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 }

Music for Monks

29 September 2017

It's called
the King of Musical Instruments.
And like a king,
it is all powerful.
From ethereal flutes of angels
to thundering blasts of great winds,
it c
ommands our attention
with majestic authority.
It is the pipe organ,
the most complex musical instrument
ever devised by man.

This example has four manuals or keyboards
each with 5 octaves of 60 pitches.
Dozens of smaller buttons
control the mixtures and stops.

On the right side are 80 large tabs called stops
which control which rank of pipes will be
activated by the four keyboards.
In between are 280 smaller buttons
that determine different combinations
for the organ sound colors.
Which goes better with the Rohrflöte?
Klein-Spitzflöte, the Fernflöte,
or the Hohlflöte

The left side has another 80 stops
with 260 smaller buttons.
A piano is a percussive keyboard instrument
that uses felt hammers to strike metal wire strings.
The pipe organ however is a wind keyboard instrument
because all the sounds are made by air
vibrating through a collection
of tubes, pipes, reeds, and flutes.
That air is triggered
by thousands of switch mechanisms,
each activated by the organist
for every pitch.

Beneath the main keyboard is the pedalboard
with 36 levers played by the organist's feet.
This three octave chromatic range
covers the bass notes in organ music
which are written on a third music staff
below the two staves used for the right and left hand.
Above the pedalboard are
27 more organ stops triggered 
by levers instead of buttons.
On the right are seven foot pedals
that operate swells and shades
that open and shut
the enclosure around the organ pipes
giving the organist
more musical expression and dynamics
for the various organ timbres.

The intricate construction
necessary to manage
such a complicated machine,
using carefully calculated systems
for acoustic, pneumatic, and mechanical engineering,
made organ building
the supreme technology
of earlier centuries.

This organ keyboard resides
in a country well known
for manufacturing precision devices,


One the back of the postcard is a caption:
Spieltisch der grossen Orgel
in der Stiftskirche Engelberg erbaut 1926

Keydesk of the great organ
in the church of St. Engelberg built in 1926

The organ occupies one wall of the chapel of the Engelberg Abbey (German: Kloster Engelberg), a Benedictine monastery in Engelberg, Switzerland. It is the largest pipe organ in Switzerland with 137 registers and 9,097 pipes. The first version of the great organ was completed in 1877 by Friedrich Goll, and had only 50 registers and three manuals (keyboards). In 1926 the console shown on this photograph was installed when the organ underwent a major modification that expanded the organ stops to 134 registers. A restoration in 1993 added three more sets of registers. The longest organ pipe is 9.06 meters (29' 8") while the smallest measures only 5 mm (3/16").

The organ pipes are arranged in a balcony above the western doorway of the chapel nave, with the organ console hidden behind a screen.

Engelberg Abbey grosse Orgel
Source: Wikimedia

The Engelberg Abbey was founded in 1120 by Blessed Konrad von Sellenbüren. The interior of the abbey's church is decorated in a brilliant white Rococo style. 

Engelberg Abbey
Source: Wikimedia

The Engelberg Abbey is still maintained as a Benedictine monastery and a boarding school. Though pillaged by the French in 1798, the abbey's library ironically contains a complete set of the writings of Martin Luther.

In recent times it also the base of the Academia Engelberg Foundation, a Swiss foundation in the Canton of Obwalden that promotes international dialogue on how scientific, technological and ecological knowledge influence the values of society.

Engelberg Abbey
Source: Wikimedia

Google Maps provides a 360° interior view
of the Engelberg Abbey Chapel
so that we can see the altar
and splendid ceiling.



Situated nearly in the center of Switzerland, the town's name translates directly as Angel Mountain. The principal industry of Engelberg's 4,134 citizens is tourism, as the elevation of the Engelberg Abbey chapel is 1,013 m (3,323 ft) while to the south is Mount Titlis at 3,238 m (10,623 ft). However the better vista is northeast with the snow covered Lauchernstock in center, the Ruchstock to the left, and the Gross Gemsispil to the right.

Engelberg, Switzerland
Source: Wikimedia

Once again Google Maps provides
a spectacular 360° exterior view
of Engelberg during a colder season.
The abbey is across the river to the right.



