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 }

Music for Lawn Tennis

21 April 2017


Out among the clover
as the noontime passes over
do we gather for a lark.










With joy each heart is teeming,
every hour with fun is beaming,
And we linger there 'till nearly dark,









Each other gaily chaffing
at the harmless frolic laughing,
Heedless of the hours that steal away,

There is naught such pleasure yields
as hid in clover scented fields,
Playing in the cool of the day.









Lawn Tennis!
Lawn Tennis!
Sweethearts are wont to play at this,
The moments pass so jolly,
'Tis a pleasure, not a folly.
Give me the game,
"Lawn Tennis."








 

Lads and merry lassies
mingle on the Summer grasses
after lunch is served each day,

When the Sun is gently glowing
and a balmy breeze is blowing,
You will find us eager for the fray,










Lots of fun and sayings witty
from the dimpled cheeks so pretty.
Glances of their winning eyes devine,

Tho' a little bit confusing
makes the game much more amusing,
Then the gents try to them outshine.










Lawn Tennis!
Lawn Tennis!
Sweethearts are wont to play at this,
The moments pass so jolly,
'Tis a pleasure, not a folly.
Give me the game,
Lawn Tennis.”

Lawn Tennis – Song and Dance
as performed by Thatcher, Primrose & West's Minstrels
words and music by Barney Fagan
copyright 1885 by Chas. D. Blake & Co.



Lawn Tennis Song & Dance,
sheet music cover page
1885 by Barney Fagen
Source: Library of Congress


This is one of the strangest photographs in my collection. A small musical ensemble of eight women stand outside on a manicured lawn. In the background is a hammock, and further beyond is what looks like a lumberyard. One woman wields either a very long baton or a broomstick and is presumably the band leader. The other women have three brass instruments, a guitar, a violin, a tambourine, and a small snare drum. It's not quite a band or an orchestra. They all wear long dresses but each is different, so they are not in any formal concert attire. What makes the photo so intriguing is that lying on the lawn just in front of the women are seven tennis rackets. I have a lot of photos of ladies bands and orchestras, but this is the only one that includes sporting equipment.











We can't know where they are, as the albumen cabinet photo does not have a photographer's mark. It's likely the work of an amateur. But the back does have a penciled note that looks reasonably contemporary with the photo:

No. 10

1890





* *


I think the women's apparel matches the 1890 date. However two of the brass instruments do not fit with that decade and that is the musical oddity in the photo. One woman has a standard piston valve cornet, but the other two have over-the-shoulder saxhorns of the style used in military bands of the 1860s. The middle instrument looks like a B-flat soprano saxhorn, and the right one is a longer bass saxhorn. During the first years of the Civil War, soldiers marched behind regimental brass bands which used this unusual style instrument because the sound would be projected backwards towards the troops that followed. The usual brass band concert formation, in camp or on the battlefield, was to arrange the bandsmen into a circle around the bandleader so that the sound projected outwards. These over-the-shoulder brass instruments came in an assortment of sizes from high treble to contrabass, and typically they used rotary valves.




In the post-war years, piston valve instruments became the new standard for brass bands because they were cheaper to make and easier to care for. They also sounded better. By the mid 1870s the over-the-shoulder instruments were outmoded and rare to find in photographs of male brass bands. I've never seen female brass musicians holding this kind of instrument in a photo as late as the 1890s.

Why this group of ladies has two OTS saxhorns is a mystery. All the women look capable of playing their respective instruments, especially the two string instrumentalists. Were they professional or amateur musicians? It's impossible to know without more clues.  

But the tennis rackets have a better explanation.


San Francisco Morning Call
23 May 1890


It turns out that 1890 was a peak year for Lawn Tennis which was first played on croquet courts around 1859-1865 in Birmingham, England. In the 1870s it became a popular game in America and by 1890 it was all the rage. This was partly because lawn tennis was played by both men and women, usually in mixed doubles. And like any other public activity of the 19th century, tennis required women to wear the proper fashion – a tennis gown. In 1890 American newspapers were filled with illustrations of the latest lawn tennis styles.


South End Lawn Tennis Club,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, c.1900
Source: Wikimedia





Nashville Tennessean
25 May 1890










The iconic female figure of 1890 was sadly not much different  from the distorted proportions of Barbie® dolls from the 1960s. Women are pictured with incredible wasp waists, long necklines, and tiny feet. They hold a tennis racket but their forearms are covered to the wrist, and shoulders are  filled out with puffed fabric.

Apparently perspiration was not much of an issue in 1890 as collars appear very high and  tight. And tennis hats provided no protection from sun. Presumably long hat pins kept the hats securely fastened during long volleys.



* *



Helena MT Independent Record
1 June 1890







Lawn tennis was an 1890 trend from New York to San Francisco. Even the newspaper in Helena, Montana reported on the current tennis fashions.

"The average young woman wants a tennis gown. If she is only moderately athletic she may get on with one dress for and occasional afternoon with the racquet or on the water. Such a dress is suitable for either tennis or yachting, or any informal out-of-door occasion, may have an underskirt of a delicate green wool with a tiny figure in cream and a blouse waist of cream with sleeves puffed at the shoulders. If she is an indefatigable player or spends much time boating and wants exercise dresses for downright service, they may be more carefully differentiated." 








* *




Lawn Tennis 1887
Print by Prang (L.) & Co.
Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division



In April 1888 the Pittsburgh Daily Post ran a report on women's fashions for tennis.  


Pittsburgh Daily Post
28 April 1888

Special Correspondence to the Post
New York, April 27 —
"How ought a woman to dress to play tennis well?" was the question asked this morning of a member of the large New York Tennis Club which carries off the palm from all feminine tennis players in and about the city.

"These are the six essential points," was the reply: "Sleeves loose enough no to cut the elbow, a waist broad enough in the back to give freedom to the arms in running, a silk petticoat, light skirts with little drapery or none at all, low shoes and courage to appear in daylight wihout corsets. Given these hald dozen items and in addition a quick eye, quick motions, quick thought and patience and almost any woman can play tennis well."

Tennis has been played in this country for 14 years. It has been the fashion for at least eight. It will be more the fashion than ever this summer.

"Yes, papa is going to have her in commission by the middle of May, and we shall be afloat pretty much all summer. We may get as far as the Mediterranean; who knows?"

"You lucky girl! What a jolly time you will have; but–you won't get much tennis, will you?"

"No; that's the one distressing thing about the situation. I shan't get a dozen games, it's an awful fact. I shall have to hang up my racket and put black ribbons on it. However, my arms will stay both the same size, there's a crumb of comfort in that. Last fall my right fore-arm was fully an inch bigger round than my left, and no matter how my sleeves were cut, they wouldn't match at all. I've just seen those muscles shrinking all winter, and now I am about even again. But I'd rahter have one arm twice as ig as the other, than not play tennis for a whole season."




* *


Are the members of the Ladies Lawn Tennis Orchestra
dressed in an appropriate garb for a game? 
Sadly their long dresses hide their feet
so we can't see if they are outfitted
with A. J. Cammeyers latest
Ladies Canvas Lawn Tennis Rubber Sole Lace Shoes.
 
Only $1.50 a pair.



New York Times
20 July 1890





Game,
Set,
and Match?




This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the game is always afoot.

http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/2017/04/sepia-saturday-364-22nd-april-2017.html






Brother and Sisters

14 April 2017




Cute?










Cuter?









Cutest?








All together now.
Awwww!







Four siblings gaze into the camera lens, two older sisters with a mandolin each, younger brother with a violin, and youngest sister with nothing but the charm of a three-year old. The sisters, at around ages 15, 13, and 3, wear nearly matching dresses in a gingham fabric. Brother wears a sailor suit with short pants. Though their names are unknown, they are children of a German family as their postcard photo was never posted but has a message in German on the back.

The writer provides a date, 24.1.1915 and a place – Pries, a town in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is near the eastern entrance of the great Kiel Canal which is the waterway built in 1895 to connect the North Sea with the Baltic Sea. In 1915 Kiel was the home port for the Imperial German Navy so the boy's sailor suit was likely a common outfit for young boys in Pries.

And in January 1915 the world had been at war for nearly 6 months.




***


By coincidence the date 24 January 1915 was the Battle of Dogger Bank, a rare naval encounter of the First World War between squadrons of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet. On January 23rd the British Admiralty intercepted and decoded a German radio message about a sortie of battleships heading to the North Sea shallow waters of the Dogger Bank with orders to raid Britain's northeast coast. Four British squadrons with 12 cruisers and 35 destroyers were sent out to engage two smaller German squadrons of 8 cruisers and 18 torpedo boats. The German force also included seaplanes and a Zeppelin airship to provide aerial reconnaissance.


Unaware that the British could decipher their codes, the Kaiser's fleet was caught by surprise. Rather than confront a superior force, the German squadrons turned back and a stern chase ensued with ship speeds sometimes reaching 27 knots. This was the first modern naval battle between battleships moving at speed while firing their massive artillery. Early on some German shells struck the British flagship HMS Lion putting it out of action. Meanwhile the British guns managed to strike the cruiser SMS Blücher, the rearmost German ship, causing it to reduce speed and lose contact with its squadron.

SMS Blücher underway
Source: Wikipedia


In 1915, wireless radio was a new technology that was unsophisticated and unreliable, so communication between naval ships were still made with traditional signal flags just as battleships had done in the days of sail. During the chase a false sighting of a German U-boat submarine caused the British commander to abruptly change course in an attempt to avoid an unseen enemy. Then a misunderstanding in signal messages caused the British battlecruisers to break off their pursuit of the remaining German fleet and instead concentrate all fire on the disabled Blücher.

Like most naval ships of this era, the Blücher was powered by steam engines burning coal. When a shell hit one of the ship's coal bunkers it set off a devastating explosion in the engine rooms. The Blücher continued to return fire at the attacking British ships but could not escape their torpedoes. As the Blücher began to sink, British destroyers moved in to rescue the German crew, but the German Zeppelin L5 mistook the overturned ship as a British battlecruiser and attacked the destroyers with bombs, driving them off.

SMS Blücher sinking 24 January 1915
Source: Wikipedia
Just five hours from the start of the battle, after being hit by 70-100 large caliber shells and several torpedoes, the Blücher capsized and sank to a depth of 60m in the Dogger Banks. A photographer on a British ship recorded the moment. Over 747 men perished, perhaps as many as 950, as documents are not consistent between German and British sources. Of the Blücher's estimated complement of around 1000 to 1,200 men, only 234 sailors survived including the commanding officer, though he would later die in a British POW camp along with twenty of his men.



***


The irony of the postcard's date matching the action of the Battle of Dogger Bank is just a coincidence. History and life itself is filled with an infinite number of similar flukes. But in a time of war, mankind sets up a series of catastrophic events that are unlike the random calamities of the natural world. During the years of World War One, 1914-1918, the rational order of life was disrupted by the collision of great military powers. What was once stable, normal, and expected became precarious, perverse, and accidental.

History forces us to look into the faces of these beautiful children and recognize that they lived in extraordinary times. The force of war produced incredibly stark contrasts between tragedy and joy; between sublime beauty and repulsive horror; between the promise of the past and the alienation of the future.














This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday.
Click the link for more stories of beautiful children.

http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/2017/04/sepia-saturday-363-15-april-2017.html





A Band of Brothers

07 April 2017



We love you, Alma Mater,
We always will be true,
With Mary ever guarding
Your doors with mantle blue.









We’re thankful for your light so bright
That helps us on our way.










Your spirit leads us onward
With banners red and gray.










We’ll cherish you forever
And love you Central High.










All praise to you, our Mother,
We love you, Central High.


The school song of
Central Catholic High School
Toledo, Ohio.








This is a postcard photograph of an unknown Catholic school band standing in the doorway of their school. It was probably taken to appear in the school yearbook. The only marking is the year 1910 penciled below the bass drum. The back is plain, without publisher or stamp box, so the boys in the band might just as well be from Canada as the United States. We can't even rule out France or Britain, though I think the young gentlemen's wool suits look more North American to me.

It's an impressive band with 36 musicians, all young men from ages 14 to 18 years old. Part of the reason I don't believe they are in the U.S. is that the band  has four single F horns, three with French/British style piston valves and one with German rotary valves. Horns, especially the piston valve kind, were not common in American schools in this era so I suspect this may be a school in Canada, possibly Quebec. However there are two mellophones, middle row right, which were once very common in American brass bands but never in British bands.

The band has three piston valve trombones, two tubas, a bass helicon, and a euphonium, as well as two saxophones and a generous number of clarinets, with two players holding small E-flat clarinets, front row left. There is also a bassoon, its wooden tubular bell visible at the back left, which is an instrument associated with British/Canadian military bands. There are also a pair of tympani perched on tripods typical of German school bands of this period. For a school band of 1910 this is a large ensemble that suggests the school as a whole is large too.

The reason we can say this is a Catholic school is that the band director wears a Roman Catholic habit and clerical collar. He stands in the center next to the bass drum holding a baton. But he is not the only priest in the group. There are a few more and I challenge my readers to find them all.  [HINT: There's more than three.]

Just above the band on the arched window above the door are painted letters that might identify the school's name, but most of the lettering  is obscured. Only an abbreviation V.I.O.C.D. is clearly visible. I suspect that refers to a Roman Catholic tradition, possibly a shortened Latin phrase, but I've been unable to discover what it means.

It's a band of musical brothers,
and fathers too, in a way.
In 1910 it was
just a keepsake from old school days.
But by 1914-1918
this photo of a Catholic school boys band
likely took on a different context
that turned it into a cherished memento.


  UPDATE: 9 April 2017 

Special thanks to a reader who sent me an email
explaining the meaning of the letters above the doorway.

<<<   >>>
"Ut in ómnibus glorificetur Deus" 
 
Latin: "so that in all things God may be glorified"
a Benedictine motto. The letter U was carved/engraved with a V in classical Latin.
I also make out the letters above "VIOGD" as "OR..." on the left and "...ORA".
Likely portions of "ORA ET LABORA, (Pray and Labor)
the main Benedictine motto.
As for the five religious men I spotted,
I suspect they are " Teaching Brother Monks" rather than Priests,
(as the Benedictines prided themselves in being mostly neither "clerical or lay"
and that this is a school connected to one of their abbeys.
<<<  >>>

I seems my choice of title was closer to the mark than I expected.
Thanks, WJ for your help solving this riddle.





This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where we always try to read from the same book.


http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/2017/04/sepia-saturday-362-8-april-2017.html


All That Jazz Man

31 March 2017



What good is melody, what good is music
If it ain't possessin' something sweet?
 
Nah, it ain't the melody and it ain't the music
There's something else that makes this tune complete










Yes, it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing.
(Doo wah, doo wah, doo wah, doo wah)
(Doo wah, doo wah, doo wah, doo wah)

 
 Well, it don't mean a thing, all you got to do is sing
(Doo wah, doo wah, doo wah, doo wah)
(Doo wah, doo wah, doo wah, doo wah)



 It makes no difference if it's sweet or hot
Just give that rhythm everything you got
 
Oh, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing
(Doo wah, doo wah, doo wah, doo wah)
(Doo wah, doo wah, doo wah, doo wah)
"It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)"
 Songwriters: Duke Ellington / Irving Mills




If you met him
you'd not soon forget
his
smiling face,
as it's on his bass drum too.
He's Jazz Varadys the drummer.


He left a message
on the back of his postcard
and, unless I'm mistaken,
he is a Hungarian Jazz Drummer.
 
From 1926.






The best I can do with Google translate is that the the first two words "Igaz baráti" means "True friends" in Hungarian. The date is in typical Hungarian style too. 1926 VI 5 (or maybe VII 5).

The phrase "Jazz music" doesn't appear in American newspapers until around 1916-17. In Europe it first shows up a bit later in 1918 when the United States joins the allies and American troops are first sent to France. It becomes a "craze" in Paris.



