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 }

Circus Bandwagons on Parade

31 May 2013

In 1900 when John Robinson's Circus came to town, the parade was led
by a bandwagon pulled by a team of 14 camels.  Who could miss that?
'Cause that's something you don't see everyday!

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Daily Illinois State Register - July 17, 1900
Two weeks ago my orchestra finished our concert season in a hall adjacent to the civic sports arena where a circus (the one everyone knows) had a run of several performances. The circus started an hour early so that the two different crowds of patrons would not collide coming through the doors. One of the obstacles was a group of PeTA protestors in front of the entrance.

On the day the circus set up I happened to walk through the lower arena storage and got a glimpse of two elephants carefully screened from the world, and seemingly content to wait for the evening showtime. Almost all the production came in on trucks, but the elephants arrived rather secretively from the rail depot without fanfare or big parade. There was certainly no bandwagon pulled by 14 camels. 

In 1900 it was very different. A circus was a town's highlight of the year, and because they traveled by rail and performed in huge tent cities constructed overnight, there was always a parade down Main St. Dozens of circus promoters competed to have the biggest and most extravagant attractions. John Robinson Ten Big Shows Combined was one of the largest and had been entertaining American and Canadian audiences since 1842. By 1900 it was run by the third generation of the Robinson family and the season included a new biblical spectacle of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This pageant needed a lot of camels. 

It was a probably no coincidence that the Robinson Circus chose the theme of Africa and camels since only a few months before in October of 1899 the 2nd Boer War had begun in South Africa. A circus this size was also admired for the way its touring logistics mirrored a military campaign. According to a Robinson circus agent's report in the New York Clipper of June 2, 1900:

The rank and file of the show numbers 282 people. Our train, which is run in two sections, numbers forty-two cars. Never in the history of the Robinson Show has it been more complete than one now finds it. Our parade is commented on by press and public unanimously as without a peer in the circus business. A thirty cage menagerie, no two of which cages are alike either in design or color. All harness and trappings are absolutely new, and visiting showmen pronounce the show at the top of the list. We are carrying a complement of two hundred and forty head of horses, fifty-eight ponies, and, with the new shipment of elephants, secured by Mr. Robinson this winter, which will reach us in about ten days, we will have a herd of seven elephants. Add to this twenty-two camels, all of which we have succeeded in harnessing together, and which form the distinguishing feature of the parade. Business has been, up to late, more than satisfactory.

But securing camels was not easy. The New York Clipper reported earlier on March 31, 1900 that: 

The John Robinson Circus lost twelve of nineteen camels by death on shipboard while en route to this port from Calcutta, India. The ship ___ safely landed seven camels and a dwarf cow on March 22.

This circus usually opened each season in mid April playing Madison Square Garden and then took to the road for shows under the big top in a different town each day. The parades, the rail travel, and the weather made for a difficult life for man and beast.  By December 1900, Billboard magazine ran this short note:

Out of thirty camels purchased by the John Robinson Shows last spring, all have died save six.

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Other circus troupes preferred horses that were better suited for the temperate climate of North America. In the 1890s Dan Rice's Circus parade had a bandwagon pulled by a team of 40 horses. The top photo shows the 40 matched draft horses arranged in 10 hitches of 4 horses, and all controlled some 80 feet away by a master wagon driver. Such champion teamsters were renown in their day for their skill to hold twenty pairs of reins and manage the direction and speed of so many horses. The same horsepower might help with hauling the canvas tents to the fair grounds, and later appear in part of the circus performance. 

The lower photo shows the ornately carved and gilded wagons of the Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus preparing to leave the lot during the season of 1899. I believe they are the menagerie wagons with the various circus animals, and the bandwagon may be on the right in the back. There are at least 10 wagons in this assembly and there were probably many more since one wagon has the number 61 on the back.