My instrument, the horn, requires only good lips, three fingers and a thumb, and a decent ear to make music, one note at a time. Unfortunately hornists have perpetuated a myth that our instrument is the "most difficult" to play, which is patently false. Every musical instrument can be both hard or easy to play well, as it all depends on what kind of sound you want to make.

But the pipe organ belongs to a special class of difficulty. The technology of organ building is really not much different than it was in the time of Johann Sebastian Bach. It's just that now there are more choices of sound timbres and better electrical actions to replace the old wooden and metal mechanisms. But to play organ music properly, an organist must be as familiar with the organ console as a pilot of a jet airliner. They must be able to juggle musical rhythms and notes across multiple keyboards using 10 fingers and both feet. They can only practice their instrument in one specific acoustical space and then only when it is not being used as a place of worship. And they do this usually while seated with their back to the choir and the audience. What other instrument requires rear view mirrors!

Truly, the pipe organ is the King of Instruments.


As a coda to this story of a postcard,
let's listen to a short piece
played on the grossen Orgel
of the Kloster Engelberg.
It is the Choral Prelude
Christ lag in Todesbanden BWV 625
by Johann Sebastian Bach
played by Timur Deininger



This next video of the great organ of the Engelberg Abbey
demonstrates a very different kind of organ music.
It is called Volumina
by the Hungarian avant-garde composer
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
and is performed by Père Patrick Ledergerber.
The music has no melody or counterpoint
but instead is an atonal work
about the soundscape that a pipe organ creates.
The performer is at liberty to improvise
based on the composer's instructions
and diagrammed shapes of effects.
Think of it as a great abstract art form
describing the primal nature of sound.



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where you never know who is at the controls.

The Lake Park Cornet Band

22 September 2017

It's the first thing you notice.
His tall bearskin hat
nearly as fuzzy
as his whiskers.
He's the drum major,
and even without his hat
he is still a hand taller
than the other bandsmen.

They're outdoors in a typical brass band formation
lined up with low brass on one side
and high brass including
a little treble E-flat clarinet
on the other.

The bandsmen wear a simple uniform jacket
with Civil War type forage caps.
About half have mustaches
while the rest are clean-shaven.
Only the drum major has a beard.

One musician is too young
to be thinking of tonsorial fashions.
A few steps in front of the drum major
stands a boy dressed
in velveteen short pants and cadet cap.

He is perhaps age five or six.
Tucked under his left arm is, I believe, a cornet.

Just behind him is the bass drum
turned to show the band's name
stenciled on the drum head.

Lake Park Cornet Band

Befitting their name
the band of 15 men and 1 boy
are posed against a body of water
seen in the misty background.
The town lake perhaps?

It's an early cabinet card with a faded albumen print.
Like all the scanned images on my blog,
I've improved the contrast and enriched the sepia tone
through the magic of photo software.

The photographer's backstamp shows
a flying cherub holding
an artist's palette and brushes in one hand
and a wooden bellows camera in the other.

W. O. Bergerson
Albert Lea

The town of Albert Lea, Minnesota, is near Minnesota's southern border with Iowa and situated at the crossroads of Interstates 35 and 90. Settled in 1858, it was named after Albert Miller Lea, a US Army engineer and topographer who in 1835 surveyed southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. But after the Civil War, the town flourished because it became the intersection of the S. M. and M. & St. L. railroads (Southern Minnesota and Minneapolis and St. Louis Railways). In the 1878 Minnesota Gazetteer Albert Lea was described as having a population of 2,300 inhabitants. It boasted of a flour mill, planing mill, foundry, 3 steam-powered grain elevators, 7 churches, a graded school with four teachers, two banks, 5 hotels, an opera house, three different telegraph agencies, and two newspapers. It claimed to export considerable wheat, cattle, and hogs. Mail was delivered 6 times a day.

It also had a photographer, William O. Bergerson, who paid extra to get his name printed in bold.

1878 Minnesota Gazetteer
Source: Google Books

Even though Bergerson's photo shows the location of his studio, it's always nice to get corroboration with a full name. Clearly in 1878 Albert Lea, MN had good connections to the Midwest's larger urban centers which made it a fairly prosperous place to live. Certainly an ideal community for an ambitious photographer and a brass band.

By good fortune one of Albert Lea's two newspapers has been digitized on with hundreds of searchable copies from 1870 through 1900. A search for "cornet band " produced a number of references to its own town bands, but none of them were named the "Lake Park Cornet Band." But more concerning was that Wm. O. Bergerson, photographer, also did not appear in the Albert Lea newspapers.

