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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The Children's Home Band of Des Moines, Washington

19 May 2018

Most parents have had this experience.
You are on holiday and see
some stranger's child
about to attempt some precarious stunt.
You forcibly swallow an urge to shout,
"Get down from there! Don't you know you could fall!"

Mother is absent from this picture of 21 young kids
perched atop a balancing rock high above a river.
However "Daddy" is there, standing below them.
But he is not so risk-adverse
as evident in his picture on the back of the postcard
balancing a small girl on his hand.


So small she stand on "Daddy's" hand and
plays solos on her cornet.
CHILDREN'S HOME, Des Moines, Wash.
H. M. Draper, Superintendent

The children are not actually that unsafe
as they are sitting on the famous Umbrella Rock
at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.
It's geographical fame comes its dramatic view
of the Tennessee River and city of Chattanooga,
and as a strategic battle site in the Civil War.

Umbrella Rock on Lookout Mountain, Chatttanooga, TN
Source: The Internet

And the reason the children have no one
to remonstrate their risky behavior
is sadly that most, if not all, are orphans.
They are wards of a private Children's Home
in Des Moines, Washington and
Superintendent Herman M. Draper is their sole guardian.
He and his 21 children, ages 6 to 15, are returning
to their home near Seattle, Washington
after a year-long musical tour of America.

Mr. H. M. Draper was a native of Canada, born in Ontario in 1857, but had been living in the United States since 1882. He considered himself a teacher of music, specifically for the voice using a music education technique called Solf├Ęge which uses syllables for the musical scale pitches, i.e. Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti. His first employment in 1887 was in several Nebraska public schools where he developed his ideas of teaching children music. Later in 1897 he moved to Calumet, Michigan here he set up a music store and taught piano, voice, and string instruments. In 1903 he quit his business to run the Good Will Farm and Home Finding Association, a sanctuary in Houghton, Michigan for abandoned or orphaned children. At this institution he applied his ideas of music education and set up up a small band for the children that was successful enough to play public concerts around the region. 

In 1906 Draper decided the rules at the Good Will Farm were too restrictive, so he and his wife Annie determined to establish a new home for orphaned children in the Pacific Northwest. Initially they considered Seattle, but found a more suitable location in Des Moines, WA. They called it the Children's Industrial Home, and named the children's band, The Jolly Entertainers. This postcard shows the group as it was in 1910. Fourteen children in neat regular Sunday dress hold mostly brass instruments with one clarinet and two drums. It was addressed to Mr. Loren Briley of Atlanta, Michigan and postmarked Missent Jun 30, 1910.

Tacoma  June 30, 1910
Good morning Mr
Loren and how are
you feeling?
I am feeling fine
Uncle John

The Des Moines Children's Home endeavored to teach children a practical trade, which H. M. Draper believed included music and theater crafts too, so all of his wards learned to sing and play a musical instrument. Children were sent to the local public school but worked at the home's farm and gave public concerts with the band and in theatrical shows. As part of the home's vocational training and fundraising efforts Draper also acquired a printing press which produced a wide variety of souvenir postcards. By 1915, nearly ten years since establishing the self-supporting orphanage, Draper and his wife provided refuge to about 37 children. Many of them had either lost both parents, or circumstances had left them abandoned by a surviving parent. There were several brother/sister groups too.

This four page double-sided postcard shows the Draper Children's Home Band at a concert given in Davenport, WA on Oct. 28, 1915. This band is larger with 20 young musicians. The oldest might be 15 and the youngest about 6. Again mostly brass instruments: cornets, alto horns, trombones, tubas and one clarinet with three drums.

The center pages contain a mission statement from Herman M. Draper expressing a universalist-like ideology that is surprisingly free of religious dogma or political doctrine.


"All  religion has relation to life. and the life of religion is to do good."  "Suffer little children to come unto me," said the Master, and "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these ye have done it unto Me."

God is love, and without love there is no God. The great Divine is the center of life of the universe. All we have or are can have no other source.

Personally, I have no creed. I believe in the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God. All are my brothers, whether Protestant or Catholic. I know neither Christian, Jew. Atheist. Infidel, Saint, Sinner or man labeled with any belief — I know him only as my blessed, beloved and eternal brother, soul of my soul, heart of my heart, mind of my mind, eternal child of my All-Father-Mother. The same Divine life that permeates all nature flows into every human being, and I have no right to criticize or judge my fellow man. My religion is to "Do good for good's sake." I allow all others to think and act for themselves in matters of politics and religion, and all I ask is to have the same privilege accorded to myself. God Knows all hearts — let Him be judge.
             There is but good, there is no guile,
             For God fills all space all the while;
             If God, good, love, does fill all space,
             Where is the evil, here to trace ?
             So let us strive then all the time,
             To fill our lives with thots (thoughts) sublime,
             And live and love both day and night.
             And love will change all wrong to right.
                                                                   — H. M. Draper

* * *


We receive no help from County, State, Church, Lodge or Charitable Institution of any kind.

