The Well Dressed Clarinet
13 February 2011
Posted by Mike Brubaker
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?