In the Kalamazoo Gazette of August 8, 1899 there was a large advertisement for the Adam Forepaugh & Sells Brothers Circus. Like the Robinson Circus, it described itself as the biggest and best, with a collection of 1,000 wild and trained animals, including Woodward's Seal & Sea Lion Orchestra. Now that's high class music!

I like to imagine that my gal from Kalamazoo, Mary Spohn Berghuis, whom you met last week, went to see this show. Did she wish she was playing cornet in the band?

Note that the tents of  the Forepaugh-Sells Circus were as absolutely waterproof as the John Robinson circus tents.

Kalamazoo Gazette - August 8, 1899

Both of these 5" x 7" photos are reproductions, but vintage reproductions that have an interesting photography history. They were originally part of the catalog of Charles Bernard of Savannah, Georgia. Mr. Bernard (1862-1936) was a former circus performer and traveling show agent, and in the 1920s and 30s he had a mail order business in old photographs of American circus groups. Some of the photos may not have been taken with his own camera, but he reproduced them in his own dark room, and sold them to circus fans and memorabilia collectors who wanted to remember the days of the great circuses, which were now fast disappearing. He was also a prolific writer on circus history and stories, and was featured in several show business magazines and newspapers. Today he would have a blog.

Though he did not live to see it established, he is considered one of the founders of the Circus Historical Society , which is one of the greatest history archives on the web. Shortly after his death in 1936, Charles Bernard's photos and negatives were sold to Robert Good of Allentown, PA and James Schonblom of Bradford, PA who both continued to sell these circus photos by mail order in the 1940s and 50s. That is where I suspect these two photos came from, so they are vintage reproductions of reproductions.

advert  from Circus Scrapbook - JULY 1930

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Kalamazoo Gazette - June 1, 1900

In June of 1900, Kalamazoo was on the route of the John Robinson Circus. The   Kalamazoo Gazette gave a review which described the 14 camels pulling the bandwagon, (and assisted by a single team of horses that did most of the real work). 

The report may have used material provided by a circus agent or advance man like Charles Bernard, but it begins with a fine poem to this traveling wonder that was once part of  American culture.

It's nice to know that Mary Spohn Berghuis could expect that with this circus, 
"There are no Noxious Insects in its Red Lemonade!"

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This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
it is animal stories and more this weekend.

That Gal in Kalamazoo

24 May 2013

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H
I got a gal in Kalamazoo
Don't want to boast but I know she's the toast of Kalamazoo

Years have gone by, my my how she grew
I liked her looks when I carried her books in Kalamazoo
written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren ~ 1942

This girl is a puzzle. As she stands holding her cornet with a confident poise, her direct gaze at the camera captures our attention. Like the sphinx, that hint of a smile poses a question. "Can you guess my name?"

After many months of trying, I think I have the answer to her riddle.

Her name is Mary. That's certainly what the photographer, F.P. Ford of Kalamazoo, Michigan called her when he focused the lens on her brooch. The yellow sepia tone of the image is now very faded, so I improved the saturation and contrast levels with digital software. I imagine her blouse as green, but what color do you see? 

(Remember you can always click any image to see it larger.)

Just to make it doubly clear, someone added the name Mary in pencil on the back of this cabinet card.

Mary from Kalamazoo.

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The second piece of the puzzle came with the first. The girl in this photo looks very like Mary, but she is posed only from her shoulders up and she has no cornet. It came from the studio of Wood at 134 S. Burdick St., Kalamazoo, Mich. Conveniently Mr. Wood prints the year under his initials TEW  - 1889.    

Note the owl eyes in WⵙⵙD.  Do you think he wore spectacles?

This photo has an even better identification written in ink on the back, Mary Berghuis.

Mary Berghuis from Kalamazoo in 1889.

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The third puzzle piece came along with the other two. This photo, with the initials JMR of the Reidsema studio of  Kalamazoo, Michigan, also shows a young girl with a cornet. She wears a white blouse with a dark color skirt, and her face has a slightly goofy quality. There is enough difference in the facial features to make the puzzle challenging.

