CLARIONET, n. An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. There are two instruments that are worse than a clarionet -- two clarionets.There are many uniformed musicians in my photo collection, but I would be pressed to find one that radiates pride any better than this young clarinet player from the 1890s. In his spiked helmet, gleaming buttons, and striped trousers, he strikes a gallant pose with a clarinet tucked under his arm as if it were a rifle with bayonet. He looks good and he knows it. I can't be absolutely certain, but I believe he is a bandsman from a U.S. army band as his coordinated dress style seems more soldierly than a typical town bandsman, and for a short time the tall helmet was a regulation US Army parade hat. Unfortunately there was a lot of variation in regimental uniforms in this era, and many civilian bands often wore military style uniforms.
Ambrose Bierce - The Devil's Dictionary
The photographer was Ernest Adams who left a mark but no address. It is amazing how common the name Adams is among photographers, and I have found several different ones in this time frame, but none were an exact match. The best was an E. Adams in Massachusetts but the use of initials in the census records and especially the missing 1890 census, makes this a difficult identification.
Musical Instrument or Deadly Weapon? Having sat far too close to one on many occasions, I can attest to its disagreeable qualities. Two or more E-flats will strip paint better than a piccolo.
In the second half of the 19th century, military bands began to increase the number of woodwind instruments in the wind ensemble, as earlier bands had used only one piccolo or E-flat clarinet. The improvements in the design of woodwind keys and the efficiency of mass production made better musical instruments that could play more complex music. As the 20th century approached, the tremendous popularity of band music inspired composers to develop more colors in the band sound, and in arrangements of opera and symphonic music, the larger woodwind sections now substituted for the string parts of the original orchestra music.
This army bandsman was featured in my first Well Dressed Clarinet post from 2011. His uniform coat has a fuller cut with a darker color than the first clarinetist's tail coat. He does have a similar tall helmet that sports a tall two-toned feathered plume. The photographer was George H. Eggers of Dunkirk, NY and the cabinet photo dates from the 1890s. .
But when it comes to fashion, no man can compete with a woman's style. These six ladies are musicians in the Oesterr. Damen-Orchester "Singspiel" from a 1904 Austrian postcard. Their uniforms are in at least three colors, and include magnificent helmets with spikes, plumes, and cords. They don't have their instruments but I'd bet that one, or maybe two, could play the clarionet.
This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where you might discover more tall hat stories.