We never solicit subscriptions, but friendly donations of any amount are never turned down. If we had the means we would soon have 100 boys and girls.

Some of our children have a father or mother who pays for them, but the majority have no one to help them.

Some of our little folks attend the Public School, and every child is taught music. both vocal and instrumental.

We have no special visiting days, but visitors are welcome any old time.

We have no children to give away or place in homes. This is their home, and here they remain until they grow up and want to leave.

We have a complete Printing Plant, including 75 fonts of type, 4 presses, paper knife, gasoline engine, etc.

We own our own Opera House. with stage. curtains, scenery, etc.  Here we teach and train our children in everything necessary for first-class Musical Comedy and Vaudeville Entertainments, and it is used for a playhouse in wet and cold weather.

Our property consists of 12 lots. our Home Building, Printing Office, Opera House and our new 5-acre water front, where we hope to build our new Home. We owe $2,000 on our water front property, have a $200 mortgage on our Home and $500 floating indebtedness. We hope to clear all this up very soon. It is Love's storehouse and we are trusting our. friends to help get it out.

We are located half way between SEATTLE and TACOMA, on the Sound, four miles from the Interurban
at O'Brien's, and five miles from Kent. The Pacific highway, Seattle to Tacoma, goes through Des Moines and crosses our, property.

Steamers leave Seattle. Colman Dock, daily at 2 P. M. (Sundays 9 A. M.) Leaves Tacoma, N. P. Dock, at 6:30 A. M. (No Sunday boat.)

We now have 37 Children, all our Home will hold.

If you are interested and want to know more, come and see or write for information.

                        H. M. DRAPER, Superintendent,
                        Des Moines, Washington.

This image is clipped from another Des Moines Children's Home postcard. It shows two small girls, one with a piston valve alto horn and the other with a side action rotary valve cornet.

Claire & Neva Stitt, Ages 11 & 9
Two Youngest  Soloists in America

Mr. Draper believed that travel was itself an important education, so part of his fundraising was to support concert tours with his orphan children's band. When Draper, his wife, his sister-in-law (who was a school teacher), and 21 children set out in June 1924 they were headed for Florida in three custom made buses. One vehicle had a kitchen with dining tables, another carried the baggage and instrument cases, and the third was equipped with sleeping cots and a clever fold-down stage. The 1920s bus engines were capable of only about 24 horsepower with a top speed of around 20 miles an hour. In January 1925 they reached Titusville, Florida  and posed in front of one of the buses. Draper sits in the center amidst the children, while his wife Annie and sister-in-law look out the bus windows.

The Children's Home Band did not return to Washington state
until December, 1925.
In 18 months they had covered over 14,000 miles,
traveling through 30 states,
and performing countless concerts.

The remarkable story of Herman and Annie Draper's orphanage deserves another post as I have a number of other postcards and clippings that I would like to show. Stay tuned for a sequel. 

Meanwhile more information on their history can be found at the Des Moines, WA Historical Society website and in an essay by Peter Blecha entitled Jolly Entertainers: The Draper Children's Home Band.


This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where no stone is ever left un-turned.


Kathy Morales said...

What an interesting story! And it fits the prompt so well, too! I look forward to learning more about Mr. Draper. And I'm hoping he turns out to be as good a man a man as his self-described philosophy suggests.

ScotSue said...

A wonderful,history of the Children’s Band, and your introductory photographs matched the prompt so well. Umbrella Rock reminded me so much of Brimham Rocks 3000+ miles away in Yorkshire, that I featured in my post.

Susan Kelly said...

That is a dilemma. It's supposed to take a village and if the parent's not around and the child's in danger, it seems okay to warn them, but nowadays, I expect one would be sued.

Barbara Rogers said...

Fantastic link to the prompt, and then he took them for a long long ride! So glad you mentioned the buses, because I wondered just how all those children would travel! Glad that the Davenports had a vision, and gave these kids such interesting times. Travel is certainly a great education! Wonder if any of the children grew up to tell their version of the performances, education and tour! Incidentally, Black Mountain is starting a community band!

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Mr. Draper was an amazing person. I'm motivated to read more about the man and his orphanage. I cannot imagine traveling with so many children for so long and with so little supervision for them.

La Nightingail said...

What a remarkable couple plus sister-in-law, taking such care of all those children. And what a wide-spread education they had with such traveling. Umbrella Rock is pretty amazing too, but I don't know about letting the kids climb up there? I was probably one of those slightly over-protective parents. Then again, my son rode a motorcycle, one daughter bungee-jumped & parasailed, and the other sky-dived out of an airplane and tried rock climbing so it appears I didn't stunt their enthusiasm for thrills too much!


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