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 German Navy Veterans Band

08 April 2011

Most early images of military musicians show army bandsmen, but there were navy bands too except that they seem to have posed less often for the camera. This stalwart group's caps and collars mark them as sailors, but from what country? The clue is in the cap band: Deutscher Marine V___. But the photographer bumped the tripod as the shutter tripped and the image is slightly blurred.

A closeup detail of this large studio photo shows the Musikmeister's medals, which include two of the Iron Cross but with no Nazi insignias, so surely this is before 1933. The lack of Kaiser "Bill" mustaches suggests after 1920. 

But the caps are the real puzzle. What are those words? And it seems odd that these men are so old, for there are no raw recruits in this band.

According to the website German Militaria  the lettering pattern on a WWI era Reichsmarine sailor's cap would have a ship's name in block letters. But in 1935 the German navy became the Kriegsmarine, and after 1939 that word, in a large gothic font, replaced the ship name on the cap. And from 1945 to 1955 there was no German navy. So why do these cap bands read Deutscher Marine V_something?

But then I found a reference at the Deutscher Marinebund on the history of German navy clubs which began in 1891. Their first objectives being:
  • maintain the love for the Kaiser and homeland.
  • strengthen the links among the Navy Clubs. 
  • preserve the spirit of comradeship.
  • support welfare facilities for veteran sailors. 
In 1922 they changed the name to the Bund Deutscher Marine-Vereine and that is what I think is on these cap bands - Deutscher Marine Verein = German Navy Association.  By the 1930s there were 35,000 members in 600 clubs, and how could any German club not have a band? The band is typical of the 1920s-30s, with trumpets instead of the cornets found in earlier bands. And it has 4 horns too, but no valve trombones or melophones.

These men look like a veteran's group with  a good sprinkling of some old salts. They have a polished look with proper band uniforms, so could they be on tour promoting German tourism and naval comradeship?

Just above the back curtain are two logos, a Freemason compass on the right and the three links of the I.O.O.F. on the left. Remember the Independent Order of Odd Fellows from my earlier post on The Mason City IOOF Band ?  This is a concert photo at a local I.O.O.F fellowship hall, but where? If only we could see whose likeness is on the sculpture bust behind the curtain.

My contribution to Sepia Saturday


Brett Payne said...

Excellent sleuthing Mike. I'm afraid I can't add anything particularly scintillating or relevant, but I certainly enjoyed the photograph.

Marilyn said...

Excellent photo and interesting reading of your research.

Tattered and Lost said...

I'm so glad you said they were veterans because I was thinking they looked a little on the late blooming side.

Postcardy said...

Nice photo and detection. The big question is "where?"

Karen S. said...

Where? Perhaps, but they do appear to be so very proud of themselves!

Meri said...

So many mysteries!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Boy, you had to do a lot of research on this one! Very interesting; thanks for posting.

Happy Sepia Saturday,

Kathy M.

Christine H. said...

Oh, I'd like to pull back that curtain. Great research and interesting photo.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

Interesting research and comments. Behind the curtain, why it must be the wizard, of course! I did think it odd that they were all older for a military band so must be vets.

Howard said...

Great picture! Thanks for sharing.

Domitype said...

Do you know about the huge collection of old brass band pictures from all over the world? It was part of the British Brass Band website but now is located at - that is just one page, you can navigate to other countries.

El Butch said...

I'm pretty sure, the picture was taken in Hoboken, NJ.
Compare a tread on TubeNet


Mike Brubaker said...

Dom - I use the photo archives at all the time. In fact some photos from my collection, like the band of the Deutscher Marine Verein, find their way there, which helps other people doing this kind of music research.

El Butch - I checked out the reference and found a directory published in 1914 which includes the Hoboken chapter of the the Deutscher Marine Verein. They participated in German society events in NYC during the pre-WW1 years. But after 1917 with the US declaration of war against Germany, the name disappears, and like many German nationalist groups it's likely they avoided public attention for obvious reasons. But after the war, its quite possible that German military veterans came to the US and Hoboken was as good a destination as any. It had an I.O.O.F. hall which was used by several fraternal groups, which might have included a chapter of German Navy Veterans who used it for band rehearsals. But until there is more corroborating evidence, their identification will have to remain a mystery.


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