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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A Band Afloat

29 October 2016

Why would a musician march in a parade
when they could ride?

Or even float?

A brass band of twelve young women and two men, (plus two drivers) sit tight in a gaily decorated carriage. The bass drummer perched on the back with a music lyre attached to her drum looks somewhat apprehensive, but to judge by the mud on the two white horses, marching would have been more than a bit messy. There is no caption and we wouldn't know anything about who, when, or where except that this postcard was sent through the US Postal Service.

It was postmarked July 10, 1908 from Waupun, Wisconsin
to Miss Linnie Nourse of Minburn, Iowa

Dear Cousin: — Well the
Homecoming is over & I am glad
of it. the town was crowded
with straingers I did not
have a good time at all.
This is the Randolph girl
Band that was here.
I will be glad to have you
come out hear this summer.
Mable said she would write
later. Your Loving Cousin   Elsie.

Founded in 1839 the city of Waupun, Wisconsin had a population of  3,362 in the 1910 census. The "homecoming" that Elsie found so displeasing, was a three day festival that combined 4th of July patriotism, town boosterism, and fraternal public spirit. It was an opportunity for former residents of the community to return to Waupun and celebrate their hometown with old friends and neighbors. This type of jubilee fair was not uncommon among towns in America, and one visitor from Oshkosh, WI, a larger town 30 miles to the north, had a such a grand time that they sent a review of the Waupun Homecoming to their Oshkosh newspaper.

Oshkosh WI Daily Northwestern
09 July 1908

Celebration Was Fine
Oshkosh Visitor at Waupun Says
That City Knowns (sic) How to Have

An Oshkosh resident spent the Fourth of July at Waupun and he speaks enthusiastically of the celebration. Said he: "The Fourth was celebrated in great style at Waupun. It was the last day of the 'homecoming' anniversary and Oshkosh would do well to study the manner  in which that city did things. There were three parades on a mammoth scale. These including an industrial display with the Knights of Pythias. mounted. in charge. The floats represented all the leading manufacturing plants and merchants of the city. Another parade was the representation of a circus and in this the take-off. on floats. of the Huricon (?) marsh controversy created much laughter and applause as it passed through the crowded streets.

The closing feature of the three parades was the floral parade and it was the crowning event of the day. It consisted of Waupun equestriennes, the ladies on horses making a fine showing. also decorated bicycles and automobiles. The display indicated that much time labor and expanse had been devoted to making this parade a memorable one. There was 'something doing almost every minute' throughout the day and the arrangements committee should receive much credit for perfecting the many details.

The music was furnished by the Ladies band of Randolph, Wis. and the Prison City band. The vaudeville performances on the Main street attracted a large crowd the entire day. Waupun has reason to be proud of its "homecoming." Brandon sent an entire carload of guests and many parts of the country were represented in the celebration.

"Work is being pushed in constructing a binder twine factory at the state prison and the building will be enclosed within sixty days. It will be 88 by 248 feet in size and of concrete and brick. two stories high. The building alone will cost about $41,111 and the machinery will cost nearly $80,000. An addition is also being built to the woman's dormitory at the prison."

* * *

The Ladies Band came from Randolph, WI, about 17 miles southwest of Waupun. In 1910 it had a population of 937. The Prison City Band was not the same as the Waupun Prison Band which I featured in November 2013 on another of my postcard stories entitled The Band at the Big House. The Prison City Band was actually made up of honest law-abiding Waupun musicians as Waupun had an unofficial nickname of "Prison City", and local residents were so proud of the Wisconsin State Penitentiary that it was a featured tourist site.  The Huricon marsh controversy refers to the Horicon Marsh, an immense ancient glacial lake near Waupun that is now a state wildlife refuge protecting  the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. In 1910 however, it considered a swampland that some people wanted to drain for agricultural development.

The inmate musicians of the Wisconsin State Prison Band, if they participated at all,
probably did not ride in a float during Waupun's 1908 Fourth of July fest

And most likely the prisoners had a different notion about celebrating "Homecoming."

This is my contribution to the October edition of Sepia Saturday
where people come and go as they please,
but old photos and stories are always free.


Anna Matthews said...

Great articles and artifacts. I love that postcard, it is a treasure.

La Nightingail said...

I can understand Elsie's disenchantment with the "Homecoming" event. We lived in a small town for many years - population approximately 3000. But come the holidays: Memorial Day weekend, the 4th of July, Labor Day weekend, the annual 49er Festival including parade and Chili Cook-off in later Sept. and the population of the town swelled to more than 3 times the norm. Many of the locals simply stayed home. There were no parking places to be had in the whole of the town so no use trying to go to the grocery store or to one of several eateries or anywhere else for that matter. So the holiday gatherings and festivals were mostly for the out-of-towners!


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