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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The Blue and the Gray, Two Bands on Memorial Day

28 May 2011

The sounds of family cookouts, ballgames, and band concerts will fill the air on this last weekend of May, as towns across America celebrate the start of the summer season. But the real root of this tradition is the solemn occasion of Decoration Day,  now known as Memorial Day, when communities honor America's fallen soldiers. Shortly after the Civil War of 1861-65, veterans and their families began the practice of placing flowers on graves in remembrance of military service. But in 1868 the Grand Army of the Republic, or the G.A.R. as the fraternal group of Union veterans was known, helped establish May 30 as Decoration Day. The ceremonies expanded to include parades, speeches, religious services, songs, and band music. In 1882 the name was changed to Memorial Day.

This is the town band of Lowville, New York posing for Mr. Mandeville's camera on Memorial Day 1908.  Note the fine double-bell euphonium on the left, an instrument with a real split personality.  

The distinguished man with the Teddy Roosevelt style pince-nez glasses is Valentine Martone, a recently resigned Principal Musician of the 23th Infantry Regimental Band, who became the bandleader, and solo cornet for the Lowville Band in September 1907.  Martone, born in Italy 1876, had also married a local New York girl, Anna Hitchcock, that December, so this Memorial Day was an important event for him to commemorate with a photograph. Certainly Miss Edna Day knew all about the Lowville Band which could trace a heritage back to 1857.

The events were described in both Lowville newspapers: the Democrat, and the Journal & Republican. The ceremonies began in the morning with the Lowville Band leading a procession of veterans, families, children, and dignitaries to the town cemeteries.  Following a break for dinner there were additional formations, music and speeches in the afternoon.

Another newspaper article listed 171 deceased veterans in 9 Lowville cemeteries; and 117 were men who served in "the War of Rebellion" as it was known in the North. All over New England and the Mid-West, townspeople were listening to prayers, speeches, stories, songs, and patriotic music as a nation commemorated its valiant soldiers. This great war had claimed over 620,000 casualties from both North and South, and left countless other men wounded or maimed.  Civil War Casualties

Capt. and Rev. W. R. Helms spoke in Lowville that day: 

his address was largely reminiscent, as to his experiences at the time of his enlistment and during his army life. He extolled the character of Abraham Lincoln and his profound judgment and firmness in maintaining the cause of the union; and also spoke of his humanity and kindness to the soldiers who defended the cause of the republic. ... He paid splendid tributes of respect to both the union and confederate armies for their surpassing courage and fidelity to their colors, and that their heroism on many bloody fields was never surpassed and seldom equaled in any great world conflict.

The next photograph comes from a Decoration Day 20 years earlier and 1000 miles to the south. A Cornet Band from Savannah, Georgia on Memrorial Day, 1889.  But this was not taken on May 30 but on April 26, Confederate Memorial Day . This is a  typical 19th century brass band with a several sax horns and rotary valve cornets and one E-flat clarinet sticking his tongue out to the camera. The children seem happy to be part of the display on the bandstand.

The writing on the back is faded  and is difficult to read. The first words, if they are words and not scribble, are illegible. But the handwriting seems genuinely old and contemporary with the photo.
Unfortunately there is no photographer's stamp, but the card stock resembles the orange/ yellow cardstock used on  Savannah Stereoscopic Photos , perhaps most closely that  of  Jerome N. Wilson, who worked in Savannah from 1865 to 1897.

Memorial Day was very important for the Southern secessionist states and was celebrated in much the same way as the North but with a twist of a different date. The Union states chose a day on which there was no associated battle. But the Southern states chose April 26, when Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Union General William Sherman in 1865. The speeches for the losing side were understandably different than those up north. In Georgia, the sting of war brought on by General Sherman's  March to the Sea lasted a long time. Only Savannah was spared destruction by accepting an offer to surrender.

