Collectors like myself are on a never ending treasure hunt. Sometimes it's a pursuit for the missing puzzle piece, or just a routine search for something new. But the best fun comes from the unexpected catch. Like this prize found at a small antique shop in Maine that specialized in old tools. Tucked away in an old shoebox miscellany of postcards and photos, was this small photo of a single bandsman, a horn player like myself. Not a postcard, but printed on slightly larger paper, it has the look of a snapshot. Regrettably unmarked, it's yet another mystery photo, but to judge by the dealer's inventory, it seems likely this gentleman poses outside his house somewhere in New England.
Though the horn has always been a major part of orchestral music, it was never a common band instrument in 19th and early 20th century America.The three rotary valves for the left hand distinguish the horn from the mellophone, which was the more popular instrument at the time, with its three piston valves for the right hand. They are also in different keys, the horn in F being much longer at about 12 feet from mouthpiece to bell. There is also a longer conical taper to the horn that requires more skill to manufacture. And the horn mouthpiece is different from the other brass instruments being conical instead of cup shaped.
This particular hornist has a single horn similar to the one Leona Biehl is holding in her family band. I have seen a similar horn made by Wunderlich in Chicago, but it might also be a German or Italian import. The wrap of the plumbing and the way the keys are on top of the valves makes it an unusual design. Horn players can get very geeky about this stuff.
This New England horn player sports a splendid embroidered uniform, one that I would think quite expensive. If it was brand new, that would be a good reason for a photograph. I only wish there was a monogrammed cap or collar badge to give some clue for the location of his town band. If you look closely he is wearing pince-nez spectacles, and bears a strong resemblance to President Theodore Roosevelt, so I think the photo dates from around 1905-1910.
But there is something very odd about his chin. My concern for his health led me to send his photo to friend of mine who is both an orthopedic surgeon and horn player. His reply: The fellow with the horn has a swelling just below his mandible which appears to be centered. He is quite thin but does not look ill. The swelling is a little high for goiter, although that is not out of the question. Infection, chronic lymph nodes, thyroglossal duct cyst, the list is long.
He sent the photo on to an ENT specialist in this sort of thing and got this further diagnosis: Either his submandibular or sublingual glans are swollen or he had a congentital teratoma.
I have not put a link to congenital teratoma, which is an encapsulated tumor with tissue or organ components, so as to spare squeamish readers from learning about horrid medical conditions. (Never say I didn't warn you) I just hope it did not cause this gentleman too much discomfort.
My contribution to Sepia Saturday
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