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 Kid Band of Caldwell, Ohio

20 November 2015

I don't see color very well. It's not because I am colorblind, but because I collect antique photographs that record images only in monotones. Early cameras produced lovely ochres, robust sepias, vibrant ambers, and distinguished greys. But they were never able to represent the true colors of reality. Negative films and glass plates still preserved a genuine likeness but we view these old prints through a kind of prism that converted colors into a smaller range of monotone hues. The result is that we may only guess at the actual pigments and shades. That is why this postcard image of a boys band is unusual. Someone corrected the "deficiency" of the original photograph by painting color washes onto the photo print. Instead of grey tone, we see that the young musician's uniforms are a russet red fabric. Their instruments are silver plated. Their faces a creamy beige.

They were the Caldwell Kid Band.

These 14 boys lived in Caldwell, Ohio and played in a band of mostly brass instruments with two clarinetists and two drummers. The youngest looks to be about age 7. The tallest might be 13. At the back stands their bandleader, a man wearing a bowler hat and an ordinary suit coat. 

The back of the postcard has no postmark but does have a cryptic message.

 Pick your
fellow out
 now for it
 will be to late
 some day

The front of the card has a caption in case we missed the band's name painted on the bass drum. No. 208,  Caldwell Kid Band, Caldwell, Ohio, which is repeated on the back with the information that it was Made in Germany. Until the advent of WW1 in 1914, most of the world's souvenir postcards were printed in Germany, so this card dates to around the beginning of the 20th century. 

Caldwell, OH is a small village in eastern Ohio and is the county seat of Noble County. In 1900 it had a population of  927, but in 1910 it could boast 1,430 citizens. Today that number has expanded only a bit more to about 1,700. Yet despite its size the townspeople supported both a men's band and a boy's band too.

In 2005, Pat Parks, a feature writer for the Cambridge, OH Daily Jeffersonian wrote a short history of the music making in Noble County. He said this about the Caldwell Kids Band.

An unparalleled musical organization was organized in 1906 by John Calland that was not composed of adults but was formed with youngsters ranging in age from nine to 13 years. They soon gained popularity and often traveled to neighboring villages for social functions. Calland moved from the Caldwell area in 1908, and an accomplished musician U.H. Shadwell, took over the reins when he left. The band became known as the youngest group of organized musicians in southeastern Ohio. They were called the Caldwell Kid Band.

Their repertoire included a wide variety of sacred and patriotic music, and their music attracted a crowd wherever they traveled. Members were Edgard Artman and Irwin Quick, tubas; Oscar Noble, baritone; Donald Dye, Benson Day and Earl Schob, trombones; Robert Shively and Miles Racey, altos; George Williams, Thomas Keenan and Frederick Schob, clarinets; Clare Shadwell, Danner Hastings and Harry Richcreek, cornets; Paul Conner, bass drum and Charley Ferguson, snare drum. Shadwell also sat in with his cornet at times.

The Noble County Historical Society was fortunate to receive several of the uniforms that were worn by the Caldwell Kid Band from Mary Richcreek several years ago. It is hoped to feature these uniforms and other memorabilia in a display at the historic old jail. The first annual assembly of the Noble County Chautauqua was held at Chautauqua Court on west North Street, Aug. 14-21, 1910, and the Caldwell Kid Band performed every afternoon and evening. C.C. Caldwell was the general manager of the affair. By 1913, the Caldwell Kid Band had grown up. The quality of their music was better than ever, but the novelty of youth had faded. They played their last concert in 1913.

The article includes a small image that was the same photo used in June 1907 by the Cincinnati Enquirer to promote the band. The caption says that the oldest member was 13 years of age and the youngest only 9. It then includes the surnames of the 14 boys. The scan of the newspaper is not clear but I think the two drummers on either side are the same boys as in the postcard. If I'm correct, then the man standing with the band is its first leader, John Calland. 

Cincinnati, OH Enquirer
June 7, 1907

Cincinnati is about 200 mile west of Caldwell, but in 1907 the Kid Band was beginning to make a statewide reputation.

Hillsboro, OH News Herald
April 22, 1909

Besides performing at local functions around Caldwell, the Kid Band also worked as the entertainment for a land company auctioning off building sites. In April 1909, an Ohio realty broker took out a full page advertisement for the sale of residential property sites called Highland Terrace in Hillsboro, OH, about 140 miles west of Caldwell.

