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 }

Hark! The Herald Trombones Sing!

22 December 2012

'Tis the season for wonder and delight, and what better way to celebrate the Yuletide than to have four trombones wish us -
        A Merry Xmas and         
    a Happy New Year -    


These are no ordinary bandsmen of low brass, but a full complete trombone quartet with soprano, alto, tenor and bass slide trombones. The small trombone is a soprano in B-flat that is essentially the length of a B-flat trumpet, albeit adjustable. The bass trombone on the right is not as large as a modern bass and lacks the thumb valve that is now a standard plumbing extension. Both the soprano and alto trombones are rarely played today, and only a dedicated trombonist would bother to acquire one, mostly for the novelty of playing in the high register.

At first glance this might seem a trick photograph as these four lanky young men are so alike. They have such a similarity, especially the center two who must be twins, that I believe they are all brothers. The signature style of Dalmaer is too fanciful to know if it's a first name or last. and of course we can't know if the writer is even one of the musicians. Alas, like so many hatted bandsmen photos, their cap badges are not quite in focus to read. Perhaps Crawford or Granford ?

But I do know that this musical quartet hails from Texas where everything is just big.

The postcard was sent from Sherman, Texas on December 26 to Mrs. Kate Woods of Adrian, Missouri.  The two postmarks are missing the year, but someone penciled in 1915 at the top. However, the Benjamin Franklin one-cent stamp dates from the previous decade, as it was first issued in 1902 and comes from a postal series appropriately nicknamed the Gingerbread Definitives for the ornate border. By 1908 the one-cent stamp has a different design. So I would date this quartet to 1904-08.

Sackbuts in Syntagma Musicum (1614-20)
by Michael Praetorius.

The trombone has an ancient heritage that goes back to the early Renaissance. The first brass instruments to use a variable length slide were called sackbuts and were played in a consort of different sizes that mimicked soprano. alto, tenor and bass voices. The sackbut quartet made a formidable noise when playing ceremonial music in the town square but it was in sacred music where they became most useful as a supporting accompaniment to church choirs.

Youtube provides dozens of splendid videos for trombone quartets, but not so many for sackbuts. Here the Slokar Trombone Quartet plays some typical music for the Renaissance sackbut using a consort of instruments much like those shown above in the 1614 illustration by Praetorius.

The modern trombone choir uses principally the tenor and the bass, and only very occasionally the alto. To best hear the vocal quality of the trombone, I chose a performance by the Wiener Posaunenquartett (Vienna Trombone Quartet) playing the beautiful motet Locus Iste by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896).

I suspect that the trombone quartet of Sherman, Texas didn't play much Bruckner, but I would bet they played a lot of church hymns and vocal quartets. And I'm sure that Mrs. Woods smiled when she got her cheery holiday postcard.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the
joyful sound of accordions
accompany F
ather Christmas on his rounds.  

The Nobel Horn

13 December 2012

This week the 2012 Nobel Prizes were awarded at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. So  it seemed fitting to feature a photograph of the only horn player to receive such an honor. It's also his birthday. His name was Dr. Edward Lawrie Tatum and in 1958 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine  with George Beadle, and Joshua Lederberg. The Associated Press ran a photo of Dr. Tatum and this 8"x10" print was released to newspapers around the country with this caption:

Dr. Edward Lawrie Tatum, 1958 Nobel prize winner
in medicine and physiology, engages in
one of his favorite pastimes,
playing the French horn,
tonight at his Manhattan apartment.
His wife, Viola, registers approval.

Edward L. Tatum (14 December 1909 - 1975) shared the award for medicine with his colleague George Beadle (1903-1989)  "for their discovery that genes act by regulating definite chemical events". The two men worked together at Stanford University developing experiments with the bread mold Neurospora crassa. Their research proposed links between the bread mold's genes and enzymatic reactions and led to an understanding about how specific enzymes were involved in making metabolic pathways.  In other words they made a great contribution to science.

Actually Tatum and Beadle only received 1/4 of the prize, as the other half went to Joshua Lederberg (1925-2008) "for his discoveries concerning genetic recombination and the organization of the genetic material of bacteria". In 1946 Lederberg's specialty took him to Yale where he studied under Edward Tatum while Tatum was a professor there. In 1957 with the launch of Sputnik and the first spaceflights, Lederberg become concerned about the possible contamination of the Earth by extraterrestrial microbes. He was an important advocate for having NASA sterilize all equipment prior to launch and put the returning astronauts into quarantine.  So we have him to thank that little green space bugs have not taken over the world — yet.

But all that science can make for a dull life sometimes, so who wouldn't want to relax with a musical instrument. Tatum's horn is a single horn in F, which was then more common with students and amateurs. Today most horn players would have a double horn in F/B-flat. So I'd be willing to bet that this was the instrument he had in high school. Perhaps with his prize money he bought a new one.

Just for fun I tried to find orchestras in which Tatum might have performed. In California, he could have played in the Stanford Symphony Orchestra which was established in 1891 and is open to all members of the Stanford University community. In New York City, Tatum could have joined other physicians interested in performing symphonic music in the Doctors Orchestral Society of New York which is celebrating its 75th season next year. At a concert this past January their program included the very beautiful Horn Concerto of Reinhold Glière.

I'm not sure I would know a microbe from a virus unless it bit me. But I do know that the inside of a brass instrument is a veritable Petri dish for germs. Periodically I wash my horn's plumbing with soap and warm water using a long flexible brush called a snake. If proper hygiene is neglected, the molds and mystery substances can become quite colorful. I wonder if Dr. Tatum once had an Ahaa! moment whilst cleaning his horn.

The Nobel Prize is probably Stockholm's biggest world event. They put on grand concerts, They bring out their King. And they serve really good food. I'm sure Viola Tatum registered her approval. Here are two short videos of the Nobel Prize banquets of 2011 and 2012.

Skoal  Dr. Tatum!


   UPDATE: 11 April 2017   

This week I had the distinct pleasure
of playing Dr. Edward L. Tatum's horn
and meeting his nephew, Art Tatum,
who is the owner of this instrument.