Is this the same girl? Or are they all different persons?

On the back is another inscription but it is in soft pencil and the card stock is grey so it is very hard to read. When digitally enhanced, it looks like
Miss Mary StJohn
Kalamazoo, Mich.

At least that's how I read the name until a week ago.

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The 1889 city directory for Kalamazoo listed several photographers including: Frank P. Ford at 119 S. Burdick; Thomas E. Wood at 134 S. Burdick; and on the other side of the river - John Reidsema at 103 E. Main.

There was a Mr. Garland B. St. John, president of the St. John Plow Co., and a Sylvester G. St. John - night watchman who lived at the same address as Miss Ada E. St. John - church organist. But no Mary St. John.

And no Mary Berghuis either. Only a Peter Berghuis - celery grower.

It's a brain teaser. Which Mary is Mary?

The 20 years between the 1880 Census and the 1900 Census are a great void of missing American history, because in 1921 a fire in the basement of the U.S. Commerce Building destroyed almost all the records of the 1890 census. Thoughtless bureaucrats shredded the rest in 1934. Every name, birth, death, marriage, occupation, and address notated on the census takers' handwritten data sheets are gone. There are still ways to track people down, but a history detective must always stumble through this very long tunnel in the dark.

Today the Internet provides vast archives that seem like an infinite reference library, but that is an illusion. Some records are incomplete; some are only at one place, while others are kept somewhere else. For all it's power, Google can't find everything.

So I have subscription to several commercial archives, and sometimes they will update the available records and add new sources. When I'm feeling lucky I might go back and repeat a search that was unsuccessful several months ago.

That's what happened this week.

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Kalamazoo Gazette
July 2, 1897

A new search for Mary Berghuis produced a new hit from records of the Kalamazoo Gazette. In 1897, Menno P. Berghuis 27, and Mary Spohn 24, both of Kalamazoo applied for a marriage license. The difficult handwriting on the back of the third photo reads Spohn, not St.John. The flourish in the SP made me assume an English name when a German name was what I should have seen! This was the Ahh Ha! moment that every puzzle enthusiast strives for.

Mary was the middle daughter of three girls belonging to William and Barbara Spohn. William was a stone cutter in the 1880 census and came from Baden, Germany, and his wife was from Württemberg. Mary was born in Michigan in 1873.

Menno Berghuis, born in 1870, was the son of Peter and Nellie Berghuis, both from Holland. In the 1880 census they lived on Vine Street only a few blocks away from the Spohn family on Third St.

But wait, there's more. A second hit in the Kalamazoo Gazette of 1897, turned up the Spohn-Berghuis wedding announcement, complete with a description of the bride's dress. 

Kalamazoo Gazette
June 25, 1897

It all fit very neatly now. Tracking a woman's married name through this decade is very difficult. Mary Berghuis of 1889 was actually only Mary Spohn at age 16. And surely the Mary who posed so nicely for Mr. Ford must be the same Mary Spohn Berghuis.

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Kalamazoo Gazette
December 10, 1892

Finally a third hit from the Kalamazoo Gazette flips the final letter and solves the riddle.

In December of 1892, Madam Jannasch Shortt produced a recital of her music students. This was the 7th annual event she had given, and there would be many more. Mme. Shortt began her career as a music teacher in Kalamazoo in 1880 and was still teaching in 1920. She offered lessons at her Musical Institute on piano, organ, violin, cello, clarionet, cornet, flute, piccolo, bass viol, mandolin, guitar, banjo, etc.

She was born in Germany where she received her musical training and immigrated to Kalamazoo sometime in the 1870s. Her student programs were announced regularly in the Kalamazoo Gazette, and in 1892 the newspaper printed the entire program of nearly two dozen selections, including a snare drum solo played by the unfortunately named
Master Clyde J. Bates.