* *

In fact there is a Lake Park, Minnesota, but it's up near Fargo, North Dakota, over 300 miles to the north northwest of Albert Lea. Though some town brass bands did occasionally travel to nearby towns,  it seems very unlikely that this small band would venture so far south. Perhaps there was another reason.

Perhaps the band did not move, but the photographer did.

In the 1880s the publishing houses of Chicago made a lot of money putting out regional gazettes and biographical encyclopedias. One such compendium printed in 1889 came with a title so long it wouldn't fit on the book spine.

Illustrated Album of Biography of the Famous Valley of the Red River
of the North and the Park Regions of Minnesota and North Dakota
published by Alden, Ogle, & Co. Chicago 1889
Source: Google Books

The Illustrated Album
of the Famous Valley of the Red River
of the North and the Park Regions
including the most Fertile and Widely Known Portions
of Minnesota and North Dakota.
Containing Biographical Sketches
of Hundreds
of Prominent Old Settlers
and Representative
with a Review of their Life Work
their Identity with the Growth and Development
of these Famous Regions
Reminiscences of Personal History and Pioneer Life
and other Interesting and Valuable Matter
which should be Preserved in History

published by Alden, Ogle, & Co. Chicago 1889

* *

On page 590 of the 845 page book was a biographical sketch of William O. Bergerson, a resident of the village of Lake Park, Becker County, Minnesota where he is engaged in the photographer's art. It continues with a detailed summary of his Norwegian parents and grandfather who emigrated to America in 1845, settling first in Decorah, Iowa before moving north in 1865 to Albert Lea, MN. In 1875, at about the age of 20, William O. Bergerson went to Chicago for a year.where he trained as photographer. On his return he opened a studio in Albert Lea, but in 1879 moved to Lake Park. There he opened the first permanent gallery in the village with all the modern improvements in apparatus and fixtures. He has a large class of customers and turns out some of the best work to be secured in that part of the State. 

Mr Bergerson was married in 1881 to Miss Nettie Clawson, a native of Albert Lea Minnesota and the daughter of Peter Anna Clawson, Mr and Mrs Bergerson have been blessed with two children Amelia and Jessie. Mr Bergerson is independent in political matters reserving the right to vote for the best man regardless of party lines He has held the offices of justice of the peace, town clerk, and has been a member of the village council. Mr Bergerson is a man of the strictest honor and integrity, and is highly esteemed by all who know him. He is one of the substantial business men of the village and is actively interested in all local matters 

In June 1880 the village of Lake Park had a population of 529, not even a quarter the size of Albert Lea. Yet they were a pretty healthy lot as the 1880 census asked the enumerator to record the general health of each individual. Out of 529 residents, only 2 were listed as sick, and the station agent had a broken leg.

The twelve pages of its census records are filled with people of Norwegian and Swedish decent, either first or second generation, with a smaller number of people from Canada, Ireland, and Germany along with a few from Eastern and Midwestern states. On page 3 is W. O. Bergerson, age 27, boarding at a farmer's house, single, occupation: Potographer. (sic). Given the population, it's not difficult to imagine that young Mr. Bergerson eventually took portrait photos of every man, woman, and child in the entire village.

1880 US Census - Lake Park, MN

So if in 1880, William O. Bergerson was still settling in at Lake Park, he probably was using up his old stock of cabinet cards imprinted for Albert Lea clients. With the dates from his biography, which he surely wrote up himself and paid the Alden, Ogle, & Co. a fee for its entry, it seems reasonable that the photo of the Lake Park Cornet Band was taken around 1879-1881.

Brass bands like the Lake Park Cornet Band played an important part in American small town culture, especially in the vast plains of the Midwest. It could be achingly lonely out on the prairie where farms were typically miles apart and it was a day's wagon ride into the local village. Music became an important link for developing a social bond of neighbors, either as a players or as listeners. Every community event required a concert of live music. Church socials, school dances, and patriotic celebrations needed music. I think this photo was taken on one of those occasions, on a summer day when the whole village of Lake Park turned out to hear their Cornet Band perform. A day of remembrance like  the 4th of July or Memorial Day.

