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 Tuba Player from Lowville, New York

10 February 2012

One of life's great pleasures is relaxing next to a fire in a comfortable chair and reading ... tuba music. The gentleman in this photograph seems to have taken a break from some serious practice on his tuba. With his instrument turned upside down for a good arm rest, he has a wire stand to hold his music, even though his tuba has a music lyre, and around his feet are strewn even more tuba parts. Just beside him on an ornately carved table, lies his bowler hat and a framed photo, perhaps of his sweetheart.

The instrument is a distinctive Courtois silver plated E-flat tuba that can be identified by its arrangement of three valves for the right hand and a single diagonal valve for the left hand. It is made by Antoine Courtois, the famous French musical instrument company established in 1789 and still manufacturing brass instruments today.

The photographer is George W. Carter of Lowville, New York. The large cabinet card has gold edges to date it around 1885 but there is no other identification. The furnishings suggest a parlor in a home but I think the mantle, window, and curtain are painted backdrops in Mr. Carter's studio. The additional appointments create a very clever illusion. Carter was described in a Lowville newspaper of 1871 as a landscape photographer, and the painting on the back wall could even be his artwork. He was born in 1848 and at age 19 was listed in the 1870 census as working in a photo gallery. He and his wife, Ida E. Carter continued to live in Lowville running a photography studio until sometime after 1920.

Lowville is in Lewis County in upstate New York, situated in the Black River valley of the Adirondack Mountains, just east of Lake Ontario. This past Memorial Day, I featured a 1908 postcard of the Lowville Band, and I also have another photograph contemporary with Mr. Carter's, of a cornet player named Frank Thompson, who was the leader of the band from 1883 to 1904. His biography initially started my research on the history of this wonderful small town and I plan to feature his tragic story in an upcoming post. Two online archives of newspapers from Lewis County at Northern New York Newspapers and for other parts of New York at have been veritable mother lodes of historic trivia allowing me to find more clues than would be possible with other photographs.

One detail that caught my attention was the camera's focus on the gentleman's left hand. I magnified it and it appears he has a signet ring. The initial looks to be the letter D in a calligraphy type set into a dark rectangle.

On October 12, 1882 the Lowville Times carried a short report on a two new musicians to join the band. A solo B-flat cornet player from Utica and Hallie Durez from Ogdensburg, NY who would play the tuba horn.

{Click the image to read the tragic end of a squirrel hunter.}

Hallie was actually Haley Duruz, born in New York in 1861. His father was Leon Duruz who was a wagon and carriage maker. Leon was Swiss but emigrated to New York as a boy and during the Civil War served in an Union Artillery Regiment from New York as a bugler.  In 1883 the Lowville Band performed a concert and along with some lavish praise the members were listed in the Lowville Democrat. Leon is playing baritone alongside his son.

The Boonville Herald speaks of the serenade given by our village band in that place last week Tuesday evening, and also of its music at the Gouverneur fair, as follows: "The Lowville band is a musical organization composed of eighteen young men of eminent musical talent and of a high order of discipline. They are favorites of their village neighbors and are assisted in a very liberal way in their excursions and enterprises. They are tastily uniformed and equipped with instruments of the finest quality for tone and finish.
The excursion yesterday was for their benefit, and was engineered by the indefatigable and ubiquitous George Sherwood, without whom Lowvllle would soon become extinct or of little influence among her sister villages. The personnel of the band organization is as follows:
C. L. Brown, drum major; Prof. R. McCrossen, leader and solo Bb cornet; W. J. Smith, 1st Bb cornet; Frank R. Smith, 2d Bb cornet; C. K. Doig, Eb clarinet; Don Warren, 1st Bb clarinet; Garey Warren, 2d Bb clarinet; E. T. Davies solo alto; Amos Bliss, 1st alto; A. E. Davis, 2d alto; Will Taylor, trombone; Frank Stoddard, 1st tenor; Frank Cook, 2d tenor; Leon Duruz, baritone; Hally Duruz, tuba; George Hutchins, 2d tuba; Hiram Cook, tenor drum, and Geo. Goutremout, bass drum."

