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 }

Xylophon Kinder part 2

13 October 2017

I think it's the tilt of her head
that makes the photo's composition so charming.
Her name is Gret'l Bode,
age 8, maybe 10,
and she sits beside her instrument, a xylophone
atop a beautifully carved end table.
Her second instrument, a violin,
which appears to have frets like a guitar,
rests on the floor between the table legs.
She's dressed in a dirndl frock,
a traditional Tyrolean folk costume.

The postcard caption reads:
Grüß Gott! :-: Zum Andenken an Gret'l Bode :-: Grüß Gott!
Xylophon-, Tubaphon- und Schoßgeigen- Künstlerin
überall Zügkraft! ::-:: Diplom von der direktion
des Grand Zillerthal, Brüssel

Good Day! :-:  For souvenirs of Gret'l Bode :-: Good Day!
Xylophone, Tubaphone (with metal tubes) and Castle violin artist
Attractive everywhere! ::-::

Diploma from the Directorate
of Grand Zillerthal, Brussels

Gret'l is one of the many Xylophon Kinder
who were popular child entertainers
in Germany and Austria
at the beginning of the 20th century.
The xylophone children in Part 1 were
dated around 1913-1915 by postmarks on the cards.
Gret'l Bode's was never mailed
but based on the cheap paper
it probably dates to the war years 1914-1918.


Her instrument was called a Xylophon,
but the arrangement of the tuned wooden bars
is very different from the modern xylophone and marimba
which follow a standard keyboard system
with bass notes on the left and treble on the right.

With this percussion instrument the bars are turned 90°
and the bass notes are closest to the player
with the treble farthest away.
This detail shows how the bars are closely woven together.
In the background are a set of handbells.
They belong to the Geschwister Stehle
i.e. the Stehle sister and brother.

The two Stehle children are about age 8 and 12
and they hold little mallets
poised above two xylophones.
A third one is on another table in between.

There is no date on this postcard but there is on the next.

A penciled message gives a date of 17 Oct 1920,
while the postcard caption says this boy's  name is Otto Stehle.
He may be the missing brother for the third table
or he might be the same boy but in a younger photo.


This next brother and sister Xylophon Virtuosen act
are named Harry (?) and Vera Gläsner.
They appear about ages 13 and 16.
and are dressed in white tie and tails.
Their xylophones rest on trapezoidal tables
that look like they might double
as folding cases for the instruments.
There is no postmark, but the back does have
an agent's address in Berlin.
The style of photo postcard likely dates
Gläsner siblings to the 1920s.

* * *

My last example of  Xylophon Kinder
is Rita Lenz, 8 years old.
Her eyes were poorly retouched by the photographer
which gives her a rather alarming look.
Her short dress is a more conventional than folk style
and she wears high top white shoes
that resemble ice or roller skating shoes.

Her postcard was sent to Berlin on 26 July 1921.

The Xylophon, also known under its folk name,
Strohfiedel or Straw Fiddle
was a favorite instrument by many young entertainers.
There are still more to come
in Xylophon Kinder part 3.

Meanwhile here's a delightful video
of Josef Ost,
85 years young,
performing Souvenir de Cirque Renz,
aka Zirkus Renz,
by Gustave Peter (
1833 – 1919),
a xylophone performer and composer
remembered only for his one big hit.
This is the music that I'm certain
every Strohfiedel Kinder knew by heart.

(click the full screen icon for a better view)



And for an even more impressive virtuoso
here is Xylophon soloist Bena Havlu
playing an arrangement of the familiar
Capriccio XXIV of



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where some kids study while other play.


ScotSue said...

What a charming first photograph! I always wanted to dress up in a frilly peasant blouse, an embroidered bodice and a dirdnl skirt - plus long ribbons in my hair.

Jo Featherston said...

There was clearly no shortage of cute children in the old-fashioned musical sphere. I agree, the first little girl is the sweetest.

Wendy said...

So what does the sheet music for xylophone look like? Could one just use piano music?

Postcardy said...

Fascinating post. I never knew such instrumentss existed. I am really impressed with your collection of xylophon kinder on postcards.

Mollys Canopy said...

Congrats on that first photo! Fits the prompt perfectly :-) Josef's piece sent me dancing around the room while Bena's was more contemplative. Easy to see why the Xylophon Kinder entertainers were in high demand.

La Nightingail said...

I enjoyed your entire post and the musicians were quite good! But that first photo postcard is my favorite. I'm a sucker for cute kids in costume. And I think you're right - that slight tilt of her head is an added bonus when it comes to the cuteness angle. :) By the way, I almost didn't post this because I got tired of trying to find all the street signs in the 'show I'm not a robot' thing. Sorry, but I hate those things!!!

Kristin said...

That last girl with the touched up eyes also seems to have a touched up mouth. Or it's swollen on the right. Poor kid, hard to compete with the first girl for cuteness with those poor touchups.

Little Nell said...

Delightful, even Miss Scary-eyes. The handbells reminded me of a small villlage school of which I was headteacher. Someone had donated a set to us and the children learned to play them for parents and visitors at church functions and other high days. Not taught by me, I hasten to add.

Barbara Rogers said...

The mallets used to play on the wood pieces look a lot like hammer dulcimer mallets, at least to a non-musician, me. I think the pieces shared in videos looked pretty frantic, so maybe being able to play fast was considered a special talent.

Lorraine Phelan said...

Hours and hours of practice and performing. I hope the children had fun just being kids as well.


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