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 }

A Mystery Band

08 January 2011


Many photographs are mysteries frozen in time. Where is this band? When was this photo taken? No one bothered to write anything onto the back of this wonderful postcard, so we must guess. It reminds me of a children's book, Where's Waldo? Let's look more closely, maybe his striped shirt will peak out from behind the bandstand. {click the image to zoom}

This is a big band with 30 players, not counting one more at the back of the bandstand. They stand in a traditional circle/square with the first cornet leading from the center. There are 4 French horns which is not typical for a town band. And they are piston valve horns too. At the six o'clock position with his back turned to the camera, is a bassoonist, again an unusual band instrument. The player at 5 o'clock seems to have no instrument, but he does have a cane. Maybe he is a piccolo player waiting to play the trio section. Didn't Waldo have a cane? Most, but not all, are playing from music folios clipped to their instruments. This is a pretty sophisticated group of professional-like musicians.

I think they are a circus band. Or possibly a "military" band, which was a concert band that specialized in "military" march music but was not connected with the regimental army bands. John Philip Sousa had many talented competitors whose bands toured America.

The bandstand is decorated  with something like evergreen foliage rather than  patriotic bunting, so it's not the grand and glorious 4th. But with several straw hats visible the people seem dressed for summer, and just to the left of the band  stands a dapper gentleman dressed in a striking white suit. Why is he looking away from the performance? Could he be the circus manager? The time is summer for sure and the dresses and hat styles suggest 1905-10.

On the bandstand, an older bandsman and a seated man both wear some kind of badge pinned to their lapels. Several other bandsmen have them too. There is a girl or maybe two at the back of the stage. Perhaps they will be part of the performance once the band moves onto the stand.

The store is named The Fair. There was a department store in Chicago called The Fair, contemporary with Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Wards. But with dirt streets this isn't Chicago, though there are trolley card rails, so this is not a small village. In the store window is a display with B.P.O.E. - the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Could this be an event for  the Elks Lodge?

Leaning against the large pillar, a man bends over showing the top of his straw boater. I think he is holding a camera taking a picture of the band too.  So many tantalizing clues and yet the mystery remains unsolved.   And we can't find Waldo either.

My contribution to Sepia Saturday

8 comments:

Marilyn said...

I love the photo and all of your observations, you had me gong back to the photo to look and then look again.

grace said...

What a fantastic treasure from the past. thanks for sharing.

TICKLEBEAR said...

well, you didn't find Waldo, but you did find many hints. i suspect, given time, you may find the source of this photograph.
good luck!!
:)~
HUGZ

Kristin said...

No Waldo but there is a woman over there on the right with a stripe like design on her bodice. Very interesting photo more so because of your observations.

Karen S. said...

Waldo stepped out for refreshments I think, but what a fabulous splash of past and awesome mystery included! What do you suppose the B.P.O.E. meant in the photo? I love all the little things going on in the picture as well...conversations and such, and what is the man in the white suit up to? But the gentleman sitting on stage has like a special ribbon and badge like, perhaps it was something like swearing in a new mayor or something like that!

Pat transplanted to MN said...

All your thoughts generated so many more for me...it does look like quite the gathering of people, so I would think Chicago area...depending on the time, there could have been dirt streets in the outer areas...It reminds me of The Music Man, right here in river city1 Great photo

Nancy said...

Don't you just wish they would have written something on the back?! A date, a location, anything that would have helped identify it a hundred years later. It's a great photo. I hope maybe you can find more information about it. I wonder if sellers on ebay have photos/postcards of The Fair in Chicago. If so, you could compare the storefront/logo.

Alan Burnett said...

Great photograph on a fascinating website. Thanks for joining in.

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