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 Memorial Day for a Distant Time and Place

27 May 2016

A token, a souvenir, a memento, a memorial.
Some photographs are endowed
with extra powers of remembrance.
  This photo of grave markers for two soldiers
killed in the Great War of 1914-1918
has a special quality
that makes it
a talisman of memory.

 Smaller than a postcard,
almost wallet sized with creases and a torn corner,
it was once someone's keepsake.
It attracted my attention because the dealer
included a companion photograph.

It's a picture of the gate to a military cemetery.
The sign reads:

Ehren Friedhof

(Honored Cemetery) 
Der Division V. Campe
Situated on a flat open landscape,
several wooden grave markers are visible
behind a wooden picket fence
and carefully shaped shrubbery.
In the background is a line of trees
typical of a European country lane.

The photos have no message, no notes.
Only the names inscribed on the markers.

{click any image to enlarge}

Hier ruht - (Here lies)

Gefr. (Gefreiter - Corporal) Anton Bukowski
(geboren - born) 17.1. 1896   
(gefallener - killed in action) 1.6. 1918
1. M.G.K.
R.J.R. 265

Hier ruht - (Here lies)

Gefr. (Gefreiter - Corporal) Franz Doell
geb. (geboren - born) 12.8. 1885   
gef. (gefallener - killed in action) 1.6. 1918
1. M.G.K.
R.J.R. 265

Two German soldiers, Anton Bukowski, age 22, and Franz Doell, age 32, served together in the same unit and died on the same day, June 1, 1918. They both belonged to the 1. M.G.K. or 1. Maschinengewehrkompanie - 1st Machine Gun Company of the R.J.R. 265 or Reserveinfanterieregiment - Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 265. This regiment was part of the 108th Division of the Imperial Germany Army from 1916 to 1918. During the last months of the war, this division was commanded by General Friedrich von Campe, which explains the subtitle on the cemetery gate, Der Division V Campe or The Division of von Campe.

Composition of 108th Division of the German Army
265th Reserve Infantry Regiment
Source: Histories of Two Hundred and Fifty-One Divisions of the German Army
which Participated in the War (1914-1918)

When the war started in 1914, the machine gun was considered a secondary weapon by most armies involved in the conflict. It was still a relatively new weapon technology, as yet untested against modern military forces, whose commanders belonged to the old school of cavalry charges and attacks of massed riflemen. But Germany invested heavily in this ordnance, and in August 1914 it could field 12,000 machine guns, compared to only a few hundred available to the allied powers. Within weeks this deadly apparatus proved itself to be the dominant weapon of the war.  By 1918 the armament industry of both sides produced hundreds of thousands of machine guns.

Here is a postcard photo of 12 soldiers in a German machine gun company. Their date and unit is unknown but they pose proudly around a very imposing instrument of death, which I believe is the Maschinengewehr 08, or MG08, the standard German machine gun modeled after Hiram S. Maxim's original 1884 Maxim gun.

The internet website,, provided a useful resource, published in the USA after the war, entitled Histories of Two Hundred and Fifty-One Divisions of the German Army which Participated in the War (1914-1918).  Page 596 outlines the history of the Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 265.

History of the German 265th Reserve Infantry Regiment
Source: Histories of Two Hundred and Fifty-One Divisions of the German Army
which Participated in the War (1914-1918)

The regiment was formed in 1915 by the merger of several existing but undermanned units. It was sent first to the Eastern Front in the vicinity of what is now Poland, where it fought against the Russian army. In December 1917 it was ordered to the Western Front in France. Most of the recruits were from the Hanseatic cities, principally the Mecklenburg province in North Germany on the Baltic Sea.

The early machine gun with its portable tripod mount was very heavy. When filled with water, the weapon weighed 69 kg (152.1 lb), requiring a crew of several men to operate it. The rapid rate of fire caused these guns to often overheat and jam, so maintaining the water filled jacket around the muzzle and the long belts of ammunition demanded a well trained platoon. This next photo postcard shows a larger group of 20 German soldiers posed with two MG08 machine guns.  Again the photo has no date or identification, but I suspect this unit with its smart, clean uniforms, has just finished its basic gunnery classes, and will soon be off to the front lines.  


