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 Horn Player of West Kent

21 April 2010

Meet George, a bandsman and horn player of the British army. He sent this postcard photo in an envelope (so no postmark) to his "Auntie" perhaps just after passing his basic training period. Since of course his aunt would know him, he didn't think to add his last name - history's misfortune. George looks to be about 16 or 17, certainly not 20. But there are other clues here.

The uniform is British army about 1915-1918. On the front of his cap is a distinctive badge of a stallion rampant. This is the emblem of The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment.
On his right shoulder is rank badge of a bandsman. His instrument is a piston valve horn typical of the British musical style at this time. Note the shine!
The photographer left his mark on the lower left corner - Lewis, photo.. Maid.. .  The Royal West Kent Regiment has their official museum in Maidstone in Kent. maidstone museum

Here is a badge closeup.

The armies of the world seem to have invested a great deal in art & design departments to make unique symbols and uniforms of each military group. But who knew that such effort would make it easier for history detectives.

The Baden Life Grenadier Regimental Musicians

11 April 2010

Here's a fun group. This is a postcard from August 1909 of the Bitscher Kur-Orchester. They look like German soldiers but where is Bitsch? You won't find it on  a map of Germany or anywhere in today's Europe.

One of the preludes to WWI was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. When it ended in 1871 with a victory for Prussia and the North German Confederation over France, it unified the German States under Kaiser Wilhelm I and added the French territory of Alsace and Lorraine. Bitche or (Bitsch in German) is a small town on the river Orne in the Moselle department of Lorraine in northeastern France.

But this group's title is a kind of joke I think. A Kur-Orchester is a Spa Orchestra, the kind of small band that would play light music for people enjoying the cure at a health spa. But Bitsche does not seem to be a place known for mineral waters. The answer is that these soldiers are members of the Badische Leib-Grenadier-Regiment Nr. 109. How do I know that? Because the internet is a place where one can find out anything.
 Helmet front plates or Wappen are very distinctive and the one fierce NCO at the back is wearing the helmet of the 109th Baden

The detail in the photo is very clear and I found that there are websites devoted to the WWI German Army Helmets or Pickelhaube.

Here is a picture of a Life Grenadier Regimental helmet from the collection at

The shoulder epaulet is also distinctive -a red crown on white for the Leib Grenadiers. Even more military history (in German) with nice illustrations of the uniforms can be found here: Badisches_Leib-Grenadier-Regiment_Nr._109#Uniform

Tailors must have made a good living on military uniforms.

Here is the postcard back.

Baden was a state in the German Empire on the east bank of the Rhine River in southwest of Germany. And Baden-Baden is a famous Spa town there. If you were a  lonely soldier writing home to your sweet-heart or parents, you might want to make army-life sound a little more jolly. Hence a Kur-Orchester.

Another Orchestra

04 April 2010

Here is a large format photograph from Chicago. Maybe. On the back is written P.E.D.   Chi. Orchestra 1900. The photographer's name is embossed into the lower left corner: Stuebler Photo. Does Chi. indicate Chicago? What about P.E.D.?

Stuebler is a very uncommon name and I can't find any person, much less one who was also a photographer, from 1900 to connect it to a specific city. One reference in the Penn State University collection of photographs is a photo by a Stuebler from Philadelphia, but with no date. I'll keep searching, but for now these fellas must remain another mystery.

I think they look like a college orchestra. The conductor, seated in the center, has the air of a professor. Though at this time, any band or orchestra leader was commonly called "Professor". It did not denote any academic credentials but seemed more an appellation of any superior musician who also taught lessons. The 21st century continues this kind of silliness with the habit of giving orchestra conductors the meaningless title of "Maestro".

It's also possible they are part of a theater orchestra, though I think they don't seem shop-worn enough to be pit orchestra musicians. This is a very large albumen photograph of a fine quality, about 10" x 13".

I should point out that all the image files on my blog are reproduced at about the same size but the originals can be very different sizes. The process of copying and correcting the photos, and then putting them onto the computer screen,  reveals details that might be missed in the smaller formats. But the problem with larger photos is that it is equally difficult to reproduce the great clarity that came from early cameras. Here you can really see the shine of hair oil on these gentlemen. The photographer got just the right light for the dark formal dress, but the shirts and collars are so sparkling white that he felt a need to outline the white ties in pencil. Mr. Stuebler would have loved PhotoShop.


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