In the second half, just after a banjo solo by Miss Edith Pearl Root, was a Cornet Duet - Po'ka with Quickstep performed by Miss Mary M. Spohn and Mr. L. J. Carrington. A second report a few days later said the concert was well received and the cornet duo was roundly encored.

(Master Bates gave his solo in good form)

Mary Spohn would be age 19 that year and surely her proud parents would want a photograph to celebrate her musical accomplishment. So I think the first photo was taken just before this concert, as of the three photos Mary seems the most mature in this one.

The third photo seems to me to be the youngest image of Mary. Perhaps at age 14 when she was first taking up the cornet.

That photographer, John Reidsema, was born in 1865 and was described in the account of his 1891 wedding as a young photographer. (He married Edith Pearl Root's sister that year, and Edith played the wedding processional music. It's not reported if this was on the banjo.) If he started his photography business at age 20 in 1885, that would seem to fit the timeline.

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Image from

Mary and Menno Berghuis had a long and hopefully happy life. They had 6 children, but we can never know if Mary continued to play the cornet, or if making a family took priority over making music. Perhaps one of her children took up the instrument. Menno died in 1934 and Mary in 1943 at age 70.

In a German-American household of the late 19th century, learning a musical instrument was a valued talent. It was the mark of a refined and educated person of culture. Though a few of Madam Shortt's pupils may have gone on to professional careers, most students like Mary did not take lessons at this kind of music school to learn a trade. Music was about personal achievement. It was about the pride and fulfillment that comes from playing a musical instrument you enjoy. That's the answer to Mary's riddle behind her shy smile.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone has portraits on display this weekend.

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Think of this as the encore. In 1942, Glenn Miller and his orchestra had a big hit with the Kalamazoo song in the film Orchestra Wives. It features two versions, the first with Tex Beneke and The Modernaires, and for a very special treat, The Nicholas Brothers immediately follow with a reprise that adds their spectacular dancing. There is nothing on film or television today that even comes close to matching the quality and class of this performance.

I wonder if Mary might have seen it. 


I'm gonna send away, hoppin' on a plane, leavin' today
Am I dreamin'? I can hear her screamin'
"Hiya, Mr. Jackson"
Everything's OK, A-L-A-M-A-Z-O

Oh, what a gal, a real pipperoo
I'll make my bid for that freckle-faced kid I'm hurryin' to
I'm goin' to Michigan to see the sweetest gal in Kalamazoo

Boys at Play

16 May 2013

The full instrumentation of a British brass band has about 27 players: 1 soprano E-flat cornet, 9 B-flat cornets, 1 B-flat flugelhorn, 3 E-flat tenor horns, 2 B-flat baritone horns, 2 B-flat tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, 2 B-flat euphoniums, 2 E-flat tubas, 2 B-flat tubas, and 2 to 4 percussion (drums and cymbals).  So with 43 musicians the Boys' Band of Gillingham, Kent are on the large size for a brass band. They are all very young (mostly) except for one clarinet player that I suspect is the bandleader, standing with his wife and daughter on the right. Most of the boys in the front rows look under the age of 12.

The photographer was Hill of New Brompton, which was the previous name of Gillingham, (pronounced with soft G = Jillingham)  a town next to the Chatham Dockyard on the River Medway in Southeast England. In 1901 it had a population of 42,530 who found employment mainly in the ship building industry there. In addition to the navy, there were soldiers too, stationed at forts guarding the dockyards.

So with all this activity in Gillingham, I expected the history of this boys' band would be easy to find. Alas it is lost, at least on the internet. If they were from a school, that information would usually be preserved, and in this era such a large school band would be very unusual. They might be from a workhouse, that Dickensian institution where the impoverished were given room and board in exchange for their labor, and workhouse boys were sometimes organized into a band. Though there was a small workhouse in Chatham, the boys in the photo seem too well fed and too numerous to be that kind of band.