In 1918 the R.I.R. No. 265 served first in Corbeny in the Aisne department of Picardy in northern France. In April it was reassigned to the Somme river area where it participated in last great German offensive, Operation Michael, also known as the second battle of the Somme. In May 1918, just east of the city of Amiens, France, the R.I.R. 265 relieved troops that had endured fierce combat around Villers-Bretonneux, which was the furthest point that the Germans were ever able to penetrate the British and French line.

A map of the campaign, courtesy of Wikipedia, shows how the front lines shifted as the battle progressed from March to May 1918. In this sector German forces were opposed by Australian, British, French, and Moroccan soldiers.  It was also the first battle to pit British and French tanks against the German's new A7V tank. During this engagement, called the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, from April 24 to 27 the Australian brigades took 2,473 casualties, British casualties numbered 9,529, the French lost about 3,500, and German casualties were between 8,000 – 10,400 men.

It seems likely that Corporals Bukowski and Doell were killed in the support action a few weeks later during a retreat as the German forces withdrew eastwards to the old trench lines.

Operation Michael / Second Battle of the Somme
21 March – 5 April 1918
Source: Wikipedia

Centered on the map above is Proyart, a small village in Picardy between Amiens and Peronne. Just outside the village is a German military cemetery which holds the remains of soldiers killed in this area during the Great War of 1914-1918. It is also the resting place of Anton Bukowski and Franz Doell, as it is the location of the Ehren Friedhof, Der Division V. Campe pictured on my second photo.

By a curious coincidence, the website, a catalog of cemeteries and grave stones compiled by volunteers from around the world, has just one entry for the Proyart German Military Cemetery. It includes a photograph of a soldier's grave marker that was taken not recently, but shortly after the war ended in November 1918.   

Grave marker of Paul von Kothen
Proyart German Military Cemetery, France

Es starb den Heldentod
fürs Vaterland

(He died a hero's death
for his Fatherland)

Schütze (Rifleman) Paul von Kothen
J.R. 137   3. M.G.K.
geb. 6.1. 1897   gef. 22.6.1918


In the background are a line of trees
silhouetted against a featureless sky.
When compared to the set of trees in my two photographs,
there is a remarkably good match.

I do not know who contributed this photo or whether they are related to Paul von Kothen. By another coincidence, like the other soldiers, this rifleman belonged to a M.G.K. - machine gun company too, and was killed only a few weeks later on 22 June 1918.  His marker is more elaborate than the covered crosses for Bukowski and Doell, and when we look closely through the gate of the Ehren Friedhof photo, we can see both styles of markers. Paul von Kothen's may be one of the three graves centered in the cemetery entrance. The larger marker and inscription may be a tribute to his act of heroism in combat. The markers in all three photos are decorated with flowers with a turf cover that seems fresh, so I judge they were all taken shortly after internment, perhaps 1919. 


I acquired the cemetery photos from a dealer who also listed this next postcard photo of a German Army Band. The are dressed in typical field grey uniforms with cloth covers on their Pickelhaube helmets. The number is 265, the same as Bukowski's and Doell's R.I.R. No. 265.

The band leader sits on a sturdy wooden bench. He looks older than 55, maybe 60? Like several of the other musicians, he has a campaign medal ribbon tucked into his tunic. The 26 musicians hold their instruments in a semi-formal way under their arms. Most are seated in front of folding wire music stands, from which, for the benefit of the photographer, they have removed their music folios.

The hazy sepia-tone sky offers no clue as to where they are. It is very flat though, and crude telephone poles mark a distant line in the background. Perhaps they will play a concert for the officers at headquarters. A few men smile but most look very tired. I find it a grim picture, an image of the futility of music trying to withstand the monstrous noise of war.   

The postcard was sent by Feldpost on 4 February 1918, which by that date would be when the 265th regiment was in the Corbeny area, before it moved to the Somme. It was sent to Herr Thr. Binder of Schwiebus, then a part of the Brandenburg province of Prussia, and now a city called Świebodzin in western Poland.

The writer has left his name and address in the stamp box corner. 

Schütze (G?) Binder
P.. inft 265
1. M.G.K.

Rifleman Binder belonged to the same machine gun company
as Corporals Bukowski and Doell.
Together they heard
the band of the R.I.R. No. 265 perform,
sang along to its songs,
whistled its tunes,
and marched to
the rhythm of its drums.

   UPDATE 30 May 2016  
Courtesy of a generous reader who likes
the challenge of difficult puzzles, (see comments below)
we have an English translation of the message
on this postcard. Thank you very much, Susanna Rosalie.