Art contacted me last year after finding my blog story on his uncle, Dr. Edward Lawrie Tatum.
He writes:

I am the nephew of Ed Tatum, and I have inherited "The Nobel Horn", shown in the press photograph. The horn is a single F horn of unknown age marked Lorenzo SansoneNew York on the bell, but curiously with “Made in Czechoslovakia” engraved on the lead pipe brace. I am also a horn player, as was my grandfather Arthur Lawrie Tatum, and my father Howard J. Tatum, who was Edward L. Tatum's brother. I have been using my father's King double horn and years ago lent Ed's horn to my niece, who is quite an accomplished horn player. She played it until she was about 10.

She quickly outgrew Ed's single horn, and now has her own Conn, and recently returned Ed's horn to me. It was for this reason that I searched on the internet for "E. L. Tatum and French Horn", looking for a link to send her, as I have clippings of Ed with the horn in his papers. I also seem to be the default family genealogist and archivist.

My grandfather Arthur Lawrie Tatum, who was chairman of Pharmacology at University of Wisconsin, did not have the money for music lessons for his children Ed, Howard, and Bessie. Yet he somehow learned to play horn and flute, likely with help from his friends on the music faculty, and taught Ed and Howard the horn, and Bessie the flute. My father's horn is a curious King double with a piston valve for the B flat horn, circa 1930 acquired when my father was about 14.

Both Ed and Howard were accomplished horn players, and I will attempt to find orchestras or concert bands that Ed played in.  There is a note in the Rockefeller University, E.L. Tatum archives, noting that he was trying to get a woodwind quintet, or some chamber group together, and indicated that there was some interest from other faculty. But I don't know if it ever happened.

I know my father played in the University of Wisconsin orchestra and concert band, and I have images of Howard and Bessie, but not Ed, who was a bit older, in images from the Interlochen Arts Camp. Ironically, at least to horn players, the guest conductor for the final summer camp concert, was none other than the bane of horn players everywhere who loathe endless afterbeats, yes, John Philip Sousa himself!  I still have the fingering for On Wisconsin in my muscle memory bank. Wisconsin was so bad at football in my tenure in the marching band, that we played On Wisconsin even when we just got a first down. Nonetheless we had the best sounding marching band in the big 10, as music majors were not allowed to play in the concert band or orchestra, unless they served time every year in the marching band.

Art also sent me a wonderful photo
of himself and his wife Peggy
posed in a reenactment
of Edward and Viola Tatum's
newspaper photo.

But as any horn player knows
there are times
when our noble instrument
becomes the Ignoble Horn!

Art provided the accompanying caption.

Edward’s nephew, Art Tatum, no relation or musical comparison to the famous Jazz Pianist,
enjoys playing Ed's Sansone single F horn.
His wife, Peggy, registers “approval”.
(horror really, as some awful cracked notes were played to elicit the appropriate faces)

Thanks, Art.

Fort Lauderdale FL News
31 October 1958

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where you will find other photos of relaxing couples. 

Max Schmidt's Band White & Gold

07 December 2012

Of all the photos in my collection, few exemplify the golden age of band music better than this postcard of Max Schmidt's Band White and Gold. This concert band of 24 musicians dressed in splendid white and gold embroidered uniforms was typical of the many professional bands in America before World War One, and in 1909 it was a feature of the summer entertainment at the Ocean Park of Long Branch, New Jersey.  It's leader, Max Frederick Schmidt (1870 - 1951), was a German musician who came to the US in 1886, with the great wave of German and Austrian immigrants who brought the Germanic musical heritage to American music.

Max was a violinist, though I suspect he played a wind instrument too, and his home was in New York City. Some newspaper reports referred to him as a former director of the Metropolitan Opera, but more likely he was just a member of the orchestra, as I found no references of his name in the Met Opera archives. His music programming though did include many opera excerpts on the Band White & Gold's concerts. During the fall and winter seasons he conducted Broadway shows and his credits include a 1908 musical called The Soul Kiss with music composed by Maurice Levi, another bandleader of this ragtime age whose orchestra at Churchill's restaurant in New York was a story I told in 2010.  In 1910 Max directed a musical by George M. Cohan - Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford - which ran for 424 performances.

The Band White and Gold stands on the steps of the Ocean Park Casino bandstand as seen from across Ocean Avenue in this postcard by the same photographer, Underwood. During the second half of the 19th century, Long Branch was a favorite summer retreat for the elite of New York and the other major cities of the East Coast as it was conveniently located on a rail line from New York City. Several presidents were regular visitors including President James Garfield, who died there in 1881 after being wounded by an assassin's bullet in Washington, D.C.

The park was built on 10 acres along the Atlantic coast and in 1907 the casino added a convention center with seating for 3,000.  In 1909 the town undertook a major $1,000,000 development project to attract more tourist dollars. Hotels were refurbished, a boardwalk was constructed, and many new cottages, i.e. mansions, were added along the bluff overlooking the ocean. 

This next postcard shows the band stand from a different perspective and includes a mark for good old Fred too. {* see footnote}  The casino was obviously an important center of summer activity but there was also horse racing, auto racing, dog shows, flower shows, and of course, music to keep people occupied at the resort. Max Schmidt's celebrated Band White & Gold played two free shows daily in the bandstand and had regular evening performances that sometimes included a chorus of 250 voices in the casino's convention center.

The Staten Island historical society has Max Schmidt's uniform and some other photos on display at their online museum. (They seem sensitive about protecting images of items in their museum so I can't show the wonderful embroidery here. Just click the link for a look and we'll wait right here.) 

This photo postcard of the Band White and Gold shows a formal interior, perhaps on the casino stage, with 40 musicians. In addition to the usual band instruments there are three horns, a bassoon, an oboe, and a harp which always signifies a first class concert band. But just next to the band leader are some very unusual musicians. Three blacksmiths in leather aprons stand with hammers and anvils, and a young African- American boy dressed in the white and gold uniform, sits cross legged at Max's side.

