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 }

Bands of the World on Parade

01 August 2020

For a tourist of the 21st century
a postcard of a marching band
seems an unlikely choice
to send to the folks back home.

But in the early 20th century
a picture of a town's band
wearing colorful uniforms or peculiar hats
was a simple way of depicting a foreign place.

A photo of a band
signified a community's culture,
its love of music, and the charm
of its picturesque geography and native people.

And for the tourist
the band's postcard satisfied a need
to assure the folks back home.
I've arrived. We are safe.
Everyone's having fun.
I'll tell you all about
this wonderful place when we return.
Wish you were here.

* * *

The first postcard shows a band
dressed in pale blue uniforms and red fez hats
marching along a city street.
The caption reads: Egyptian soldiers.
By coincidence or purpose
a shop sign in the background
spells Sphinx.

The postcard lost its stamp
but the German writer helpfully begins their message
with Port Said, Egypt  30 XII. 1913.
It was sent to Onkel Ernst Neumann
of Günzburg (?), in Bavaria, Germany
thanking him for his card

* * *

The second image comes from a postcard
of a military band in Manaus, Brazil.
The caption reads:
Manaos – Brasil
Tiro No. 10

The bandsmen pose in a town plaza
next to a small company of soldiers.
They wear rumpled dress uniforms
and a kind of Australian style campaign hat
with the side brim folded up.

It is mainly a brass band with a baritone saxophone.
A small boy in uniform, the band's mascot,
stands center next to the bass drum.
This postcard was sent
to Dresden, Germany, Alemanha in Portuguese,
with a postmark on the front of the card
of 24 July 1914, one week before
the beginning of the World War One.
Manaus, or Manáos, is the capital and largest city
of the Brazilian state of Amazonas,
situated at the confluence of the Negro and Solimões rivers.

* * *

The third band photo
comes from a mystery postcard
that has no markings to identify it.
A band marches in formation
with about 50 black musicians
wearing military style band uniforms
of a roughly 1920s or 1930s fashion.
They are in front of a walled compound
that looks like a government building.
I suspect they are a band from the U. S. Virgin Islands,
but I've been unable to identify the building behind them,
or find another named photo of a similar band.
The United States acquired the Virgin Islands from  Denmark
for $25,000,000 in the 1917 Treaty of the Danish West Indies.

Shortly after the islands were added to American territory
a band from St. Thomas was reassigned to the United States Navy,
and its leader Alton Augustus Adams, Sr. (1889 –1987)
became the first black bandmaster of a U. S. Navy band. 
This celebrated Caribbean musician, composer, and band director
may be the man marching at the front of the band.
In 1924 Alton Adams took his navy band of the Virgin Islands
on a concert tour of the American mainland,
so this photo may be from that junket,
and taken not in the Virgin Islands,
but at some location in the United States.

* * *

The last image also comes from a Caribbean island
but this time from the former British colony of Jamaica.
The caption reads:
No. 26.
M. J. Reg Band.

It shows a large military band of 60 men,
posed on a parade ground
with military barracks in the background.
The bandsmen, nearly all black musicians,
are dressed in a tropical uniform
with pantaloons, white shirt, vest and turban-like hat.
Two white British drum majors stand in front.

The postcard was sent from Kingston, Jamaica
on January 1, 1906 to Pembroke, Wales.
The message reads:

This band was playing at
Port Royal Xmas night. We
could hear them on the ship.
We were laying in quarantine off the place.

Another tiny example
of how an old postcard
can remind us of the way
history can rhyme.

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Susan said...

I do like the variety of old style uniforms. Lots of good one's here.

La Nightingail said...

I love bands of all types and kinds. I love to hear them play. I love to see them march. Or doing special routines. All three of our children played instruments in a 300+ member (total student body only numbered 1200!) high school band which played well, marched, and did great routines. The band director was one of those charismatic sorts who challenged his students who, in turn, strove to do their best for him. It was an awesome experience for both the kids and the parents! :)

Wendy said...

The wall pictured in the Virgin Islands postcard reminds me of the section along Gate 10 of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA - well, how it looked years ago, anyway.

Barbara Rogers said...

Yes, a brass band used to be really something. I am glad that the Rose Bowl Parade invited many high school and college bands to take part. I wonder what will happen in 2021 on New Years Day. Sigh. Oh and the Thanksgiving Parade bands too!

Molly's Canopy said...

Another set of amazing post cards! And one from a ship in quarantine off the coast of Jamaica -- indeed a portend of our current times. What I am most amazed by is the extent of the band uniforms in climates that must have been very hot. I can't imagine marching in blazing sun playing instruments and wearing so much regalia, but hats off to these band members because clearly they did it.


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