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
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Boys with Sticks

26 September 2013


A small English boy spreads his arms wide as he prepares to lead the band. Dressed in a traditional British military bandsman uniform of the 19th century, the boy wears a cap with a badge shaped like the anchor emblem of the Royal Navy.

Once again please!

His music is now folded so we know the piece has finished. The boy bandleader grins as he asks the band to play it again. These novelty postcards were published by Davidson Bros., Real Photographic Series, London and New York. The postmark date was Oct 19, 1907 from Barnes in SW London.

It was addressed to Miss S. Bessent of "Walnut Tree Farm", Lonsdale Road, Barnes "Local". The trivial and yet odd message gains charm from "Laura"s fine handwriting and embellished "quotation marks". 

"E. Weldhen just been to confess that letter handed to her 12:30 yesterday to post was posted at 6 this morning" Fond love to all from; "Laura."

Miss Bessent was one of 7 children belonging to Harriet and Frank George Bessent, a market gardener living on the south side of the River Thames opposite Chiswick. Of the four Bessent daughters - Beatrice, Edith, Ethel, and Elsie, the youngest - Elsie, who was age 17 in 1907,  seems the likely recipient of this postcard.

In 100 years, will we derive as much fun from reading a cellphone text log?

** **

On the continent, another small boy raises a baton to start the music. Is he conducting a band? An orchestra? Since he is seated and looks to be singing, maybe it's a choir. This postcard is a kind of hybrid photo/illustration and though the handwriting of the message is in French, the card publisher is from Bologna, Italy. The writer begins with the word DO, the term for the musical pitch C, as used in Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si. The music on the stand appears a real music manuscript of a trio or quartet.

The postcard was sent to Monsieur Michel Gascon of Nice, France in October but the postmark left too faint an impression for the year. My guess is 1905-09.

** **

Das Konzert beginnt.
Aufgepasst , eins, zwei und drei,
Los, dass alle W√§nde beben: 
Unsre Liesel, die soll hoch
Dreimal hoch soll Liesel leben.

 The concert begins.
Watch out, one, two and three,
Come on, all the walls shake
Our Liesel, which is high
Three cheers shall Liesel live.

This German boy shouts dramatically as he leads some hidden group of musicians. His sheet music is however a vocal song with piano accompaniment. My attempt at translation hits a snag with Liesel which is not a German word but may be a familiar name for a celebrated woman.  I don't think it refers to the wife of Kaiser Wilhem II, who was Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, but it might be Austria's Kaiser Franz Joseph's wife, who was Elisabeth of Bavaria. However Empress Elisabeth was murdered in 1898 by an Italian anarchist, so maybe this boy conductor means someone else deserves three cheers.

The postcard was sent on February 23, 1913 to a Fraulein Hartman of Leipzig.

Fortunately for the anxious mothers of these three musical boys, all their batons had blunt points. Real conductor batons are usually much sharper and have been known to cause injury to either musicians, conductor, or both!

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where other boys are stuck in bed with a sore throat.


Karen S. said...

I'm still laughing at her term of post and posted, it fits in with our world of blogging today, isn't that funny. All these children are just adorable, and such talented cuties they all are. Excellent matching to our theme photo this week!

Anne Young said...

A fantastic and interesting collection of cards

Wendy said...

Oh that German kid -- HA.

Jo Featherston said...

I'll second Anne's comment! Those little conductors would be great entertainment for sick kids too :-)

Little Nell said...

I wondered what became of these little fellows. Did they go on to have a sparkling musical career? The carefully written messsage on the first card is indeed strange; why all those speech marks?

Anonymous said...

Some people talk about the loss of privacy on the web but on a different scale it's not that different to the old postcards which were open for anyone in the postal service to read.

Postcardy said...

Fun cards--interesting subject and handwriting.

Anonymous said...

I like your twist on the theme, and excellent images. I wish I could find photos of this quality and charm!

Kristin said...

I especially like the one where the writing is combined with the picture. Nice.

Alex Daw said...

You have found such fantastic postcards. I never see any like these.

Sharon said...

Yes Lauara's writing is wonderful and "Walnut Tree Farm" sounds very appealing.

Tattered and Lost said...

These are all such fun images, but it poses the question as to how music was important to folks long ago. They didn't have recordings, or the recordings were of poor quality, so music was always live. Images of musicians could be so easily sold and understood. Imagine today postcards of musicians such as these. And like you said, in the future what will there be to peruse? It's not only sad to think images from now will be possibly gone, but that the people who took them won't even be able to access them because of changes in technology. Everything is now so temporary.


A partial translation of that French postcard:

Nous avons recu votre carte avec plaisir,
et ne doutons pas que votre esprit ne se reporte encore souvent a St-Germain.
Vous n'avez pas a regretter...
Depuis bien longtemps, nous avons toujours la pluie, le froid, etc...
...facile nous vous prions[?] de nous envoyer un peu de ce bon soleil qui ...
votre partage pendant de long mois.
C'est egal il y a des pays trop [?...]
et les fleurs quelle diversite vous devez avoir car la saison va commencer bientot.
A nos remerciements nous joignons nos voeux de bonheur et de reussite complete,
ainsi que notre meilleur souvenir.


We were delighted to receive your card
et have no doubt you often think of St-Germain.
Have regrets about...
For so long now,
we've had to contend with rain, the cold, etc...
...easy we ask you to send us some of that sun that...
your sharing during those long months.
No matter there are countries too [?...]
and the flowers what diversity you must have
as the season will soon begin.
With our thanks we ass our best wishes of happiness and complete success,
and our best regards.


Those stamps were first issued in 1900 until 1932. Can't really help you here with dating this card.


Mike Brubaker said...

Merci, Bruno. My guess was correct, that like so many postcard messages, it was a typical note of thanks and remembrance. When the postcard was new it probably generated the same enthusiasm as today's Twittter and Facebooking. Everybody and anybody could sent a greeting card.


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