruth Posselt, a noted Boston concert violinist, whose first teacher was her older sister Marjorie Posselt. This excerpt from the blog of Ruth's descendant, Diana Lewis Burgin, gives the family details. 
 Ruth’s father, Emil Posselt, came from a musical family in Dresden Germany and emigrated to the US as a teenager in a German orchestra in 1885. He was a violist, violinist, and played several band instruments. According to family tradition, he toured with Nellie Melba when she concertized in the United States. A proud member of the musicians’ union (Boston local) Emil made a modest living as a freelance musician and music teacher. In 1893 he married Ida Lewis Pierce from Middleboro Massachusetts, whose forebears traced their lineage to the Mayflower and Anne pilgrims. Ida was a graduate of the Bridgewater Normal School and a singer; her sisters were all professional musicians and one of them, Maud Pierce Allan, had a career on the stage and in the movies. Emil and Ida also had 7 children: Gladys, Molly, Marjorie, Emil, Grace, Naomi and Ruth. All except Naomi had musical talent and Gladys, Marjorie and Grace made careers in music. Marjorie was Ruth’s first teacher, and Gladys was Ruth’s accompanist for several years before Ruth went to Europe. Later, Gladys married Emanuel Ondricek, a well-known Czech violinist and pedagogue and Ruth’s main teacher.
                                           Copyright © 2007 Diana Lewis Burgin. All Rights Reserved.

Majorie Posselt was born in 1897 and was already a professional musician before she began work at WEEI. In 1926 Ethel Hobart, Elizabeth Lobdell, and Mildred Goodwin were all featured on WEEI radio as a flute, cello, and piano trio. On the 1920 census for Boston, Lilian Arnold, born in 1898, listed her occupation as Musician, orchestra. Then, as now, Boston was an important center for musicians, especially female musicians, and it had a long history of successful ladies orchestras and bands. Clearly the Friendly Maids / Dutch Girls quintet of WEEI were accomplished performers when they posed for the photographer. In an earlier decade they would be just a minor Bostonian chamber music group. But in 1927, they became something more.

It was the age of radio.

Radio Age
March 1927

The first radio broadcasts in the United States began in 1920, but there was a limited audience because there were so few radios. For all their simplicity, the early crystal sets required delicate tuning and lacked speakers, making it difficult to hear through a small earpiece. Over the next few years, radio technology changed rapidly, as enthusiasts struggled to understand complicated assemblies of vacuum tubes, electrical power - both AC and DC, aerial antennas, ground wires, speaker cones, and cabinets. The first magazines with a radio theme were designed to appeal to a geeky masculine readership with pages filled with electronic diagrams and detailed analysis of the latest advances in wireless science.

This first period of the radio age was all about basic communication. Music and entertainment was secondary. Three covers from 1927 issues of Radio Age illustrate this point.

* * *

Radio Age
May-June 1927

Presumably the runaway steam locomotive about to go off the rails in the first image will be saved at the last moment by a radio signal. That futuristic notion could still use some work in the 21st century.

The second image shows a telephone conversation  between New York and London. In fact the first transatlantic phone service opened in January 1927 and used radio rather than cable for part of the signal. Incredibly, the first videophone device was demonstrated in April 1927.
Radio Age
July-August 1927

On the last cover, I'm not sure what's happening between the deep sea diver and the airplane, but you could read about it on page 34.  

Meanwhile other radio magazines focused on a feminine readership, and the difference is striking. 

Radio Digest
February 1927

The magazine Radio Digest published long schedules of radio stations with their frequency and program times. Its articles covered radio celebrities, sports, and entertainment rather than the arcane minutiae of electric circuitry. The front covers also displayed more eye candy than Radio Age. The fluffy-haired blonde on the February 1927 issue was Gladys Johnson, the staff cellist at KGW in Portland, Oregon. She was supposedly well known to Radio Listeners throughout the territory from Alaska to Yucatan. Given the way that AM radio transmissions traveled through earth's atmosphere, that was probably not an exaggeration.

Radio Digest
February 1927

Radio Digest
October 1927

By the fall of 1927, Radio Digest switched to printing in color and singer Anne Cornwall from WMAQ, WEBH, and WQJ in Chicago adorned the cover for the October edition.

Radio Digest
October 1927

Radio Digest
January 1928

In January 1928, Miss Eunice Johnson from KOA in Denver, Colorado was the cover highlight for the Radio Digest. Beauty seemed to be her main talent, though still in her teens, she sings and talks to her audience like an old timer.

Radio Digest
January 1928

These covers came from a wonderful archive of the Old Time Radio Researcher Group, where there are hundreds of PDF files of similar magazines devoted to the people and technology of radio's pioneer history.

Marjorie and her quintet were not destined for a long run on radio. But they represent an important change in American culture as it accepted more contributions from talented women.. All across the country, radio stations competed for advertising dollars by trying out new programs, new music, and new novelties. The medium needed creative ideas to invent a modern entertainment. The Friendly Maids are an example of how hundreds of women found opportunities in radio and show business.  

The Radio Digest for March 1928 printed a long Who's Who list of radio personalities. There were coloratura sopranos, contraltos, tenors, baritones, basses, saxophonists, clarinetists, pianists, cellists, and even a one-man orchestra. Marjorie Posselt was listed the Leader of the Friendly Maids, Instrumental Quintet, WEEI.

Radio Digest
March 1928

Frederick Hawkins, the announcer for WEEI was on the list too, and it's unlikely we will ever know his full story. Marjorie's wistful expression was perhaps intended for another truelove.

Harrisburg PA Evening News
February 19, 1924

In February 1924, several newspapers around the country reported that Marjorie Posselt's violin, worth $1,600, was stolen from her automobile. When it was recovered by police she happily said, "It is closer to my heart than any man will ever get."

Harrisburg PA Evening News
February 19, 1924

I include the larger section of this newspaper page, so that you can also read about the eight foot tall statue of the Prince of Wales; the favorite winter sport of Columbia University students; the clever anti-blinding Kleig Eyes hood; and the British harbor pilot, possibly over 8 feet in height, who made an unexpected voyage to New York. 

And what about that saxophone?  It turns out that it wasn't Freddy's instrument after all. It was Marjorie's. In 1941, the Palm Beach FL Reporter reviewed a solo recital she performed for the Ft. Lauderdale Music Study Club. Though her program was principally music for violin, she did offer several selections on saxophone.   

Sax and Violins. That's real show business talent.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link for more stories in a mirror.


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP