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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Lost and Found and Lost

03 February 2017

This is a story without a photograph.
There is a name and a date,
but unlike most of my stories,
there is no photo.
Even though we begin with a musical image,
  a vintage postcard captioned:
The Musical Event of the Season
Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra
Carl Bernthaler, conductor
This image is not the subject of the story.

The postcard shows
a small orchestra of 29 musicians
seated on an outdoor stage
attached to a large concrete hemisphere.

They are not
the famous Pittsburgh Symphony,
though it's possible
some of the musicians
might have played
with that renowned ensemble.

The real story begins on the back of the postcard.

The card is addressed to Mr. A. B. Reese of 7 St., Aspinwall, PA,
a village across the Allegheny River from the Pittsburgh Zoo,
and posted on March 26, 1910.
It promotes a concert by:

Miss Hedwig Glomb
musical prodigy
Sharpsburg, PA
assisted by
This Celebrated Orchestra
and the Sweedish(sic) Male Chorus
Wednesday Evg. March 30, 1910
8:30       St. Joseph's School Hall

On March 30, 1910 the concert notice also appeared in a Pittsburgh newspaper. Assisted by local talent, including Miss Hedwig Glomb, child pianist, the Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra, conducted by John C. Glomb, a  Sharpsburg musician, would give a concert with the Mozart Singing Society of Sharpsburg. The orchestra would also perform one of his compositions.

The public was also advised that Haley's Comet would not swish Earth with its tail.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
30 March 1910

Miss Hedwig Glomb was then not quite age 14, having been born 13 July, 1896. At the concert she would perform Felix Mendelssohn's  Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 25 and later in the program two piano solos, the second one by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, (1860-1941) the great Polish pianist and composer, who was also a prominent advocate for Polish independence from Russia. During WW1 he was a member of the Polish National Committee in Paris and following the war in 1919 briefly served as prime minister to the new government of Poland.  

Pittsburgh Daily Post
27 March 1910
The program began with:
  • Overture "Oberon" … C. M. v. Weber
  • Piano Concerto G minor … Mendelssohn
       Piano solo - Miss Hedwig Glomb
  • "Evening Star" … R. Wagner
       Baritone solo - Ch. Zulauf
  • Galop … "Militaire"
       by J. C. Glomb
  • Suite "Peer Gynt" … Grieg
       Swedish Male Chorus
  • Aria from "Oberon" … Weber
       Soprano solo - Miss Clara Huhn
  • Piano solos
    a) "Rustle of Spring" … Ludwig
    b) "Minuet" … Paderewski
       Piano solo - Miss Hedwig Glomb 
  • "Spring Song" …  Mendelssohn 
  • March "Tannhauser" … R. Wagner

Hedwig's father, John C. Glomb was a German immigrant who was a teacher of voice, a church organist, and also a composer. They lived in Sharpsburg, just next to Aspinwall and also across the Allegheny River from the Pittsburgh Zoo. He was listed under vocal teachers in the Pittsburgh city directory and led several choral groups. He also served as a church organist and was his daughter's first piano teacher.

Later that year in December 1910. the Pittsburgh Daily Post reported that Hedwig Glomb, thirteen years old, had just left for Chicago to study under Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler (1863-1927), a noted pianist and teacher. Born Fannie Blumenfeld to Jewish parents who lived in Bielsko, Poland, then called Bieltz, in the Austrian province Silesia, Fannie and her family emigrated to America in 1867. The plan was for young Hedwig Glomb to spend two years in Chicago under Bloomfiled-Zeisler's tutelage rather than to go to Europe. Her talent was recognized by several admirers, including Walter Damarosch (1862-1950), the German-born conductor of the New York Symphony Orchestra, and Emil Paur (1855 – 1932), an Austrian conductor who led the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1893 to 1898, the New York Philharmonic from 1898 to 1902, and was then the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. However in 1910 the Pittsburgh Symphony was in a financial crisis which could not be resolved. The orchestra folded and Pittsburgh with without an orchestra until 1926 when the Symphony reorganized.  

Pittsburgh Daily Post
03 December 1910

In the 1900s America was dominated by the Germanic culture of the German and Austrian empires. Most major cities in the Unites States had German language newspapers, German fraternal societies, and German churches. In countless cities across the nation there were German music clubs and choral societies, while the roster of orchestras and bands were filled with Germanic names.

Vocal teacher John C. Glomb's daughter Hedwig was the oldest of seven children, two girls and five boys. Undoubtedly all six learned to play a musical instrument, but it was Hedwig who clearly had a special gift. It was not uncommon for musical prodigies to seek out a mentor for their musical training, so at age 13 (really 14) Hedwig probably spent the next two years in Chicago doing a kind of piano apprenticeship under Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler's guidance. But sometimes a different teacher is needed to inspire a student, so in March 1912 Hedwig Glomb applied for a certificate to study abroad. At the center of German culture, Berlin.


Hedwig was now nearly 16 and probably stayed with family or friends during her stay in Berlin. Learning the piano repertoire requires endless practice and a good teacher would know just the right methods and pieces to develop an budding adolescent talent. She was hardly alone in this quest, as in this same 1912 US Consular archive on there were dozens of young people applying for study of violin, voice, art, science, medicine. Each one traveling to Berlin for an advanced education.

* * *

Time passes. It is now the summer of 1914, a tragedy in Sarajevo, a terrorist assassination of the Austrian heir and his wife, creates a dangerous political tension in Europe. Armies are mobilized. Threats and ultimatums are exchanged. Suddenly the whole of central Europe is overcome by war.

But it is August, the month when Europe always takes a holiday. British businessmen relax in German spas, French families tour along the scenic Rhine, German school groups visit Paris. And American music students travel to Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrolean alps.

In the chaos of war, a young pianist from Pittsburgh is reported missing.

Pittsburgh Press
29 August 1914

For several days Hedwig Glomb, purportedly age 15 but actually 18, is among thousands of foreign nationals who find themselves on the wrong side of borders that now delineate nations at war. In Germany, French, Belgian, and British civilians are rounded up and taken to detainment camps. Some will stay there for the duration of the war. You can read about one such camp, the Ruhleben Internment Camp, in my story from April 2016, The Role of a Lifetime.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
03 September 1914

Eventually the young pianist from Sharpsburg, PA is found, though her recovery is no longer newsworthy in this troubled world. As an American citizen, Hedwig is not considered a threat by the German authorities as the United States has taken a neutral position in this conflict. At least for now. But in August 1914 the first weeks of war are so alarming, so horrific, that thousands of Americans abroad in Europe as well as many people with dual-American citizenship scramble to book space on any passenger ship leaving for the US. Hedwig's musical education in Berlin was finished.

Madison WS State Journal
23 May 1915

By the Spring of 1915, Miss Hedwig Glomb is a piano student of Mr. Victor Heinze, the new principal of
the piano department of the Wheeler School of Music in Madison, Wisconsin. In May she performs a piano recital of music of the great keyboard masters: Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt.

* *

The Etude
June 1914

Her teacher in Madison, Victor Heinze, was her teacher in Berlin. In the American magazine for pianists, The Etude,  he advertised in the June 1914 edition his summer piano courses located in the Tirolean Alps. That is likely where Hedwig went that summer. She was really never in any danger. Yet apparently the climate in Wisconsin now suited Herr Heinze better than the stormy weather enveloping Germany.  

* *

In his US naturalization records, Hedwig's father, John C. Glomb, listed his birthplace as Kattowitz in Upper Silesia, which is now part of Poland. In the 1920 census, his parents were marked as from Poland, speaking Polish, not German. His connection to a Polish national heritage divided between Germany and Russia was likely the reason that in September 1915 Hedwig Glomb chose to appear on a Concert for Polish Sufferers. She would play piano accompanying Mme. Agnes Nering, a soprano of international reputation. At the time America was just beginning to recognize that the war in Europe might continue for a interminable time, and that there were many competing interests among Americas immigrant citizens.

Pittsburgh Press
12 September 1915

 As I explained at the beginning of my story
there is no photograph.
Only a name, Hedwig Glomb.

And a date 1910.
Then 1914.
And finally 1916.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
3 May 1916

On May 3rd, 1916 the Pittsburgh Daily Post ran a brief notice on the death of Hedwig Glomb, 20 years old, daughter of Prof. Hans Glomb, organist and instructor of music, and Mrs. Mary Kopcinski Glomb after a brief illness. She was born in Sharpsburg and was a pianist of note.   

The following day the paper ran a notice that the Polish Concert of the Moniuszko Polish Singing Society was canceled due to the death of Miss Hedwig Glomb, daughter of the the musical director, Prof. John Glomb.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
4 May 1916

The cause of death was not reported but Hedwig Glomb's certificate of death is preserved in the archives of Her doctor affirmed that she died on May 1, 1916 at the St. Francis Hospital from lobar pneumonia. Her age was 19 years, 9 months and 18 days.

 * * *


The next month, on June 29, John C. Glomb led a concert at the Pittsburgh convention of the Polish Singers' Alliance of America. Coming from Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, Toledo, and Pittsburgh 1000 male and female voices participated. All the numbers were sung in Polish except for the "Star-Spangled Banner" given at the close of the program in English.

Musical America
08 July 1916

The census records for the Glomb family are missing for the years 1900 and 1910. The information on Hedwig Glomb and her 6 siblings comes from the 1914 naturalization application submitted by her father John C. Glomb. But the Glombs do appear in the 1920 census for Millvale, PA. John and Mary Glomb have added two more children, two daughters, Cecilia age 4. And Hedwig age 2.

The 1930 census has the Glomb family in Bradfordwoods, PA, a borough north of Pittsburgh. John C. Glomb is now 55, occupation Director of Music. All the children are there except for one.

The youngest child, Hedwig's namesake, is missing.

John C. Glomb died in 1945 at the age of 71. His wife Mary Kopcinski Glomb, mother of 9 children,  lived another 26 years and died in 1971 at the age of 98. Inscribed on their gravestone are three names – John, Mary, and Hedwig, the eldest daughter.


I was wrong. There is a photo.
Girl Pianist in War Zone
Pittsburgher Seeks Child
Hedwig Glomb
Proof that you only need to dig deeper
and use a different combination
of search terms.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
31 August 1914

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where no photo story is just black and white.


Kristin said...

So sad she died so young. Lobar pneumonia seems to have carried off many in those days.

Little Nell said...

How very sad, and I was getting ready for a life filled with excitement after er 1914 experience.

ScotSue said...

What a fascinating but so sad story. You created with your research such an image of Hedwig, that it is a pity no actual photograph exists of her.

Deb Gould said...

I was elated to find Hedwig found after WWI disappearance; saddened to have her survive that and die so young! Pneumonia was rampant then, a sure killer. Good detective work, as usual, Mike!

La Nightingail said...

Hedwig's (pronounced Hedvig? - I started thinking of her as Heddy, actually) death at such an early age is sad. But she was able to live her life with the music she obviously loved to continue so with it - even to studying in Europe. Of course that must have become a bit scary when war broke out, but perhaps, being a teenager, she found it a bit exciting at the same time? I think perhaps she lived her short life more fully than some do who live decades longer.

Alex Daw said...

You found a photo! Hoorah!

La Nightingail said...

I'm so glad you found that photograph of her when she was older. Wasn't she pretty! Not that that should make it any sadder that she died so young, but somehow it does. Such beauty - in all ways - gone too soon.

Wendy said...

Do prodigies ever get a happy life?

Jo Featherston said...

I agree with everyone else - very sad to die so young, and a great musical talent was lost. At least she's a little more famous through your blog!

Sallie Glomb Reinmund said...

Wow, I am so touched to come across this story. Hedwig would have been my great aunt. I had known that my Grandfather had a sister who was a talented pianist and that she died quite young, but I did not know of any of these details. As a child, I knew my Great Grandmother and all the other children (my great aunts and uncles), however this story was not passed down to me. I imagine it was sad and traumatic for the whole family. As guessed in the story above, all the Glomb children were trained musicians, although many found their careers in teaching, engineering, and architecture. Thank you for this wonderful piece of family history. What a nice treasure to find going into the holidays.

Mike Brubaker said...

Sallie, thank you for your comment, and I'm delighted to have restored Hedwig to your family's memory, especially on Thanksgiving Day. I suppose now my title might be "Lost and Found and Lost, and Found again!" If you would like to add or correct anything about Hedwig, please contact me through my email address on the sidebar.


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