Liebe Eltern und Schwester.
Kann Euch mitteilen,
daß ich jetzt in [...] bin.
Sende Euch eine Ansichtskarte
von unserer Regts-
musik. Bin sonst immer
noch gesund. Wie sieht
es in der Heimat aus?
Die besten Grüße aus dem Felde
sendet Euch Euer Sohn Georg.

Dear parents and sister.
I want to let
you know that I am now at [...].
I am sending you this postcard
showing our Regiments-
Music. Otherwise I am
still healthy. How are
you doing back home?
The best regards from the battlefield
is sending you your son Georg.

From Susanna's information, we learn
that the soldier's name was Georg Binder.
In September 1918, his R.I.R. No. 265
was merged into Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 76.
where Gefreiter Georg Binder remained
in Machine Gun Company No. 2.

Tragically he did not survive to the end of the war,
as in February 1919 he was one of thousands of soldiers
reported missing in the official army casualty lists.

Born 7 February 1896, the same year as Anton Bukowski,
Georg sent the postcard of his regiment's band
to his parents and sister just a few days
before his 22nd birthday.

Binder Georg (Schwiebus, Züllichau)
Verlustlisten 1. Weltkrieg, page 29.399
Source: Der Verein für Computergenealogie


Today the Proyart German Military Cemetery is a peaceful place devoid of the horrible cacophony of bullets and artillery shells, where the only mechanical sound comes from tractors and lawn mowers. The wooden markers have been exchanged for more durable metal and concrete crosses set out in long orderly rows. With apologies and thanks to an unnamed photographer, I've borrowed this recent photo of the Proyart cemetery from the internet to show the contrast of its green serenity nearly one hundred years after its devastating turmoil.

German Military Cemetery, Proyart, France
Source: The Internet

Google Maps provides a road view of the gate to the Proyart military cemetery.
Take a moment to spin it around
for a view of the flat Picardy landscape
on the other side of the road.
Trees are a luxury.



Below is a map of northern France
overlaid by a large cluster of red balloons
scattered around the region of the Somme river.
Each one marks the location of a World War 1 military cemetery.
There are 280. 

(click this <link> to see zoom in for more detail.)

By the spring of 1918 the European nations reached a stalemate that offered no resolution to a seemingly interminable war. Each of the belligerents tried to outlast the others, hoping that the enemy's government would collapse when exhausted of men and resources. But with the United States joining Britain and France as an ally with very deep pockets, Germany knew it would confront a fresh adversary in the coming summer, so it made one last effort to break the British and French forces.

The casualty numbers for Operation Michael, which include the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, are staggering. From 21 March to 30 April 1918, the British lost 177,739 men - killed, wounded, captured, and missing; the French lost 77,000 soldiers; and the Germans saw over 239,800 casualties. That's 494,539 men, nearly a half million, destroyed by war in one month. And the counting could never be precise, as many soldiers died without a grave, without any record of their death.

A study of history may bring explanations for war, uncover its mistakes, or clarify the thousands of reasons for its origin. But in the end it is always about people embroiled in a pandemonium. Human beings mutilated and sacrificed to an insanity that failed to be contained. There can be no better memorial to those lost lives than that we, their descendants, strive to never allow the madness to escape again.


Hidden to one side in the dark soft focus area
of the Ehren Friedhof cemetery photograph
is a figure of a man who appears to be in a military uniform.
He is holding something too.
It's unclear.
It might be just a garden spade.
But I think it is a camera.

A camera that records an image
of the burial place of a fallen soldier.
A small memorial to
a son, a husband, a father, a brother.

After the war, each government created organizations
to account for and tend to the grave sites
of hundreds of thousands of dead and missing soldiers. 
Grieving families were not permitted
or even able to visit these cemeteries
 for many years, even decades.
Their only solace might come
from a small photo of a grave marker.

A token, a souvenir, a memento, a memorial.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link for more bridges.

Another Tuba Baby

20 May 2016

   A very small fiction   
   sketched from an old postcard photo  

Time seemed to slow down on warm days like this. Even with drapes the skylights kept the studio uncomfortably hot. Franklin was half asleep when the jingle bell on the front door announced a visitor. He quickly jumped to his feet and greeted his afternoon clients. "Hello, hello, hello. Right on t..t..time," he stammered even though they were 30 minutes late. "Very pleased to have you come in today, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey." Which indeed he was, as tardy business was still business. "And is this our subject for today?" he exclaimed at the small face peering from under a froth of coverlets.  