The boy was also centered in the band's first photo. He was undoubtedly the band mascot and may have even been a novelty performer. His familiar presence on the stage with white musicians makes him a very intriguing mystery person. Unfortunately I have been unable to establish any history for him. Given the era and the location, he was probably used as a novel way of promoting the band.

The blacksmiths however are exceptionally unusual and I'll get to them in a minute. Did you spot the four (count them!) anvils at the back of the band in first photo?

The postcard is marked C. Schaidner, NY copyright 1909, but the card was postmarked in January 7, 1930. That seemed a very late date to reprint a photo even for a popular band, and the back has the old fashioned mark of Private Mailing Card.

Why would someone post such a card in 1930?

The answer is, you would if your husband had a whole box of them left over from his days as a bandleader. The postcard was mailed by Anna Schmidt, Max's wife. She sent it to an old neighbor, Mrs. Ida Maurer in the Bronx or Bronxville as she calls it, and notes her new address in Staten Island saying she has asked her son Freddie to pay a call.

So what about the anvils?

The first photo of the Band White & Gold shows a bass drum, tympani, and racks of tubular chimes and tuned jingle bells. But anvils are not a typical percussion instrument. One anvil would be odd enough in a band, but four?

An anvil of the size pictured with the band might weight as much as 400 pounds, not counting the stump, so it was definitely not an instrument for a marching band, but surprisingly it was sometimes used in concert music. Here are two recordings of the most familiar tunes for anvils as provided by the Internet Archives.

These recordings were made by the Victor Talking Machine Company out of Camden, NJ. The first piece is Forge in the Forest by Theodore Michaelis and was recorded by Arthur Pryor's Band in 1904. Arthur Pryor was a trombone virtuoso who began his career with John Philip Sousa's Band and later set up his own touring group. He settled in Asbury Park, NJ, which is just 6 miles south of Long Branch, and led a band making recordings for the Victor label. I would bet that some of the musicians on the recording played in Max Schmidt's band too.

The anvils start about half way, just after the birdsongs.

The second recording is The Anvil Chorus from Verdi's opera Il Trovatore and it was issued first in 1907, played by the Victor Orchestra. You can just make out the sound of violins. The anvils begin about a third of the way in. Note that they are tuned to two or three pitches.

But I think the best piece for anvil and one that I'm certain was often programed by the Band White & Gold, was the Feuerfest! ('Fire-Proof!') polka op. 269 by Josef Strauss (1827 - 1870). He was the younger brother of the more famous Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, and he wrote this dance tune for the Wertheim safe company, which commissioned it to celebrate the 20,000th sale of their fireproof safe. The title was their company slogan. It might have been Max Schmidt's theme song too.

This performance by the Salinenmusikkapelle of Bad Ischl, Austria is my favorite of the many versions I found on YouTube because the band is dressed in fancy uniforms complete with shakos and plumes. The anvil is a bit pocket-sized compared to the ones in the Band White & Gold, but the effect is still there.

But YouTube provides an even better illustration of the percussive quality of forged steel with a maestro of the anvil from right here in my home town of Asheville, North Carolina. His name is  Doc Cudd, a master blacksmith at the Biltmore Estate. I've not had the pleasure of hearing his live performance but I would bet that the blacksmiths in Max Schmidt's band played with a similar musical skill. It's not beyond possibility too that George Vanderbilt II, who called the magnificent Biltmore house his home, might have visited the Long Branch casino and heard Max and his anvil band.

Turn down your speaker volume before you play this video.

With the start of World War One in 1914, public opinion on German/Austrian culture began to change rapidly. By 1917 when America entered the war, German Americans became a target for discrimination and worse. Though the Germanic influence was still a part of American music, German musicians like Max Schmidt probably found it difficult to continue the same relationship with their audience. I could find no references to the Band White & Gold after 1915. The war brought changes to musical styles and fashions, and popular taste moved on.

Besides conducting Broadway shows, Max led summer band concerts in Midland Beach on Staten Island where he moved from the Bronx in the late 1920s. His house provides a beautiful overlook of the Hudson river. 

When they perfect the time machine, I'm going back to the summer of 1909. I'm going sit on the lawn outside the Long Branch casino and listen to Max Schmidt and his band play. And I'm going to hear the anvils ring.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where they cover all topics Sepia.

The Sepia Saturday theme photo is about OshKosh overalls, and it happens that I have a perfect photo to mark not just this theme but a special day. Next weekend this bright-eyed Georgia boy from 20 some years ago will receive his final certificate of achievement and march off into the glittering light of a new day. Cuteness was only a brief phase for Samuel Nathan and now he gets to do whatever he pleases. I know he will go far.

Note the drool. That's on his permanent record. We should have named him Bubba.

* When I started this post on Monday, I went searching for some supporting images, and found the two casino postcards on eBay available for purchase. It was not until they arrived on Thursday that I was able to see the back sides, and to my amazement both were posted in 1909 to the same Mrs. Ida Maurer of the Bronx by Anna Schmidt, Max's wife!

X marked the spot for Fred Schmidt, their eldest son at age 11 in 1909. The babies are  daughters Isolde and Margareta, along with younger son Max. The 1930 postcard was purchased last year from a dealer in Illinois. These older ones came this week from a dealer in Georgia. How does a coincidence like this happen?

A very simple explanation. The second dealer is the daughter of the first.  Nonetheless there were mysterious forces of cosmic magnetism at work here. How cool is that?

UPDATE 08 January 2013:
Here are two more photo postcards to add to this story, courtesy of Mr. George Bentzen who recently contacted me. George is the grand nephew of Max Schmidt. 

Band White and Gold, Midland Beach, NY
courtesy of G. Bentzen collection

In this souvenir postcard of Midland Beach, NY on Staten Island, Max Schmidt stands with his Band White and Gold on what looks to be the steps of a hotel porch. His ensemble is smaller than the Long Branch band with only 18 musicians and no anvilists.

George offers these memories of his great-uncle.
Max and Anna had 4 children. Fred, Max, Isolde and Marguerite. My mother used to visit with them quite often,especially in the summertime when Uncle Max was playing at Midland Beach. He gave concerts in the afternoon beachside over the Pineapple Stand and in the evenings at the hotel over the Taffy Pull place. These bandstands were beautiful and right at the beach. The crowds loved the band. Mom remembered going to Midland Beach during the first World War to hear the band and saw the harbor filled with camouflaged ships.

