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 }

Yours Truly

04 May 2018

This is a tale about two horn players.

On the left is a young military bandsman from Sweden.
His name is Adolf.

On the right is a much older horn player from Canton, Ohio.
His name is George.

As far as I know, they've never met before until now.
But both are at the opposite ends of a timeline.

We will get to Adolf later,
but first I'd like to introduce George.

His photograph is a simple
postcard., unmarked except
for an inscription at the bottom.

Yours Truly —

G. E. Krabill

The man looks aged sixty something. He is dressed in a crisp uniform with stripes on the trousers and sleeves, a braided cord aiguillette, and a Sam Brown belt, but as there are no insignias  this is just a civilian version of a military-style bandsman uniform. His instrument is a double horn in F/B-flat, likely an American version of a C.F. Schmidt design with a piston thumb valve. 
There is a hint of a gentle smile and his spectacles soften the lines on his face. His photo has been in my collection for some years but this week I decided to check if I could properly identify Mr. G. E. Krabill.

_ _ _

The last name is not uncommon and his initials produced too many choices, so I tried search using George as his likely first name. Bingo! Like finding the right thread in a knot of yarn, the mystery magically untangled. This genial old horn player was George E. Krabill of Canton, Ohio. In 1940 he had to register for the Selective Service and his draft card was preserved in the archives.

According to the card's flip side, his eyes were brown, and he stood 5' 5" tall, weighing 150 lbs. He worked for the Timken Roller Bearing Company - Dept. #61 in Canton.  At the bottom of the card is his signature, a near perfect match for the handwriting on the photo.

With this confirmation it was easy to get more information on George's life. He was born in Ohio in 1886, the oldest son of Henry and Elizabeth Krabill. In the 1900 census Henry, his wife, and four children resided in Canton where he worked as a teamster. By the 1920 census, George Krabill, still living in the same neighborhood, was married to Laura Krabill, and employed as a machinist. They had no children at that time, nor in the 1930 census, but did care for a nephew and niece, ages 12 and 8.

Yet all of this rather mundane data of family genealogy didn't really tell us anything about George and his horn. However a search through the Canton newspapers revealed that this kindly old horn player was quite a working musician. In 1923 at a concert of the Thayer Military Band, the program included a Serenade for Flute and Horn by Titl, with soloists Mr. Frank Vignos and Mr. George Krabill. It was preceded by Rossini's Overture to Semiramide which begins with a  wonderful horn quartet. There was also a tuba solo with the intriguing title "The Octopus and the Mermaid" – a Deep Sea Serenade by K. L. King. This  was the 31st annual complimentary concert at Canton's civic auditorium.

Canton OH Daily News
28 March 1923

The Thayer Military Band was a semi-professional wind ensemble of about 30 musicians, first organized in the 1890s by a trombonist named H. Clark Thayer and William E. Strassner, who in 1923 was now the band's director. It began as a boys band but its musical talent quickly rivaled Canton's other adult bands. In its early years it provided music for many Ohio political events featuring Canton's favorite son, William McKinley, including playing for the president's funeral procession in 1901.

For a few weeks each year the Thayer Band changed uniforms and served in the Ohio National Guard. In 1933 they were called the 135th Field Artillery Band, under the direction of Warrant Officer William E. Strassner.  Corporal George Krabill wrote a march for the battery commander.

Canton OH Repository
03 February 1933

The population of Canton, OH jumped from 30,667 citizens in 1900 to  over 104,000 by the 1930s. Not surprisingly the city had many fraternal organizations, and George Krabill was a member of one, the Nazir Grotto masonic lodge. Like most of these societies it had to have a band, and George not only played horn but was the band librarian too. In April 1938 for the Nazir Grotto's 7th Spring Music festival, one of George's marches, the "Syria Shrine Band", was performed. It was reported that he had written about 300 parts for the spring fest.

Canton OH Repository
17 April 1938

Canton OH Repository
03 August 1938

George was also the first horn in his employer's company band at the Timken Roller Bearing Company. In the summer the band performed free public concerts in Canton parks. In 1938 the program included a march by George Krabill entitled "Timkenites".

_ _ _

That summer of 1938, the Canton newspaper ran a feature article about George Krabill's music making. It included a picture of him strumming a mandolin which was the instrument he used to work out the melodies for his compositions. At that time he had produced 45 pieces, mostly marches with some overtures, serenades, and concert waltzes. He said the market conditions at that time were not good for selling his music, but he hoped one day that his music could match that of another Ohio composer, Karl L. King, a noted circus bandmaster and a former member of the Thayer Band. One of Karl King's most recognized works is his famous  Barnum & Bailey's Favorite.

