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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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?

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