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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Ladies of Brass with Hats

21 July 2018

Not so long ago
the sight of a woman who was
without a hat on her head
was an unusual,
if not unseemly, occurrence.

A woman's hat might be of any shape or size
as fashion might decree,
but if she was to be in the public eye
she must wear a head covering.
At least according to the conventional rules
of European society in the 1900s.

Men also needed hats
to be properly dressed 
 but generally only when outdoors.

Upon entering a building
a man could check his hat at a cloakroom.
But a woman on the other hand,
retained her hat
no matter the activity or situation.

There were pill box hats.

Flat berets. 

 Military or police style caps with brims.

 And sailor caps sized extra-large.

How did the unwritten regulations on apparel
apply to these female musicians
in German brass bands?

The first drummer girl with the sombrero type hat was a member or the Damen Blas-Orchester „Ariele“, directed by Aug. Bornschein. This ladies wind wind orchestra is made up of six young women and four men, all with brass instruments except for the drummer who has her snare tilted up on a chair with the bass drum and cymbals beside it. The women are dressed in matching frocks that have a kind of layered effect that includes contrasting banded edge and a few dangling pom-poms. Their hats are quite large and have a dark sash on the front brim. The drummer also flaunts a long pearl necklace.

The men are mostly hidden from view at the back. My guess is that the older man playing tuba is Herr August Bornschein. It's likely that some of the women, and maybe younger men too, are related. In front of the one woman who is standing center, is a set of four natural trumpets with flags attached. The flags display an emblem AB for Ariele Blas or Ariele Wind.

Their postcard was sent from Gelsenkirchen, a city in the North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany, on 11 February 1912.

* * *

The next image came from another postcard of the Ariele Damen Blas Orchester which had one more woman to make an ensemble of seven women and four men. The caption says their director is P. Jentzen früher i.e. formerly Bornschein. Their brass instruments are precariously stacked into a large pile.

In this picture the women are turned out in identical dark dresses with nautical bonnets, sailor collars, and flotation sashes. Notice the anchor patches sewn onto their shoulder sleeves.

This card was posted on the 29 July 1911. The bearded green man on the stamp, is Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria. The stamp commemorates the 25th anniversary of his reign as regent of Bayern or Bavaria. He assumed this responsibility as head of state in 1886 when first his nephew, King Ludwig II and then nephew King Otto proved too mentally unstable to rule. Prince Luitpold died in December 1912 at age 91.

* * *

The third image comes from a very similar band called the Österreichisches Damen Trompeter Corps „Bohème“. The director is A. Lohmann who I believe is the man standing right of center. This Austrian brass band of ten musicians also has six women and four men. All with brass instruments except for another woman on drums. The women all wear matching outfits, a vaguely folk style dress with a tight collar. Their hats are slightly smaller than the Ariele's big hats and with a large pom on the upturned brim. They also have a broad hip sash which was a popular style with female musicians in German/Austrian Damen Orchester.

Like the Ariele ensemble, the Bohème band also has a woman with a trumpet standing center. She is the lead soloist as all the other brass are in the lower sound spectrum of alto, tenor, and bass instruments. In the foreground are two pairs of natural herald trumpets, again with embroidered flags attached.

The Bohème brass band is a long way from Vienna as their postcard was sent from the port city of Hamburg, Germany on the 7th of March 1912.

* * *

The enormous pancake hats in the fourth image were worn by the women of the Damen Blas-Orchester „Teutonia“, directed by Franz Britting, the man with the trumpet seated center. It is another 10 piece brass band with six women and four men. The women wear white blouses, or shirt waists, with dark colored skirts and folk-like embroidered vests. The large hats hovering above their massive coiffures, are held on presumably with long hairpins. As with the other groups, a tripod of natural trumpets occupies the centerpiece of instruments.

Unfortunately the stamp and its postmark was removed from this postcard, so the date and location is not known. However its printing style resembles several other cards from the 1900-1914 era.

* * *

The ladies in pillbox hats on the fifth image came from another postcard of the Damen Blas-Orchester „Teutonia“. This time their name has the prefix Schwäbisches or Swabian which refers to the southwest region of Germany called Swabia. Now divided between the modern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, the natives speak a dialect of high German.

