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 }

Artists of Das Wandertheater

24 February 2017

It's 1916, and the Kaiser's generals maintain that the war could end with just one more offensive push. But the common soldiers don't believe it. They see war from a different perspective that has endured two years of military drudgery interspersed with moments of intense terror. Their long separation from family and civilian life has created fatigue, boredom, and disgust. And the generals begin to recognize that this restlessness within the army breeds discontent, even mutiny.

So they decide to improve the troops' morale by putting on a variety show. A proper military entertainment that will engender patriotism and respect for the homeland.  

This disheveled character was one of those entertainers who appeared with the traveling theater. He was called:

Wandertheater der Armee-Abt. A.
Johann Lumpensammler
al Maler

{Johann Rag Collector
as a Painter}

Johann poses next his easel which has a crude landscape of a distant village, which looks like it's done in chalk. He likely told a funny story while quickly sketching his cartoon.

* * *

Johann the tramp belonged to Wandertheater der Armee-Abteilung A, or A. A. Falkenhausen, named after Ludwig von Falkenhausen, the general in charge of this sector of Germany's Western front. Since 2012 I've posted three stories about this traveling show and its artists. Here is a postcard of the full ensemble on stage with their orchestra.

This image is slightly different from the one featured in my April 2013 story entitled Wandertheater der A.A. Falkenhausen as several heads have turned and a few arms are rearranged. The postcard was sent on 10 June 1916 by a soldier to Fräulein Gretchen Hopfmann(?) of Nürnberg in northern Bavaria.

Getting closer to the cast we can recognize
Johann Lumpensammler's crumpled hat and tattered coat.
He is marked #1.

The figure marked #2 is Paul Pilz, Charakterkomiker, a comic musician who was featured in my first story on the Wandertheater from 2012, A Man and his Dog, Herr Pilz is dressed in a kind of forester's outfit, a rural fashion that was likely familiar to many soldiers. Pilz is also the German word for mushroom. In both his individual promotional postcard and the group photo, he holds a trumpet and a small dog, a terrier with white paws that I named Dieter, 

* * *

Of course any army would want to promote manly virtues, and what better example could there be than celebrities from the sporting world. Marked #3 in the cast group, these two athletes dressed in tights and high top shoes are:

Max Furtwengler,
Deutscher Rekordmeister

Carl Oechsler,

They look like wrestlers to me as
both men wear prize belts around their waists. Max, the German Record Champion, has an impressive sash of medals and a larger German star and ribbon medallion. Carl, the smaller man and yet the Heavyweight Champion, has just two small medals. Behind them on a carpeted floor are numerous iron balls, presumably to demonstrate their great strength.

* * *

This postcard was sent by a soldier to Frau Mathilde Bader of Landsberg am Lech in Bavaria. The postmark is dated 13 October 1916.

* * *

This postcard from Wandertheater A. A. Falkenhausen shows five vignettes of the same man,

Willy Eckhardt's Charaktertypen.

Willy appears in formal high collar and white tire with a large corsage, but each inset has him in a different hat and false mustache. Closer examination reveals that these are all crudely drawn and printed onto his portrait. I suspect that at top left Willy Eckhardt portrays a Frenchman; top right a Scotsman or maybe an Englishman; bottom left a Russian; and bottom right a Belgian. The center figure with close cropped hair is his normal self which we can recognize at figure #4 in the Wandertheater group.  

* * *

This genial looking fellow is Zithermeister Fraas. He sits at a table with a Zither, an instrument associated with Bavarian and Austrian alpine folk music. It typically has 5 melodic strings over a guitar-like fret board with another 20 strings spread out like a harp. Before the war, Zithermeister Fraas most likely wore a Tyrolean hat and lederhosen when he performed. Here he is in military uniform but without medals or insignia as he was the contrabass player in the Wandertheater orchestra marked #5 with his distinctive smile and receding hair line. 

Once again a soldier used this postcard to send a message home on 6 November 1916.

