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 }

The Well Dressed Clarinetist No. 3

30 June 2017

Buttons, lace, braids,
cords, fourragères, aiguillettes
cuff insignia, shoulder straps, epaulets,
belt buckles, cap badges, collar dogs,
feathers, plumes, and cockades
were once standard accoutrements
of a well dressed musician. 

During the years between 1865 and 1900
the proliferation of bands in America
created a demand
for distinctive uniforms with styles
that would look good on bandsmen,
both in concert and on the march.

To judge by the number in my collection,
Clarinet players, or clarionettists, as they were once called,
seemed particularly fond
of being photographed in their band uniform.
This young man strikes a gallant pose
in his bandsman's uniform
which has the full livery
of a typical musician of the 1880s.
His cabinet card photograph was taken by
J. Hebbel of 409 N. Gay St., Baltimore, Maryland.

Unfortunately he has set aside 
his hat which could offer a good clue
as to whether he really was a military musician.
Though his buckle does have an embossed eagle
which would be appropriate for a member
of a United State Army or State Militia band,
in this era there were many civilian bands
that dressed in an elaborate quasi-military style.

* * *

This hirsute clarinetist does wear a cap
but it is pushed back on his balding pate
so as to hide any insignia.
His uniform has ornate embroidery
borrowed from the styles of
European military uniforms.
Pinned to his chest is a ribbon medallion
which I believe may be
a sign of some special occasion
rather than an award for musicianship.
His clarinet has a lyre attached
holding a folio of his music

 His cabinet card photograph
was made in Marion, Kansas
by Mrs. McMullin,
a rare example of the work
of a female photographer.

* * *

This musician stands with
a more at-ease pose
with his clarinet.
His American style forage cap
has a musical lyre badge
surrounded by a wreath,
a universal symbol for a musician,
and still used today as a military band insignia.
His jacket has toggles instead of buttons
with embroidered braid not unlike
German or Austrian uniform styles.

His photo was taken by
Julius Gross
successor to Cramer
at 1001 South Broadway
cor. Chouteau Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri.

Fine Art Painting
a Specialty
Oil, Pastel, & Crayon.

Sadly Mr. Gross's camera was a bit out of focus
for us to see the clarinetist's music placed
on the wire music stand next to him.
I suspect it indicates
his was a principal first-chair musician.

* * *

This final cabinet photograph 
shows a clarinet player
with an impressive beard
wearing what is perhaps
the most flamboyant uniform
in my collection.
From the plume on his tall white hat
to his two-tone belt,
his costume seems far beyond
even full-dress military attire.
He wears a decorative knotted cord,
similar to the Baltimore clarionetist,
that is not quite an aiguillette, nor a fourragère.
Maybe it was a kind of clarinet swab. 
I think his white (or lemon yellow?)
fancy uniform is most likely
the costume of a circus bandsman.
Compare this musician's hat
with the band in the second wagon
in my story from last weekend,
The Day the Circus Came to Town.
There are initials on his hat
unfortunately the contrast
is too bright to read what they are.
 I especially like his colorful satchel
where he kept his music, extra reeds,
and maybe a hairbrush too.


His cabinet card photo
was taken by the Newcomb studio
of 162 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, Utah.

Salt Lake City was an important railway hub
for theatrical troupes and musical groups
traveling the entertainment circuits
that crisscrossed 19th century America.
Every circus had a band as did
minstrel shows and vaudeville troupes.
Fraternal and Masonic societies
also established bands
that performed in extravagant uniforms.

* * *

None of these clarionetists left a name on their photograph.
We can only suppose that they lived
in the same community as the photographer,
but they could easily be just traveling through.
All are photo styles that date from 1885 to 1898.
It was an era when a manly man
waxed his mustache, 
combed his epaulets,
and was proud to display his instrument.

To see more examples of
clarinet uniform styles
check out my post from 2011
The Well Dressed Clarinet
and the sequel from 2012

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where you never know what you'll see.


Little Nell said...

You get extra points for mentioning the hairbrush! Are you sure there wasn’t a toy dog in there too? That magnificent plume would need combing (or brushing) along with the moustache.

Barbara Rogers said...

I do like thinking of that last man's costume as lemon yellow! And I note that he wore his satchel strap inside his belt, rather than over it as I would. I carry my purse in that way all the time now...cross my shoulders on my hip.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Wonderful costumes. I wonder how they maintained them...being on the road so much. Especially the light coloured jackets. I suppose the wearing of such uniforms was part of the attraction of playing in a band. Where else could men be so flamboyant? Neat connection to the theme with the hair brush.

La Nightingail said...

Somehow you always manage to connect your post to the prompt in some way. I, too, offer my kudos to mentioning the possibility of a hairbrush. Clever you . . . but then you are. :)) My Dad played the clarinet in his high school band (Berkeley High, Berkeley, CA) I wish I had a picture of him in his band uniform and with the whole band, but unfortunately, I don't. I wonder if I might find it online, though? It seems you can find almost anything there these days? That first fellow in your post is certainly a good-looking young man! Even old ladies notice things like that!!

ScotSue said...

Another great collection of band costume, though the idea of lemon yellow does not appeal. My favourite has to be the young handsome chap in the first photograph.

Tattered and Lost said...

That second fellow looks so much like the actor playing a character named Caleb in AMCs show TURN. And the last fellow makes me think of San Francisco's Emperor Norton.

Would love to see a Battle of the Band uniforms.

And I think you're right that an ad blocker has been causing my problem. I turned it off and I can now post comments. Don't know why in the past when it was on it would sometimes allow posting and other times prevent it. But thanks for the tip!

Boobook said...

"a musical lyre badge surrounded by a wreath, a universal symbol for a musician, and still used today as a military band insignia"
I never knew that!! You can always be relied on to extend my general knowledge.

Wendy said...

Those uniforms whether military or quasi-military are works of art. Surely they were expensive.


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