This postcard was never mailed but has an incomplete address to a Georg Förtner of Nürnberg.

* * *

The flat berets of the sixth image were worn women of the Alt Heildelberg Damen Blas Orchester. Their name is written on a banner draped on the bass drum. The director was C. Oppermann. This brass band has eleven musicians with six women and five men. This time the men wear caps which I believe are a style worn by college students. Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is Germany's most celebrated educational institution. Both the men and women also have narrow striped sashes across their chests which I believe is another academic tradition. Like the other groups, there is one high trumpet played by a woman seated left center. The other rotary valve brass instruments are below its timbre. And again a stack of four natural trumpets are in the center foreground.

This postcard was mailed from Saarbrücken on the 8th of September 1912.

* * *

The military style caps in the seventh image were worn by the women of the Damen Trompeter-Corps „Elbust“, directed by Fritz Thiele who is seated center. The women have white shirtwaists with dark fringed skirts. They also combine the narrow striped chest sash with the wide hip sash. Two pairs of natural trumpets lean on the knees of the seated women. On the floor by the director's feet are a tambourine and a small box with a metal xylophone.The woman seated center right has the only high trumpet.

This postcard was sent on 2 January 1910 from Hagen, Germany in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

* * *

The last excerpted image was part of this group of nine musicians captioned on their postcard as the Damen Blas-Orchester „Gut Heil“ or "Good Luck". The director was Felten, Kapellmeister, seated right center holding a paper roll, the symbol of a pianist. This brass band has five women and four men. The women are decked out in white sailor type suits with contrasting broad square tied collars and flat caps similar to those worn by the German navy. Once again a pyramid of natural trumpets is arranged in the center. For more postcards of German lady trumpeter corps playing these natural trumpets follow my stories: More Ladies of Brass; and Even More Ladies with Brass.

This postcard was never posted so there is no date, but I think it is like the other Germanic ladies bands and belongs to the same 1910-1914 era before the start of the Great War.

* * *

I've posted the images of these eight postcards of six different bands because I think they exhibit an intriguing number of similarities in both fashion sense and musical ensemble. And as my regular readers know, I have a fascination with hats and how frequently they appear in antique photographs.

These ensembles represent a time in the 1900s when live music was the principal attraction at taverns, cafes, restaurants, and music halls. The entertainment industry, i.e. Show Biz, in central Europe became so ubiquitous that it sustained a bewildering variety of traveling musical troupes. And as many of these groups employed female musicians they represent a striking contrast with how women from this era are usually portrayed in social history.

Not all of the Damen Blas Orchester wore hats. In the hundreds of postcards in my collection, most have no hair covering, while some wore just kerchiefs or ribbon bows. As we can see in the Ariele and Teutonia groups, the women changed costumes, probably to suit the region and the venue where they performed. Sailor suits for port cities, folk vests for southern alpine towns. Undoubtedly the success of a female musical group hinged on a strong fashion style that attracted audiences and  maintained a freshness that kept people returning to hear more.

Because brass instruments are inherently loud, these brass bands likely played on outdoor stages, which may also partly explain the hats. The more refined music of the Damen Konzert or Salon Orchester which had women playing primarily string instruments, mainly performed indoors, so in their postcards women are generally shown without head covering. I imagine that most female groups imitated the trends in theater and society circles and adapted accordingly. And I readily acknowledge there are probably many subtle clues in dress styles from the 1900s that have evaded my limited masculine sensibilities. Can you picture the rhythmic movement made by their hats as they marched onto stage? That made a class act.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where summer hats are de rigueur.

Sibling Rivalry

13 July 2018

Children are natural competitors.
The toys, games, and other playthings
of childhood are not just
youthful diversions.
Sometimes they are exercises
in learning the necessary skills of life.

And as every parent knows
restraining the fierce contest
between brothers and sisters
is a constant challenge.

Teaching young kids a musical instrument
redirects their boundless energy
into an engaging pursuit
that encourages mental discipline,
emotional self-control,
and physical skills,
as well as being fun.

This set of cabinet card photographs
illustrate how some families in the 1890s
used music in the home
to tame sibling rivalry.