* * *

These next characters appeared in my April 2013 story on
Wandertheater der A.A. Falkenhausen. This pair of clowns dressed in wild circus costumes called themselves:

Becker u. Strössner,
die beiden Spaßvögel
{the two Jokers}

The feathers in their caps allude to Spaßvögel which translates directly as Fun Birds. (Also Birds of Prey for some reason.) They look capable of provoking some outrageous and irreverent humor that would surely amuse their audience of common soldiers. They are easy to spot at #6 in the Wandertheater troupe.

* * *

* * *

This next jester
from the Wandertheater der Armee-Abteilung A.
called himself:
Tobinski, komischer Rollschuhläufer 

{comical rollerskater}

With his top hat, polka dot tie, and monocle
Tobinski presents the air of a carefree man-about-town.
I believe he is #7 in the group photo.
No doubt he performed acrobatic tricks of skating skill,
possibly chasing after our next artiste.

* * *

The only female entertainer in the Wandertheater troupe was this elegantly dressed artiste named: 

al Fritzi Jose

(S)he appeared in my story Theatrical Ladies pictured on a different souvenir postcard in a more provocative pose but with the same Grecian-urn gown and hair style that matches the person marked #8 in the Wandertheater photo. On that card the caption simply read: José? ? ?.

Cross dressing entertainers were a kind of musical/dramatic act that was quite popular in European music halls in the 1910s. It was a kind of double-double entendre that both impersonated a famous female singer and left the audience  marveling at the questionable sexuality of the performer. It's difficult to know how the Kaiser's soldiers interpreted Fritzi Jose part of the show. The generals certainly ordered that the Wandertheater's variety show conform to German standards of wholesome decency. I suspect this performer added gentle humor to a beguiling display of vocal talent that endeavored to show that beauty was always in the eye of imagination.

This postcard was sent by the same soldier that wrote the postcard of the Wandertheater troupe. It was posted on 12 May 1916 to the same Fräulein Gretchen Hopfmann(?) of Nürnberg.

* * *

Source: The Internet

I do not actually own these last two postcards. Yet. When I first discovered that the Wandertheate produced individual postcards of the entertainers, it became a personal quest to acquire each player without really knowing who the entire team was. Eventually I'll collect them all but it seems a shame to leave them out of this story when I know that these postcards exist.

The Wandertheater acrobatic act was:
 Winkler, Loos
die 3 Kunstturner
[the 3 artistic gymnasts}

Three men are lined up in descending order of height, but Loos the middle man is actually standing on a small platform that adds another 5 inches to his height. Winkler and Loos are dressed in fancy circus tights while Heizelmann wears the uniform of a hotel bellhop, I think. Are they tumblers? Did they work on the rings or high bar? And how did a hotel bellhop fit into this act? They are lined up again at #9 in the Wandertheater photo.

* * *

Source: The Internet

This quartet of entertainers is actually just one man with his three puppet friends. He is:

Edgar Blank,


One dummy is female, and the other two are male. The one on the left looks to be in military uniform and the middle one looks to have a dark complexion, possibly African. In 1914 Germany did have African colonies that became entangled in the war, though I don't think any of those colonial soldiers were brought to the European fronts.

Edgar Blank's postcard seems to be the rarest of the Wandertheater set. Perhaps ventriloquists were not a big hit with the troops. He sits on the Wandertheater stage at #10.

* * *

Das Orchester of the Wandertheater has two versions of their postcard. The one I featured in the 2013 story on Wandertheater der A.A. Falkenhausen is the most common. Recently I acquired this second postcard which shows 15 musicians and their director, who sits on the left in the same cross-legged posture as in the larger group photo. Zithermeister Fraas stands center with his contrabass, and the first violinist and first cellist are recognizable in all the photos.

Des Mitglieder des Wandertheater Armee-Abt. A. gathered outside for a second group photo, less formal than the one taken of the stage show. Johann Lumpensammler lies prone in front on his canvas. Paul Pilz plays his trumpet while the orchestra director holds Dieter. Zithermeister Fraas strums his zither rather than his bass. And Fritzi Jose ??? puts her arms around two of the road crew. 