There's a very small clue pinned to the coat of the hirsute drum major, a small medal with an upturned 5 pointed star. The symbol for the Grand Army of the Republic, the fraternal organization for Union Army veterans of the Civil War.

Grand Army of the Republic Medal
Source: Wikipedia

In 1880 the end of the war was only 15 years in the past. The centennial of the United States was only 4 years earlier, as was the Battle of Little Big Horn, where General Custer and Chief Sitting Bull became symbols for the struggle of the American Native Peoples. And Lake Park is actually only a short distance from the White Earth Indian Reservation, the largest Indian reservation in Minnesota established in 1867 for the Ojibwe native people. It was a time when even small villages out on the prairie paid close attention to the affairs of the world, and commemorated the memory of difficult times. The music of the Lake Park Cornet Band made those celebration days special.

* * *

The state of Minnesota proudly promotes its many lakes, 10,000 by the state nickname. The official number is 11,842 for lakes 10 acres or more. But if smaller lakes 2.5 acres or more are included the count reaches 21,871. Around Lake Park my simplistic estimate using Google Maps is over a hundred bodies of water within a roughly 5 mile radius. This Google Street View shows Becker County Hwy 9 which runs northeast between Lake Park's two principal lakes, Duck Lake and LaBelle Lake. The gentle grassy slopes in the near distance look like a good place to hold a band concert.

* *

* *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone can play I Spy.

Woodwinds at the Lake

16 September 2017

What can be more relaxing
on an afternoon by the lake
than listening to the mellifluous sound
of a bassoon?

Why listening to two bassoons!

This anonymous double reed duo
and their charming assistant
sit on a weedy lawn
by some unknown body of water.

The date is unknown
but to judge by the two gentlemen's
wool trousers, waistcoats,
and pocket watch
they are lost in time somewhere
between 1910 and 1930.

They have the look of professional bassoonists
who might be practicing any number
of orchestral duets for bassoons.
But I'm sure they would recognize
the familiar music performed in this video.



Georgie Powell & Thomas Dulfer perform Largo al factorum from The Barber of Seville
composed by Gioachino Rossini and arranged for two bassoons by Bram van Sambeek.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where if the fish aren't biting,
there's always a good story to tell.

Xylophon Kinder part 1

09 September 2017

Emil Jahn
der kleinste Xylophon-Virtuose der Gegenwart
5 jahre alt

the smallest xylophone virtuoso of the present
5 Years old

Dressed in a military bandsman's uniform,
little Emil stands proudly behind an instrument
that he called a Xylophon.
But it is 90 degrees different
from the modern percussion instruments
we know as xylophones and marimbas.
Those instruments arrange
the pitched wooden or metal bars
with the longer bass tones on the left
and the higher tones ranked progressively to the right
just like the keys of a piano.
Emil's xylophon has four columns of wooden bars
arrayed into trapezoidal shape
with the lower tone bars closest to him
and the higher ones farther away.
It's a bewildering system that does not follow
the familiar keyboard pattern of white keys for naturals
and black keys for sharps and flats.
It looks very difficult to play.
But once upon a time
it was easy enough
for little kids to master.

The postcard was sent to Fräulein Elsa Lantsch
and postmarked from Leipzig on 13 June 1914


Emil Jahn posed for another souvenir photo
dressed in a sailor suit, a popular boy's fashion of the time,
but with the edges of his collar and cuffs embroidered in scallops
and his jacket and short pants made in a velvet fabric.
He is holding a pair of curious shaped sticks
that are different from the ball-end mallets
used by modern xylophone players.
These are more like the spoon shaped hammers
used to play a Cimbalom or Hammered Dulcimer.
Both of these wire strung instruments
are similarly arranged into a trapezoid
with the strings stretched left to right
and having the low notes closest to the player.
Like xylophones and pianos
they belong to the percussion family
as the musical tone is produced
by being struck with a stick or hammer.

The postmark is not legible,
perhaps 1913 or 1914,
but it was sent to Fräulein Babbette Poptr(?)
Münchberg in Bavaria, Germany.


Die kleinste Xylophonvirtuosin
Gretel Link

This young girl appears to be about age 12.
Dressed head to toe in white,
Gretel stands before a trapezoidal xylophon
set upon a table that looks purpose made
to fold and carry her instrument.

