On first glance, the Starbuck Cornet Band of Starbuck, Minnesota would seem to be a band from the big city given the number of musicians. But in fact it is a very small village in central Minnesota on the western edge of Lake Minnewaska. This 1909 photo postcard of the band in a less common montage style, was produced by photographing a grouping of 7 photos mounted on a larger hand decorated display. With five tubas and nine other low brass, they must have made a pretty strong impression in concert.
In the center is the band leader, Prof. Charles A. Townsend, holding a cornet that, despite the low clarity, shows off some elegant engraving. A search of the internet produced a nearly identical montage photo of the Starbuck Band used as a promotional card for the C. G.Conn Company of Elkhart, Indiana. Prof. C.A. Townsend recommended the Conn band instruments as the best in the World. This was a popular gimmick used by the musical instrument industry to stake out new territory. It certainly worked in Starbuck, whose population in the 1910 Census was only 497.
How do you like the looks of this bunch? Grace says to tell you she got your card tonight. better drop her a line once in a while.
We gave a concert and dance at Lowry the 26th Cover(?) Big doing.
The writer Prof. was Charles Townsend himself. Born in 1877 in Minnesota, he married Grace Hutchins in 1898 and in the 1900 Census for Folsom, MN he records his occupation as musician. But sometime between 1900 and 1910, he moved to Villard MN, only a short distance NE of Starbuck, to work as a school teacher. Sometime in the next decade though, things change for C.A., as he remarries and relocates 130 miles west to Amherst,South Dakota where he leads another cornet band there, but dies in 1925 only 48 years old.
Today the title of "professor" would require multiple college degrees, and it seems unlikely that Charles ever had even one. But at this time in the world of music, it was enough to have talent and determination to succeed as a bandleader, and Prof. C.A. Townsend would seem a fine example of a real "Music Man".
But the real reason that the Starbuck Band has a special fascination for me is my own family history. My grandfather, Wallace R. Dobbin, was born 1906 in Glenwood, Minnesota which is at the eastern end of Lake Minnewaska, 10 miles from Starbuck. His father - my great grandfather, William Dobbin was a rural mail carrier in Pope County for many years and I feel sure that someone in my family heard this band around 1909-10. If only I had known years ago, I might have chosen a Conn horn too, the best in the world!
My contribution to Sepia Saturday