On December 26, 1883, the Lowville Democrat carried a report that The Lowville Band had recently raised $160 for a new tuba. Could the shiny Courtois be that instrument?

{Click the image to read about the risk of winter  temperatures at -28º F.}

Evidently Hally Duruz was an accomplished musician as in January 1884 he was invited to join the Kingsford Band in Oswego, NY for a trial engagement. This was a larger band that offered a yearly salary.

{Click the image to read about a failed suicide and more dangerous drunks.}

In May 1885, another brief report noted that D.C. Barry, an experienced tuba player from Chester, Connecticut had arrived to play a season with the Lowville Silver Band. Did Haley move to Oswego and beyond? There were dozens of small bands throughout upstate New York. Many villages like Lowville were very proud of their musical culture and quite competitive. They often exchanged band concerts, sending their "boys" to play in neighboring towns. And civic sponsors regularly brought in professional musicians to augment and improve their band's musicianship.

Haley Duruz shows up back in Lowville in the 1905 New York Census, living with his parents and without a wife. Was he still playing tuba? That wasn't recorded.

Of course the design on the ring could be a different letter or even a picture of a duck. And there is nothing at all to connect it to Hallie aka Hally, Haley Duruz.  The photo is not a typical pose for a musician from this era and I like it because it shows a young man proud of his musical talent and fond of a good joke. I'll bet he played a solid bass line on every march.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the theme this weekend is a gentleman
perusing a book nearly as heavy as a tuba.
Follow the link for more stories about vintage photographs and books.


Bob Scotney said...

Sherlock Holmes could not have done a better job of deducing the facts about Haley Duruz. In a number of his adventures newspapers gave him valuable information for him to solve a problem.

Wendy said...

Wouldn't it be something if all this turned out to be true?! Fun post to read.

Postcardy said...

Fascinating post. It was fun to read the "off topic" notices in the old newspapers too.

Unknown said...

Agree, this is a very interesting post. Looks like he just got tired of looking at the sheets and gave them a smack. For sure some real detective work.

Linda@VS said...

I love that top photo with its sheet music scattered all over the floor, and I admire the effort you put into linking all those bits of information into this man's story. Good job!

Unknown said...

What a great post, I enjoyed reading it and your fine detective work.

21 Wits said...

Your skills are so abundant and the rewards are for us all...a man and his tuba..... the deep moving music of a song for all!

Kristin said...

A duck?? I just can't see such a dashing musician wearing a duck ring. I think you got it right with the "D".

Howard said...

Wonderful picture, great detective work Mike. I think I'll listen to a Bob Stewart CD right now!

Margaret said...

Love this... the man behind the scene (cameraman) gets a bit of the spot light as well! Looks like he is exhausted after playing! I would imagine as one is playing, it is easier to just take the sheet just played and drop it off as it isn't in a bound book...

Fun read! :)

Alan Burnett said...

You bend your post to the theme with all the skill of a musician so that the final piece is as graceful as the bend in a finely constructed tuba.

Little Nell said...

That first photo looks as though the tuba player has been caught in a moment of disarray, but I expect it was very cleverly posed. Good detective work again.

Christine H. said...

I love how he leans on that tuba like it was a piece of furniture. If those are backdrops, they're exceptionally nice. I was just reading about a rash of Tuba thefts in California. Although it's no laughing matter, it makes me chuckle imagining someone trying to sneak off with a tuba under a jacket or in their pants.
I'm so glad you included the rest of the newspaper page. Fascinating stories. I wonder if they ever found the man who disappeared.

Bruno Laliberté said...

I knew you'd work your way around the theme, and you did so in your conclusion. Nice studio shot, as the setting is obviously fake, and it commands as much as attention as Alan's prompt. The only thing that annoys me with this are those scattered papers on the floor. I'd tell him to pick up after himself. But that's just me!!

I was a little surprise by Frank's death, due to a gunshot wound to the knee and subsequent amputation. But I figured the man died from infection if the surgical tools were not properly sterilized... Sceptic shock will do that to you... Poor guy!!
Squirrel-1, Frank-0



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