The young woman lifted the infant from its perambulator. "Yes, this is Albert Bailey... Junior," she said, giving a smile to her husband. "I do apologize for our delay, but we've just come from his christening and Reverend Joyce did go on a bit longer than we'd planned." She removed the child's cap.

"Quite alright, I'm sure," said Franklin. "I've got everything ready in the next room. The camera is very quick and we will be finished before little Albert will hardly know it." He led them into the studio. "I've selected a number of chairs and stools appropriate for posing small infants. N...n...not that Albert is all that little, of course. You may also choose between several sheepskins and Persians as well. It adds a bit of texture and hides the pillows that keep him upright. This backdrop has been very popular."  He pointed to a gauzy forest scene.  

Mrs. Bailey sat on a large wickerwork chair and placed the child on her knee, as Mr. Bailey swung a large satchel case from off his shoulder. "We was wondering if we could do something different, Mr. Wilson," he said as he began unfastening the clips on the case.

Franklin squinted at the bag getting a glimpse of bright silver. He had a funny feeling about this. "And what would that be, Mr. Bailey?"

"Yesterday we showed off Albert to Clara's Uncle Gus. You know he plays piccolo in the town band with me. Anyway, Gus says, 'He's a real corker!' he says, and that got me to thinkin' that Albert's just the right size to actually be a corker." Reaching into the case, Mr. Bailey hoisted a large tuba into the air. "We wanta take his picture sitting inside the bell of my tuba. Kinda like a mute. We though Clara and I'd be in the picture too." 
Franklin looked at the gleaming instrument and blinked a few times, speechless. Wherever did people get these odd notions? "Well, yes, I suppose we can do that. But you'll have to hold onto him. Perhaps my standard cloud backdrop will be best to highlight young Albert here."  He went over to a chest and pulled out a sheepskin, spreading it onto the carpet. Then with a long pole, he adjusted the skylight drapes to let in the afternoon light. "If you will put your tuber horn right here, Mr. Bailey, so's I can check the focus." He turned the camera on its tripod and peered through the viewfinder. "Very good. Now lets try young Albert to see if he f...f...fits."

The mother lifted her child into the bell of the tuba as the father crouched beside it. Franklin took a quick glance at the lens setting. If he knew anything about children, this babe was about to protest. As the parents gazed fondly at their son, he squeezed the shutter bulb. 

The whimper began in the next breath, like a hesitant breeze preceding the storm. As father grasped the babe to lift it out, the little cries became a cyclone. "He won't come out! He's stuck!" shouted Mr. Bailey, as he gave the boy a twist. 

"Good lord! Don't pull him, Al," shrieked Clara. "His knees and toes are wedged into the tuba!" The baby's alarm climbed to a higher level of urgency.

Franklin rushed into the maelstrom. "Mr. Bailey! Blow! Blow long and loud!" He clasped his hands around the baby's waist. After a second of confusion, father bent down and gave a mighty toot on his tuba. BWAAAAaaaaa! The muffled vibration momentarily startled the child so that its bawling paused. Its little toes relaxed. Out he popped like a champagne cork into Franklin's arms, who hastily passed the baby over to its tearful mother.   

"Yes, indeed a real corker!" said Franklin. "Well, no harm done and I've got one good photo, but perhaps you'd like to come back tomorrow when Albert's quieted down." He hesitated, letting out a long sigh. "However, I would recommend we try a more conventional pose." The ashen faced mother nodded as she held the now sobbing infant. The father looked down the tuba bell with dismay. Franklin noticed the damp christening gown. "And if you would be so kind to empty your tuber horn outside, Mr. Bailey." 

He impatiently ushered them out the studio door. "The prints will be ready tomorrow at 10."


This tiny story is set around another example from my collection of Tuba Babies.  Most babies require training before they voluntarily cooperate to be used as tuba mutes. After an initial break-in period of soft long tones, they eventually learn to enjoy brass band music and usually are not frightened by the low noise of a tuba. On the other hand, a close proximity to piccolos and E-flat clarinets will cause undue distress to tiny ears.

This postcard photo of an unknown infant and its mother and father has no date or message. It does have the name of the photographer and his studio's location embossed on the lower border.  

