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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Master Harry Barreuther - Boy Cellist

30 September 2016

It almost looks
like a trick photo.
A young boy dressed
in a sailor suit
stands with his arm
draped comradely around
what appears to be
an enormous violin.
Of course it's not a violin
but a violoncello.
the photographer
knew what he was doing
by accentuating
the novelty effect
of a small boy
who played a very large instrument,
the cello.

The photographer was Charles Eisenmann of New York, a German immigrant who was famous for taking promotional pictures of theatrical artists and circus performers. His Bowery studio ran from 1876 to 1898, and Eisenmann's most collectible photos are of the "human oddities" that were featured in the popular dime museums and carnival side shows of the era. But Eisenmann also produced photos of young musicians like Master Eddie Derville - Cornet Soloist, and another unknown boy cellist in Musical Children at Work

The boy cellist in this cabinet card was also unidentified, but I when I acquired his photo I recognized the cut of his sailor suit from another cabinet photo in my collection where his entire family posed for Mr. Eisenmann's camera.

_ _

This family's portrait shows a mother and father with their five children, three girls and two boys. The father and one son, also in a matching sailor suit, hold violins, and the younger son stands next to a cello. It is clearly the same child who had his individual photo taken on the same day in Eisenmann's studio. Even the maroon colored card stock with scalloped edges is the same. 

But I still did not know the family's name and my hunch that they might be a traveling family troupe of musicians was based only on the photographer's reputation. Then a year later I bought a second photo of the family, identical to this one but on an ivory stock paper. It included a rare piece of ephemera on a single piece of paper – a concert program.

Printed with wonderful typeface the program is entitled:

Barreuther Familien Concert.

The concert is in two parts with thirteen numbers written in German script. It begins with 1. Parlor Overture by H. Barreuther and ends with 13. National Songs of America, France, England, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Russia, as arranged by H. Barreuther. Three children are named, Katie and Harry, and Fritz on violin. The printer was the German-American Publishing Co. of Holyoke, Mass. There is no date or place. At the bottom is a notice in German which says:

Changes are made when an organ is to be used, or where the family plays a second time

_ _

The style of these cabinet cards put the family into the infamous dark hole of American genealogy, the 1890s, which is the missing decade of US Census records, destroyed by a catastrophic fire in 1921. Fortunately they were still together in 1900 when Henry Barreuther was listed as head of household in the U.S. Census records of Brooklyn, NY. 

1900 US Census - Brooklyn NY
Henry Barreuther was age 62, born in Germany in June 1837. His wife was Louisa Barreuther, age 49, also born in Germany. Their children were all born in Connecticut and listed in descending order of age: Matilda, age 26; Frederick, age 24; Freda, age 23; Kathie(rine), age 21, and Henry, born in December 1881 and now age 18.  They were renting a house in Brooklyn at 752 Madison St. The father Henry listed his occupation as Teacher Music. Frederick was a Job Printer, Kathie, a Stenographer, and Henry Jr. an Electrician.   

752 Madison St., Brooklyn NY.
Google Street View 2012

Springfield MA Republican
29 September 1889
In September 1889, the Springfield, MA Republican printed a short review of a concert given in a local music store.

The Barreuther family of musicians on their way from Winsted, Ct. to Florence, where they will appear to-night, stopped in this city yesterday forenoon and gave a pleasing informal recital at Hutchins's music-house. The family consists of seven persons, and the youngest child, Harry, a seven year-old-old, is the most remarkable. His performance of the 'cello part in the overture-medley, made up from the overtures of  “Poet and Peasant,” “Zampa” and “Lohengrin,” as also in the solo, “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep,” would have been creditable to an artist of much greater age. The medley, “Chestnuts,” was played with much earnestness. His brother, Fritz, aged 14. who accompanied him with violin, was more serious in his work. The girls, Mathilda, Frida and Kate, played good piano accompaniments. The father has been a teacher of music and German in the vicinity of Winsted for some years and now wishes by means of concerts to raise sufficient money to take his family to Germany for the further development of their talent. A movement is on foot to have them heard here in a few weeks under the auspices of the Knights of Pythias, the head of the household being a member of that order.

That September, Henry (Harry) was just coming up to his 8th birthday in December. This report with its exceptional detail was the oldest record I could find of the Barreuther family performances. So I think the Eisenmann photographs were made in 1889-1890 and show Harry Barreuther, boy cellist at about age 8.

_ _

Boston MA Herald
11 March 1890

The following March in 1890, Henry Sr. ran a classified ad in the Boston Herald offering the Barreuther Family to supply a refined musical entertainment to private parties, churches, lyceums and organization of good standing in and around Boston.

In the 1880s the German-American community was the largest foreign national group in the US. The decade between 1881 and 1890 saw the greatest influx when 1,452,970 Germans immigrated to the United States. Their influence was everywhere from small farming towns to industrial cities. Nearly every metropolitan area had German societies that advocated and encouraged German culture. The musician rosters of the major 19th century American orchestras were predominantly of German names. The reason the Barreuther family printed a program in German was because their audience preferred to read in their native language.   