They look like a merry troupe of players,
and for the brief time that they performed
a soldier's thoughts of war
were banished
by wonder, laughter, and music.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where there's never a shortage of artistic photos.

Bears of Denmark and Dachshunds of Siam

17 February 2017

A good picture postcard is multidimensional.
Its image gives shape to a faraway place,
 drawing lines of light and shade,
height and distance.
Colors convey warmth,
gray tones cool.

The strange activities of lively native folk
add sensations of smell, touch, even sound.
It's a window looking onto a foreign scene,
inviting us to share a moment with a traveler. 

This postcard has those qualities.
A military band stands in a circle
playing their instruments.

We marvel at their impressive bearskin hats.
We admire the impressive stately buildings in the background.
We feel the contrast of sun and shade on the cobblestone plaza.
We can almost hear them.

The postcard caption reads:

Gardens Musikkorps
(paa Amalienborgplads)

But to be a really good postcard,
worthy of preservation
in a shoe box of memories,
there must be
a clear postmark date
a personal message on the back.

This postcard was sent
from Copenhagen to the United States
on 3 July 1907 to E. Kaiteryn Fell(?)
care of Richard Willits(?) – Esq.
of Westbury Station, New York.
The author leaves no name.

July 3rd
This is a beautiful
city, with its fine
buildings and harbor.
The picture repre-
sents the present
homes of the King and
. He is in his
country home now
entertaining the King
of Siam.  Reg(?) has been tra-
velling with us for some
time. It is so cold and
rainy here, one can not
realize you will be cele-
brating the 4th to-morrow.

And to be a great postcard,
there has to be an element of curiosity.
In this writer's cursive style
it's hidden in the letter S.

The Guardian
7 January 1907

The capital S posed a challenge to decipher two words. The first was King and Sons.  What did that mean? After checking the history of the plaza where the band performs it made sense. The bearskin bandsmen are on the octagonal courtyard of  Amalienborg, the residences of the Danish Royal Family, which consists of 4 palaces facing the plaza center where stands an equestrian statue of Amalienborg's founder, King Frederick V (1723-1766). In 1907 the Danish King was Frederick VIII (1843-1912) who had taken the Danish throne only the year before in 1906. At various times he lived in one palace, his father in another, and his sons in another.

The second S word was more confusing. Entertaining the King of Siam? In Denmark? Was that right?  In fact during the summer of 1907, the King of Siam embarked on an informal tour of Europe. Reportedly His Majesty King Chulalongkorn of Siam was traveling in strict incognito. He would begin his holiday in Sam Remo, Italy, progressing then to Paris, then London, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and St. Petersburg. His entourage was considered a small group, with just the King, three Royal Princes, and nine state officials. It was said that King Chulalongkorn was an enthusiastic motorist. Perhaps they would use a bus.

* * *

Ruling Monarchs of the World
circa 1908
Source: Wikipedia

In 1907 most nations of the world were monarchies. Looking a bit like a royal athletic team, this postcard shows the portraits of 19 monarchs from 1908 with emperors, kings, and one queen. The King of Siam is at top left and the King of Denmark, is second row from the bottom, second from right. King Edward VII of Great Britain occupies the prime center position, with his nephews Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany on either side. 

King Chulalongkorn (1853 – 1910),  or more properly Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poraminthra Maha Chulalongkorn Phra Chunla Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua (Thai: พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาจุฬาลงกรณ์ พระจุลจอมเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว) was the monarch of Siam, now known as Thailand. Also called King Rama V, he became King of Siam in 1868 under a regency at the young age of 15. He  assumed full powers in 1873. During his long reign of 42 years, King Chulalongkorn produced many great reforms in Siamese society. He reorganized his country's internal boundaries and local governments, established land surveys, modernized the army, and abolished slavery and forced labor. 

In 1907 he decided leave Bangkok to make a lengthy but ostensibly social tour of Europe. It was his second visit to Europe after an earlier one taken in 1897. Newspapers in America caught some of the excitement and thought they might lure him to visit the United States if they published his picture with a story of the trip.