F. H. Wilson
Byesville, O(hio)

Byesville is a village in Guernsey County, Ohio about halfway between Columbus, OH and Wheeling, WV.  With a population today of about 2,400, in 1910 Byesville reached its zenith when the number of residents nearly tripled from the 1900 census to 3,156 people. I suspect that was the decade when this tuba baby's charming photograph was taken.

Byesville City Band, circa 1910

The vast collection of vintage band photographs at the website provides a grainy image of the City Band of Byesville, OH. Standing center at the back of this band of 16 musicians is a tuba player who bears a rough resemblance to the father in my postcard photo. There are no babies visible.

Did Mr. F. H. Wilson take this photograph too?

Byesville City Band, circa 1910

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where this weekend there is a Special Sale on Babies.
Buy two and get the third for free!


15 May 2016

Corn oil. Corn Starch. Corn Syrup.
It's in nearly everything we eat today.
One might say it made America a great ...
big nation of corn-fed people.
But where does it comes from?
Who makes it?
Why is it musical?

The sign dominates the photo.
It was important to keep it in the photo.

Salads – Cooking
Corn Oil – Corn Starch

{click any image to enlarge}

Standing in the foreground of this large format photo
is a band of about 40 African-American musicians
arranged in marching formation.
They are dressed in neat two-tone uniforms
with double breasted coats embellished
with piping on the collars and cuffs,
and topped off with dashing military style berets.

Two men wearing ordinary suits and hats
hold a banner at the back of the group.
The banner reads:

Walter Mays, Director
Use CONN Instruments
American Maize-Products Company
New York       Chicago

The band's name is also on the head of the bass drum with the logo of the AMAIZO Brands company showing a globe resting on an ear of corn. In the background a parked car has an old fashioned leather strapped trunk attached to the rear of the car. A spare tire perches on the front running board. It's an automobile style dating from the late 1920s to early 30s. 

AMAIZO Brands Stock Certificate Logo

The front line of the band has four burly trombonists. It's the traditional place for trombones as a long slide arm can be a annoyance to other musicians unfortunate to be placed in front of them. 

In the center facing the camera are two men who command our attention. The black man on the left holds a conductor's baton and wears a single color uniform with a military officer's style cap. The man on the right wears a regular suit but sports the same beret as the bandsmen. He is quite tall and is also the only white man in the photo.

It's a company band whose members are employees of the American Maize Products Company or AMAIZO. They pose for the photographer on the grounds of their factory in the Robertsdale section of Hammond, Indiana just across the Indiana/Illinois state line from Chicago and only a short walk to the southern shore of Lake Michigan.

Images of America
Whiting and Robertsdale, Indiana

By Kimberly Eck, Jennifer Linko

The factory was established in 1905 by the Western Glucose Company. In 1908 it was bought by the the American Maize Products Company of New York who hired Raymond Daly in 1910 to manage the plant. The company manufactured corn sugar, cereal sugar, refined corn oil, special starches, dextrins, and other corn products. In 1928 the Hammond plant comprised 42 buildings containing 645,000 square feet of floor space, with a grinding capacity of about 35,000 bushels of corn per day. By 1930 the company had over 1000 employees keeping the plant running 24 hours a day in three shifts.

The factory manager, Raymond E. Daly, was noted for maintaining an aesthetically pleasing work environment at the plant, and promoting a progressive program for employees and their families that encouraged social activities, sports, and music.  According to the caption found on the excerpted picture of the AMAIZO factory, Daly managed the plant for 30 years. 

Raymond E. Daly (1877-1950)
1923 US Passport Application

I wasn't absolutely certain that he was the tall man standing center. But the archives of provided a US passport application that Daly made for a family trip to Europe in 1923. The virtual page has a grim photo booth image stapled to the back of Raymond Ernest Daly, born in Chicago in 1876. It's rare to find as close a match as this.

Chicago and Hammond newspapers reporting on various events and news of the AMAIZO plant never failed to include his name. There were baseball games, picnics, and parades that always needed music. Daly did not lead the band but he paid for it.


The other man was Walter Mays, the band's director. For readers who remember last weekend's post, behind him you can see two versions of the lowest of brass instruments. A traditional tuba on the left, with the player peeking out from under the bell, shows why it is such an awkward instrument to play in a marching band. And on the right is a Sousaphone, an American style helicon, demonstrating that even short people can play one.