Max Schmidt
courtesy of G. Bentzen collection

And to conclude, Mr. Bentzen generously provided this wonderful portrait of Max Schmidt wearing a bandleader's uniform more reserved than the decorative White & Gold uniform that is now at the museum of the Staten Island historical society.

George writes:
I went back and checked some old letters I have from his daughters. He played at Midland Beach until the end of summer 1930. She says he was Assistant Music Director of the Met.1900-1904. Not first violinist. I know he taught all instruments at each of his homes in the Bronx and in Staten Island. We used to go on the ferry then go across the street and climb up this very long set of stairs that went to the top of the hill where his home is. Sitting on that front porch was great watching all the water traffic from great ships to little local rowboats. When he had time between his other music obligations, he would go to the New York Turner Club on Clarence Ave in the BRONX  on the waterfront in Throggs Neck where his brother George (my grandfather) was president and give concerts. This being a German-American club would clear the floor of the big dining room and dance the evening away.
I am very grateful that you contacted me, George, and added to this history of Max Schmidt. He was such a great example of the many German American musicians whose talent and leadership created this golden age of American band music. Thank you.

WHO, What, & Where

30 November 2012

Who polka players?   Wait ... what?  Shouldn't that be, "who are polka players?"
Oh ... W_H_O Polka Players. Why didn't you say so. You meant the WHO Polka Players, of course, with Bill and Irma on clarinets, Smitty on trumpet, Bruce and Hymie on saxophones, Al on sousaphone, Loyd on drums, and Bob your WHO radio host. Where you ask? Well they're broadcasting from high atop the Liberty building in Des Moines, Iowa. When? 1950. It's says so right on the front.

Regional radio bands were once a common part of American life. Every kind of entertainment show that we now watch on television, from sit-coms to game shows, was invented first for a listening radio audience. The major cities, like New York, Chicago, or Detroit could afford to produce the full orchestra or big band concerts since they were then relayed throughout a radio network. But smaller stations also employed musicians like the WHO Polka Players to perform in combos for their local programs. The WHO radio station made its first broadcast in 1924 and was owned by Banker's Life which occupied the main floors of the Liberty Building in Des Moines. Later in the 1930s the station was acquired by B. J. Palmer of Davenport, IA, the son of the founder of chiropractic therapy.

If you heard something you liked on the radio, you would send in a request and the station would mail you a postcard of your favorite group. That's what Cletus Purdum of Montezuma, Iowa did in March of 1950. At 50,000 watts, WHO's AM signal could be picked up over a large area of the Midwest. Montezuma, with a population around 1460 in 1950, is 70 miles east of Des Moines

Cletus may have preferred the Polka Players. Perhaps he had a secret crush on Irma? But he probably got more toe tapping dances from the WHO Buckaroos, with Slim on fiddle, Si on clarinet, Bill on trumpet, Jack G. on drums, Red on bass, Cece on accordion, and Jack L. on electric guitar. With their black stetson hats and sharp suits, they must have kept the WHO studio jumping.

In 1949, the Cedar Rapids Gazette carried a regular Radiolog with the schedule for the 4 stations then available,

   KCRG - Mutual Broadcasting System
   WMT - CBS
   WHO 1040 - NBC. 

During the week you could enjoy your second cup of coffee in the morning at 9:45 with the Polka Players, and that extra muffin with the Buckaroos at 11:30. You could catch them again for another 15 minute set at 4:00 in the afternoon, with just the perfect rhythm to get your tractor hopping along the corn rows.

Ronald Reagan, WHO Radio Announcer,
Des Moines Iowa, 1934-37
Source: Wikimedia

Though he was long gone by the time the Buckaroos and the Polka Players were regulars at the station, future President Ronald Reagan was in front of the WHO microphone as a sportscaster from 1932 to 1937.

According to the WHO radio history, the station's theme song in the 40's and 50s was the Jerome Kern song Who? from his 1925 Broadway musical Sunny.  Here's a German version by Jack Hylton und sein Orchester that probably resembles the snappy arrangement that the gang at WHO played everyday.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone else is a long way from foxtrots. 

A Sister Duo

23 November 2012

A short novelty drawn
from a postcard
of two nameless young girls. 

The door was locked. With a grumble he set the cases down on the sidewalk and peered into the shop windows. It looked open but maybe not. He could see dozens of photographs along the walls and a glass case with fancy frames. There was a light in the back.

The wind was brisk as Ches pulled his coat tighter around the collar. Hard to do with bandaged fingers. That blasted coupling came loose so quick and near took the whole hand off. Suppose he shouldn't complain though. A lot of brakemen had trouble counting to ten with missing a digit or two. Still his fingers were sore and it was hard to grapple with these dang cases. Eight days riding the road in freezing weather; eating boxcar soups; stealing sleep whenever the train pulled onto the sidings for the express. Right now he just wanted to close his eyes in his own bed proper.

But no, he's got to get up early and carry these dang instruments through the snow and down to Friedmann's  photo house. Esther wasn't very big, but her holler could rattle the window sashes, and it wasn't half as bad as her sulk. Best to get it done. She was making most of the money at home now anyway. Seemed like every gal in town had one or two of her dresses.

The door gave a jingle as it opened and a little red-faced man in spectacles squinted at him. "Can I help you, sir?"

"Yeah, my wife made a time for some pictures. I come early to bring their stuff." He pointed to the cases.

The man waved him in. "Oh sure, sure. You must be Mr. Maguire. Yes, I have you down for 8:30, but now I have another family in the studio, so if you'll just wait here, I'll be with you presently." He turned and scurried through a curtain behind the display. 

Inside was not  much warmer than outside, and Ches looked around at some of the big studio photos. There was the Applebaum's wedding, and Schneider's store all draped in bunting with a band standing on the steps. From July he guessed. On the wall was a couple dozen prosperous gents and ladies sitting around with their families. The Methodist church picnic back in May. Up on the counter was a revolving wire stand with postcards of various people and places around the county.  He picked out one with a big 2-6-2 engine lying on its side. He remembered that one. Two? No, three summers ago when the rains washed out the Topeka loop bridge.