They might be boys belonging to the Sea Cadet Corps, one of the oldest youth organizations in Britain. It was established as a training program for future sailors during the Crimean War of 1854, and there was a company in Chatham. But the boys' uniforms, especially their pillbox hats, are like those of army bandsmen, not navy. An alternate version of this postcard has the caption - Lads of Kent, so I think there may be a military connection that will take more research to decipher who they are. 

The back of the postcard was addressed to Miss Playford of Finsbury Park, London and sent on July 25, 1905 from Snodland, Kent, which is 10 miles from Gillingham. It has a rather intriguing message.

Nan has not heard of anything yet. Father + her went to Maidstone yesterday to see Mr. Ellis so we don't know yet how it will turn out but he intends to carry the thing through if they ?__? no notice of Mr. Ellis letter from ?about? - Your black ?smist? I see you left it behind. For love from all E.P.

What could be the matter between Father and Mr. Ellis?

This next group of young band boys are from Switzerland, and the Knaben-Musik Basel number 74 by my count. They are a real wind ensemble with woodwinds - flutes and clarinets - along with brass instruments and drums. The brass use the European rotary valves instead of the piston valves that the Gillingham boys have. There are also four horn players, two on each side.

The Knaben-Musik of Basel has a long tradition that dates from 1841. Using Google's translation feature does not always give a clear meaning, but I think the first band was organized for a summer music festival. However as the annual event continued, the boys' musical training moved from the rehearsal hall to the beer garden, and their playing, let us say became less than acceptable. This required a band director with a strong hand and the Knaben-Musik Basel engaged Fritz Siegin, who was conductor from 1886 to 1936. I believe he must be the large man on the left wearing a bow tie and straw boater. He gave the band their motto: Was man liebt, das züchtigt man. =  "What one loves, punishes you."

So does beer.

The postcard was sent on June 20, 1910 to Herrn Joh. Hubler of Schlosshof, Binnigeer, Lasell (I'm unable to find out where that is) by his son who felt no need to add his name for his parents. But he has carefully marked an X over himself in the back row of the band. The writing is in German and as best as I can understand he arrived safely in Zug and may have a ride home.  My guess is the boy is traveling with the Knaben-Musik for a concert, as Zug is a good distance southeast of Basel.

The Fanfare of the Institution Saint Nicolas de Buzenval are very large brass band. The photographer made a heroic effort to get all 91 boys to arrange themselves elbow to elbow and horn to horn. These young musicians are from a Catholic school in the Rueil-Malmaison commune of the suburbs west of central Paris. A Fanfare is the French term for a band and here there are no woodwinds, only brass and drums. These instruments  have piston valves including the trombones, but the first rank behind the drums are holding bugles. Look closely and you can see their cap plumes are in the French tricolor.

The Institute Saint-Nicolas was opened in 1901 as an extension of a Catholic charity school in Paris, originally for orphans and poor children. It is on the grounds of the Château de Buzenval, the former home of the Duchess of Cadore who bequest the estate to the church. In 1904 the school was secularized by the French government. In 1960 it merged with another Catholic school and is now called the College Passy Buzenval.

The postmark on the front of the card is obscured but I believe it is from 1904-09. The message to a Monsieur A. Nne.(?) of Paris reads: 

Will come Sunday Morning after breakfast Thank You. Affectionately yours A. Palut(?)

Each of the three boys' bands had a different heritage, but all developed for similar reasons. One reason was to provide vocational training on a musical instrument which might offer a boy a skilled trade if he persevered and had talent. The second was to give wayward boys a disciplined activity to occupy their time and keep them out of trouble. And the third reason was to promote the institution or town by giving concerts. There is a real sense of pride that comes from these boys smartly dressed in band uniforms and showing off their musical accomplishments.

Of course the income from the sale of postcards helped to pay for all instruments too.

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Today the band from Basel continues to provide music for Swiss youth, though since 1990 it now includes girls.  Recently there has been a controversy that the name Knaben-Musik was sexist because it means Boys' Music. Though the group has removed the hyphen to rename itself just KnabenMusic, they are apparently fooling no one and may have to change the full name.

