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 }

Father's Mustache

15 April 2012


For thousands of years, music was sound that could only come from the efforts of a live musician. There were no records, no radio, and no portable electronic devices with their vast libraries of recorded music. If you really wanted music in your home, there were limited choices. Hire a musician or learn an instrument yourself. But if you had children, you might have just the right personnel to start your own household band.

This is Musikdirektor Steiner mit seinen Kindern, Quartett und Quintet. Herr Steiner holds a rotary valve cornet and his four children stand next to him with various sized upright tuba horns and another  rotary valve cornet. This circa 1910 photo postcard was clearly a promotional advertisement for the Steiner family band, but there is no postmark or other printing to show where they were from.

But this family band had extra talents. A second postcard was made of Herr Steiner and his children and they have all added a year or two. Herr Steiner now holds a violin and his three sons have a violin, viola, and cello, while his daughter, the eldest, sits at a piano. But to demonstrate their versatility, their brass instruments stand in front on the floor.

Today, music education, especially in brass instruments, usually begins in 4th grade. But that was not always the case. With the right instruction, a younger child can easily learn the rudiments of music and quickly transfer knowledge of one instrument over to another. If father was a professional musician himself, it was probably a natural extension of home schooling to educate his children in music. And talent often thrives with sibling competition.

The back of this card provides the missing information. Music director Steiner and his children are from Frankfurt am Main in Germany. Weberstrasse 22.

The card includes the following:
Inhaber des gesetzlichen Kunstscheines kann sich auf schöne Empfehlungsschreiben von kompetentester Seite berufen, darunter ein eigenhändiges Schreiben von S. M. d. Könige von Württemberg und Sr. Excellenz Graf Zeppelin

My approximate translation:
Proprietor of the legal art certificate can refer to a beautiful letter of recommendation of competence, under letters signed by his majesty King of Württemberg and his excellency Count Zeppelin.

It is always a sign of a class act if you can include a recommendation from a King and a Count.

Graf Zeppelin

Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin
(1838 – 1917) was famous for developing rigid airships which became so successful that they were synonymous with his name Zeppelin.

I would bet that Herr Steiner was a big fan of the pioneer of lighter-than-air travel. I think a moustachio  style was always carefully chosen.

One of the most difficult, if not impossible things to know about the musicians in my photo collection, is what kind of music did they play? It's a just a guess, but if Herr Steiner considered the Graf Zeppelin a patron, he might arrange a popular march of the same name for his children to perform. Here is nice montage of pictures of Zeppelin and his flying airships over the music of the Graf Zeppelin March by Carl Teike.

* * *

* * *

Carl Albert Hermann Teike
(1864– 1922)
Source: Wikipedia

Carl Teike (1864–1922) was a prolific composer of marches, with over 100 published, including the most famous of German standards Alte Kameraden or Old Comrades which is still played today by bands around the world. Teike came from a family of 14 and learned several instruments including horn which he played in the regimental band of the King of Württemberg. I would imagine he was part of a very large family band too.

And just because I like his picture, here is

King William II of Württemberg
Source: Wikipedia

Any child that could perform music in front of such a fierce stare, must have had talent. 

* * *

Family bands were not just a German tradition. For contrast I offer this anonymous American family band. No date, no name, only a mark printed in U.S.A. on the back. Father with mustache, stands at the back with his trumpet. One son holds a cornet and the other, a twin perhaps, holds an upright alto horn. Seated are two daughters, or maybe wife and daughter, with a tuba and baritone horn. Dad and the boys wear fancy band uniform coats.

This halftone photo is like the Steiner family card and probably dates from around 1910.

* * *

This last family band is a photograph and not a postcard. The Nadeau Musicians have father (and mustache) standing at the back holding a viola with his wife beside him with her instrument, a double bass. Their four children stand in front and the oldest boy, perhaps age 12, has a cornet. The children all wear shirts and smocks with hand embroidered decorations that try to imitate band uniforms.

What makes this an unusual image is that the younger children hold violins in different sizes. The brother, perhaps age 7, has a full size violin, but his sister has a half-size violin, and the little brother, perhaps age 4, holds a quarter-size violin.

It is not uncommon for young children today to start on fractional-sized violins when they learn through the Suzuki method . This is a modern teaching technique for introducing children to string instruments and was developed in the 20th century. These proportionally reduced violins were known in the 19th century, but were not common, so this photo from the late 1890s or 1900s is unique in showing young kids learning music with step-up sized violins.

I have been unable to trace the Nadeau family band. There are no other clues on the photo. The name Nadeau does show up in Canada, originating in Quebec I believe, so I will call them French-Canadians until I learn more.

But I'm sure that the Nadeau family, like the other family bands, never lacked for home entertainment.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
Click the link and discover more flights of fancy in old photos.


21 Wits said...

Your dedicated love to this really shows throughout your posts. It's so amazing the great quality of these photos you find. I rarely see such stunning as the ones you post in all my scanning of shops!

Bob Scotney said...

Fascinating post and you even made a link to the theme; your are the only one, I think, to mention a Zeppelin.

Kristin said...

I always like a family band photograph. It reminded me of one I have of one of my cousins and her husband and 7 or 8 children all lined up with various horns.

Howard said...

Great pictures Mike. Family bands are rare these days.

Bruno Laliberté said...

Nadeau is indeed a familiar name in these parts (Province of Quebec) but many Quebecois have emigrated to the north states of USA, so, you shouldn't exclude places like Vermont, Maine, Massachussets, NY, and such others. The man in your anonymous american family doesn't look that american to me, but rather easterly european, in my opinion. While the hairdos didn't impress me, the facial hair did give me some idea. Reviving some old style comes to mind...
Thanx 4 sharing!!

PS: I even clapped my hands listening to that marching song.

Tattered and Lost said...

I didn't realize family bands were so popular. Makes perfect sense. As usual, I'm fascinated by the depth of your post.


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