Where were they? He reached reflexively for his watch, then grumbled. It was still over at Goldstein's. Maybe after next payday he could reclaim it, if they had any money left. Used most of his September pay for these dang instruments. Doc Marstin said the cornet would be good for Aggie's lungs. He didn't see how, but the doc explained that all that blowing might strengthen her breathing after the diphtheria two winters back. He shuddered at the memory. Then this fall it was mumps. Both of them. One more paycheck gone.

He heard voices as an old couple came through the curtain with the little red-faced man. "Yes, sir. I'll finish these tonight and then you may pick them up tomorrow afternoon." He scribbled away on a notepad. "All together with the duplicates, it will be two dollars."

Two dollars! Ches didn't have 60 cents in his pocket. Why'd they need photos anyway? Just cause Esther wanted them for Christmas to post to her folks back east. He'd have to see if the station boss would put him on a second shift again at the roundhouse. 

Just as the door closed, it opened again and two little girls in long coats burst into room. "Daddy!" they squealed with steaming breath and rosy cheeks. Esther was right behind. 

"So you found it alright," she said as she removed the girl's coats. "When you get back to house, Chesney, there's biscuits and gravy on the stove and an apple tart in the pie safe." She cocked her head and gave him a sly smile. "Think you can help Margret with her boots?"

The photographer held back the curtain. "Yes indeed, a fine morning for music. You girls just step this way." As Ches untied the strings on the cardboard case and took out the bass drum, he carried it onto a small stage. "Yes that will do nicely. Now you girls need a dark backdrop for contrast with those pretty white dresses. It won't take a moment to pull out." He went over to a corner and began shuffling through several large canvas rolls.

"Daddy, I can do a triple paradiddle now. Mr. Wisner showed me how. You want to hear me do it?" Margret took out her drum sticks from a leather roll. She began a slow but rhythmic beat on the snare drum. 

The little girl gave a loud blast on the cornet. "Aggie dear," exclaimed Esther. "Don't dribble spit on Mr. Friedmann's carpet. Come on now, we got to get you girls over to the armory after this for the band rehearsal." Esther fussed with their bows and pulled up their stockings once more. "Mr.Friedmann, you are so kind to do this for us. I know my parent's will be so impressed with how the girls have grown. My papa used to play trombone in Gilmore's band and he so wants to see them with their instruments."

"Oh, you are most welcome, Mrs. Maguire. My wife thought this a nice exchange for altering that graduation dress so wonderfully to fit my Gertrude. Such a big gal." He moved the camera in closer to the little stage, tossing a black cloth over his head. "Very nice. very nice." He turned and smiled at Ches. "Yes, sir, Mr. Maguire. You got some talented girls here."

Ches blinked at the sparking dresses. "Yes, I do," he said. "I surely do."

The preceding is a complete work of fiction, as the postcard photo
has no record of names, date or place.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where you will likely be introduced to even more sisters.

The Toledo Newsboys' Band

17 November 2012

Every morning a newspaper magically appears on my front walk, and in return for her breakfast, my dog will eagerly retrieve it to the house. Given the lightweight pages of today's news, she may have the better bargain. It is odd that in the many years of our subscription, I have never met the delivery person who drives down our street in the predawn hours to toss the rolled newspaper over the fence gate. Perhaps I would pay better attention if it was delivered by a marching band like the Toledo Newsboys' Band, pictured here in a patriotic parade and led by a diminutive drum major wearing an impressive bearskin hat. The postcard was a free souvenir from the Toledo Blade newspaper, and it was posted to Mr. & Mrs. E. H. Porter of Sand Creek, Michigan on September 3, 1907.

Dear Mama & Papa & Mabel
I arrived here safely and have started school today. I have the same teacher I had before & I'm thinking some of going to another school if we stay here much longer. I guess I will close.
Your summer son Walter
P.S. I have not heard from Bertha     yet.  Walter

I like the idea of a summer son. I used to have an all-season son, but alas he is now only a son for the holidays.

In 1907, a young boy might find work as a newsboy, but it was not a teenager on his bicycle doing an afternoon paper route. It was long hours from early morning to late night, hawking the latest edition of the news in all kinds of weather and at every street corner, street car, pub, and hotel. The competition was fierce as most cities and small towns had multiple newspapers. A morning paper and an evening tabloid. A commercial advertiser and a sporting gazette. A Democrat tribune and a Republican herald.

The newspaper publishers were one of many industries that hired children as pickers, gleaners, breakers, sweepers, miners, ushers, match makers, cigar rollers, bobbin doffers, and hundreds of other difficult and dangerous jobs. Taking advantage of the era's difficult social conditions, many employers routinely exploited child labor for its cheap wages. In the case of the publishers,  they considered the newsboys to be independent agents, as newsies bought newspapers on bulk discount and then sold them for 3¢ to 5¢ apiece. But the publishers did not buy back any unsold papers. A boy might make 30¢ or 50¢ a day, or not if sales were poor.

Newsboy - New Haven, Conn. 1909
Lewis Hine  -  U.S. National Archives
This photograph comes from the Lewis Hine collection on which has over 500 photographs that Hine took in the early 1900s for the National Child Labor Committee.
Hine's description reads:
12 year old Newsboy. Hyman Alpert, been selling three years.
Spends evenings in Boys Club. New Haven, Conn, March 1909
The NCLC was lobbying Congress to put an end to this abuse of children in the American labor force. It impossible to look at these astonishing images and not be moved by the hardship and suffering that many children endured in this era.

Newsboys - Hartford, Conn. 1909
Lewis Hine  -  U.S. National Archives
Another group of newsboys, most of whom look about 9 to 12 years old, photographed by Hine with this caption:
Sunday noon. Some of the newsboys returning Sunday papers.
Many of them had been out since 5 and 6 A.M. Hartford, Conn, March 1909

These boys were street kids who probably had little time for reading or any academic exercise. Left on their own by working or even absent parents, the boys (and girls too) grew up around vice of all kinds. Gambling, liquor, smoking, and petty crime became their school and newsboys frequently became entangled in gangs, corruption, and violence.

