A British Tenor Horn Bandsman
26 March 2011
Posted by Mike Brubaker
Before the era of photography, only paintings or sculpture offered a way to commemorate a military man's life, but at a cost only afforded by wealthy officers. But with the advent of the inexpensive carte de visite, ordinary soldiers and seamen could now have a photographic memento of their military service too. And bandsmen with their shiny instruments and sharp uniforms made great subjects for any photographer.
Here we see a British bandsman holding a handkerchief and a Tenor Horn, an instrument in Eb derived from the saxhorn family and also known as an Alto Horn in America. This family of brass band instruments has the most confused nomenclature in all of music. Alto instruments are called tenors, except when they are althorns; but tenors are called baritones, except in America when they are euphoniums, and let's not even discuss the cylindrical vs. conical bore. It's complicated.
This cdv from T. Smith and Sons of King's Lynn, Fakenham and Brigg dates from around 1885-1892. The bird and bamboo logo illustration was a style used by other photographers and gives a good approximation of date, as does the tiny name of the printer: Trapp & Münch, Berlin.
But who was the Highly Distinguished Patronage?
I find a lot of useful information at Roger Vaughan's website collection of Victorian photos, which I highly recommend. http://www.cartes.freeuk.com/index.htm It is an extraordinary virtual museum of thousands of photographs and photographers, and has an excellent system for dating and identifying old photos.
The label Army Musician is penciled on the back by a dealer but are there other clues? A closer look at the buttons shows an embossed figure of a posthorn. Several Light Infantry Regiments have a similar insignia. Unfortunately the camera was not quite clear enough to be exact..
King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry "French horn and White Rose" cap badge for comparison. They were established in 1881. At this time, every regiment had a band and the bandsmen were often recruited at a young age, perhaps 15 or 16, from the many orphanages and workhouse schools around Britain. The pill box hat was a common British military band headgear in contrast to the gaudy plumes of American band hats.
My contribution to Sepia Saturday