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 }

The Leader of the Dover Cornet Band

20 June 2014

When did a bowler hat become a musician's fashion accessory? Especially for a musician wearing white tie and tails? Somehow it suits this rakish cornet player with his bristle brush mustache much better than a silk top hat would.

The photographer has posed him standing on fur rugs imitating grass, his arm casually resting on an immense carved newel post, and behind him is an elaborate backdrop of classical architecture, which I think resembles the Massachusetts State House.

Massachusetts State House
Source: Wikipedia

However the photographer was named Drew from Dover, New Hampshire which is on the northern border with Maine just above the seaport of Portsmouth, NH. The photo dates from the mid-1870s to 1880s and has been trimmed to fit into an album. This cornetist might have been relegated to the category of lost musicians except he was included as part of a set of photos.

All identified.

This photo was probably made by the same photographer but the card was trimmed more severely leaving just a bit of the same Gothic letters for Dover in the lower right corner. The cornet player is not wearing white tie and tail coat this time, but he is still very well dressed. The photographer has penciled in some improvement to his mustache and he also sports a small tuff of hair beneath his lower lip, which was a fashion popularized by several of the great cornet virtuosos of this era. The camera has even caught the ornamental engraving on his cornet. (click image to enlarge)

This third photo is a standard portrait and our musician is without his instrument. He appears a bit older and this time he wears a crisp wingtip collar with black tie. The reason we know it is the same man is because someone signed his name on all three photos. The handwriting on the maroon cards is difficult to reproduce, but on this cream color card the name is very clear.

R. L. Reinewald

With such a distinctive name and a location from the other photos, it did not take long for research to reveal that he was as distinguished a musician as he looks. 

His full name was Ralph Livsey Reinewald, and he was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1852. His father was a German immigrant and Ralph grew up in Providence, Rhode Island where he became an accomplished musician on the cornet. In 1870 he joined the US Navy to serve as a marine bandsman aboard the USS Vandalia. This enlistment lasted until 1876, when he took on a new job as bandleader of the Dover, NH Cornet Band. This is probably the time when the first two photos were made.

He played with that band for another 6 years when he was invited to take over the Salem Brass Band which had become famous under its previous bandmaster, Patrick Gilmore, a rival of John Philip Sousa. Gilmore went on to organize the great 22nd Regiment Band of New York, while the Salem Band under Reinewald's direction became known as the 8th Regiment Band of Massachusetts.

In 1900 he accepted an offer to return to the US Navy and become the new bandmaster of the Portsmouth Naval Yard Band. His commission was to train the best band in the US Navy. Reinewald, like many bandmasters of this era, was a self-taught musician who had no academic degree but came up through the ranks based on his reputation as a talented musician and composer.

In the navy, an admiral's flagship would always have a band to provide shipboard entertainment for officers, sailors and guests. Most navy band musicians could play string instruments as well as traditional wind instruments and they were equally adept at playing orchestral, opera, and dance music as military marches.

-- --

US Naval Band, Portsmouth, New Hampshire circa 1908

This image of the Portsmouth Naval Band is undated but was probably made around 1915-25. In the center of the back row, we can recognize that the older man with a cornet and gold stripes on his jacket - the bandmaster, has the same features and nearly the same stance as R. L. Reinewald in his first photo wearing the bowler hat. 

Portsmouth, NH Herald  June 16,1900 

As bandmaster Reinewald had freedom to organize concerts outside of the navy and to take on students. In 1900 he set up Reinwald's Conservatory of Music in Portsmouth and offered lessons on violin, cornet, clarionet, piano, trombone, guitar, mandolin, and cello. He also furnished music for weddings, concerts, balls, parades, etc.  His advertisement which notes Special Attention to Beginners was changed a few months later to read Special Pains Taken with Beginners.  

His concerts which may have included non-navy personnel, were booked into the seaside resorts and clubs along the New Hampshire coast between Maine and Massachusetts. On one engagement for the Portsmouth Athletic Club in September 1900, a local telephone operator arranged to have Reinewald's band concert transmitted over the telephone lines to several telephone exchanges in Massachusetts. This broadcast was only heard by other operators, but they were so impressed with the sound quality and the music that they asked to know the name of the band.

R. L. Reinewald transferred to sea duty in 1908 and made two European tours. After 30 years of exemplary service he retired from the navy but remained in Portsmouth where he ran a music store. The store sold instruments, sheet music, and offered music lessons on all instruments. He advertised regularly in the Portsmouth Herald newspaper  right up to his death in 1934 at the age of 82. In addition to an obituary (which has provided many of the details on his life), the newspaper also ran this special editorial tribute. 