Pittsburgh Press
7 April 1907

The King's tour had a not-so-subtle political purpose as he wanted improve his country's relations with Britain and France, and also gain support from other European leaders. Bordered by French Indochina, British Burma and Malaysia, and the Dutch East Indies, Siam had lost much of its original land to these powers and yet still remained an independent nation under King Chulalongkorn. The illustration comes from a large article on the King and his tour that was published in 1907 by the Pittsburgh Press. The king is described as both progressive and liberal, attributes that were likely to gain favor with American interests.

At the time the US had just stepped onto the global stage a few years before, when in 1898 it acquired Spain's possessions after the Spanish American War. American imperialism began with the ready-made Spanish colonies in the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico with Cuba, which became a U.S. protectorate. In 1904 the US began construction of the Panama Canal which would not be finished until 1914. King Chulalongkorn made his way to Europe via the Suez Canal.

Pittsburgh Press
7 April 1907

After he arrived in Britain in June 1907
the Manchester Guardian newspaper
published a more regal photograph
of King Chulalongkorn of Siam .
The Guardian
21 June 1907

Again the very best  postcards
have good dates
that add a special context
to the message.

On July 3rd, 1907, the Kingdom of Denmark
took the measure of the King of Siam.

The Most Astounding Discovery
that the king of Siam
is exactly the same height
as the emperor of Russia

was considered newsworthy
in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Little Rock, AK Democrat
3 July 1907

The Roskilde Domkirke is on the island of Zealand in eastern Denmark. It is a Lutheran church and since the 15th century it has been the traditional burial site of Danish monarchs.   

Roskilde Domkirke, Denmark
Source: Wikipedia

One section of the Roskilde Catherdral is named the Chapel of the Magi. It has two floors and the upper floor is supported by a granite column called the Kings Pillar, where for centuries the height of Danish and visiting foreign monarchs has been recorded. The tallest sovereign was supposedly King Christian I of Denmark (1426-1481), but it seems likely he was wearing lifts in his slippers then. Russia's Peter the Great stood against the pillar and measured a lofty 207cm or 81½ inches (6'_7½").  Nearly the shortest in stature, King Chulalongkorn stood 164cm or 64½ inches (5'_4"), only a centimeter taller than Denmark's Christian VII.

King's Pillar, Chapel of the Magi
Roskilde Domkirke, Denmark
Source: The Internets

Despite the Pittsburgh Press's enthusiasm for King Chulalongkorn's liberal views, he and Tsar Nicholas II shared more than just meeting eye to eye. They were both absolute monarchs with nearly unlimited power over both their subjects and their nation's government. Both men were also noted for an extravagant lifestyle where cost was never an issue.

King Chulalongkorn of Siam
and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia
in 1897
Source: Wikipedia

Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle
9 August 1907

By August King Chulalongkorn's grand tour was coming to an end. Even in an era used to displays of royal opulence his spending on diamond, gold, and silverware was thought excessive. It was claimed he purchased $650,000 worth of jewelry in London, $500,000 in Frankfurt, $400,000 in Baden Baden where he took a cure at the spa. The reported value of his expenditure on luxury items was $3,000,000. So much for traveling incognito.  

* * *

Warren MN Sheaf
12 September 1907


Before he left Denmark, the King of Siam was presented with a huge wheel of local cheese made near Frijsenborg, a grand estate in Jutland. He took it on board the ship on his trip to Norway, and he became so fond of it he ordered a quantity of the same brand to be sent to his court in Bangkok.

* * *

Newspapers reported on King Chulalongkorn's exotic retinue, which did include a Queen, his  principal one, as well as some brothers, sons, and other officials. Despite his westernized tastes it was recognized that he was sovereign to a Buddhist nation. In American reports the descriptions of  his home country added titillating accounts of his 150 queens and immense harem that supposedly numbered in the thousands.

