"Toto, I've a feeling we're back in Kansas again."The lovely Ladies Band of Udall, KS smile for Mr. Baughs' camera, wearing a simple uniform of white blouse and tie, and showing the town name on their cap. Their cornets, clarionets, mellophones, and tubas represent a popular new pastime for the women of mid-west America in the 1900's, when dozens of ladies' and girls' wind bands were formed all over Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.
Before the days of radio and phonographs, town bands provided the only musical culture for places like Udall, which was only just established in 1881. Most were organized for men, but often an enterprising bandleader would start an ensemble for women too. This new fashion for band music was partly the result of town booster-ism, and of course music stores needing to sell more band instruments and sheet music. But these ladies bands also added another aspect to the beginning of the women's suffragette movement. They may not have discussed politics during rehearsals, but their concerts must have presented a new modern view of women that helped change American society because it was public and outside the traditional family home.
This photo postcard was sent by Mrs. Wade to Herman Zimmerman of Manhattan, KS in March 1912. Is she or her daughter a member of the band? And what could be the cause of her "nervous prostration"? Her frustration in receiving a slow reply to a letter seems no different than today's long wait for an answer to an instant text and email message.
Udall is in Cowley County, about 25 miles southeast of Wichita, KS and in 1910 it had a population of 330. On the night of May 25, 1955 it was hit by a deadly tornado that caused the largest loss of life in Kansas history. The History of Udall, KS says 83 people were killed and 270 injured. The same storm struck Blackwell, Oklahoma killing 20 and injuring 250. This tragic photo comes from the Kansas Historical Society.
We can only wonder if the piano came from the home of some former member of the Udall Ladies Band.
You can find other vintage photo enthusiasts at