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 }

Two of a Kind

23 March 2012

What shall we call them? A pair of musicians. A brace of bandsmen. A duo of brass players. Or possibly a couple of brothers.

The men in these four photos are lost, though I'm sure they knew where home was. But for the rest of us, their latitude and longitude are a mystery. This is the difficulty with unmarked photos and postcards. Sometimes there just aren't any clues. But the scarcity of facts doesn't diminish the artistic and musical quality of the subjects.

However I am fairly confident that these gents are all related.

These two young bandsmen have cap badges with initials LMB  which might stand for L..... Marine Band, or L..... M....... Band. Anywhere over the rainbow. The eldest (?) on the right has a helicon tuba around his shoulder and the younger holds a cornet. The set of their ears, nose and jaw has to be a family trait. Their uniforms have a more conservative style without fancy needlework. The blank postcard back has the AZO 4 diamonds up stamp box which suggests a year between 1910-1918.

(Check out this page from Playle's Postcard Auctions for more information on dating old postcards.)

This next postcard has a similar pair of bandsmen, but is probably from an earlier date. The back has a CYKO stamp box which dates sometime from 1904 to 1920, but I think this is may be a reprint of an 1890's photo. Like the first pair, they share similar facial geometry, so I believe they are brothers.

Their band uniforms have the very fancy embroidered jackets and soft caps that were popular with 19th century bands into the first decade of the 1900s.  The older brother on the left has a silver mellophone with piston valves played with the right hand. Unlike the horn which must use a hand in the bell to adjust the pitch intonation, the mellophone  player only holds the outside of the bell or main tubing.

The other instrument is a silver valve trombone, but pitched higher, i.e. shorter, than the standard tenor trombone. Both were standard brass instruments in the early bands, as they were inexpensive and not too difficult to play. They took the middle voice in the music, usually playing more accompaniment than solo lines. Both instruments were a kind of evolutionary dead end in the history of the brass band, and are now extinct. Compare these fellows to another unknown Drum and Mellophone-duo in my collection.

These two tuba players are probably not brothers but they are from the same unit. They are US Army or maybe US Marine Bandsmen. The have military issue hats but are wearing ordinary soldier's work clothes or what passed for fatigue uniforms. This is not a postcard but a small albumen photo mounted on card stock.

Look at the vegetation in the background and the construction of the house. This is not somewhere in Kansas. Bamboo grows in many places in Asia but because of the Philippine-American War that followed the Spanish-American War of 1898, I think these two bandsmen are musicians in one of the US regimental bands that served in the Philippines.

And to complete my octet of brothers I offer these two gents. Not musicians as they hold canes instead of instruments, but we can easily imagine them in a music hall. A comedy team perhaps?

This small cdv came from England but has no markings. The photo mount has gold edging so I think 1890s. But the brick wall could be on any street in Britain. 

Charlie Chaplin was born in London in 1889. Did he see these two taking a stroll down some seaside promenade?

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday 
where the theme this weekend is a pair of ladies. 
Click the link to find more matched sets.


Anonymous said...

Well done on finding four brace! Your research and musical knowledge is always enjoyable. The final pair have very shiny shoes and spiffy ties - very smart :-) Jo

Little Nell said...

Nicely themed Mike! I guess they could all be in a ’Band of Brothers’!

Bob Scotney said...

I don't think I've seen a CDV with two people on it - not standing up anyway.
Pairs of musicians I expected from you but not the 'musical hall' pair.
Matching brothers was quite a feat.

Postcardy said...

Maybe you could call them musical pairs.

North County Film Club said...

I love your photos. The band ones are so special. But the comedy team is spectacular. The original mutt and Jeff.

Wendy said...

I enjoyed this post very much - especially the photo of extinct instruments. Bravo!

Alan Burnett said...

Wonderful entertainment, as always. As for that last pair and their canes - you can almost imagine them lifting them to their lips, fingering the sound-holes and getting a tune out of them. And let's face it, if there is such a thing as a musical brass cane - you will have a picture of it in your collection.

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

The bottom photo is fabulous. Love their outfits, their canes,... The photo is a real find!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Mike ... you have such an fine tuned eye for detail; I always learn so much from your posts. My favorite picture is the third one.

Happy Sepia Saturday,

Kathy M.

21 Wits said...

really like the last photo! What would going out without music be? Pretty boring!

Unknown said...

An amazing quartet of photos of musicians in duos. I am fascinated by the military duo. It must have been difficult amongst the tropics. I had not considered before how a bansman would wear the instrument until you explained the first photo.

Tattered and Lost said...

Fantastic shots. Each one so interesting.

I look at the last one and can't help but think of John Cleese doing the Minister of Silly Walks.

Christine H. said...

I'd like on of those mellophones. Even if I couldn't play it, it's beautiful to look at.


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