Pall Mall Gazette
28 September 1918

In September 1918 the Pall Mall Gazette reported: 

It is the cult of the Jazz Band. Everywhere in the world of entertainment this American innovation is to heard, and is hailed with amused and amazed enthusiasm. A Jazz band is nowadays the chief feature of a revue, and the mad beating of cymbals, the negro cries, the spectacle of a lunatic drummer wildly striking bells and blowing motor horns in an indescribable cacophony of so-called music, have tickled the fancy of Parisians for the moment.   







When the war ended two months later, Europe was ready for a change. The empires of Germany, Russia, and Austria were no more. New nations emerged to rebuild a modern Europe. The old world culture was rejected for something new and fresh. America's Jazz music proved just as contagious as the great influenza epidemic. Soon everyone, even musicians in Hungary, were tapping their feet to infectious dance rhythms from the New World.



In April 1919, even the Yorkshire Evening Post reported on how easy it was to make a Jazz Band. 


Yorkshire Evening Post
15 April 1919

With just a brief lesson by "an expert from America" who took away the band's music; gave tin saucepans to the two trombonists; showed the pianist how to play runs and scales with just his thumb; got the clarinetist to wail and moan; and conspired with the drummer to add a motorhorn and two handbells, "almost any five competent bandsmen can be made into a Jazz band."

Nonetheless the housekeeper's cat was so disturbed, that after the rehearsal it was found four streets away with "a dazed expression on its face and has looked thoughtful ever since." 







This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where no one every loses their head.


http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/2017/03/sepia-saturday-361-1st-april-2017.html


Music Long Ago and Far Away

25 March 2017


A very short fiction
teased out of an old photograph.


The cardboard box groaned as the bottom gave out. A flurry of papers spilled onto the floor. "How'd that happen!" the girl cried. "I'm sorry, Gramie." She set the box onto the bed and stared at the mess.

"Better get some tape and fix it before you use it again," said the old woman. She continued folding clothes and placing them carefully into another cardboard box. The dresser was nearly empty. "Go ask your brother where the packing tape is." She turned to see the child stoop to pick something from the scattered paper. The girl held a large faded brown photo up to the light.  

"Who these girls, Gramie?" She squinted for a closer look. "They playing in a band or somethin'?" 

Stepping over to the bed, Ruth turned the photo toward the window. "Yes, that was my band." She smiled as her granddaughter's eyes widened. "Can you find me?"

The girl frowned and then pointed. "This you?" An eyebrow raised in disbelief, "You played a trumbet?""

"A Trum-Pet, Annie" said Ruth. "No, not a trumpet really, but a cornet. Almost the same instrument, just more rounded." She handed the photo back. "I got pretty good too. Played lots of solo songs"  




"That's my sister, Aunt Nannie with the big ol' tuba. She was a year younger than me but taller, taller than all us girls, so Professor Jefferson gave her the biggest brass horn to play." Ruth pointed to the woman at the back. "That's Mama J, she was the band leader and her daughter Sadie played the little tuba."

Annie frowned again. "Girls can play brass horns? They can do that?"

"They sure can!" Ruth raised her shoulders back. "We gals could play as loud and strong as any boys' band! And we knew our tunes by heart."





Annie touched a finger to the photo. "What's this instrument? It's got another funnel thing. Is it a tuber too?"

Ruth laughed, "Tu-Ba. No, this one's no tuba. It's a double-bell euphonium. A bell is what they call the end of a trumpet or tuba where the sound come out." She held her hands up in a vee shape. "This horn had a special valve that let you play from either the top big bell or the little front bell. Florence was my best friend in school and a natural musician. Law, could she sing on that euphonium! Got married to a railroad porter and last I knew she went on to Philadelphia ." 





"I know that one. That's a claronet," said Annie. 

"Yes, clarinet, that's right." Ruth sighed, "Two nice girls that I haven't thought of for ages. I guess there's some good to come out of moving house. Let's see. May...Beth? Mable Beth... Lewis, I think. And her sister...Rose. They was orphans and didn't have no folk so they lived at the school 'till they got out. Believe they moved on up to Chicago in the 20s."