Wayward youth were recognized as a major social problem in American cities as the 19th century ended. And though many people could see the problem, few were offering a solution. But in Toledo, Ohio one man decided that he would try to make a difference. His name was John E. Gunckel, (1846-1915).

Gunckel was a railroad ticket agent who regularly encountered the misbehavior of newsboys. Being of generous spirit, he began treating a few boys to a wholesome dinner and encouraging them to aspire to a better life. Before long he had befriended so many that, in 1891 he invited 102 newsboys for a Christmas banquet. This became his starting point for forming the Toledo Newsboy Association. 

As president of the organization, Gunckel helped the boys organize their own rules and government. They were to play square, live clean, be honest and respect others. Smoking, drinking, and theft were not tolerated and the boys policed themselves. They wore badges and had an official membership card.

The Toledo Newsboys Band

After establishing a kind of guild that included both newsboys and shoe blacks, they wanted the public to see them as professionals. I found a news report that in July 1894, the newsboys went on strike to protest the reduction in price of the Morning Commercial paper from 3¢ to 1¢. This predates the more celebrated Newsboy Strike of 1899 in New York City when newsboys successfully protested against the newspapers of  Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

By 1893 the Toledo Newsboys Association had over 250 members, and they began adding activities that only members could participate in. A music instructor was found to start a band program which soon became the best way to promote the organization. It was so successful that in 1905, the Toledo Newsboys Band and Cadets were invited to Washington D.C. to march in the inauguration parade of President Theodore Roosevelt.

This photo of newsboys and shoe blacks shows some of the charter members of the Toledo Newsboys Association. It was taken from Boyville, a book written in 1905 by John E. Gunckle. By this year, Toledo was part of the National Newsboys Association, and Gunckel had become their national voice. He began advocating for funds to build a proper clubhouse, a building just for the Newsboys, which was dedicated in 1911. The second band photocard shows them standing in front of the main entrance, the postmark is 12 Sept 1912.

John Gunckel died in 1915, a beloved and cherished benefactor. His legacy is that the National Newsboys Association evolved into part of the Boys & Girls Club of America. Communities around the country now have these clubs, just like the Toledo Newsboys Association, that offer activities, training opportunities, guidance and above all a safe and trusted environment for thousands of disadvantaged children. 

The John E. Gunckel Monument


Gunckel was buried in Toledo's Woodlawn Cemetery, and the newsboys of Toledo built a 30' x 26' stone pyramid in his honor, each stone a contribution from a child. The epitaph reads:

Who saw in every boy a man
Of worth and purpose like Gods plan
and said to him: Do right-You can!
The Boys Club of America.

Sandusky OH Star Journal - 1 July 1911

This last story appeared in the July 1, 1911 edition of the Sandusky Star Journal. It's a report of two Toledo boys who have run away from home to follow a circus. Their hope was to find work as candy butchers or vendors, but a sharp eyed butcher who also hails from Toledo recognizes one boy and turns them in, to be returned to their parents.
It was the boy in the tall bearskin cap leading the Toledo Newsboys Band.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday.
Click the link to find out what everyone else is reading this weekend.

A WW1 Prisoner of War Camp Orchestra

09 November 2012

Since ancient times, the story of a soldier's life is often a tale of long days of boredom interrupted by brief moments of action. But that monotony became an interminable ordeal for any soldier captured by the enemy and held as a prisoner of war. In the Great War of 1914-18, over 6 million men were confined to hundreds of prison camps scattered around Europe. In Germany alone there were over 2,400,000 POWs, with over a million more imprisoned in Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey.

In some of these prison camps, the captive soldiers were allowed to have musical instruments and form small orchestras as a way to provide a small comfort from the dull routine. This photo postcard shows one such POW orchestra from a camp in Münster, Germany, with soldiers dressed in a mixture of British, French and Italian army uniforms. The French soldiers wear the distinctive Kepi hat, and the Italians have stars on their coat collar.  The 18 musicians are posing outdoors with their instruments arranged on the ground in a typical military fashion by leaning them against each other. There are 4 clarinets, a flute, a horn, 6 violins, a cello, and a double bass on the far right.

On the back of the card is an inscription: 
Mr. Fred Parkin
With my kind regards
{unreadable signature}

The name Fred Parkin unfortunately shows up too often in British military records to make a proper identification as the search term captured, POW, or Münster is not part of the data base. According to the dealer from whom I acquired this set of photos, Fred Parkin may have been the camp photographer.
Any suggestions on the inscrutable signature are appreciated.

Here is a larger view of Fred's Münster camp showing the prisoner barracks, a larger  assembly building which might have been the orchestra's music hall, and what appears to be a formal garden park with several dozen men scattered around. There were actually 4 Münster camps  built during the war around this city of 100,000 in North Rhine-Westphalia.  One had previously been a race course and another was built on farmland. This has the look of a rural landscape but there are no markings to indicate which camp it was.

In 1914, all of the military forces expected that the war would last no more than a few months, so there was no planning made for captured troops. The first prisoners who were taken often endured very harsh conditions, and the international rules for maintaining proper care of POWs were often not followed for various political and logistical reasons.  Enlisted ranks were required to work, which sometimes meant rebuilding enemy trenches and collecting bodies from the battlefield.

This second photo of a POW orchestra came from the same collection and is undoubtedly the same camp.  This time 16 musicians hold their instruments, and three men who were on the left in the first photo are now standing on the right. The Frenchman with the marvelous mustache has changed his hat for a cap and holds a horn. Another Frenchman in front of him has a saxophone. They are arranged around a piano and I would guess that the British soldier seated in the center with his hands crossed is the pianist and maybe even the orchestra conductor.