Here is a recent video of the drummers of the KnabenMusic Basel performing at an outdoor concert. It takes little imagination to hear the same enthusiastic music played by the boys of Gillingham, Busenval, or Basel.

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Follow the link to Sepia Saturday
where everyone gets a turn to play.

The Springfield Technical High School Orchestra

10 May 2013

At one time music was a common element of the curriculum of American schools. Music education was more than just learning an appreciation of the musical arts, but was also considered a pathway to a career in a rewarding trade. Since operating a musical instrument requires as much training as running a machine lathe, it is not unusual to find a photograph like this one of the Technical High School Orchestra of Springfield, Massachusetts.

What is unusual is to find three young women of color seated in this orchestra of 22 young men and women. Most photographs from before 1910 show boys and girls in separate musical ensembles. This began to change in the 1920s when more school groups had a mixture of sexes, but sadly that was not the case with race, as segregation was the norm for almost all schools in the United States until the late 1960s. These three African-American violinists from Massachusetts give us a very rare example of school integration that contradicts our perception of the long era of separate but equal

Springfield Technical High School Orchestra 1916

This picture comes from the Springfield Tech 1916 yearbook The Oriole, which I found on the web, and it shows a smaller school orchestra of 10 boys seated on the same steps. The two older men are the faculty supervisors: John F. Ahearn and Clifton O. Page. The man on the left was faculty advisor for other school groups in the yearbook where he is identified as Mr. Page, so the man on the right, who is the same man standing at the center back row in the first photo must be John F. Ahearn. I think he is wearing the same double breasted suit too.

Springfield Technical High School Orchestra 1930

By 1930 the yearbook changed its name to the more formidable Tech Tigers and the Tech Orchestra of 30 musicians has posed once again on the school steps. Mr. Ahearn is listed as the faulty director but he is not in this photo. But the bass drum is, showing a little wear on the drum head.

Though there are no African-Americans in the orchestra now, the school was not segregated and there were a few black teenagers in photos of other school activities. Since the first photograph is surely after 1916 but before 1930, I would place it around 1918-28 and based on the clothing fashions, probably closer to 1916 than 1930.

Springfield Technical High School Band 1930

In 1930 the Springfield Tech High also had a band and according to the description they are wearing their new uniforms. Note the cymbals and snare drum that hide the word orchestra on that same bass drum. This looks like a band that played mostly in the stands for athletic games, as with only 15 musicians they would not make much of a parade unit.

Springfield Technical High School 1905

This architectural drawing of the Springfield Technical High School is from a book published in 1905 - Springfield present and prospective: the city of homes, by Eugene Clarence Gardner. The school was developed from new ideas in the 1880s of giving working-class children training in manual skills and trades. In the 1890s Springfield decided to expand this into an education in various industrial arts and sciences. In 1905 the construction of the Technical High School was almost finished and the new facilities were designed for about 900 students. There was a forge and foundry, a large woodworking shop, and top floor classrooms for physics and chemistry labs.

Springfield Technical High School Entrance 1930

The school purposefully included educational programs for girls as they anticipated a need for better vocational training for young women. In 1905, several years before women's suffrage, this seems especially progressive. A good description of the history of the Springfield Technical High School can be found at the website Exploring Western Massachusetts which provided these next contemporary photos of the school.

Springfield Technical High School 2010

The Technical High School closed in 1986 and until recently was fenced and shuttered. In 2011 demolition began for the construction of a new city data center on the same site.

Springfield Technical High School 2010

Only a few years after these young musicians posed for their photo with Mr. Ahearn, the golden era of theater orchestras accompanying silent movies would end. Then radio broadcasts and phonograph records would diminish the need for live musicians even more. And in the real world of show business, few women, white or black, would ever find musical work playing next to men for another 60 years.

I don't know if they saved the ornate stone entrance where so many students had posed for their class pictures. But at least one photo of this doorway preserves a moment when music kept a small light burning for equality.