Unfortunately Mr Mays left no records in the census that I could confidently confirm as his. But in 1942 the US government urgently needed to count its reserves of potential soldiers. Draft Registration card #U2026 belonged to Walter Mays of 5718 Indiana Ave., Chicago, age 58, born Sept 3, 1884 in Oakland, Cal. Employer's Name:  American Maize Products - R. E. Daly. 

With two men identified and a short history
this s
tory of a photo of a company band
might stop here.

But as my readers know,
there's always more to discover
than what we see in the photograph.

In 1917 the War Department had the same problem
and needed a count of our national manpower.
Draft Card 664-3653 belonged to Walter Mays
of 3434 Forest Ave., Chicago, age 34, born Sept 3, 1884.
Occupation: Musiacan (?!)
Employer: Charles L Cook, Riverview Park, Chicago.

Charles L. Cook(e) (1891–1958)
Source: Internets

Charles L. Cook(e) (1891–1958) was one of the African American pioneers of jazz music. He started with bands in Detroit and Chicago, gaining the nickname "Doc Cook", (dropping the last e,)  which he deserved as he was one of the few professional musicians in this era who earned the title with an actual Doctorate of Music degree awarded in 1926 by the Chicago Musical College. In 1910 he began working in Chicago clubs and theaters, with bands called   Cookie's Gingersnaps, Doc Cook and his 14 Doctors of Syncopation, and Doc Cook's Dreamland Orchestra. In the 1930s he moved to New York and worked as an arranger for Radio City Music Hall and Broadway shows.

As America entered the World War in 1917 Walter Mays was a member of Cook's band playing at Chicago's Riverview Amusement Park. At that time jazz music was just developing and sounded more like the ragtime of Scott Joplin or Eubie Blake than the improvised blues and dixieland styles that would come later in  the 1930s.

This clue led the discovery of the next part of Walter May's career. In November 1919 the San Francisco Chronicle listed his name as one of the musicians on clarinet and saxophone in the American Syncopated Orchestra. This professional orchestral ensemble of thirty negro musicians was on a long tour through the the less segregated regions of the United States, and in Canada too. For many audiences this was the first time ragtime, jazz, and spirituals were presented to the public in a serious concert by an African-American orchestra and conductor. 

San Francisco Chronicle
16 November 1919

Sacrament CA Union
23 November 1919

On 23 November 1919, the Sacramento Union printed a notice of the upcoming concerts.

Musicians Interpret Jazz

American Syncopated Orchestra
to be heard in Latest Hits

Real syncopation will be revealed to Sacramento musicians and music lovers at the Clunie next Thursday afternoon and evening, November 27, by the American syncopated orchestra.

This orchestra consists of thirty negro musicians who play the latest hits according to their own version of syncopation. They have attained fame throughout the country and are considered the best orchestra of its kind in the world. They play under the leadership of Will Marion Cook, a distinguished looking negro who knows music from A to Z.

There are Harvard graduates among the musicians. Many of them saw service in France as members of the "Black Devil Band" commended personally by General Pershing and French officials.

There are musicians among the men also. The solo violinist is a graduate pupil of the great masters of the violin and plays his numbers upon a violin valued at $500.

The American syncopated orchestra and singers bring to the performance of "jazz" rhythm and piquancy, and almost "perpetual motion", so smooth and flowing is the stream of melody evoked from banjos, strings, wood, wind and brass. The rendition of the negro spirituals is different from the interpretations that have been here, richer in harmony and more interesting.

Will Marion Cook (1869-1944)
Source: Wikipedia

Will Marion Cook (1869-1944), was another celebrated African-American musician, composer and violinist.  Born in Washington D.C., his father was then dean of Howard University School of Law. When his father died in 1879, Cook was sent to live with his maternal grandparents in Chattanooga, TN, where he experienced more authentic African-American music culture. His musical talent first took him at age 15 to Oberlin Conservatory and then later to the renown Berlin Hochschule fur Musik where he studied violin. In 1894 he went to New York and studied composition under the great Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.

In the 1890s he organized one of the first touring orchestras of professional black musicians. By 1919, he had produced several Broadway shows, published a number of music compositions, conducted choral and orchestral groups, and was a recognized leader of African-American culture.


One of the few beneficial consequences from the tragedy of WW1 was an increase in opportunities for African-Americans to advance into professional fields previously closed to them. In 1918 as audiences around the world became infatuated with ragtime and jazz music, Will Marion Cook, created a new ensemble called the New York Syncopated Orchestra. The following year it changed its name to the American Syncopated Orchestra and expanded its tour to the west coast, where Walter Mays is listed as clarinet/saxophone on two different rosters that I found.