This type of xylophone links the wooden bars together
with string cleverly knotted to space the bars.
They rest on tracks that were sometimes made of straw,
which gave the instrument its folk name,
Strohfiedel or Straw Fiddle.

It is also called
the Hölzernes Gelächter or Wooden Hilarity (?),
and was an instrument popular with musicians
of the alpine Tyrol region of western Austria.

Gertel Link's postcard was sent
from Nuernberg, Germany
on the 14th of January, 1913.


Elsa von Borstein
7 Jahre alt!

Xylophone Virtuoso
7 years old!

Little Elsa wears a feminine variation
of the sailor suit
as she concentrates on keeping
her xylophon sticks
from getting tangled in her long hair.
Her instrument is placed
on a heavy ornate table
but she still needs to stand on a box,
cleverly disguised with a carpet,
in order to reach the bars.


Her postcard was never mailed
but likely dates from around 1910.

The trapezoidal xylophon,
or Hölzernes Gelächter, or Strohfiedel,
was once a very common percussion instrument
in musical groups from Central Europe.
It was this type xylophon
that European composers
of the 19th and early 20th century
knew as a folk instrument.
I have many postcards of German/Austrian folk bands
that show one draped over a chair or placed on a small table.
Yet today this kind of pitched mallet percussion
with its baffling system of musical tones
is rare to find and largely forgotten
as it has been replaced by the improved xylophone
in the modern percussion world.

But for some reason it was once a very popular instrument
for talented small children
to play as soloists
in family musical ensembles.

Since I've found enough of their postcards
to display this interesting musical history,
this post is just the first
of a series I call
 Xylophon Kinder.

Stay tuned for more.

Now it's time to hear
what a
Hölzernes Gelächter sounds like.
Here is a YouTube video
of a performance by the Familienmusik Servi
that features some fast handwork on the Xylophon.

* * *

* * *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the kids are always up to something.

Musik im Norden

01 September 2017

It's a bit like
a floral decoration.
elaborate brassy candelabra of
gleaming horns and shiny tenor tubas
surround a centerpiece of glockenspiel,
interspersed with decorative sprigs of clarinets.
Flanking either side are two stout kettle drums
wearing frilled skirts embroidered
with a crossed anchor design.
Casually leaning against them
are two pairs of long bugles
embellished with colorful flags.

I have lots of band postcards
with similar arrangements
of musical instruments.
It's very German.


But none of them are displayed
beneath the long cannons
of a battleship.

Seventeen sailors dressed
in dark tunics and white caps
line up abaft their instruments.
Their bandleader wears an officer's hat
and sits in the center
just behind the glockenspiel's eagle crest.

They pose for the camera
on a naval ship's brightly scrubbed wooden deck.
Six imposing guns are visible
with barrels muted by rain caps.

In the distant background

a steep forested slope
can be seen.

The hatbands of seamen in the German navy
usefully identify the name of their ship.
The font is a Gothic script and reads:

Kreuzer Karlsruhe

The bugle banners have
typical German heraldry designs.
One shows a Prussian black cross
on a field of three colored bars,
the other has the motto FIDELITAS
diagonally across a shield symbol.

The Karlsruhe bandsmen are not dressed in uniforms
of Kaiser Wilhelm's Imperial Germany Navy.
Yet they do not wear swastikas of Hitler's Third Reich either.
If they are not sailors
of the Kaiserliche Marine (1871–1919)
or the Kriegsmarine (1935–45),
then they must be sailors of the Reichsmarine (1919–35)
Germany's navy during the interwar years
of the Weimar Republic.

They are most definitely German.
So why was their postcard printed in the USA?

Made in Juneau, Alaska
by Winter & Pond Co.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
10 April 1932

In April 1932, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser announced that the German cruiser Karlsruhe would soon arrive at Hawaii's Pearl Harbor. There were 30 officers, 59 cadets, and 470 enlisted men aboard the ship. It was built in Kiel by the Deutsche Werft  (sic - Werke) and completed in 1928 with a length of 570 feet, a beam of 49 feet 10½ inches, a maximum draught (sic - draft) of 17 feet 9 inches, and a displacement of 6,500 tons. (Metric conversions are always complicated in America) It carried armament of nine 6-inch guns, four antiaircraft guns, 18 machine guns, and 12 torpedo tubes.