Canton OH Repository
19 July 1938

The following year in March 1939, the Canton paper ran another full page story on the Thayer Band to celebrate its 47th annual spring concert. It included photos of the director William E. Strassner and several bandsmen of long tenure, one of whom was George E. Krabill with 29 years tooting his horn in the band. He was also the band's librarian. The Thayer Band was specially proud that many of its former musicians were now bandmasters and performers in many major wind ensembles across the country.

Canton OH Repository
12 March 1939

Eleven years later in 1948, George's picture appeared in the newspaper again for a concert of the McKinley High School Band. He had composed a new march, "The McKinley Bulldog Band on Parade" which was to be premiered. President McKinley's home in Canton was across the street from the high school which was built in 1918. McKinley did not keep a bulldog as a pet, but he did have a Mexican double-yellow-headed parrot named Washington Post. Parrots are very poor at marching.

Canton OH Repository
08 April 1948

That march was likely his last composition
as George E.  Krabill died on April 1, 1949 at age 63. 

Massillon OH Evening Independent
02 April 1949

What surprised me in my research was to learn how many different kinds of bands George E Krabill was a member of throughout his musical career: company bands, fraternal bands, community bands, military bands, and probably some orchestras as well. Discovering he was a composer too was an extra bonus. Though I don't know any more than what I've found in newspaper reports, I strongly suspect George never went to college, never attended music conservatory, and never took formal studies in music composition. He represents a kind of self-taught musician, once common in American cultural life and very typical of the musicians pictured in my photo collection, who learned by listening and playing in bands. His background was clearly very working class, a classic blue-collar factory life, and yet he filled it with creative music making. That's quite an artist's life to be contained in a simple postcard.

By now, readers may wonder
about that timeline that connects
George Krabill to young Adolf.
It's quite simple.
Back in December 2009
I started this blog TempoSenzaTempo
and my very first story,
aptly titled The first post,

was about the photograph of Adolf Ådel.

This new post of May 2018 marks
number 400 of the musician stories
that I have written for this blog.

In 2009 I began with a picture of a horn player
because that is my instrument too,
so to mark this milestone
I thought splicing Adolf and George together
would make nice connection for my blog's long timeline.

In 1896 Adolf Ådel had his carte de visite photograph taken by S. Petterson of Söderhamn, a town  in the east central province of Hälsingland, Sweden. He was a Waldhornist with the Musikkorps of the Hälsingland Regiment. His instrument is a single horn in F with piston valves. As luck would have it, this week I may have discovered a bit more about his identity and I will soon update his story. 

Look at his photo and you see a boy, about age 15, proudly contemplating a future life as a military bandsman. A half century later on the other side of the world, a 60 year old hornist named George E. Krabill posed for a camera reflecting back on a life in band music.

In many ways music ties both men together,
and connects me to them too.

Every week I continue to be inspired by the variety of thematic images that Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley choose for Sepia Saturday. It's a challenging game to find a musical photo match but its a sport I always enjoy playing. (And I readily admit that this photo story is completely off-key for this weekend.)  But it is the enthusiasm of our little fellowship of bloggers for old photographs and good story telling that really motivates me to find new stories to tell. Thank you for reading this one.

It's about time.
A time without time,
Tempo Senza Tempo

I can't resist adding some music to finish,
but unfortunately George Krabill's music
never sold many copies
and none of his marches
have made it to YouTube.

But the music of his friend Karl King from the Thayer Band did,
and he may have as many recordings as John Philip Sousa.
Here's one called the Imperial March from 1911
which I'm certain George knew and admired.
This march is played by the Symphonic Band
of George Washington Middle School
of Lorton, Virginia from a 2013 band contest.

I like their uniforms.

* * *

* * *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone is wading in the water.


Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Great way to tie your anniversary to the photos. Great research as usual. I'm always amazed at how much you
can unearth about a person starting from a signature on a postcard. I too love the uniforms on the young band members. The stripe on the side of the pants makes it easy to watch the infectious toe-tapping. Happy Anniversary!

La Nightingail said...

As always - an excellent sleuthing job on discovering so much about these two fellows - especially George. It's too bad his compositions weren't played much beyond his own bands, but thanks for including the video of one composed by a fellow bandsman and friend played by an amazingly talented middle school band. I was duly impressed with not only the excellent sound of the middle school band, but their size as well. Remarkable!

Barbara Rogers said...

Your posts do lead me along a winding way, usually with a band marching before me. The bookends of your pair of posts today are very interesting stories about musicians. I just read (an aside) that my home town of Black Mountain has a citizen interested in starting a local band for concerts outdoors. I sure hope people will want to do this!

Travis Bennett said...

Great post! Your research and storytelling are impressive. When I read about George's death, I felt a twinge of sadness, like I lost a friend I was just getting to know.


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