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 }


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.


Tattered and Lost said...

OMG. My mouth is hanging open after reading that review. I'm dumbfounded at how utterly disgusting it is and how the writer couldn't see it. The drivel reminds me of a particular presidential candidate who says such disgraceful things and somehow never hears what he says. It's as if these people were born without the ability to edit before speaking.

And why don't we hear the word syncopation anymore? I love that word. I know there's going to be some fine toe taping music that'll have me up dancing immediately.

Little Nell said...

Fascinating and AMAZOing! Some wonderful stories here, but amongst all the musicians, the standout character for me is the enlightened factory manager, Mr Daly.

Unknown said...

I never thought about the dangers of marching in front of a group of trombone players -- I nearly laughed out loud at the images! Great post, Mike!

Kristin said...

Well, reading that review was depressing.

La Nightingail said...

"Seventy-six trombones led the big parade..." If you're in front of them & they're not far enough back, it could spell a bit of trouble. Reminds me of singing "Carmina Burana" with a 120-member chorus and a 90-piece orchestra all squeezed onto one extended stage. I was in a line of sopranos standing directly behind a line of cellists and we were constantly dodging their bows. Somehow I kept my place in my music, but it wasn't easy with those bows constantly coming at me! :)

Wendy said...

"Cookie's Gingersnaps" sounds more like a dance troupe of pre-teen girls. Good move on upgrading their show name! Mr. Daly would be right at home in any company today because of his obvious views that happy employees are more productive. Mr. Daly, Mr. Mays, Doc Cooke - all very impressive men.

Ondro said...

Thank you!

I have the video of the Amaizo Company Picnic from the late 1930s. It is a film of cut-aways and in-jokes shot by the company for the employee's pleasure. It features many shots of the Amaizo Band marching and performing inside and outside of the impressive Daly Hall. The stout fellow with the tuba behind Mr. Mays can be seen in the film mugging good-naturedly for the camera.

Pity there was no sound!

And, as you mention, the grounds of the company are quite nice.The employees seem happy and the grounds are park-like.

I am very grateful for your research. It's a real thrill to be able to place a few names on the enchanting faces from so long ago.


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