The little girl looked up. "School? Who lives at a school?"

"Well back then lots of children had to, Annie. Some didn't have a mama or daddy, or least wise no one who could take care for them. So they lived at the home, that's what we called it. Had a dormitory, a big room with lots of beds, up over the classrooms. My mama didn't have the money to keep me on the farm, so I was there for five years until I got of age." The old woman blinked away a tear as she counted the years.






"That's Marie and Gladys on trombones. Little Christy on snare drum and my cousin Elsie on bass drum. She went out to California during the hard times. Lost touch with her before the war." Too many years, way too many.

"But where was this, Gramie? Was this in Milwaukee?" asked Annie.

Ruth smiled. "No, child, this was in the Carolinas. Down south in the Low Country. Mama J took us on a boat to the Ebeneezer Church up river. We played a kind of contest for a benefit concert. Our prize was this photograph. The first time I ever saw a picture of me. Didn't get another until I came up to Milwaukee" 

Breathing in, she could almost taste the salty marsh air. "It was far away and a long time ago." She paused. "I used to think it was home."










 * * *




This large format photo of a band made up of sixteen young African-American girls and their chaperone/teacher has no marks to identify its time or place, much less the names of the musicians. At a guess their dress and the style of photo date them around 1900-1910. They look like a school group but I suspect they may be wards of an orphanage as in this era public schools did not typically have bands like this. Their instruments are all free of dents with a matching shine so I believe they were purchased as a lot. Maybe mail ordered from Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Wards, or direct from the music instrument manufacturer.



Brass bands (which sometimes had clarinets) for girls were quite popular in many white communities in the Eastern and Midwest states. But this is the first evidence I've seen of young African-American women playing wind instruments. It was not unknown for black female musicians to take up band instruments, but there are few photographic records. In the 1890s a few traveling shows promoted having a Colored Female Brass Bands as a way to add an exotic element that would distinguish their show from others. This advertisement for Stetson's original big double spectacular Uncle Tome's Cabin Co. which had two bands, blood hounds, Shetland ponies, cake walkers, Eva and her golden chariot, also included Miss Nettie Hyson's colored female band.    


Carlisle PA Evening Herald
21 September 1900


In July 1902, several newspapers around the country ran a report that a female brass band has been organized by a number of young colored women of Baltimore. The idea was originated by Elizabeth Davis, of South Baltimore. 


Carlisle PA Evening Herald
12 July 1902


In my story from last week, The King of Cornets, the featured musician's real name was Ellis T. Jackson. From 1902 to 1907 he was a music teacher and bandleader in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In my research I discovered that in 1905 he formed a Female Brass Band in addition to his all-male band. It had 15 members and Prof. Ellis T. Jackson claimed it was the only colored female band in the North.
 

NYC New York Age
25 January 1906


Jackson's Female Brass Band developed well enough to give regular concerts at fraternal halls and church events. In 1906 it played a concert and dance at the Newport Masonic Hall and Master Ellis T. Jackson Jr., age 11, (but actually 15) was also on the program making smart speeches, telling jokes, and playing three instruments at one time.


NYC New York Age
22 February 1906


The girls' band photograph is unmarked and I have no reason to think they are Jackson's Female Band. Actually I think they may be a long ways from Pawtucket because there is a subtle clue hidden in the foliage. Behind the band, high up in the trees are the ragged wisps of Spanish Moss hanging from the branches. Having lived in Savannah, GA for a number of years, it is a familiar arboreal decoration.




For comparison here is a color image of a similar tree with Spanish moss from Hilton Head, SC. Note also that just to the left of the tuba is ghostly hint of Palmetto leaves, a native plant of the coastal south. Here it is seen below the oak tree.



Spanish Moss, Hilton Head, SC
Source: Wikimedia


What we see in their youthful faces is pride. These young ladies had an air of self-confidence that exalts in their musical accomplishment. They were a team, a family even, who shared the bond of making music. And their photograph once meant something important to the person who preserved it.
Music from long ago and far away.




This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where every rivet counts.

http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/2017/03/sepia-saturday-360-25th-march-2017.html



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