The photo is from the early 1930's and the Lehr's are rehearsing at home for their traveling show. Family bands had always been a popular entertainment in the 19th century and good business for the families that had talent and numerous progeny. But by the 1920's and 30's the opportunities for success in these kinds of concerts was rapidly declining. Vaudeville had left the big city theaters and begun a decline into a cheaper tawdry entertainment we now associate with burlesque. The traveling circuit was growing smaller and the season shorter, and the competition from Hollywood and radio, meant a diminishing audience. The Great Depression did not help either.
Here the Lehr family is on stage, showing mom and dad with 8 children. This second photo came from a York, Pennsylvania source which suggested a location in Maryland or Pennsylvania. With so many different newspapers and state archives to chose from, location can really determine success in research. So this led to a discovery in the August 13, 1938 edition of the Daily News of Frederick, MD.
John A. Jr and Mabel Meisenhelder Lehr lived in North York, PA with 8 children. On the 1930 census John scratched out his occupation as machinist and listed musician/orchestra instead. He played saxophone and Mabel played the piano. This musical family band played churches and civic gathering around the Gettysburg and York County, PA, and Frederick, MD area from 1926 to 1941. The Lehr siblings are in order:
- Hazel M. - b. 1910 - trombone
- Standford I.M. Lehr- b.1912 - violin
- David Samuel Lehr - 1914- clarinet
- Catherine Mabel Lehr - 1916- saxophone
- Theodore John Lehr - 1919 - drums
- Virginia June Lehr - 1921- saxophone
- John Philip Sousa Lehr - 1929 - drums and conductor
- Victor Herbert Lehr - 1932 drums and vocal
One can only imagine the noise of the Lehr household. And such aspiration to name the youngest children after the two most popular American composers of the early 20th century. The report that John Philip Sousa Lehr won a prize at the Chicago Fair in 1933 and that Victor Herbert Lehr was taking instruction from the great band leader Frank Goldman in New York suggests the family did some traveling beyond York. Ambition for the youngest talent was also a common family band tradition.
But after 1941 the trail goes cold, and I find no clues to suggest that any member of the Lehr family orchestra ever went on to great musical fame. But I feel certain that they each found a passion for music that ultimately became the real reward.