The newspaper got most of it right. The Kreuzer Karlsruhe was a light cruiser, a small battleship designed more for speed rather than armor and firepower. It was the second ship built between 1926 and 1930 in the Königsberg class, all named after German cities: Königsberg, Karlsruhe, and Köln. Its namesake Karlsruhe is the second-largest city in the southwest state of Baden-Württemberg, and is situated on the Rhine River.

The first service for the cruiser Karlsruhe was as a training ship. Beginning in 1930 it made five world tours to Africa, South America, Asia, and North America. On this its second major voyage, Kapitän zur See Erwin Wassner, took over command in September 1931. The cruise went first to Cuba, followed by visits to Texas, Mexico, Venezuela, and then through the Panama Canal to Hawaii.

* *

In the 1930s major world powers continued to use naval fleets as an extension of diplomacy. But a battleship represented more than just military power. A large navy ship demonstrated national prestige and its crew acted as goodwill ambassadors for their country. And in 1932 Germany still had a lot of goodwill to make up for. A few days after docking at Pearl Harbor, Captain Wassner volunteered his ship's band to play a concert at a baseball game in benefit for a Honolulu beautification fund.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
30 April 1932

The visit of the cruiser Karlsruhe got a lot of notice in the Honolulu newspapers. "Doc" Adams, an editorial writer for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser was impressed by the number of German sailors who spoke English, a number he considered ten times greater than those American sailors who could speak German. He attributed this to the superiority of European educational systems and the useless effort to teach Latin in American schools.

The writer finished his criticism by recounting his visit to a school in Auckland, New Zealand where he was stumped by a student's question. "If your president dies and the vice president dies who becomes president?" He was embarrassed that he didn't know. Then the class stood up and sang the "Star Spangled Banner" in his honor. With ALL the verses!

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
1 May 1932

The Karlsruhe did have a few foreign civilian workers on the ship, five Chinese laundrymen who were reported by the newspaper's Chinese-Hawaiian photographer to talk terrible German.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
7 May 1932

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
10 May 1932

On May 9, 1932 the cruiser Karlsruhe departed for its next port of call in Alaska. As it cast off from the pier at sunset, its decks were lined with its officers and crewmen wearing traditional Hawaiian leis over their white uniforms. Even the bow of the ship was decorated with flowers. As the Karlsruhe pulled away the band played Hawaiian music to the crowd of people on the pier who had come to say farewell.

* *

Newspapers in Alaska probably reported the arrival of the cruiser Karlsruhe with the same enthusiasm as the Hawaiian papers, but unfortunately the internet archives have yet to digitize many Alaskan newspapers. But I did find one brief mention of the ship''s visit in a Bellingham, Washington paper that noted the appearance of Captain Wassner and his men at an American Legion Memorial Day parade in Juneau, AK. The report left out a crucial prefix by describing Wassner as a captain of marine during the World War. In fact he commanded 6 submarines or German U-boats in the war, sinking or disabling 90 allied ships.

Bellingham WA Herald
30 May 1932
Alaska only became an official territory of the United States in 1912 and would not gain statehood until 1959. According to the 1930 census its total population was just 59,278. Alaska's first capital was Sitka, a town located on the Pacific side of Baranof Island in the Alaska Panhandle. The capital was moved to Juneau in 1912, but the Alaska Territorial Federal Building was not completed until 1929. Juneau's citizens numbered only 4,043 in 1930, so the entire city probably turned out to see the Kreuzer Karlsruhe when it dropped anchor in Juneau's harbor. Alaska's Digital Archives provide a photo of the ship.

Kreuzer Karlsruhe Juneau, AK May 25, 1932
Source: Alaska's Digital Archives

The same photo was used by several newspapers across the country to promote the harmonious relations between Germany and the United States, but they cropped the photo leaving out dramatic Mount Juneau rising 3,576-foot (1,090 m) from the sea. The photo of the band was taken from the aft deck where there are two gun turrets. 

Reno NV Gazette-Journal
7 June 1932

After a few days in Juneau, the Karlsruhe moved south with stops in Seattle and Portland. The Portland newspaper reported that the Karlsruhe band played for the Pacific Northwest German Saengerfest. The band numbered 28 musician and became an orchestra for dances at the fest. The concert program began with a performance of Wagner's Renzi Overture. Throughout its tour of American ports from Galveston, TX to Honolulu, Juneau, Seattle, and Portland the cruiser Karlsruhe hosted many German-American organizations. Perhaps the biggest enticement for the public was the German beer available on board the ship which was otherwise illegal according to America's new Prohibition laws.