Prospective buyers were offered free carriage rides to the grounds, and enticed with $500 of beautiful silverware given away free to people who attended the sale. Grand open air concerts were given by the Famous Caldwell Kid Band and the Hillsboro Military Band.

Reviews of the event the next week reported that seventy lots were sold at prices from $50 to $500. The Kid Band performed before hundreds of people.
The features of this land sale make me wonder if the strange message on the postcard refers to picking out home sites.


The 2005 newspaper account of the music in Noble County provided a nice list of the full names of the Kid Band and I was able to find most of them in U.S. Census records for Caldwell. Most boys had a birth year between 1896 and 1900. They were sons of farmers, merchants, managers, tradesmen, physicians, and lawyers and came from middle class rather than working class families. One boy, Miles H. Racey, was born in 1895 and was in the 1900 census where his father listed an occupation of Photographer. In the next census of 1910, father was gone and Miles' mother, Lindey Racey, was listed as divorced.

Her occupation?  Retoucher Photograph.

Did Mile's father take the original photograph of the band and did his mother paint the colors onto it? There were probably very few photographers in such a small town and I'd expect Mile's father gave a discount if his son was to be in the picture too. And Mrs. Racey must have taken some pride in her photo artistic skill to enter Retoucher as an occupation.  Miles H. Racey played alto according to the information in Mr. Park's article. That would be either the boy holding an alto horn and standing second left in the first cropped image,  or the boy seated center with a mellophone in this next enlarged image. Of course, a German print shop may have applied the colors to the postcard print but I like they idea that Mile's mother colorized her son's face.

The Caldwell Kid Band performed for a only very short time from 1906 to 1913. In a way their story reads a bit like Meredith Willson's famous musical The Music Man. At the beginning of the 20th century, public schools did not include band programs, or athletic sports for that matter. All across the country, adult musicians like John Calland organized similar bands for boys, and girls too, that would serve to train children in a useful skill and a satisfying discipline. I have found dozens of groups like this.

But by strange coincidence, this is the third boys band from the same area of Ohio. Unfortunately we see the boys in the other two photos only in sepia tones.

Back in 2009, I wrote about the Famous Cadet Band of Malta-McConnelsville, OH in my post entitled The Boys in the Band. The cards postmark dates this band of 12 boys and one dog to December 1909. McConnelsville is on east bank of the Muskingum River, opposite Malta which is in a different county. Their photo is in my top 10 favorite musical mages in my collection.

{ Be sure to click the images to enlarge them. }

In 2012 I wrote a post about one of my most challenging cases of photo detective work, the Boys Concert Band. This large format photo had the full names of the 9 band musicians and a date of 1908, but there was no location noted. After a lot of research I discovered that the boys all came from Pike Township in Perry County, OH. Alas, as much as I love this photo, I will never know the color of their uniforms. Red? Green? Blue?

In 1910, Pike Township, Malta, McConnelsville, and Caldwell had nearly the same population of approximately 1500 citizens. Pike Township is 22 miles west of the twin towns Malta-McConnelsville, which are 26 miles west of Caldwell.

The close arrangement of towns strongly suggests that they knew of each other, and could have met and played concerts together. But that is research for another day.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
Click the link for more boys at play.


La Nightingail said...

As always, an interesting & fun pictorial read. Love the expression on the Caldwell Kid Band clarinetist sitting on the left end of the second row with those eye-popping eyes!

ScotSue said...

Fascinating old photographs backed up by the interesting history. I am always amazed how small towns managed to sustain such musical talent and activity.

tony said...

Pick your
fellow out
now for it
will be to late
some indeed a puzzle.I'm sure Stephen King could use this alone as the basis of a story. And The Great Morrow is the best name I,ve heard in a long while!

Kristin said...

I think the mother was the one who painted the color on and I hope that the pick your fellow out did have to do with the lots, although it doesn't make much sense, unless someone wrote the wrong word.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I've never felt the need to see the colours in these old photos. love the Malta photo. They look like "real" boys in their casual clothes.

Lorraine Phelan said...

The boys in the Famous Cadet Band are certainly wearing a variety of caps.

Jo Featherston said...

Great research as always, and all character-filled photographs. I like Carl in the last photo with his bow tie on crooked.

Wendy said...

I feel like I just read the backstory that inspired "The Music Man."


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