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
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Grandfather's Mustache - part 1

17 June 2016

One hundred years ago,
a gentleman's hair style
was a mark of pride
in their class,
their nationality,
and sometimes their ethnic origin.
Time in a barber's chair
was considered
a worthwhile investment
in personal grooming for success.
This was especially true
of men in the world of entertainment.

This champion mustache belongs to a musician
whose name may never be known,
but his magnificent bristles deserve
to be immortalized on the internet.  

He was a member of a musical trio called Konzert-Ensemble Veritas. His two female partners clearly spent a lot of time with a hair dresser too, and display coiffures typical of the 1900s women's hairstyles in Germany and Austria. Their postcard was never mailed but it is similar to others from 1905 to 1914. Though the photo shows no instruments, I believe they were a string trio that played salon music on piano, violin, and cello. The gentleman's mustache resembles the 'stache style of other violinists of this era and his center position definitely makes him the leader. 

 Were the women his sisters?
A wife and a cousin?
Who can know.

But we can safely assume that
there was a large jar of hair pomade
in their dressing room.  


This entertainer's name was Richard Alvari, Instrumental-Virtuos. The upturned Prussian curl of his mustache indicates his imperial German nationality, but is softened by his pince-nez spectacles. My guess is that he is a violinist too, but he could just as well be a pianist or a trumpeter. Or all three, as an instrumental virtuoso implies artistry on several instruments. His brilliant white tie around a tall starched collar and his formal coat with a carnation in the lapel adds to his image as a professional musician of the highest musical class.

The postcard was postmarked from Bremen on 21.4.20 so it is post-war, but the printing style seems earlier than 1920. I can't read the message but it is signed Richard + Peperl? and the note on the front of the card says 1-15 Mai   Kiel Reichshallen.  The sender may be Richard Alvari himself writing to a friend with his May concert dates in Kiel.   


Musicians played a part in promoting more than just musical culture. Before World War 1, nationality in Europe was not always defined by a political border. This musician's dark hair and luxurious mustache are only one element of his photo. Violin-Virtuose, Direktor und Kapellmeister T. Jonescu is also wearing a wonderfully embroidered short jacket which indicates he performs the fiery music of Romania/Hungary. The surname Jonescu may be a variation of Ionescu, which would place his heritage in the Transylvania region of the Austrian empire.

To make this violinist's background even more confusing, the card was sent from Köln, Germany to Senorita Elena Schmedling in Norway. The writer's language is neither German nor Romanian but Italian. The fountain pen ran dry a couple of times but the lengthy message does involve a Atelier di dentista! - dental studio!


This last mustache is another prize winner in the handlebar category. It belongs to Kapellmeister Martin Fischer. The title Kapellmeister indicates he was the leader of an orchestra, and likely was the principal solo violinist. His black tie and evening jacket with two little medals on the lapel are another sign of a high class musician, proud of his artistic accomplishments as well as his grandiose mustachio.  

The card was sent from Muenchen, Bavaria, once a separate kingdom within the German confederation, on 26 NOV 1908. 

My title this weekend, Grandfather's Mustache - part 1, was chosen because my collection includes a number of performers with impressive hirsute fashions. This is the first of what will become an ongoing, if intermittent, series to present the various ways that grandfather tried to look good for the camera. 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where fuzzy and cute are always appreciated.


Little Nell said...

That old German script is hard to decipher. Thank goodness we have the dashing musical performers to admire.

La Nightingail said...

Those 'staches are something else. Such artistry!

Jo Featherston said...

I don't know if it is just me not favouring moustaches, but I feel that while they may have looked distinguished on their own, all those gentlemen with their moustaches and hairstyles looked very similar when viewed together.

Liz Needle said...

A great set of musical mo's.

Wendy said...

I get what you're saying, but those curled mustaches just make these men look like Snidely Whiplash. I really enjoyed your observations about the clothing as clues to their nationality and instrument of choice.

Jodi Lynn Strait said...

I so enjoy reading your blog! My father had a handle-bar mustache in the 1970s. Too much work, he gave it up.

Barbara Fisher said...

Wonderful Stuff Mike, I enjoyed reading about each postcard and your observations. It seems to me that you really look at things rather than giving them a cursory glance, I must try to emulate that.

Tattered and Lost said...

As soon as I saw the first photo I thought, "This guy looks familiar." Had to rack my brain before remembering that decades ago I did a book about Strindberg. Went on a search and found the jacket. Yup, your fella reminds me of Strindberg. It's the hair.

Titania Staeheli said...

Admirable moustachios, so much time must have been invested to have the perfect looks. I always like your stories behind the faces.


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