However the reports did not elaborate on the biggest difference between this royal family of Southeast Asia and the noble families of Europe. King Frederick VIII was surely proud of his eight children. But the diminutive King Chulalongkorn was father to 77 children — 33 sons and 44 daughters distributed among 4 Queens and 32 other consorts and concubines (116 in total).

As the King of Siam took leave of Germany, he expressed an interest in acquiring two dogs just like Kaiser Wilhelm's pet Dachshunds. Upon learning of this and also that the King would soon celebrate a birthday, the German Kaiser arranged to have seven pairs of dachshunds sent to the King so he could choose two favorites. Somehow that intention was lost in translation, as King Chulalongkorn accepted all 14 Dachshunds and took them back to Siam. The Kaiser took the extra expense of his gift in good humor.

Akron OH Beacon Journal
14 September 1907

We are left to imagine
how 14 Dachhunds traveled to Siam,
along with diamonds and Danish cheese,
where presumably it was all somehow divided
among the the King's numerous progeny.   

But  I can show you
how Kaiser Wihelm II
looked after his Weiner dogs,
three in number,
on board his Imperial yacht.

Der Kaiser mit seinen Hunden.
Kaiser Wilhelm II,  circa 1908
Source: The Internets

Let us return once more to the plaza of Amalienborg,
where the band of the Danish Royal Life Guards
continue to delight tourists of all kinds
from around the world.

In this more recent postcard
the bandsmen wear the dress uniform
of the Royal Life Guard
with red tunics, sky-blue trousers
and tall bearskin hats.

This card has no postmark, no message,
and no hidden connection to kings or dachshunds.
Just Danish bears,
so it only merits 4 points

And as a bonus for readers
who have stayed with my story to the end,
here is a YouTube postcard,
taken within the past year,
of the Changing of the Guard
at the Amalienborg place plaza
in Copenhagen.

* * *

* * *

If the music seems familiar but out of place
that is because it is not a Danish melody
but the march of the United States Navy,
Anchors Aweigh.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where Danish pigeons always get the best treats.

German Sea Cadet Bands

10 February 2017

Before the advent of modern air travel, the world was linked by a network of ships. Distance across an ocean was measured in days if not weeks. Travelers aboard a passenger liner passed the time in leisure as if staying a  a seaside hotel. So of course there must be music to fill the hours.

Pictured here in a souvenir postcard of the Erste Hamburger Seekadetten-Kapelle under the direction of Adolf Klüver, Kapellmeister.  This orchestra/band of 13 versatile musicians is an example of the German system of training musicians for musical service on naval or maritime ships. The ensemble has both wind instruments and string instruments to accommodate every style of music, either performing outdoors on deck or inside the ship salon. The men look older than the age typical for cadets. Their formal dress in short jackets, waistcoats, and black bow ties was probably the uniform worn by most musicians employed by steamship lines. 

The card was marked 12 April 1911 from Saabrücken. There is no stamp as it was posted by a soldier as a Soldatenbrief.  In the days of sea travel Hamburg was the main German port for entry and departure from Germany.

* * *

A similar postcard comes Friedberg in Hesse, Germany. It shows the Militär-Musikschule under the direction of Musikdirecktor Schäfer pictured in an inset in the upper right corner. This group of 27 boys are dressed in German sailor suits, and with violins, violas, cellos, and double basses, they constitute an chamber-sized orchestra. Note the pair of tunable kettledrums arranged on opposite sides of the ensemble. This postcard was never mailed but likely was printed around 1910-1915.

Friedberg is a historic Free Imperial City located in central Germany, just north of Frankfurt. It is not close to the sea but evidently Musikdirecktor Schäfer fashioned his school on the Imperial German Naval tradition.

* * *

This third postcard shows another group of boys who are also dressed in sailor suits but strictly speaking are not sea cadets. The caption reads:

Kasseler Ringkreuz-Posaunenchor
(10-13 Jährige Jungen)

This is a brass band of 29 boys posed with rotary-valve trumpets, flugelhorns, and trombones (posaunen) along with a few drummers. They are age 10 to 13 and come from Kassel.

