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
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The Well Dressed Clarinet

13 February 2011


In 19th century American bands, there were ordinary uniforms and then there were truly splendid uniforms! This unidentified clarinet player, or clarionet as it used to spelled, from Dunkirk, New York stands at attention dressed in a wonderful uniform that was a popular style in the 1890's. Compare his fashion to those of the 1920's Harrisburg Trombone   and the earlier 1880's Pottstown Cornet   He is probably not a member of an official US Army  band (though his hat crest is definitely an eagle), but is more likely a player from one of the many "regimental style" bands that toured the country. John Philip Sousa's Band was certainly the most well known of these "military" bands but there were dozens and dozens of competitors all trying to look just as sharp.

Dunkirk is on Lake Erie in Chautauqua County in western New York, and was incorporated in 1880. The photographer is George H. Eggers and he was born in Prussia in 1849. In the 1870 US Census for Dunkirk, he and his older brother John Eggers list their occupations as Cigar Makers. But by 1880 George has become an Artist in Crayon. In the 1893 NY Census, he is a Photographer and seems to have run his own studio well into the 1920's.

So what color is this uniform? Gold braid and epaulets for sure, but navy blue or scarlet? And did our clarinetist also carry a hat box for his shako and plume?

4 comments:

brumbles said...

The uniform color is almost certainly navy blue. The emulsions used in photography at this time (until after World War I, really) tended to represent red as black, and dark blue as a dark grey -- see photos of the American flag of the era, or the roundels on WWI Alllied aircraft -- it's easy to distinguish red from blue once you know the red photographs darker!

brumbles said...

Having said that, his trousers could be red -- they appear darker than the coat.

brumbles said...

I can't post a link, but if you search the catalog of the Baltimore County Public Library (http://www.bcpl.info), type in "Oella Cornet Band" and limit by "Photographs: Historic". This is one of several hundred images from Baltimore County's "Legacy Web." Think you'll find it an interesting site.

Mike Brubaker said...

Thanks for the details on color. Sepia and B&W photos still leave us guessing on that illusive element of color hues and tints. The Oella Cornet Band is a terrific photo, so here is the proper link for everyone: Baltimore County Library

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