There is very little archival material online that pertains to POW camps in the First World War. This POW orchestra is one of several that I have acquired, and last year I posted a story on a similar Army Orchestra from 1917 that I believe came from an Austrian POW camp.  That postcard inspired my search for more information about this unusual kind of ensemble as each photo brings up the same question. Where did these POWs get these musical instruments? A cello is not ordinarily taken into combat by an infantryman. Maybe a viola, but never a cello. So how did a cello come to be photographed in a prisoner of war camp? Surprisingly the answer is the YMCA.

This week I found a superb book on the history of the POWs in WW1 that seems to be published online for free, Pursuit of an 'Unparalleled Opportunity'  by Kenneth Steuer with the subtitle: The American YMCA and Prisoner of War Diplomacy among the Central Power Nations during World War I, 1914-1923. In his eBook history, Steuer explains in great detail how the American Young Men's Christian Association became the intermediary for providing welfare to the millions of allied soldiers imprisoned by Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

Shortly after the start of the war in 1914, President Wilson felt the United States should avoid becoming entangled in the conflict and instead remain a neutral country like Spain, Sweden, or Switzerland. But as the war continued to expand and more POWs were taken by the Central Powers, public concern for the captured soldiers grew, so the American government agreed to monitor the prison camps on behalf of the allied nations. But the US military and civilian authorities had no experience in providing this kind of social welfare support, so instead the American YMCA accepted the mission to organize and provide for the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of war prisoners.

One of their first efforts in 1914 was in distributing Christmas parcels that included games, cigarettes, candles, and musical instruments as well. Even the prison camp guards were given gifts, as they were "just as lonely and homesick as the prisoners of war".

This section from Chapter 8 of Steuer's book details the importance given to music as a solace for the war prisoners.

Another important element of the Association's Four-fold Program was entertainment for POWs. Mental diversions allowed POWs to temporarily forget about the situation they faced. Music was one of the most important parts of this service. The American YMCA provided a variety of musical instruments and sheet music so that the POWs could organize orchestras, bands, and choirs. 

Between March 1915 and June 1917, the American YMCA spent twenty thousand Marks on musical instruments for POWs in Germany. Once organized, bands, choruses, and orchestras provided evening performances for the POWs and the guards, as well as music for religious services, at theatrical performances, and at funerals. Most camps had talented musicians among the ranks who worked hard to develop the music programs. Not only did they lead the bands and orchestras, they offered lessons to POWs, who were eager to learn how to play a variety of instruments. The prisoners could draw up a wish list of instruments and musical scores and send it through the YMCA field secretary to the WPA Office in Berlin. 

At Döberitz, the POWs organized the "Prisoners' International Orchestra," and the Association provided a cornet, flute, French horn, violoncello, castanets, and a tambourine to fill out the orchestra. The Association sent an organ and stringed instruments to the officers' prison camp at Werl for Russian prisoners. At Königsbrück in Saxony, Jacob equipped a Serbian gypsy orchestra, while Michel organized and equipped an orchestra at Worms. The YMCA also provided sheet music for the chorus at Schneidemühl, which allowed the prisoners to produce a show that greatly helped improve camp morale. Often, the musical talents of field secretaries helped ease prisoners' suffering. 

Michel reported that POWs at Friedberg took special comfort in his music. The benefits of music could even be extended to far-flung labor detachments by sending musical instruments and scores to POWs at work sites. Michel pointed out that "music, especially singing, had charms to soothe, cheer, and bless" the hapless prisoner of war.

After the United States entered the war in 1917, the American YMCA recruited replacements from the neutral nations of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. This organization was then named the War Prisoners' Aid or WPA.

Musical entertainment was a critical element of this relief. By June 1917, the YMCA had equipped twenty-seven orchestras in prison camps and provided harmonicas to 120 labor detachments. To meet the heavy demand for instruments, the Association developed a business relationship with a musical instrument manufacturer in Leipzig. The relationship evidently flourished, since the WPA Office in Berlin received a single bill for 504 mouth organs. Red Triangle workers provided sheet music and orchestral scores upon request.

The YMCA and WPA arranged for POWs to get material for other activities like handicraft shops and sports. In this view of the same prison camp park we see curving walkways, flower beds, and rustic benches that were probably a product of the POWs using tools provided by the YMCA. With such an odd mix of British, French, and Italian design, I imagine that the men's garden club discussion could get pretty heated. And in multiple languages. 

This last photo postcard is of a group of 22 British servicemen from the same Münster camp. The back of the card includes a photographer's imprinted name and address and is the only evidence for the location of this POW camp.  
Carl Dülberg, Münster i/W, Steinfurtherstr. 9. 

I count over 13 different regimental cap badges, including one sailor. His cap has his ship's name but despite my best efforts I just can't decipher it. I was unable to find many instances where the Royal Navy lost ship crews that were taken prisoner during the war, but I did discover the 63rd Royal Naval Division which was an unusual navy reserves unit which fought on land and had many sailors who were captured. But that is a story for another time.

The POWs did have a postal service to receive letters and packages from home, and I believe that these postcards were produced by the soldiers for their own mail, though it was subject to German military censors. Without postmarks and messages there is no way to completely identify the who, when, and where of these photos which are part of the vast complicated history of the Great War.

But on November 11th, 1918 - Armistice Day -  I expect that the Münster POW camp orchestra gave a rousing performance that all of these soldiers would rejoice and remember for the rest of their lives.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday,
where the phones are ringing with new stories of old photographs. 

UPDATE: For my readers who like puzzles, here is an enhanced  detail of the sailor in the last photo. The cap letters look to me like HMS Pembroke but there was no ship by that name in WW1.  But let us hope he eventually made his way back to his home port.

Dr. & Mrs. Halstead on Election Day 1920

01 November 2012

Recently on a visit back to my parent's home, I was shown a vintage photo postcard that had come from an old photo album, acquired from my father's family. The photographer at Moren's Studio entitled it:

Dr. J. S. Halstead, age 102
Mrs. Halstead, age 91
at the Polls November  2nd. '20

and below is written:

Breckenridge, MO.

Dr. Halstead and his wife are walking along a shopfront on their way to vote. Each has a cane, and Mrs. Halstead also keeps a good grip on her husband's arm.