The word Ringkreuz stands for a ringed cross, 🕈, the Christian symbol for a Celtic Cross of the British Isles. In Germany the symbol may have a different connotation, particularly in the year when this card was posted from Köln on 7 March 1932.  [Correction: on closer examination and looking at the message date, the card was posted on 7 August 1932]   The man pictured on the 6 pfennig stamp is Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925), who was elected the first president of the new German Republic in 1919. A member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Ebert served as Germany's head of state until his death in 1925.

He was succeeded by Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg, commonly known as Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934), former general field marshal of the Imperial German Army during World War 1. In 1932 Hindenburg was running for a second term as president of Germany. His chief rival was Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), or Nazi Party. The first round of this pivotal German election was on 13 March 1932, only a week after this postcard was mailed. [As corrected above, the postmark was actually 7 August 1932]
Though he was then 84 years old and in poor health, Hindenburg prevailed over Hitler. But the NSDAP party succeeded in setting up conditions that led to Hindenburg appointing Hitler as chancellor of the German government in January 1933.

According to one 1933 reference in a small German newspaper, der Mihlaer Chronik, the Kesseler Ringkreuz-Posaunenchor gave concerts in an effort to raise money to restore church bells taken down during the Great War. They also marched in parades supporting the Nazi party takeover of the civil authorities in Mihla, Germany, a town south east of Kassel.

Yet another example of
how the waves of history
unearth strange artifacts
on today's internet seashore.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where choosing just the right seashell
is always a challenge.

Lost and Found and Lost

03 February 2017

This is a story without a photograph.
There is a name and a date,
but unlike most of my stories,
there is no photo.
Even though we begin with a musical image,
  a vintage postcard captioned:
The Musical Event of the Season
Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra
Carl Bernthaler, conductor
This image is not the subject of the story.

The postcard shows
a small orchestra of 29 musicians
seated on an outdoor stage
attached to a large concrete hemisphere.

They are not
the famous Pittsburgh Symphony,
though it's possible
some of the musicians
might have played
with that renowned ensemble.

The real story begins on the back of the postcard.

The card is addressed to Mr. A. B. Reese of 7 St., Aspinwall, PA,
a village across the Allegheny River from the Pittsburgh Zoo,
and posted on March 26, 1910.
It promotes a concert by:

Miss Hedwig Glomb
musical prodigy
Sharpsburg, PA
assisted by
This Celebrated Orchestra
and the Sweedish(sic) Male Chorus
Wednesday Evg. March 30, 1910
8:30       St. Joseph's School Hall

On March 30, 1910 the concert notice also appeared in a Pittsburgh newspaper. Assisted by local talent, including Miss Hedwig Glomb, child pianist, the Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra, conducted by John C. Glomb, a  Sharpsburg musician, would give a concert with the Mozart Singing Society of Sharpsburg. The orchestra would also perform one of his compositions.

The public was also advised that Haley's Comet would not swish Earth with its tail.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
30 March 1910

Miss Hedwig Glomb was then not quite age 14, having been born 13 July, 1896. At the concert she would perform Felix Mendelssohn's  Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 25 and later in the program two piano solos, the second one by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, (1860-1941) the great Polish pianist and composer, who was also a prominent advocate for Polish independence from Russia. During WW1 he was a member of the Polish National Committee in Paris and following the war in 1919 briefly served as prime minister to the new government of Poland.  

Pittsburgh Daily Post
27 March 1910
The program began with:
  • Overture "Oberon" … C. M. v. Weber
  • Piano Concerto G minor … Mendelssohn
       Piano solo - Miss Hedwig Glomb
  • "Evening Star" … R. Wagner
       Baritone solo - Ch. Zulauf
  • Galop … "Militaire"
       by J. C. Glomb
  • Suite "Peer Gynt" … Grieg
       Swedish Male Chorus
  • Aria from "Oberon" … Weber
       Soprano solo - Miss Clara Huhn
  • Piano solos
    a) "Rustle of Spring" … Ludwig
    b) "Minuet" … Paderewski
       Piano solo - Miss Hedwig Glomb 
  • "Spring Song" …  Mendelssohn 
  • March "Tannhauser" … R. Wagner

Hedwig's father, John C. Glomb was a German immigrant who was a teacher of voice, a church organist, and also a composer. They lived in Sharpsburg, just next to Aspinwall and also across the Allegheny River from the Pittsburgh Zoo. He was listed under vocal teachers in the Pittsburgh city directory and led several choral groups. He also served as a church organist and was his daughter's first piano teacher.

