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 }

A Ladies Band

28 January 2010

Another mystery group of young ladies who sport very impressive hats and bows. Very few clues on the date or place. In the background just on the right, is a vintage car that looks from 1910-1915. Unfortunately the edge cuts off seeing the radiator cap for a better identification. Of course the car might be 10 years old when the photo was taken, but the style of dress suggests pre-WWI. Note the woman in the center back row has fixed her hat on with a hat pin that looks about 12 inch long!

Most of the women are smiling and they seem like a confident and fun ensemble. Ladies (and girls too) were part of the boom in community bands from 1880 to 1920. Most had one gentleman to act as leader and teacher, though a few were completely run by women. Bands like this one probably competed with a men's band from the the same town. This photo has the look of summer. The window in the background left looks to be a stained glass design so perhaps this is on a church street. Imagine the music they made.

A Village Band

16 January 2010

Here is a wide format postcard from 1904-1918 of the Mount Tabor Cornet Band standing in a summer field in the Wisconsin Dells, somewhere between Madison and La Crosse. I don't believe Mount Tabor has ever been more than a village as it is not listed as a township in this century, and nearby Hillsboro, where the photographer came from, now has a population of only 1350. And yet from such a small place in around 1910 they could put together a 17 piece band for a summer event.

It is amazing to discover just how many town bands there were in America at this time. It was a rare town or village that didn't have a band and many had more than one. From around 1875 there was a thriving music industry producing thousands of band instruments for communities all across the country. Many groups purchased an entire set of instruments that were marketed specifically to enterprising small towns, fraternal clubs, small factories, trade groups, veterans lodges. By 1900 nearly every civic association in America had some kind of band.

I believe this fad goes along with the advances made in cheaper printing and the competition between newspapers for readers. Music and civic pride seem to go together whenever you read old newspapers describing their communities.

Of course this would not be possible without improving education, and especially music education if a town was to have a band. You will note that the Mount Tabor Cornet Band has little music folios along with their instruments. How did farmers and tradesmen find the time to learn music?

A Horn Player with Medals

11 January 2010

This horn player shall remain anonymous as the Real Photo Post Card or RPPC, was never mailed and has no identification written on it. The photo card stock dates to 1908-10 based on the kind of graphic logo for the stamp box on the back. This proves to be a very useful way to date these kinds of photos and it would likely make this gentleman an American since the box says "one cent stamp here". But after that, who knows where he is from?

It is an unusual closeup pose with a focus on the instrument. The horn is unusual because it has 4 valves but it is still a single horn in F. The upper thumb valve is for transposing into Eb. This is an uncommon style horn and may have been made in Germany. It has an unusual oval patch on the bell which might be a makers mark, though it seems far too large for that.

What I like most about the photo are the gentleman's medals. I've tried to find extra details in a magnified scan but there just aren't enough pixels to see anything clearly. The bright one - 2nd from right, has a lyre motif similar to the awards I got in high school band, so my guess is that they are medals for music performance. Based on his apparent age and the time period, it seems unlikely they are medals from the 1899 Spanish-American war. It's possible that the photo was intended for publication in some band instrument newletter as part of a testimonial letter.


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