Boston Herald
04 March 1890

That spring the Barreuthers played at famous impresario B. F. Keith's Gaiety Theatre in Boston. They headed the program as instrumental and vocal soloists, followed by R. G. Knowles, the eccentric comedian. Vic Laiscelie, the well known equilibrist, demonstrated his daring chair tower act. The comedians, vocalists, and dancers, Moore and Vivian, shared applause with Pickert and Mayon, champion solo dancers, and the double trapeze bar act of Castor and Corriea. Healy and Costeilo, the American novelty team were up to the average, and Thomas Lord, Irish comedian deserves mention. The finest feature of the bill was the contortion act of Rexo and Reno. And there was Mej. Gleason, novelty drill artist, and the skaters Chase and Carrie Moore.

The theater performance closed with a domestic comedy farce called “Trapped.”     

_ _

The Barreuthers seem to have enjoyed some success traveling over a small circuit of theaters, churches, and fraternal halls. I was unable to find any newspaper reports beyond the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York region. Presumably they kept their home in Winsted, CT and arranged tours to coincide with school breaks. 

The following year there was a report that had nothing to do with music, but the Barreuther name did become an item in newspapers from New York to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles CA Herald
12 April 1891

In April 1891, a Miss Louise Barreuther killed a large racoon she found in the chicken coop. At sixteen and one-half pounds it was remarkable enough to be newsworthy for a week. What ties it to Henry Barreuther is that the report included Louise's address on Pratt St. in Winsted, CT. This may have been the middle name of one of Henry's daughters, or perhaps only a cousin from Winsted. 

_ _

Greenfield MA Gazette
26 June 1891

That summer in 1891, the Barreuther Family gave a vocal and instrumental concert at the Grand Army Hall in Greenfield, MA. The advertisement promoted little eight-year-old Harry, the only and first prodigy on the bass. Harry, now closer to age ten than eight, had eceived the highest compliments of P. Gilmore, Patrick Gilmore (1829-1892), the celebrated band leader, and Mrs Kendal, Dame Madge Kendal (1848-1935), the noted English actress.  Admission cost 25¢, reserved seats 35¢, children 15¢.
The notices of the Barreuther concerts, which are very few, were scattered over the years 1889 to 1896. At some point the family moved to Brooklyn, where Henry Barreuther continued to teach music and German.

_ _

This next boy cellist is a cdv photo also taken at the Eisenmann studio of New York. There is no name but I believe it is Harry Barreuther, again standing next to his cello, but now older by a few years. Instead of a sailor suit he wears a velveteen or satin jacket with short pants. Note his theatrical slippers. His hair is combed  and oiled but I think the ears, chin, and mouth match a maturing child.  The cello is also a very close match.

Because of its string tuning, the violoncello only comes in one size which makes it difficult for a child to hold it between their knees like an adult would do. An alternate technique would be for a child to stand and play the cello like a double bass. In both photos the way the end pin is extended suggest that was how Harry Barreuther performed. 

_ _

_ _

Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle
02 February 1909

Henry Barreuther (the father), died of apoplexy in Brooklyn on Sunday, January 31, 1909. His obituary noted that he was a band leader and teacher of music. Born in 1837 in Germany he came to Brooklyn twenty years earlier from Winsted, Conn. He was a member of the Unity Council, Knights of Pythias, and the Greene Avenue Presbyterian Church. He was survived by his wife Louisa Schoenbein, two sons, Henry and Frederick, and three daughters, Mathilda, Frida, and Katherine.

In the 1900s Frederick Barreuther moved to Brattleboro, Vermont where, like his father, he pursued a career as a music teacher, especially of the violin. Henry "Harry" Barreuther continued on cello and was occasionally listed as a recital soloist in the New York City area. In 1916 he was cello soloist with the Kriens Symphony Club orchestra of 100 musicians who played in the auditorium of Wanamaker's New York City department store. At the beginning of the radio age in 1928, he was listed on the schedule of radio station WNYC Manhattan playing with the Brooklyn Trio from 9:30 PM to 10:00 PM. The trio's violinist was Anthony Carrello, and the pianist was Frieda Weber, whom I suspect was Henry sister.  

In the 1920 census, Henry was age 38 and had a wife, Irene. He listed his occupation as Photographer Portraits. His draft card for 1917 and 1942 listed his occupation as photographer. Perhaps the exposure, so to speak, to Charles Eisenmann's photography studio made a strong impression on young Harry. In the archives of the Library of Congress is a small collection of very large landscape photographs taken by Henry Barreuther between 1912 and 1917 in Connecticut and Vermont. This is a photo of Highland Lake, Winsted, Conn. made in 1914 by Henry Barreuther as signed in the center caption. Likely it was a place the Barreuther family knew well. A family of musicians, climbing up to the top of the hill, singing German folk songs. Sounds like a great idea for a movie.

{click the image to enlarge}

According to Social Security records, Henry Barruether of Brooklyn died in 1966.
He took good photos.

This is my contribution to September's Sepia Saturday
where work and play have no boundaries.


Wendy said...

I wonder if little Henry/Harry just got sick of music or if perhaps it was too hard to make a living.

Little Nell said...

The mulit-talented Harry - with more than one string to his bow!


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