Later that year in December 1910. the Pittsburgh Daily Post reported that Hedwig Glomb, thirteen years old, had just left for Chicago to study under Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler (1863-1927), a noted pianist and teacher. Born Fannie Blumenfeld to Jewish parents who lived in Bielsko, Poland, then called Bieltz, in the Austrian province Silesia, Fannie and her family emigrated to America in 1867. The plan was for young Hedwig Glomb to spend two years in Chicago under Bloomfiled-Zeisler's tutelage rather than to go to Europe. Her talent was recognized by several admirers, including Walter Damarosch (1862-1950), the German-born conductor of the New York Symphony Orchestra, and Emil Paur (1855 – 1932), an Austrian conductor who led the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1893 to 1898, the New York Philharmonic from 1898 to 1902, and was then the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. However in 1910 the Pittsburgh Symphony was in a financial crisis which could not be resolved. The orchestra folded and Pittsburgh with without an orchestra until 1926 when the Symphony reorganized.  

Pittsburgh Daily Post
03 December 1910

In the 1900s America was dominated by the Germanic culture of the German and Austrian empires. Most major cities in the Unites States had German language newspapers, German fraternal societies, and German churches. In countless cities across the nation there were German music clubs and choral societies, while the roster of orchestras and bands were filled with Germanic names.

Vocal teacher John C. Glomb's daughter Hedwig was the oldest of seven children, two girls and five boys. Undoubtedly all six learned to play a musical instrument, but it was Hedwig who clearly had a special gift. It was not uncommon for musical prodigies to seek out a mentor for their musical training, so at age 13 (really 14) Hedwig probably spent the next two years in Chicago doing a kind of piano apprenticeship under Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler's guidance. But sometimes a different teacher is needed to inspire a student, so in March 1912 Hedwig Glomb applied for a certificate to study abroad. At the center of German culture, Berlin.


Hedwig was now nearly 16 and probably stayed with family or friends during her stay in Berlin. Learning the piano repertoire requires endless practice and a good teacher would know just the right methods and pieces to develop an budding adolescent talent. She was hardly alone in this quest, as in this same 1912 US Consular archive on there were dozens of young people applying for study of violin, voice, art, science, medicine. Each one traveling to Berlin for an advanced education.

* * *

Time passes. It is now the summer of 1914, a tragedy in Sarajevo, a terrorist assassination of the Austrian heir and his wife, creates a dangerous political tension in Europe. Armies are mobilized. Threats and ultimatums are exchanged. Suddenly the whole of central Europe is overcome by war.

But it is August, the month when Europe always takes a holiday. British businessmen relax in German spas, French families tour along the scenic Rhine, German school groups visit Paris. And American music students travel to Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrolean alps.

In the chaos of war, a young pianist from Pittsburgh is reported missing.

Pittsburgh Press
29 August 1914

For several days Hedwig Glomb, purportedly age 15 but actually 18, is among thousands of foreign nationals who find themselves on the wrong side of borders that now delineate nations at war. In Germany, French, Belgian, and British civilians are rounded up and taken to detainment camps. Some will stay there for the duration of the war. You can read about one such camp, the Ruhleben Internment Camp, in my story from April 2016, The Role of a Lifetime.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
03 September 1914

Eventually the young pianist from Sharpsburg, PA is found, though her recovery is no longer newsworthy in this troubled world. As an American citizen, Hedwig is not considered a threat by the German authorities as the United States has taken a neutral position in this conflict. At least for now. But in August 1914 the first weeks of war are so alarming, so horrific, that thousands of Americans abroad in Europe as well as many people with dual-American citizenship scramble to book space on any passenger ship leaving for the US. Hedwig's musical education in Berlin was finished.

