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 }

The AMAIZO Band from Above

19 January 2018

What's going on, Fellas?
What'cha watching?

That sure's a whole lot of people.
Why they all lined up like that?

Who's those folks over there
standing by that fancy little hut?
Ain't that the police chief?

Did'ja hear that?
Boy o'boy, that band music's swell!
Listen to them trombones wail!

What'a thing to see!
Wait'ill we tell Ma
what her favorite corn oil
cooked up today.

* * *

It was indeed a special thing to see,
but only two men really knew
what was going on.

The first one, dressed in
a sharp crisp uniform,

stood at attention
as he beat time for the musicians.

The second man was the real center of attention
as he stood in his new imitation Chinese pagoda.
This was his event, and he expected everything
to go according to plan.

We've met both men before
in my story from May 2016
The AMAIZO Band.

They are Walter Mays, the director of the AMAIZO Band,
and Raymond E. Daly, vice president and plant manager
for the American Maize-Products Company
in Hammond, Indiana, just outside of Chicago.

In the 1930s Mr. Daly's AMAIZO factory had nearly 1000 employees producing corn sugar, cereal sugar, refined corn oil, special starches, dextrins, and other products made from corn. Originally built for the Western Glucose Co., the American Maize Products Co. took it over in 1908 and Raymond E. Daly became its executive manager in 1910, serving for 30 years. By 1937 with the plant operating 24 hours a day in 3 eight hour shifts, the company was processing 35,000 bushels of corn daily.

In a 1991 Munster IN Times article by Archibald McKinlay on Raymond Daly's colorful years running the AMAIZO plant, Daly was described as a tough 6-foot-3, 225-pound Irishman from Chicago who was "a cross between Caesar and Cecil B. DeMille." Yet even through his imposing bluster, he was always fair. One poor foreman regularly had to endure being fired, only to be picked up the next morning by Daly and driven back to work.  The film director reference probably came from Daly's penchant for landscaping the factory's 100 acres with flower gardens, trees, ponds, and imitation Chinese pagodas.

The Amaizo Band was his idea to provide entertainment for his workers and their Hammond community. For some reason he decided the band should be made up from his African-American employees, perhaps because there was already an existing group of black musicians that played for local functions.  As a man who clearly demanded the best, Daly engaged Walter Mays, a very experienced Chicago jazz musician and band leader, to be the director of his new band. Such company bands were once quite common in America, but in this era it was especially unusual for a white employer to sponsor a band of black musicians who were also his factory workers. The earliest date that I've found for the Amaizo Band was 1932.

In the 1920s AMAIZO began promoting its corn starch and corn syrups as a national brand. To attract the attention of America's homemakers in 1930 the company sponsored a radio show over the Columbia network with Don Amaizo and his enchanting violin music, accompanied by his orchestra, and the recital of his latest thrilling adventures. The mysterious Spanish musician who was its star was never to be seen nor heard to speak. Each weekly episode would reveal more about how his adventures in strange lands and how he became a renowned artist, and I suspect, why AMAIZO golden syrup was his favorite sweetener for Frisuelos.

Mason City IA Globe Gazette
15 September 1930

In the time since I wrote my first story on The AMAIZO Band, I discovered a perfect newspaper article to verify my identification. I now know that the photographs were taken on October 12, 1933 at a special celebration organized by Mr. Daly to honor men who had worked at the AMAIZO factory for 25 years. The Hammond Times published a picture of the occasion.

Hammond IN Times
13 October 1933
The newspaper photo shows 24 men standing in front of the pagoda, flanked by the American Maize Products Co. president, D. K. Davis, on the right, and its vice president, Ray Daly, on the left. Mr. Daly wears the same suit and snappy beret that he has on in my first photo of the Amaizo Band. The headline above the photo is unrelated and reads in full: "Economic Advisor Says Distributor's Alleged Greed Brought Crash". It refers to a report on an economic analysis by Dr. Mordecai Ezekiel that the Great Crash of 1929 was caused by an imbalance between farm and industrial wages.

The photo was accompanied by a report on the event held at the American Maize Plant in Hammond, just on the Lake Michigan border with Chicago. All 800 employees were given the day off, with pay, to attend the celebration. They formed a parade with each department passing by a reviewing stand. The music came from the company's 22-piece band  who were wearing their new uniforms for the first time. They were led by Captain Walter Mays. After the company directors were introduced vice president Daly presented each of the 25 year employees with a commemorative silver button in recognition for their years of loyalty.

Hammond IN Times
13 October 1933

The employees also presented Mr. Daly with two beautiful canes as tokens of their regard for him, which we can see him holding in the rooftop and newspaper photos. The day's events continued for the assembled workers who enjoyed old-fashioned steak barbecue slow roasted over six charcoal pits. Afterwards there were athletic events, including three boxing matches, a departmental relay race, and an egg and spoon race. (See if you can spot the boxing ring in the photo.) The Amaizo Band played a concert in the afternoon and then again for an evening dance. The Amaizo quartette, presumably an employee vocal group, rendered several popular selections. This was how Raymond E. Daly retained workers for 25 years and more. He made his factory into an agreeable workplace that valued the individual and fostered pride in the teamwork of all the employees.

