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 British Tenor Horn Bandsman

26 March 2011

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.   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..

Here is an example of the 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


Christine H. said...

The front of the card is wonderful, although it's all I can do to resist the urge to pull that chinstrap down. The back of the card is equally interesting and very beautiful.

Betsy said...

LOL...I'm with Christine...I'm always curious at that style of strap and why they couldn't just wear them under their chins!!

It's a lovely photo!

Tattered and Lost said...

A dandy little hat that makes him look like a bellhop with a horn. Walking through lobbies with notes to deliver, blowing his horn, people hiding behind their newspapers hoping the "note" isn't for them.

Howard said...

Fantastic picture!

Postcardy said...

I don't understand that kind of chinstrap either. It looks very uncomfortable.

Marilyn said...

Fantastic card, and yes, I too think the chin strap must have been very annoying. The backs of these cards are a work of art in themselves.

Brett Payne said...

It's to keep them from talking, perhaps.

Thanks for sharing this image, Mike. I agree, Roger's site is extremely helpful, and I use it all the time.

Alan Burnett said...

First of all thanks for the link to Roger Vaughan's excellent website, I hadn't come across it before. As far as your card is concerned I wonder if the clue to the "Highly Distinguished Patronage" is the location of the studio in Kings' Lynn which is a short distance from the Royal palace at Sandringham. A fascinating Sepia Saturday post

Bob Scotney said...

It was not just the bandsman that caught my eye. We lived close to Brigg in the 1960s, I've played hockey there. My wife's father came from the area.
We now live in North Yorkshire so I appreciated the 'rose' horn.

Karen S. said...

Oh thank you for the website info, I will check it out! I'm sure he got used to playing and wearing such a too small looking hat but it does look funny! Nice information you supplied with such a delightfully old photo! I like paying attention to the little detail of things....there was always a reason for what ever was done back in those days...and it wasn't always about promoting a designer or brand name! Great post!

L. D. Burgus said...

It is a great posting. I liked hearing about all that surrounds the photo.

The Silver Fox said...

Very nice, informative post.

And your music scared the hell out of me.

Nancy said...

Aside from (or maybe in addition to) this wonderful photograph, this was a really interesting post because of all the detail you gave us about horns and buttons and old photographs. Thanks!

frogsmile said...

The bandsman is wearing Austrian Knots on his sleeve indicating a Volunteer Battalion of an English County regiment after 1881. That year reforms merged three elements. First the 'regular' soldiers (usually 2 battalions) second 'militia' (also 2 battalions) and third 'volunteers' (2 or 3 battalions). Only the volunteer battalions wore Austrian knots. Norfolk Regiment is likely.

frogsmile said...

He is from a Volunteer Battalion (part-time citizen soldiers) of an English (white collar and cuffs) Light Infantry regiment and wearing a 5-button 'undress frock' (loose fitting working jacket made from a coarser grade of wool than the full dress tunic that he would have worn for best). Volunteers were distinguished from regulars by the white braid Austrian knot on the cuff. Regular infantry soldiers did not have this.

frogsmile said...

The buttons bear the Light Infantry bugle.


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