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 }

The Ladies Band of Udall, Kansas

14 May 2011

"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
Sepia Saturday.


Postcardy said...

I wasn't aware of ladies' bands . I am amused by the way they wear their caps. Either they are trying to look jaunty, or the caps are too small.

Margaret said...

Would have loved to see them in action. I wonder if they were all single - like teachers of the day? The tornado pics are really scary.

Little Nell said...

I love the ladies’ band picture, and I will now be seeking every opportunity to use the phrase ‘nervous prostration’.

Brett Payne said...

How extraordinary a coincidence is this. I was browsing through some old history society magazines that I picked up at a sale the other day, and came across some old photos of a tornado-stricken town somewhere in NZ, I think in the 1930s or 1940s. There amongst the debris was an upright piano, just like in your photo!

Karen S. said...

a lovely bunch of ladies...but such a sad last photo....mother nature can be cruel!

Tattered and Lost said...

I imagine if that old piano still worked it gave comfort to those who were left.

I can easily imagine those ladies playing in a gazebo in a town square.

Alan Burnett said...

Just the kind of post I love. We start with a fabulous image and them you provide threads of information so that we can go where we will with it.

Christine H. said...

I lie the way you made the connection between the ladies band and the photo of leveled Udall. I don't play a horn instrument, but I will say that this blog has really awakened a new interest in horns for me...especially after seeing those backward-pointing horns. I listened with great interest yesterday as a gentleman from the Met was explaining how Wagner had to invent a new kind of tuba to create the sound he wanted for the Ring cycle.

Christine H. said...

Like...I meant like!

Howard said...

Fantastic postcard, the message on the back is priceless. The tornado pic is very odd, it seems like the piano was the only thing to survive unscathed.

satiche said...

Greatly impressed by your collection and the analysis you provide with each picture. You may be interested in the IBEW and associated IBEW Brass Blog which have a wealth of material about vintage brass bands, and more. There are few people collecting and researching such material - and it is good to see your excellent contributions.

Nancy said...

I'm so impressed at how you've put this post together and the two photos you have. When I saw the ladies' hats I was surprised that they were able to get them so far down on their heads. I think large hair styles were still the norm for that time period. Such awful damage in the last photo. Thanks for a great post.


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