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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The Well-Dressed Trombonist

05 May 2012

The trombone was a popular instrument in the 1900s to judge by the many photographs that I have found. While cornet players are still rank tops for numbers of individual musician photos, trombonists run a good second on portraits, I think. But for fancy uniforms they can't be beat.

This player from Wisconsin, dates from mid 1920s to 1930s. His uniform dress has the kind of mixed up style that was part of this post-WW1 period, which takes jodhpurs and a Sam Browne belt  (both accessories that come by way of British India) and combines them with a tall shako and the embroidered bandsman coat from an older era. The tasseled gaiters are also similar to jodpur boots, sort of a shoe with Puttee, which suggests more British influence or more likely Hollywood. The photographer was Rupert Zierer of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Born in Germany in 1878, he ran a photography studio there from around 1900 to the 1930s.

Compare his uniform with this Harrisburg, PA trombonist, whose story I posted back in 2010.

One might think they were in the same band, but I think it was a case of the bands buying the uniforms from the same supplier.

This trombonist is dressed in the apparel of the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic fraternal society. A member of the K.o.C. Council 152, he has a splendid uniform that includes plumed hat, sash, black gloves and a ceremonial sword. The photo postcard was from Penn Park Studio in York, Pennsylvania.The idea of a trombonist with a sword is bit unsettling, they are already using both hands. Perhaps it was fixed on as a bayonet.

This next photograph is a cabinet card from an earlier period, the mid-1890s, and shows a trombonist in what I believe is a US Army regimental band uniform but I have not found a confirmation yet. The eagle on the helmet is usually the official emblem but sometimes there were bands that imitated the military styles. And many regiments had independent styles that were not consistent with the ordinary soldier's uniform.

The musician has a piston valve trombone instead of a slide trombone. It was the more common form of trombone in 19th century bands, valves being easier to play in tune than the infinitely adjustable slide, and more practical in close quarters. Many a musician has lost an eye to a 7th position stretch from a clumsy slide trombone player. 

The photographer was J.J. Stephenson of Ypsilaniti, Michigan, and his studio back-stamp is worth including. Note the box camera on top the artist's palette.   

This last trombonist also holds a valve trombone and is likely a member of a US Army regimental band too. He has the same eagle emblem on his plumed helmet and the three rows of buttons on his coat.

The photographer was the New York Gallery of J. H. Peters & Co. of 25 Third St., San Francisco, California.  And this dates from the 1880's to 1890's.

With just a little imagination, one can see these musicians leading their bands in a hearty march, plumes shaking in the breeze as they stride along the boulevard.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday.
Click the link to find more enthusiasts of old photos.


Wendy said...

Your photos and history are always so interesting. I don't even miss the trains.

barbara and nancy said...

I can't get over the amount of musical photos you must have. Each week they get better and better. These uniforms are too funny. So grand.
I love the boulder holding up the trombone in that one photo.

Bob Scotney said...

I never new there were different trombones. Fine photos again, Mike - uniforms included.

Postcardy said...

That's a great group of photos. I enjoyed seeing all the fancy uniforms and valve trombones. I didn't know there were trombones with valves instead of slides. I wonder why they didn't become more popular.

Brett Payne said...

The first two portraits show uniforms with what I think are "Austrian knots" on the sleeves, typical of British Infantry regiments, and I presume adopted by the profession to good effect. Thanks for sharing another selection of excellent images.

I've missed your posts over the last six months or so that I've been absent from the SS world, and look forward to many more.

Little Nell said...

I couldn’t help singing “76 Trombones” (only in my head thank goodness), but as I think of you as “the Music Man” that would be entirely appropriate. It’s interesting to read of the connections to British military. I’m reading a fiction book about The Mutiny, and the events leading up to it at the moment, so I’ll be looking out for any references to jodphurs....and trombones!


A great set and I daresay my fave is #2 as all elements please me.

Alan Burnett said...

I know I am late getting around everyone, but it was well worth waiting for this. I have always been drawn to trombones - there is something inherently silly about them.

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

I love your photos Mike and your research. Jodhpurs, what a word for crazy pants! And "many a musician lost an eye from a clumsy slide player?" Who knew being in a band was such a dangerous profession!


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