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 }

On The Road in White City, Kansas

13 June 2014

It was Wednesday about 4:00 in the afternoon. First it was the sound of all the motors that alerted people that something was happening. Then it was the band music. Everyone hurried so they wouldn't miss them. The Herington and White City Commercial and Auto Clubs and Bands had come to town. Such an occasion merited a souvenir postcard and the photographer had the automobiles, bands, club members, and citizens pose in a big semi-circle across the main street of White City. It was April 13, 1910.  

Not long afterward, Vinie Kilchen sent the postcard to her sibling. 

hear is a picture of the otos
as thay look when thay came in
to town. You can see the Ladys
band, all got white avase (?) on.
the Hearington band is to the
wright of them. write soon your
Sister Vinia K.

I dont know where Vet
is. when he sent me the
card he was in Gold
feal Nevada. he sead he
would write soon but non letter

It was a big crowd for such a small town as White City, which had a population of 800, but this was an unusual event. The motorists in their caps and goggles had driven up from Herington, Kansas, which was about 19 miles to the southwest, as part of a two day tour of three Kansas counties by the Herington Commercial Club. A notice appeared in the Daily Capital newspaper of Topeka.

Topeka KS Daily Capital
April 12, 1910

The Herington Comercial Club (which may have been a fraternal/professional society) had 50 members and 12 to 15 automobiles. Their reported purpose was "to come in closer touch with the people" of Dickinson, Morris, and Marion counties. They had quite a rigorous schedule to visit 16 townships. Considering that this was travel over Kansas dirt roads, they were probably in closer touch with the dust than the people.

There were no car radios then, so the Commercial Club brought along the Herington Brass Band to play music at each stop.

 _ _

The band had 10 musicians with brass instruments and drums. They are dressed in typical bandsmen uniforms with military style hats. The name on the bass drum reads Herington Citizens Band. Since there was no band bus, they must have divided themselves up to ride  along with the club members.

The White City Ladies' Band was half again as large with 15 musicians, also all brass with two drums. The gentleman with a bowler hat at the left of the women is their band leader, Mr. Alfred Musgrave. More about him later. The women have no uniforms but wear white shirts and long skirts.

Topeka Daily Capital
July 8, 1908

The White City Ladies' Band had already earned a fine reputation in the state capital when the Topeka newspaper reported on the band in 1908 and included a photograph. The town had previously supported a gentlemen's band but it had "winked out" in 1906. But the women of White City were determined to have music so they organized their own female band in July 1907. It had 18 musicians under the direction of Miss Cordelia Thornley, a local school teacher.

Other newspaper reports from 1908 to 1911, had the band playing for county fairs, Chautauquas, and other community events throughout this region of Kansas that is south of Junction City and Ft. Riley. and northeast of Wichita.

_ _

On that spring day there were 17 automobiles on the main street of White City. All except one had open tops providing no  protection from dirt, sun or rain. The autos or otos, as Vinie spelled it, were a new innovation of transportation for the rural population of Kansas, that was more accustomed to using trains and horse wagons to traverse the prairies. Each automobile had a badge of the manufacturer on the brass radiators. The one on the far right is not clear enough to read, but the one next to it is a Buick, a General Motors brand still made in the USA but without the wood spoke wheels and running boards.

1909 advert for Buick Model 10
Collinson Automobile Co., Arkansas City, Kansas
In 1910 a new Buick Model 10 touring car would cost $1050. It had two bench seats that could seat 4 tuba players or more, and was promoted as being so easy to operate that a six year old could drive one. And start it with the hand crank too!

Today the main route through White City is on Kansas State Road 4, known locally as MacKenzie Street. On the far right of the photograph there is a sign for the White City post office. Assuming that government property has not changed location, the Commercial Club Automobiles are arranged near the intersection of MacKenzie and Adolph St.

If we pan to the right in Google Maps Street View we can see the White City post office building of 2014. It seems that in the intervening decades White City has seen some tough times. The population is down to around 600, and none of the 1910 street front appears to have survived into the 21st century. Though at some point the town did achieve enough prosperity to pay for red bricks to pave the street.