But there is another puzzle about this photograph that is subtle and yet a key question. There's a hill in the background. And Savannah does not have hills. I know this from living there for 13 years. This is The Low Country, a tidal river delta with flat marshes and alligators. There are no hills that would obscure a view of nearby buildings like this. The main city parks in Savannah at this time are formal and flat, and the slope in this photo seems at odds with the geography. And yet the back reads Savannah, GA, and not the other Savannahs in Tennessee, Missouri, California or New York.  It is possible that this hill is a remnant of fortifications. Or it might be sand dunes at Tybee Island, a sea island village about 15 miles east on the mouth of the Savannah river.

Charles Colcock Jones Jr.
Source: Wikipedia
My research on the two Memorial Days, the Blue and the Gray, kept bringing up a name connected to the story of "the War between the States" as it was called in the South. Charles Colcock Jones Jr was an historian of both Georgia and the War, with over 65 entries covering 6 ½ pages in the 1890 journal of the American Historical Association. (which included Theodore Roosevelt, then serving on the Civil Service Commission)

Jones lived this history, having been born in Savannah in 1831, he was a lawyer and mayor of Savannah in 1860. He also served in the Chatham Artillery of the Confederate Forces and wrote a fine history on the 1862 Battle of Ft. Pulaski , when the Union's rifled artillery demolished the great brick fortress which blocks the entrance to the Savannah river. Charles Colcock Jones Jr. was a skilled orator and after moving up the river to Augusta, GA, he helped organize the Confederate Survivors Association , the counterpart to the G.A.R.

On Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 1889, Jones gave an address on Georgians During the War Between the States  at the 11th reunion of the CSA in Augusta, GA, which is about 100 miles upriver from Savannah. Given that this event was a large commemoration and that Jones was from Savannah, I think it possible that an entrepreneur of souvenir stereoscopic photos like J. N. Wilson would join the Savannah Cornet Band for a trip to Augusta. And while it is hardly mountainous, there's a bit more tilt to the landscape here, which could explain the hill. But it is only speculation.

Both of these photos demonstrate the most important duty of a town brass band - providing music for a solemn occasion. People who had endured the horror and privation of their nation divided, heard something special in a cornet playing "Nearer, My God, To Thee." Every man who had walked to the battlefields of 1861 knew the special meaning of a good march tune. And the sound of a bugler playing Taps was fast in the memory of all soldiers,  Blue and Gray.

Right next to the June 4, 1908 newspaper report on the Lowville Memorial Day events was a short report on six men who had applied for US citizenship on Monday, June 1. There was a test before a judge, and only one man passed - Valentine Martone, the leader of the Lowville Band, who gave his oath of citizenship on June 1, 1908.

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The Detroit News Orchestra

20 May 2011

Once upon a time there was a fantastic new technology that pulled sounds from the air and let people hear distant voices and music right in their living room. It was a wonder called radio, and everyone had to get one. Today's scramble for the latest gadget does not compare to the amazing boom created by the first commercial radio broadcasts of the 1920's.

The first radio station to air a news program was 8MK, produced by the Detroit News in August 1920. In 1922 the call sign was changed to WWJ and the station expanded its programs to include a small orchestra called the Detroit News Orchestra, the first radio orchestra in the United States, if not also the world. Most were musicians who also played in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and their leader was Otto E. Krueger, the flutist seated in the center.

This large 8"x10" press photo from the archives of the Detroit News has a stamped date of  FEB 23, 1926 on the back with an incomplete list of the musicians' names. No doubt a studio portrait shot by a staff photographer of the Detroit News.

But the photo was actually taken in 1922.

In Google's vast archive of digitized books is a 1922 volume of The Fourth Estate , a trade journal for the newspaper industry. In the June 10, 1922 edition they printed an announcement of the formation of the Detroit News Orchestra and it includes the same photo.

The new medium of the wireless radio was more than just the opportunity for communication of ideas. There was a vast potential for profit, and everyone wanted a stake in it. In 1922 there were already 67 Stations  owned by  universities, publishers, electric companies, and other business corporations.