It is the national election of 1920, with Warren Harding (R), and James Cox (D) contending for the office of President. Harding would win with an overwhelming 60% of the popular vote, but would not complete his term, as he died suddenly in San Francisco on August 2, 1923 after a brief illness while on a tour of the western states. He was succeeded by Vice President Calvin Coolidge, who would later win the 1924 election also.

The man in the hat is Dr. Joseph Singer Halstead, who was born in Kentucky in 1818, but had made his home in Breckenridge, Missouri since 1860. His earlier career in Lexington, KY was as personal physician to Henry Clay (1777 – 1852) a skilled lawyer and celebrated Kentucky politician who served in both houses of Congress. Clay was still a well known historic figure in the 1920s and Dr. Halstead's connection to him was always mentioned in the many newspaper accounts I found about the good doctor.

Senator Henry Clay and Lucretia Hart Clay
on their wedding anniversary 1849
As the youngest elected Speaker of the House, Henry Clay achieved one of the longest tenures in that position (1811–1814, 1815–1820, and 1823–1825). In 1799 he married Lucretia Hart, and together they made their home in Lexington, KY raising eleven children. The estate was named Ashland and is preserved today as a National Historic Landmark.

Clay seems to have collected walking canes, and on the occasion of his great speech advocating statehood for Missouri, a fellow Senator from Maryland gave him a cane made of olivewood that came from a tree grown at the grave of  Cicero, the famous Roman orator and philosopher. Sometime later, Clay was attacked by a dog on the streets of Washington and in his defense broke the cane head. It was repaired but was now too short, so he presented it to Dr. Halstead who had since always prized the cane and is no doubt holding it on his way to the ballot box in 1920.

After attaining the age of 100, Dr. Halstead's birthdays were a regular item in newspapers around the country. He became the oldest Missourian; the oldest Mason; the man who met Lafayette, Sam Houston, Daniel Webster, et al.  In one article in 1919, his marriage to Mrs. Halstead - was described as 67 years without a spat.
"We sometimes disagree a bit, but we never permit it to go to the extent of an argument or quarrel," Mrs. Halstead said. "That is one reason our love for each other is as great as it was when we were married." 
Dr. Halstead was revered in part because his generosity never made a disparaging remark for anyone but offered only praise. Once when challenged to say something good about a local disagreeable character, he said, "Oh well, he is a good whistler."

Dr. Halstead lived through one more election cycle and at age 107, acclaimed as Breckenridge's most honored citizen, died on September 13, 1925. His wife, Margaret Wickliffe Halstead, preceded him by dying earlier in the same year.

An interesting small town history of a revered man, but there was still a larger question to answer.

Why was a postcard of Dr. Halstead included in this collection of family photos?

Part of the reason is that Breckenridge, Missouri was my ancestral hometown too. Both of my great great grandfathers on my father's side of the family served in the Union army in the War between the States. After the war, Charles H. Pratt and Jacob Brubaker both lived in Breckenridge and can be found on the same page of the town's 1890 Veterans Schedule. Jacob served as a private in the 9th Regiment of Ohio Cavalry and Charles was a sergeant in the 27th Infantry Regiment of Missouri. The schedule also notes that Charles suffered a finger wound and was held a prisoner of war by the Confederates for 14 weeks, 8 of those in the infamous Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia.

People of Missouri had divided loyalties during the Civil War. As a result of the Missouri Compromise, which was taken through Congress in 1820 by Henry Clay, Missouri had entered the union as a slave state. Breckenridge in fact was named for John C. Breckinridge, a pro-slavery Kentucky Congressman and Senator who was Vice President under James Buchanan, but who later served as a Confederate general. And yet despite this heritage, in 1860 Missouri chose to remain in the union and did not secede with the Confederate states. This created very contentious politics in the state and tragically divided families and towns for many years. Dr. Halstead remained neutral, even though both the Union and Confederate military requested his services as a medical doctor.

The archives of have very interesting maps as well as census documents, and there I found an 1876 survey map for Caldwell County, Missouri. The dark square is Breckenridge and below it is the 640 acre property of J. S. Halstead.

And just adjacent was the 80 acre farm of Jacob Brubaker. Go up three squares to the northeast and there was the 60 acre farm of Charles H. Pratt. How close is that? Perhaps only a few minutes walk or horse ride.

The 1880 US Census for Breckenridge, MO has J. S. Halstead, age 62, a farmer, (the doctor's retirement pursuit) listed with his wife, Margrett, age 50 along with five sons and one daughter.  Only two names down is Jacob Bluebaker (sic), farmer, age 38 with wife Elizabeth, age 36 and daughters Rozalla and Lillian, and sons, Enoch and Harvey Brubaker, age 2, who eventually will become my father's grandfather. There is an odd feeling of affinity to discover that Jacob had the same trouble with the misspelling of his name that my father and I have endured over the years.

But was the proximity of homesteads the only reason our family has a picture of Dr. Halstead? I think there is another reason that has to do with the skills of a country doctor.
I can not believe that a Brubaker (or a Pratt for that matter) would not take advantage of Dr. Halstead when he lived so close. So I believe he was present at the birth of Harvey Brubaker. As birth certificates were uncommon in those days, it may never be proven, but who would not want to keep a photo of the doctor who brought you into the world and who lived to be 107?

I hope you have been patient to reach this last part of the story because here is the most remarkable thing about the photo of Dr. & Mrs. Halstead.  

Next week is election day for 2012, and there may be some senior voters who could match Dr. Halstead's record of 21 presidential elections at age 102. But the really interesting statistic from that November day in 1920, is that for Mrs. Margaret Halstead, age 91, it was her very first visit to the polls as a registered voter!

This was the first national election after the 19th amendment to the US Constitution granted women's suffrage to American women. It had only just been ratified on August 18, 1920, and was supported by both the Republican candidate Warren Harding and the Democratic candidate James Cox. Was Mrs. Halstead a bit nervous? After all those years of listening to her husband's stories of Henry Clay and other eminent politicians, finally this day she could have a real say in the future of her country too.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where there are games and sticks afoot this weekend.


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