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
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A Horn Player from New England

23 July 2011

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.

President Theodore Roosevelt, 1904

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
Click the link for more enthusiasts of vintage photographs.


Little Nell said...

Now who’d have thought by looking at your picture that we would be learning about medical conditions too! At first glance I thought he was bearded, but on enlargement I see what you mean; the swelling looks abnormal and he isn’t just a fat person with a wobbly chin. I hope it didn’t get in the way of his horn-playing. The uniform is very smart; I would have loved to see it in colour.

Bob Scotney said...

I would have missed that swelling if you had not told us about it.

Karen S. said...

Theo looks mighty handsome in your photo...very interesting post again, thanks for the entertaining piece!

PattyF said...

What a great find! Band photos, especially if they're town bands, really strike a chord with me. (Sorry. Seriously ... I couldn't help myself.) They really give us a glimpse into entertainment of the past. Before MTV, before XM radio, before rock and punk and hip hop, there was the town band. Some of the towns in my neck of the woods still have bands, but I don't think they garner near the respect they used to. And they don't have snazzy uniforms like this gentleman, either. Thanks for sharing!

Christine H. said...

Oh dear, I hope it wasn't a teratoma.

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I hadn't noticed the swelling until you mentioned it. Then of course it seemed very obvious. I hope he was all right. It's a lovely, clear photo.

Alan Burnett said...

Your post so perfectly illustrates the Value Added of blogging. What starts as a chance find soon becomes an international research project.

Postcardy said...

The medical discussion was unexpected. I would have called that a "double chin."


and now, the hypochondriac in me will have to look it up...


Tattered and Lost said...

I have to say that this man reminds me of Captain Kangaroo. I could easily imagine the Captain playing that horn.

Cameron said...

Being a horn player myself (and manual typewriter collector!) I am fascinated by this photograph. This led to looking at your other posts -- wonderful blog! Bookmarked & linked. Keep up the good work.


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