Portland OR Oregonian
19 June 1932

The Karlsruhe had to cut short its tour of the Pacific Northwest when it was ordered to Chile to monitor an unstable political scene. It then took the long way around Cape Horn and South America and arrived in Philadelphia in early November 1932. Captain Wassner along with a contingent of officers and men of the Karlsruhe traveled down to Washington, DC to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. Later he and his crew also attended a football game at the Annapolis Naval Academy.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a photo of Captain Wassner's visit. One either side are two reports ironically foreshadowing the terrible events to come in the next decade. On the left is a report from Russia on the 15th anniversary of the Communist Revolution. Standing atop Lenin's Mausoleum, Joseph Stalin watched a parade in Moscow's Red Square of 1,000,000 people. On the right is a report on the Socialist Party's nominee for President of the United States, Norman Thomas. He was quoted at a rally at Brooklyn's Academy of Music, "Do not throw away your vote by voting your fears rather than your faith, by trying to choose the lesser of two evils when both are equally bad."

The next day, American voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in the presidential election of 1932. With over 57% of the popular vote Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the election, beating incumbent President Herbert Hoover by a landslide. The Socialist Party candidate Norman Thomas came in third with 2.2%.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
7 November 1932

The cruiser Karlsruhe returned to its home port Kiel on December 8, 1932. A month later on 30 January 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. Just a few weeks after that came the tragic fire in Berlin that led to the passing of the infamous Reichstag Fire Decree, which rescinded most German civil liberties, including rights of assembly and freedom of the press. The decree also allowed the police to detain people indefinitely without charges or a court order. On the death of Hindenburg in August 1934, Hitler assumed complete power as Führer und Reichskanzler.

Between  October 1934 and June 1936 the Karlsruhe made three more world tours but with new German flags hanging from the band's trumpets. It never returned to Juneau but it did stop once more at Honolulu. In February 1934 the local newspaper ran a photo of the new commander, Captain Freiherr Harsdorf von Endendorf bedecked with several rings of Hawaiian leis. Next to him is a picture of the Karlsruhe band playing "Aloha Oe" in reply to a musical salute from the Royal Hawaiian Band on the pier.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
24 February 1934

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
28 February 1934

The band of the Kreuzer Karlsruhe played a concert on February 29, 1934 that was broadcast over radio station KGMB.  The bandleader Max Joas was the same director who posed with the band in 1932. The band concert concluded with Unter dem Sternenbanner, Marsch also known as The Stars and Stripes Forever march by John Philip Sousa. As history unfolded over the next few years, it would be a long time before a German Navy Band played this march in Pearl Harbor.

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In 1936 the cruiser Karlsruhe was seriously damaged by a tropical storm in the Pacific and forced to put into San Diego for repairs at the US Navy Shipyard. Two years later it underwent a major modification in Kiel shipyards that included replacing the 8.8 cm guns with heavier 10.5 cm guns.

At the start of WW2  it joined the German naval forces invading Denmark and Norway. After engaging in a successful combat operation to capture Kristiansand, the Karlsruhe set off from the fjord with three torpedo boat escorts. It was spotted by the British submarine HMS Truant which fired a spread of torpedoes. Despite taking evasive action the Karlsruhe was struck in the bow and amidships. With flooding disabling both engines and generators, the commander was compelled to order the crew to abandon ship. They were taken off by one of the torpedo boats which then fired torpedoes into the Karlsruhe to sink her.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link for more useful stories
with practical illustrations.


Just over a week ago, 
I too was standing on a ship
that overlooked the magnificent mountains of Alaska.
As this was a peaceful expedition
there were no great guns over my head.

The fjords and islands
of Alaska's southeast panhandle
contain some of the most stunning landscapes
that I've ever seen.
Words and music,
or even photographs and video,
can not fully describe
the awesome grandeur
of this wild place.
Especially when it is cold and very wet.

The South Sawyer Glacier
of the Tracy Arm Fjord
as photographed on August 23, 2017.
In the center
is a boat about 60 feet in length.
The water here is over 600 feet deep.
The mountains are over 5,500 feet tall.


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