Many of the stations had powerful transmitters that allowed their AM signal to be heard across the continent. But the receivers were only little crystal sets or the new improved vacuum tube models. Sound was only monophonic and getting a clear frequency reception could be a daunting task.  For more than you will ever need to know about radio history go here: Early Radio History

But programing was challenging because most of the public didn't yet own a radio, or even have electricity in their home. The first stations had to create both content and a market, and musical performances seemed a good attraction, but what kind of music to play? Detroit was becoming a major center for American art and industry, and the Detroit Symphony had just been established in 1914, so talented professional musicians like Otto Krueger were given the challenge of creating a new kind of Concert of the Air.

The next photo was probably taken about the same time and shows the WWJ sound studio with its single microphone on the right. The newspaper was quite proud of its efforts in radio and in 1922 produced a book  WWJ - The Detroit News, a history of the radiophone describing its many innovations in broadcasting. It includes a description of the Detroit News Orchestra on page 21 with brief biographies of the musicians.
  • Otto E. Krueger -  conductor and flautist
  • Maurice Warner -  concertmeister
  • Herman Goldstein -  first violin
  • LeRoy Hancock -  first violin
  • Armand Hebert -  second violin
  • V. P. Coffey -  viola and piano, composer
  • Frederick Broeder -  cello
  • Eugene W. Braunsdorf -  bass
  • Thomas J. Byrne -  oboe
  • R. M. Arey -  clarinet
  • Vincenzo Pezzi -  bassoon
  • Albert Stagliano -  French horn
  • Edward Clarke -  French horn
  • Floyd O'Hara -  trumpet
  • Max Smith -  trombone
  • Arthur Cooper -  xylophone and percussion instruments
Otto Krueger was born in 1891 and continued leading the orchestra as well as playing in the Detroit Symphony for several years. Albert Stagliano was first horn in the Detroit Symphony and would later become principal horn of the most famous radio orchestra - the NBC Symphony.


The next photo comes from 1925 and shows a smaller ensemble of ten musicians. The back lists the musicians as:
standing l-r: Carl Chase, Fred Lauer, Otto Krueger, Eugene Bronstarff (sic);
seated l-r: Maurice Warner, Roy Hancock, Lawrence Manzer, Valbert P. Coffey, Marius Fossenkemper, Frederick Broeder. 
They seem to have given up on the white tie and tails, or maybe this is just rehearsal dress.

Radio Broadcast, a monthly magazine in the same DIY style as Popular Mechanics,  published a picture of the Detroit News Orchestra in 1924. It had articles titled:  Man Made Static - What Is That Scratching Sound?  and Why You Should Have A Wavemeter.  
Braunsdorf also doubled on sousaphone, perhaps because low brass on the AM band made for a stronger bass.

I was unable to find out when the Detroit News Orchestra stopped playing on WWJ, though a station with these call letters continues in Detroit today.

By 1926, many radio stations were struggling with the high cost of producing programs and also maintaining the transmitting equipment. This brought about the consolidation of stations under the major corporations like NBC and CBS.  And then there was the Great Depression, which undoubtedly had a major impact in ending many radio concerts. But more probable is that the public demand for light classical music changed and popular music became the big fashion. Look at my earlier post on another Detroit News photo showing a WWJ radio band from 1929 -  The Gypsy Barons

My contribution to Sepia Saturday
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The Ladies Band of Udall, Kansas

14 May 2011

"Toto, I've a feeling we're back in Kansas again.   
The lovely Ladies Band of Udall, KS smile for Mr. Baughs' camera, wearing a simple uniform of white blouse and tie, and showing the town name on their cap. Their cornets, clarionets, mellophones, and tubas represent a popular new pastime for the women of mid-west America in the 1900's, when dozens of ladies' and girls' wind bands were formed all over Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Before the days of radio and phonographs, town bands provided the only musical culture for places like Udall, which was only just established in 1881. Most were organized for men, but often an enterprising bandleader would start an ensemble for women too. This new fashion for band music was partly the result of town booster-ism, and of course music stores needing to sell more band instruments and sheet music. But these ladies bands also added another aspect to the beginning of the women's suffragette movement. They may not have discussed politics during rehearsals, but their concerts must have presented a new modern view of women that helped change American society because it was public and outside the traditional family home.