My first photograph in this story, an 8"x10" glossy made by Bodies Art Studio of Hammond, Indiana, was likely taken from atop the AMAIZO main factory building. The same photographer also brought his camera down to ground level for two photos of the band. The one featured on my 2016 post,  The AMAIZO Band, is the better photo, as it has Mr. Daly standing with Walter Mays and more importantly includes the AMAIZO sign on top the building. But there was a third photo which I recently acquired along with the rooftop photo that shows off the individual band musicians with their leader, Walter Mays.

The 31 bandsmen stand or kneel in two rows.
According to the 1991 local history article,
the uniform colors were blue and gold.

Their dashing berets are a very modern fashion
which I've not seen before on other civilian bands
from before the 1930s.

By 1933 Chicago was already recognized
as a cultural center for African-American music.
It attracted many blues, jazz, and classical music artists
as it supported a vibrant entertainment industry
of nightclubs and theaters.


Mr. Daly even commissioned a large banner
for the Amaizo Band
with the name of its director, Walter Mays,
and a slogan that it used
Conn musical instruments.
Notice that some of the men
are kneeling on handkerchiefs
to protect their new uniform trousers.

For decades the C. G. Conn Co. of Elkhart, Indiana
was the world's largest
manufacturer of band musical instruments.
So it's no surprise that Mr. Daly
made a deal to purchase a full set of Conn instruments.

I find it interesting that this conventional wind band
used only clarinets with the large assortment
of brass and percussion instruments.
This may be because the clarinet
was the bandleader's principal instrument.

Walter Mays was born in 1884 in Oakland, California. A talented musician he was of the generation that spanned the tradition of 1900s ragtime bands that after 1920 became what we now call Jazz Music .  Mays was in his thirties living in Chicago when he joined the band of one of the first pioneers in African-American music, the bandleader and composer Charles L. Cook(e) (1891–1958). In 1919, he toured with the American Syncopated Orchestra on a nationwide tour. It was the first serious presentation of jazz styles to American audiences. It was led by another celebrated black musician, Will Marion Cook (1869-1944), no relation to Charles L., and Mays played both clarinet and saxophone.

Walter was a professional and clearly Raymond E. Daly respected his talent and wanted him to develop a band worthy of the AMAIZO brand name. The band remained a part of Daly's factory life, playing for annual picnics and Christmas parties until about 1942 when many workers probably went off to serve in the war. By 1938 Raymond E. Daly was also the chairman of a Hammond bank and a prominent member of Chicago business interests. He finally retired from the AMAIZO plant in 1945. and died in 1951 at age 74. 

Evidently Walter Mays also worked a regular job at the AMAIZO plant too, as during the war years he represented one of the employees unions. After the war his name disappears from Chicago area newspapers, but at some time afterwards he returned to California and died in Oakland in 1970.

During all those years that Walter Mays led the Amaizo Band, Raymond Daly repeatedly tried to get the band into the annual 4th of July parade held in Whiting, Indiana, a neighbor city of Hammond on the southern shore of Lake Michigan and just across from the AMAIZO plant. Yet every year his attempt to integrate the all-white parade with his colored band was denied. Today the AMAIZO plant still produces food starch and sugars, but it is owned by the CARGILL conglomerate, a global corporation. The plant now employs around 260 workers, but I doubt they have a marching band that matches the Amaizo Band's snazzy blue and gold uniforms.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where someone always knows where all the bodies are buried.


Sandra Williamson said...

What a wonderful bit of history, I love the way you picked out detail such as the berets and the handkerchiefs on the ground to protect their trouser legs. Truly fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

Little Nell said...

Amaizo -ing photographs! They certainly are clear, and as you say, the crisp uniforms are evident in the zoomed in clips.

Mollys Canopy said...

Thank you for another incredible piece of music history. With the ragtime and jazz influences, that must have been some band. I wonder of there are any recordings of their work? How unfortunate they were not allowed to march in local parades, but hats off to the factory employees who embraced their remarkable band when others would not!

Susan Kelly said...

Quite interesting history of Amaizo and Daly.

tony said...

it's interesting how , in the olden days , many large employers felt the need for some philanthropy towards their workforce.
Often it was via religion Mr Daly's case,such large scale shows and entertainment.
Fair Play Mr Daly!
It's hard to imagine any modern large employer caring for his employees in such fine fashion!

Wendy said...

Mr. Daly knew the wisdom of putting employees first.

Kristin said...

I remember the other post you did about this company and the band. Interesting.

La Nightingail said...

As always, an informative post put forth in a most interesting way with much to learn! :)

Barbara Rogers said...

Thanks Mike, for another bit of musical history of a band, a company, and the men behind them. Great photos also!

Jo Featherston said...

You always discover so much detail about the history of the people and places in your photos. Ama(izo)ing, as Little Nell has already commented! They don't export to Australia as far as I know.


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