The first trio of children are from Paw Paw, Illinois where the photographer at Parke's Studio arranged them in a classic artist's triangle. The youngest is perhaps age four or five and holds a cornet. The next oldest, age six or seven, holds a cello. Though both wear dresses, judging by their haircuts I suspect that that they may be boys. The oldest is definitely a boy and sits on a chair with a violin in his hand. His feet are still a couple of inches off the floor but I'd estimate his age at seven or eight.

* * *

The next trio is a brother with two younger sisters, maybe ten , eight, and six years old respectively. All three hold violins under their chins. The smallest girl looks a bit uneasy as she sits perched atop a faux boulder in the Star Gallery of photographer W. C. Heneks of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Mr. Heneks wrote a caption onto the negative that is difficult to read against the white floor. Using digital processing I reversed the colors to reveal a single name, Colburn, which I presume is the name of the family. That would be an unusual effect for a private photo but not uncommon for a souvenir photo for professional entertainers. Somehow this set of children with their big ears and long noses don't display much of the self-confidence of a real vaudeville family band.

* * *

The last group of four boys is actually a quintet with their father. The youngest is a cellist though as his instrument is taller than he is, he must stand to play it. He might be five or six years old. His next older brother plays a piccolo and appears about age seven. The two oldest boys are at such similar height that I think they are twins albeit fraternal ones. They are around eight or nine and each has a violin at their chin. Father looks on from the side with his clarinet. Such an ensemble would make some interesting music. Most likely the father is their music teacher.

They were photographed by the Wendt studio of Boonton, New Jersey, just west of Newark and New York City. Frank Wendt (1859-1930) was well known for his promotional photos of circus and theatrical people. In 1898 he took over the work of New York City's Bowery district photographer Charles Eisenmann (1855-1927) who had photographed many of the freaks and performers presented by the celebrated impresario P.T. Barnum. Wendt moved his studio to Boonton and this family orchestra may be from there, or could be another family orchestra trying to make it big in show business.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where all the children are way above average.

Kameraden der Kaserne

06 July 2018

Buddies, pals,
mates, comrades.
Military service forms special bonds of friendship.

It's a relationship based on a shared experience.
A common understanding
of demanding and often hazardous work,
of baffling orders and boring delays,
of ridiculous loss and glorious victory.

And occasionally interrupted by intense danger
and terrifying menace.

It helps to have good confidants
who've endured the hardships
and savored the same emotions of wartime.

Those are true comrades in arms.
The pals who would do anything for you.

What soldier wouldn't want a photo of the best of those times?

This postcard photo shows a barracks room
of 15 soldiers of the German Imperial Army
sometime between 1914 and 1918.
Though there is no date, no names, or other markings,
this kind of goofy pose was a very popular style
for German soldiers to make during the Great War.
Though I've seen a few similar postcards
from British and French soldiers,
this lighthearted picture was very much a German fashion
as there are hundreds for sale on the postcard markets.

The men clowning around over a keg of German beer
attracted my attention
because the camera captured a rare goodnatured quality
of soldiers in wartime.

 I liked it enough to buy
a second postcard from the same dealer.

It's the same brand of beer,
but a different keg
that still has its tap.

The photographer of this photo
has asked the soldiers to look at the camera.

It's a jolly bunch that is also
in a barracks room in a state of off-duty
wearing undress uniforms just like the first group.

The silliness in this photo is
that they are enjoying a meal
of potatoes? Dumplings?
Cheese fondue?
What goes with beer?

The photo of this group of a dozen soldiers
is also unmarked without date or place.
They might be from a different regiment
but there are some odd similarities with the first postcard.

There are tiny features of the barracks rooms
that are similar.
The wood cabinets in the corners are a bit alike.
And at first I thought the enameled pitcher
might be a match.
But on close inspection the mess scars
are in slightly different places.

But the long Bavarian hunter's smoking pipe
held by the soldier on the right in the first photo
is definitely a match. 

The best match is his goateed comrade
seated left in the first photo
and standing right in the second
this time with a standard pipe.
You can't hide wide ears like that.

If you like a game
see if you can find another match.
There are about six or seven more.

Were the photos taken on the same day?
In the same room?
It's hard to say,
but I'm convinced that
they are the same German soldiers, mostly,
and from the same unit.

Kameraden der Kaserne
Comrades of the Barracks

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where sometimes you have to wait for your beer.


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