Ralph L. Reinwald 1852-1934
Portsmouth, NH Herald  February 15, 1934 

Bandmaster Reinewald was a celebrated musician for good reason. He was clearly an important teacher for countless navy musicians as well as a honored performer in the Portsmouth area. He represents a tradition of musicianship and professionalism that was part of American military culture at the turn of the 19th century.

 *** ***

When photos like these are sold, they are rarely kept together. Undoubtedly there were other interesting photos in the adjacent pages of the Reinewald photo album from which these were taken, but we will never see them. But even more rare is the following bit of ephemera that came with the photos. It celebrates a special occasion in Ralph Reinewald's life – his marriage. It may even be the reason he once posed for a camera dressed in white tie, tail coat, and bowler hat.

It was 137 years ago on a Tuesday. June 19th, 1877 to be exact, that young Ralph L. Reinewald married Alice Gertrude Adams of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We can only guess how long the ceremony took, but surely the party afterwards lasted much, much longer. He was a sailor after all. There was food, music, drink, more music and speeches. One of Ralph's fellow bandsmen delivered a poem that day. Sadly time has torn his name from the old paper, but his clear fine handwriting gives him a voice to tell the story of a young man about to embark on a voyage of discovery.

Dover N. H.
June 19th 1877

The following lines are respectfully dedicated
to Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Reinewalde by their author
Hen... Ho...pun( ?)

What are the bells all ringing for,
Now what on earth is up?
Has somebody been drinking of
Th' intoxicating cup?
The Turks, have they been beaten? or,
The Dutchmen taken Holland?
Wont some please, to tell me, as
A stranger, here I stand.

T'was thus I spoke, (while on a warm
And sultry day in June
I, in the town of Portsmouth had
Been cast by Dame [Fortune]
But ere an answer I could get
A procession came in view
And who, and what, I then did see
I'll now relate to you.

Now as they near, and nearer came,
A voice both loud and hearty
Cried out, "you now know what it is,
It is a wedding party."

T'was so; and in the mid'st there was,
One by who's timid carriage!
Showed he was going to be tied,
In bonds of holy marriage.

Now when [he] close to me had [come]
In accents loud I bawled
That chap! why dont you know
T'is little Ralph Reinewalde
And sure enough, the man w...
Frightened, and pale, did stan[nd]
Was Ralph, the well known Lea[der of]
The Dover Cornet Band.

For seven long years, he on the br[ink]
Of matrimony stood!
And shivered, and shook first s...
But now At last he said he would.
So now the've both made up thei...
That f... ... will be bet...
To sail the stormy seas of life,
As man and wife, together.

That health, and wealth, and happiness,
In this life they will see!
This is the wish of all the boys,
That play in the D. C. B.
And now to both, I'd like to say,
Ere the pen falls from my hand.
I hope they'll have a little Ralph.
To play in the Dover Band.

Alice and Ralph Reinewald were able to celebrate their 50th anniversary together in 1927. As far as I know they never had a little Ralph, but they did have a daughter, Asa. Did she ever learn to play a musical instrument? With a bandmaster father, what do you think?

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone sends congratulations to the happy couple.


B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

What a great musician, a great story, and you wove a wedding and golden anniversary into it, not to mention the date yesterday being a great coincidence. I hear the bell on the door as I walk into the music shop (where I would go look at sheet music usually) and of course someone would be trying out an instrument nearby also.

North County Film Club said...

Once again, a great story. I loved that he specialized in teaching beginners. He must have been quite a guy. The poem was fantastic. What a friend he was to write such a personal poem - I have a feeling they might have been childhood friends.
Ladies of the Grove

Karen S. said...

A very lovely poem indeed. I've always felt that artists, with the brush all the way to a cello are made up of people with deep passions, for their art and it shows for all of us to appreciate. Lovely post again, thanks.

Little Nell said...

A great story behind such an accomplished man. The poem adds a touch of humour to the formality of the occasion and it’s wonderful that it has been so well preserved.

Postcardy said...

Great post! You even managed to include a wedding on a recent date.

La Nightingail said...

I, myself, cannot imagine a life without music being a great part of it, so I imagine Ralph's life must have been a very full & happy one. The poem was a lovely & fun touch. I wonder if the author might have been Ralph's Best Man at his wedding?

anyjazz said...

Fine research as usual and an interesting post!

Looks like the poet's name might be "Harikian Homespun". It may have been a joke as I can find no trace of a surname "Homespun" from that century and although there really is a given name "Harikian" it is very obscure.

Perhaps someone with a good knowledge of handwriting can shed some light on it. I may have it all wrong.

Bob Scotney said...

A narvellous story about a fine musician. I never cease to be amazed where you find all these musicians like him, You must have a huge collection.

Wendy said...

It's as if you saved these photos and story knowing that Alan would have a wedding prompt for this week.


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