>> <<

Back in 2011, I posted a story on another postcard of the White City Ladies Band that dates from later that same year in October 1910. In this formal photo the 17 female musicians wear fancy embroidered uniforms with military hats and hold brass instruments and two drums.

This past year I was contacted by the granddaughter of the band director who stands in the center on the back row. His name was Alfred 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 and the outdoor photo of the bands and autos too.

 According to his granddaughter:

 He directed several bands in many small towns in the area.  He was also a band teacher in the local school and a photographer.  He may have taken this photo as he had a cable that enabled him to when he was also in the shot.  He often made postcards of his bands to sell to the members.  I think he is holding a trumpet or cornet, and I know he often played along with the bands.  The woman in the far left of the back row in your photo (holding an upright tuba) is my grandmother, Mamie Baird Musgrave (1877-1975).  She usually accompanied him when he went to those other towns, and she often played along as well, even with the men’s bands.   They needed a bass instrument, and her husband was the director.  What could they say?  As their kids grew up, they went along also.  I have several photos of my teen-age aunt playing cornet with men’s bands.  

Alfred W. Musgrave (1874-1947)
Source: Musgrave Family Collection

The White City Ladies' Band
White City, Kansas
Source: Musgrave Family Collection

In another message she adds:

  My grandfather, in addition to directing and teaching bands, was a piano tuner.  When my aunt married and moved to Steamboat Springs, CO, my grandparents would drive from White City across Kansas to eastern Colorado to visit his brother and then to northwest Colorado.  To pay for the trip, he would tune pianos along the way.  Many people had  pianos, and they needed a yearly tuning, I guess.  I think he made about $12 a tuning, which for the times and the Depression has always seemed pretty good to me.   When they were in Steamboat, they had a tent, and after a while a home-made trailer.  The   family had the makings of a band, and they gave concerts there.  My grandmother and aunt on tuba and cornet, Mom played the xylophone (bells), and son-in-law Russ the drums.  Grandpa directed, with help from his small granddaughter.

The White City Ladies' Band
White City, Kansas
Source: Musgrave Family Collection

I am very appreciative to Alfred and Mamie's granddaughter for providing these additional photos and a personal history that lets me tell a more complete story of the Ladies' Band — the Pride of White City, Kansas.    Thank you, N.L.

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Wendy said...

In that first postcard, I think the word was not "avase" but "wase" meaning "waist" which was a white bodice or blouse.

Wendy said...

Nothing thrills like getting email from family members who have the inside scoop. I enjoy your stories of the music world. As if cars weren't enough of a reason to head to town to catch a glimpse, the citizens were treated to something of a concert too. That had to be much more welcome than a car with a supersize stereo system sitting next to you at the stoplight.

La Nightingail said...

Well shucks, Wendy beat me to it! I was all set to tell you the word was probably wase - a misspelling of waist meaning an old fashioned term for blouse. Oh well. A most interesting post as always!

Jackie Mc Guinness said...

Great piece of family history. Really enjoyed it.

Postcardy said...

Fascinating postcard and history. The additional photos and family information really makes the postcard more meaningful. I was going to comment about "waists" too.

North County Film Club said...

Great photos. It looks like the band members and car passengers outnumbered the townfolk.
Alfred must have been the original music man. What a guy.
Ladies of the Grove

Jo Featherston said...

Great history of the Ladies White City Band, and I like the way you zoom in and discuss various parts of a photo like that.

Little Nell said...

Well done to those determined ladies of White City and their director Miss Thornley. A very enjoyabe post made all the more interesting by the additional material from the family.

Nancy said...

Having those cars come to town must have been very exciting, as new and rare as they were in 1910, but to add the bands - what a day that must have been for the citizens of White City!

I stopped for a few minutes on "avas" too, knowing it had something to do with clothing (because all the ladies had white waists) so I was happy to see that Wendy solved puzzle.

Brett Payne said...

A photographer and a musician - that's two feathers in his cap.

Anonymous said...

Jt's great to see these ladies' bands. they always seem to be trained by a man though.

Lorraine Phelan said...

You have a great collection of photos. I like the way you study the detail in each.

Bob Scotney said...

Alfred Musgrave must have been a versatile man. The family story adds much to the photos of the bands.

Lucy said...

What incredible photos. I love the band portraits.


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