04 April 2010
Posted by Mike Brubaker
Here is a large format photograph from Chicago. Maybe. On the back is written P.E.D. Chi. Orchestra 1900. The photographer's name is embossed into the lower left corner: Stuebler Photo. Does Chi. indicate Chicago? What about P.E.D.?
Stuebler is a very uncommon name and I can't find any person, much less one who was also a photographer, from 1900 to connect it to a specific city. One reference in the Penn State University collection of photographs is a photo by a Stuebler from Philadelphia, but with no date. I'll keep searching, but for now these fellas must remain another mystery.
I think they look like a college orchestra. The conductor, seated in the center, has the air of a professor. Though at this time, any band or orchestra leader was commonly called "Professor". It did not denote any academic credentials but seemed more an appellation of any superior musician who also taught lessons. The 21st century continues this kind of silliness with the habit of giving orchestra conductors the meaningless title of "Maestro".
It's also possible they are part of a theater orchestra, though I think they don't seem shop-worn enough to be pit orchestra musicians. This is a very large albumen photograph of a fine quality, about 10" x 13".
I should point out that all the image files on my blog are reproduced at about the same size but the originals can be very different sizes. The process of copying and correcting the photos, and then putting them onto the computer screen, reveals details that might be missed in the smaller formats. But the problem with larger photos is that it is equally difficult to reproduce the great clarity that came from early cameras. Here you can really see the shine of hair oil on these gentlemen. The photographer got just the right light for the dark formal dress, but the shirts and collars are so sparkling white that he felt a need to outline the white ties in pencil. Mr. Stuebler would have loved PhotoShop.