UPDATE:   The Elliot St. facade of the Technical High School has been preserved and incorporated into a new construction. The Google Streetview cameras shows how the steps remain, but the doorway has been turned into a window. Do you suppose Tech High alumni still pose for group pictures on the steps?

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where it's all technical talk this weekend.

Three Men in Black

03 May 2013

Three mustaches, three cornets, and three frock coats. These elegantly dressed gentlemen may have lost their names but not their style. They pose for the camera with the confident panache of a professional musician. These can be no ordinary town bandsmen, but cornet soloists, perhaps even band leaders. And each one I'm sure had the title of Professor, that 19th century honorific given to musicians of accomplishment and skill.

The first unknown cornet player comes from Pennsylvania, where he stood in a photographer's studio called the Sunbeam Gallery, cor. 7th and State Sts. Erie, PA.  In 1885 a photographer named W. A. Morand was at this same address, but in 1886 the Sunbeam Ferrotype Gallery took over the premises while Mr. Morand moved to 23/24 North Park.  Tintypes were perhaps not as successful and the Erie city directory listing became Sunbeam Photograph Gallery in 1887. By the 1890 directory, the Sunbeam was gone and new photographers, Stoddart & Sterrett, were listed at the corner of 7th and State Sts.

The cornet was not only the most popular brass instrument of the 19th century, it was arguably the leading solo instrument of any kind. There were hundreds of well known cornet soloists in America who were famed for the dexterity of their fingers and the dash of their tonguing. Newspaper reviews regularly praised the dynamic tunes and daring tempos of these master cornet players. The public knew the best ones just by their last names - Gilmore, Levy, Liberati, Clarke.

As subjects of photographs from 1875 to 1925, musicians holding a cornet easily outnumber every other instrumentalist. But the price of such popularity meant that many photographs are never properly identified. Just another musician in a good coat.

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The second unknown cornetist comes from Ogdensburg, New York and there might be a better chance of identifing him as there are many Ogdensburg newspaper reports on the town band. He might be Prof. D. H. Bowen who was the band leader in 1875; or Prof. David from 1884; Prof. Theodore Filiatrault from 1892; or Prof. A. Edward Dumouchel from 1896. Or maybe he was one of the cornet soloists - Fredrich Gamble, G. Ernest Sims or Paul Prager.

Regrettably more clues are needed before this musician's mystery identity can be solved.

The photographer was Crane of No.5 Water Street, Ogdensburg, NY.  The Ogdensburg city directories of 1882 and 1898  carried a listing for Frederick M. Crane, photographer at that address, but by 1900 he was gone. 

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The third unknown cornet player from this same era is from Lewiston,  Maine. He looks to be the youngest of the three and sports a similar frock coat. His full figure pose allows us to see his striped trousers, and the standard fur rug that hides the photographer's steady rest stand. In the background is a painted flat that gives an faint illusion of an palatial interior.

With all three gentlemen, the one fashion accessory that is missing is their hat. No flat cap or derby for these gents. I suspect that just off camera from each man, near their cornet case, is a glossy top hat to complete their outfit.

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Unlike the other cabinet cards which have plain backs,  this photo has an attractive back stamp for the Fassett & Bassett Photographic Art Studio of Lewiston, Maine.

The studio was located in the Sands Building, Lisbon Street and the two photographers were Alvarez G. Fassett  (born 1849) and Harry C. Bassett.  The 1891 Lewiston city directory listed Harry's occupation as crayon artist, while Alvarez was a photographer.  Fassett was still taking photos as late as 1910, but Bassett seems to have left after 1894.

The Lewiston directories also listed a Maine Conservatory of Music at 149 Lisbon St. that was active from 1891 to 1896. The style of this photo fits with that time period, so it's possible that his gentleman was associated with this conservatory.  Maybe he was a real professor. too.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where things are just lighting up this weekend.


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