This photo postcard was sent by Mrs. Wade to Herman Zimmerman of Manhattan, KS in March 1912. Is she or her daughter a member of the band? And what could be the cause of her "nervous prostration"? Her frustration in receiving a slow reply to a letter seems no different than today's long wait for an answer to an instant text and email message.

Udall is in Cowley County, about 25 miles southeast of Wichita, KS and in 1910 it had a population of 330. On the night of May 25, 1955 it was hit by a deadly tornado that caused the largest loss of life in Kansas history. The History of Udall, KS  says 83 people were killed and 270 injured. The same storm struck Blackwell, Oklahoma killing 20 and injuring 250.    This tragic photo comes from the Kansas Historical Society. 
We can only wonder if the piano came from the home of some former member of the Udall Ladies Band.

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Mr. & Mrs. Albee Turner of Albion, New York

06 May 2011

Here is another example of a popular sub-category in husband and wife carte de visite photographs - the musician and his spouse - Albee Turner and wife Mary Jane Turner from Albion, New York. This style of photo seems to record the subject's occupation and their pride in an artistic skill. This is certainly a family photo and not intended  for promotional advertising.
See a later period one at my post: 
Mr & Mrs. X from Meriden, CT 
With the clear names on the back of the cdv, and the mark:  Geo. P. Hopkins, Photographer, Albion, N.Y.  there are some very good clues for research.

George P. Hopkins was born in NY around 1815 and his occupation in the 1850 census was Joiner. But with a wife and 6 children, carpentry work may have had too little profit, and in the 1860 Albion NY census, he is a Daguarean Artist. He is found as a photographer in the 1862 tax records and a seller of pianos in  1866. By 1880, Hopkins moves his photography studio to Lockport, NY.

Albee Turner is Albert D. Turner, born in New Hampshire in 1839 and the son of a farmer in Clarendon, NY. Albion and Clarendon are in Orleans County, next to Lake Ontario. The name Albert Turner is frustratingly common, but amazingly the 1870 census shows him with Mary J. and his occupation: musician. They do not seem to have had children. A reference then popped up in an Orleans County history book, as Mary Jane's first husband, when she re-married and became Mrs. David  N. Pettingill.   Albee died in 1877.

Albee holds an unusual civil war era instrument, an over-the-shoulder E-flat cornet with top action rotary valves. This is the high instrument for brass bands of this time. Compare his instrument with a bell-up version in another photo: Soprano Saxhorn.

Albee's is similar to one found at the National Music Museum , and also this one from the website of the Excelsior Cornet Band, which is a New York authentic Civil War brass band specializing in musical performances on antique brass instruments. They have a wonderful website with lots of other photos and history, and notice that Mr. Hopkins used Excelsior as his motto too.

When the civil war began in 1861, the number of military bands was expanded by Congress, and by 1862 there were 26 regular regimental bands and as many as 213 volunteer bands in the Union Army. A report that year gave the average annual cost of $9,161.30 to maintain an artillery or cavalry band, and $13,139.40 for a larger infantry band, so it is no wonder that as the war dragged on, Congress made changes for economy and abolished the volunteer bands. Albee Turner was the right age to play in such a band, but his name is only on a New York draft record for 1863, and there is no Union army service record for him. But he certainly considered himself a professional by 1870.

The over-the-shoulder brass instruments. also called Saxhorns, were an important development in the early 19th century. They were designed so that the band could be at the head of the parade, and their sound went backwards toward the marching troops. I found this YouTube video of the  Federal City Brass Band out of Baltimore out of Baltimore, MD which demonstrates the effect. 

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