Madison WS State Journal
23 May 1915

By the Spring of 1915, Miss Hedwig Glomb is a piano student of Mr. Victor Heinze, the new principal of
the piano department of the Wheeler School of Music in Madison, Wisconsin. In May she performs a piano recital of music of the great keyboard masters: Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt.

* *

The Etude
June 1914

Her teacher in Madison, Victor Heinze, was her teacher in Berlin. In the American magazine for pianists, The Etude,  he advertised in the June 1914 edition his summer piano courses located in the Tirolean Alps. That is likely where Hedwig went that summer. She was really never in any danger. Yet apparently the climate in Wisconsin now suited Herr Heinze better than the stormy weather enveloping Germany.  

* *

In his US naturalization records, Hedwig's father, John C. Glomb, listed his birthplace as Kattowitz in Upper Silesia, which is now part of Poland. In the 1920 census, his parents were marked as from Poland, speaking Polish, not German. His connection to a Polish national heritage divided between Germany and Russia was likely the reason that in September 1915 Hedwig Glomb chose to appear on a Concert for Polish Sufferers. She would play piano accompanying Mme. Agnes Nering, a soprano of international reputation. At the time America was just beginning to recognize that the war in Europe might continue for a interminable time, and that there were many competing interests among Americas immigrant citizens.

Pittsburgh Press
12 September 1915

 As I explained at the beginning of my story
there is no photograph.
Only a name, Hedwig Glomb.

And a date 1910.
Then 1914.
And finally 1916.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
3 May 1916

On May 3rd, 1916 the Pittsburgh Daily Post ran a brief notice on the death of Hedwig Glomb, 20 years old, daughter of Prof. Hans Glomb, organist and instructor of music, and Mrs. Mary Kopcinski Glomb after a brief illness. She was born in Sharpsburg and was a pianist of note.   

The following day the paper ran a notice that the Polish Concert of the Moniuszko Polish Singing Society was canceled due to the death of Miss Hedwig Glomb, daughter of the the musical director, Prof. John Glomb.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
4 May 1916

The cause of death was not reported but Hedwig Glomb's certificate of death is preserved in the archives of Her doctor affirmed that she died on May 1, 1916 at the St. Francis Hospital from lobar pneumonia. Her age was 19 years, 9 months and 18 days.

 * * *


The next month, on June 29, John C. Glomb led a concert at the Pittsburgh convention of the Polish Singers' Alliance of America. Coming from Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, Toledo, and Pittsburgh 1000 male and female voices participated. All the numbers were sung in Polish except for the "Star-Spangled Banner" given at the close of the program in English.

Musical America
08 July 1916

The census records for the Glomb family are missing for the years 1900 and 1910. The information on Hedwig Glomb and her 6 siblings comes from the 1914 naturalization application submitted by her father John C. Glomb. But the Glombs do appear in the 1920 census for Millvale, PA. John and Mary Glomb have added two more children, two daughters, Cecilia age 4. And Hedwig age 2.

The 1930 census has the Glomb family in Bradfordwoods, PA, a borough north of Pittsburgh. John C. Glomb is now 55, occupation Director of Music. All the children are there except for one.

The youngest child, Hedwig's namesake, is missing.

John C. Glomb died in 1945 at the age of 71. His wife Mary Kopcinski Glomb, mother of 9 children,  lived another 26 years and died in 1971 at the age of 98. Inscribed on their gravestone are three names – John, Mary, and Hedwig, the eldest daughter.


I was wrong. There is a photo.
Girl Pianist in War Zone
Pittsburgher Seeks Child
Hedwig Glomb
Proof that you only need to dig deeper
and use a different combination
of search terms.

Pittsburgh Daily Post
31 August 1914

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where no photo story is just black and white.


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