In January 1920, the Chicago Music News published a review and photograph of Cook and his ensemble. Judging by the posture, I think Walter Mays is standing in the front row, 6th musician from the right. The reviewer, Redfern Mason, heard the orchestra perform in San Francisco, and wrote a generally favorable critique, but he uses such offensive racist and patronizing language to make his point, including chauvinistic views of Hungarians and Bohemians, that I won't repeat it here, but I encourage readers to click the image below and read the type of bigotry that black musicians faced during the 1920s.

Chicago Music News
07 January 1920

Chicago Music News
24 December 1920

Walter Mays was probably with the American Syncopated Orchestra in 1921 as its concert tour continued with a grueling schedule not unlike that of the Hungarian Boys Bands that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

The orchestra's programs were described as "jazz" music but they should not be mistaken for the big band styles of Duke Ellington or Count Basie that came decades later. The word syncopated was more about a Ragtime musical style which did not rely on improvisation. The orchestra also included a number of singers performing African-American spirituals, not to be confused with gospel music, that were familiar African-American folk tunes to many audiences who had heard them from other black vocal ensembles that toured earlier in the 19th century.

The American Syncopated Orchestra also played "blues" music derived in part from the kind of music popularized by W. C. Handy who created this now iconic American form from his experience in traveling minstrel shows. Minstrel music and blackface humor was immensely popular from 1870 to 1930. The music that Will Marion Cook programmed was deliberately intended to reject that stereotype by presenting his musicians as sophisticated and professional, but they still needed to sell tickets.


It is ironic that a 1921 advertisement for the American Syncopated Orchestra concerts at Los Angeles' Philharmonic Auditorium appears directly beneath an advert for shows of the Georgia Minstrels at the Mason Opera House.

Los Angeles Herald
24 February 1921

Hammond IN Times
05 October 1934

In 1934 the president of AMAIZO, D. K. David,  dedicated a new recreation hall for the employees of the American Maize Products company. It was named Daly Hall in recognition of Raymond E. Daly and his service to the company and employees. A bronze plaque was placed on the cornerstone with the inscription:

This Recreation Hall is erected in
recognition of true friendship and loyalty
as a lasting symbol of cooperation.

The building cost $50,000 and was built entirely by the plant employees on their own time, the company contributing to construction cost. The dedication was a surprise to Vice President Daly.

At noon, all 973 employees stood at attention and the AMAIZO band of 40 pieces, directed by W. H. Mays, played the national anthem.

This was not the only newspaper reference I found of the AMAIZO band performing at numerous events at the plant, but it is the one that seems closest to the photograph of Walter Mays and Raymond E. Daly.  Certainly the company photographer would have recorded the occasion taking care that the AMAIZO sign was in the picture.


Culture is never static. It's constantly in a state of flux influenced by changes in politics, world events, society, and people. This photo gives us a glimpse of a time when someone like Raymond E. Daly was honored for his efforts to make a large manufacturing company a good place to work for both workers and their families too. I've no doubt that the relationship between management and labor at the American Maize Products company had its share of struggle and strife. But Daly stayed with the Hammond plant for over 30 years and clearly was proud of his employees in the band.

Walter Mays represents another thread in the fabric of American culture. I feel certain that he stands next to R. E. Daly because he earned respect for leading a first-rate band that instilled pride in both the AMAIZO employees and the citizens of Hammond too. Walter's musicians surely knew of his background as a professional musician and admired him for his experienced musicianship.

In the 1960s and 70s the American Maize Products company swallowed up a series of companies manufacturing everything from sugar to tobacco products. As a result of various corporate mergers the Hammond plant is now part of  the Cargill global conglomerate. I am uncertain when Raymond E. Daly ended his career with AMAIZO or when Walter May's and his AMAIZO band gave their final concert. The last newspaper reference I could find is from 1941. A report of German advances on Leningrad is on the same page. It seems likely that WW2 intervened with a new and deadly influence on world culture. We can only imagine how many of the younger men in the AMAIZO band served their country during the war. When they returned things were never the same.     

   19 January 2018   

Since I wrote this post I've found two more photos
of the Amaizo Band which were taken
on the same day as the photograph featured in this post.
The date was 12 October 1933.Follow this link to read the story:
The AMAIZO Band from Above

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link to find more letters of the alphabet.


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