The state of Kansas has a wonderful legacy of Ladies Bands from the 19th and early 20th century. This ladies brass band from White City. Kansas, shows 16 women with a nice mixture of ages, along with the typical lone gentleman as bandleader in the back center. Compare this band to another from Kansas, the Udall Ladies Band. The instrumentation of 5 cornets, 5 alto/tenor horns, 1 euphonium, 2 valve trombones, 2 tubas, and 2 drums represents the basic list of brass instruments that a town might purchase from a mail order catalog like the Sears & Roebuck Company.
Most of the women are probably from White City, which was established in 1871 in Morris County, KS, about 24 miles south of Junction City. The first town names proposed were Swedeland or New Chicago, but they settled on naming it White City after F. C. White, a railroad superintendent. The town was along a branch of the famed Rock Island Line that ran from Chicago to New Mexico.
At least one young woman (marked with an X) lived 10 miles up the rail line in Alta Vista in the adjoining county of Wabaunsee County, KS. She is identified as Mrs. Union Thomas, on the back of this postcard posted in 1910 by her husband Union Thomas to their son U.P. Thomas. The Woodman Logrolling Picnic could refer to either Woodmen of the World , or Modern Woodmen of the World , competing fraternal organizations that were started by the same man.
Union was born in Ohio in 1861, at the start of the War Between The States, which may explain his unusual first name, and his wife Rachel Thomas was born in 1866. Union had various occupations in Alta Vista, mainly as a butcher. He also owned a pond for making ice in the winter, a useful material for a meat merchant in Kansas. Perhaps it was this same pond where the Woodmen rolled logs.
In the 1910 census though, his occupation was Manager, Opera House and Rachel was his Helper. Many American towns had small theaters which doubled as courthouses or city halls. They booked traveling vaudeville acts and silent movies and sometimes maintained an ensemble of musicians for music accompaniment. But this was hardly a "Grand Opera" theater.
Their son Union Pearly Thomas was born in Kansas in 1885, but was on the road in 1910, hence the address Sacramento, California - General Delivery. He must not have been much of a letter writer, judging by the tone his dad takes suggesting that U.P. may have forgotten what his mother looked like. For the April 1910 census he was living in Laramie, Wyoming, and was recorded by a spelling challenged census taker as a Stenegropher, Union Pacific Railroad. He lived in a rooming house with a Carpender and a Threatre Pianoist. Later U.P. Thomas went on to become a banker in Alta Vista and in the 1920's moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he was joined by his father after the death of Rachel.
Today the population of Morris County is about 6,000 and Wabaunsee county is similar, but in 1910 they were more than double today's numbers, with over 12,000 people in each county. The turn into the 20th century brought a new influx of immigrants, but not all were farmers. The railroads and livestock industry needed more people than they use today and were major employers. In short, rural life was more crowded than we see it today. Work involved larger teams of men and women. To operate a farm with horse drawn equipment involved far more trades than today's farm system.
Both White City and Alta Vista had musical bands for men too. How did these immigrant farmers and small town shopkeepers develop such a community spirit to organize and participate in musical groups like this? Despite the larger population, Kansas is still a very big open country. It took time and effort, and above all commitment to belong to a ladies band like this.
Thanks to Google Maps we can get a better sense of place than anything I can write. This view is on the main road looking west towards White City. Go ahead and drive on in.
This time Toto, we are definitely in Kansas.
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My contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the theme this weekend was a photo
of the pavilion at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893,
also known as The White City.
Click the link for more enthusiasts of vintage photos.
|Alfred W. Musgrave (1874-1947)|
Source: Musgrave Family Collection
After posting this in 2011, I received an email from the granddaughter of the man standing in the center of the back row. He was the band leader and his name was Alfred W. Musgrave (1874-1947). His wife Mamie Baird Musgrave (1877-1975) is standing far left on the back row with a tuba. In the 1910 census Alfred listed his occupation as Photographer, own shop, and most likely took this studio photograph.
I have posted another photo and story on the White City Ladies Band with more detail on Alfred Musgrave's life. To read it click this link: On The Road in White City, Kansas