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 }

Men in White 2

30 June 2012

One hundred years ago every city and town had a band, but not every band could afford fancy uniforms. Here are two small town bands that decided that men in white look pretty nice.

The first photo was an anonymous band for a long time. The real photo postcard still had bits of the black album paper stuck to the back, and the only identification was a penciled "Grandma & Grandpa". But sometime later I recognized the same photo in another sale and purchased it as well. This card had a soiled image but a clear identification on the back. The Niagara Wisconsin Band.

Brother Frank added just the right note to preserve a bit of forgotten history. Niagara, Wisconsin was established in 1900 on the Menominee River, which separates northern Wisconsin from the upper peninsula of Michigan. The population today is 1,880 but there may have been a larger community there in 1910 or so when this photo was taken.

The band is actually a typical 12 piece brass band with a young bandleader in the front. Can you spot his sister? The real band director is the man behind him in the dark coat holding a cornet.

The casual soft hats are a nice touch and one can almost hear them playing a concert on the Niagara town bandstand. The flags remain a mystery as I could not find a similar example with the M (or maybe W), but Niagara is in Marinette County, Wisconsin so perhaps it is a county flag.

This second band in white is from 800 miles to the southwest, the Clyde Concert Band of Clyde, Kansas. This is a larger band of 21 musicians including some clarinets, and it also has a young bandleader, not much taller than his drum major baton. This band does wear proper uniforms with white military style caps, but I imagine it was a constant struggle to keep them clean in the dusty streets of Kansas.

This is technically not a photo postcard as it is a halftone image that was printed in Germany, though published by Knapp & Hammond of Clyde, Kansas. When I scan such cards, my photo software will correct the halftone dots into a more photo-like image and that is how I typically reproduce my collection on this website. 

Clyde is in Cloud County in north central Kansas, and now has a population of 740 citizens, but in 1910 the population of the county was twice what is today, so the town probably was a comparable size to Niagara, Wisconsin.

The back has a postmark of 190? perhaps 1908, and addressed to Miss Anna Frederickson of Clyde, KS.

Dear Friend - I have decided for sure to get that goods & that I will have it made like yours. So if you should happen to go by some time, please bring that pattern if you'll lend it to me 
ta ta Edith
& ____ be sure & get that postal for me Ha! Ha!

I wounder if Edith knew some of these fellows.

On a July 4th evening when there are fireworks everywhere, I like to imagine that there are hundreds if not thousands of bands and orchestras simultaneously playing Sousa's Stars and Stripes all across the country. In 1910 or so, with so many small town bands, I think there might have been a bigger noise.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday.
Click the link to find more people in tennis white
or with Raindrops Falling on their Head.


Little Nell said...

No raindrops falling on their heads with that all-weather cover at Wimbledon Mike! I did wonder if you’d find some Bacharach connection, but this is far more interesting. I wonder who did their laundry.

North County Film Club said...

That first band looks like it had a little bit of a Latin flavor. I think I notice a maraca. But in Wisconsin? I doubt it.

Wendy said...

Men in White -- an excellent and Mr. Mike twist on the theme.

Unknown said...

As I sit reading some of the SS post and you mentioned I am sitting here listening to fireworks for the 3rd night in a row. Guess we will hear them all week. Yes the white looks good. Very interesting photos.

Bob Scotney said...

One of my daughter's dogs hides in the toilet while the fireworks are on. Liked the men in white, Mike.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

It is so neat how you can track everybody down eventually. I like the composition of the those on the steps in the first photo ... how they are evenly spread out.

I like to think of those guys in the one from Kansas marching down the dusty street in a parade.

Another fantastic post!

Kathy M.

Susan said...

I love the background you provide. Oh, for the days of town bands. I bet our towns still have as many or more musicians. It's just harder to gather people.

Postcardy said...

The white clothes look much better for summer than heavy band uniforms.

21 Wits said...

What a fun group they all appear to be! You always come up with the coolest photos!

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

I can just picture it , Sousa's Stars and Stripes playing everywhere! As a die hard American patriot I love it!


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