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 Famous Twins

30 March 2019

Every parent likes to think their child is remarkable.
And parents of twins might be forgiven if their pride is doubled.

But what exceptional talent could these
two toddlers possibly have, cute as they are,
that would inspire this caption to their photo postcard?

Mr. & Mrs. Jan Kubelik & The Famous Twins.

Mother and father are seated outside on a large manicured lawn with two wide-eyed little girls between them. The girls look about the age of 3. The postcard was published by the Rapid Photo E.C. of London and sent to a wonderfully euphonic name – Miss S. Sharphouse of Victoria Avenue, Thirsk in North Yorkshire. There is no stamp or postmark, but written on the message side is a date and place.
11 Aug 1907
West End Pier

The West End Pier was an amusement promenade in Morecambe, Lancashire that extended over 1800 feet into Morecambe Bay  on the Irish Sea. It first opened in 1896 so was then only 11 years in operation when someone penned this note. As it's not a residential address but instead a place of music hall performances, the writer may be an entertainer of some kind. Or maybe just the location for an invitation to meet.

The handsome father and beautiful mother
appeared on another postcard,
but in a younger image
and so without children.

This postcard, published by Rotary Photo E.C., is captioned:

Mr. and Mrs. Jan Kubelik
Countess Czaky-Szell

The couple are again outdoors, the husband standing with a dark faraway gaze while his wife is seated, a picture of Edwardian leisure.
_ _ _

This card was sent on September 18, 1907 from Brighton, another city noted for its amusement piers, to Miss Orme, of Boscombe House, Boscombe Avenue, Leyton, Essex

Lovely day.  Now
off to Worthing
Hope you likedlittle


Clearly even without their famous twins, Mr. and Mrs. Jan Kubelik were considered celebrities worthy of having their own postcard series. But who were they? Why were their children "famous"?

Because in 1907 it actually would have been hard to find anyone who didn't recognize the handsome dark eyes and wavy black hair of Jan Kubelik, the brilliant Czech violinist who dazzled audiences everywhere with his music in the first decade of the 20th century. His picture was in every newspaper and music magazine. It was the mark of a good publicist that could secure such cleaver exposure on postcards. What young lady could resist looking into those eyes?

This postcard shows Jan staring into the camera lens and cradling his Guarneri del Gesù (or maybe Stradivarius) violin. It is captioned simply

Underneath is a date 19-4-03

Jan Kubelik would then have been just age 22. Born on July 5, 1880 in a district of Prague, Jan Kubelik was the son a Czech gardener and amateur violinist. When Jan was just five, his father recognized his musical gift and arranged for violin lessons. By the age of eight he was studying at the Prague Conservatory where he developed phenomenal skill on the violin by practicing 10 to 12 hours a day, or so he said "until his fingers started to bleed."  By 1898 at age 18 Jan undertook his first concert tour as a violin soloist. His first tour of the United States in 1900 earned a reported $100,000. In the 1901-02 season he played London to great acclaim, winning a gold medal from the  Royal Philharmonic Society. By 1906 he reached Australia. 

Kubelik's postcard was mailed on April 19, 1903 to Miss H. E. Godfrey of 16 Snill Road, Kettering. The postmark happened to be just a few weeks after newspapers around the world announced Kubelik's engagement to the Countess Anna Julie Marie Széll von Bessenyö, a romance with the plot line of a romance novel.

Frederick MD News
21 March 1903

In 1900 following one of his concerts in Hungary, Jan Kubelik fell in love with the beautiful daughter of the president of the Hungarian Senate, Wolfgang von Szell. Unfortunately the young woman was betrothed to a Count Czaky and compelled to marry him. However her heart was for Jan and she soon sought a divorce from the count. In the early newspaper accounts of 1903 it was reported that Countess Marianna was a widow, but in later reports from 1915 it seems they received a special annulment from the Pope. In any case Jan and Marianna's love prevailed and by 1904 the Kubeliks had twin daughters, Mary and Anne.

The Kubelik family made their home in a grand castle in Bohemia. I suspect this is where the first two outdoor postcards photos were taken. Even the citizens of Amarillo, Texas could admire the Kubelik estate as pictured in their local newspaper, though as grand as it may have been, I doubt the great violinist ever had an alarm clock like the Russian Czar. Only the highest level of royalty could afford to have a pair of military bandsmen assigned to play helicon duets as a wake-up call every morning.

Amarillo TX Weekly Herald
28 November 1907

By 1907 Mrs. Kubelik had added two more daughters to the family and brought them along when her husband made another concert tour of America that year. In Chicago when questioned  about any future matrimonial plans for her two twins, Mary and Anne, Mrs Kubelik said that she thought it a good idea that the girls marry the two twin sons of Fritz Kneisel, a Romanian violinist who was then concertmaster of the Boston Symphony and a good friend of her husband, Jan. 

Spokane WA Press
29 November 1907

The Kubeliks eventually would have 8 children, five daughters and three sons. Despite the twins being "famous" it was surprisingly hard to discover the names of the two girls, or for that matter, most of the other children too. Fortunately some newspaper reports did include first names. Some of the five girls became accomplished violinists but only one son, conductor Rafael Kubelík, (1914-1996) would make a career in music that rivaled his father's. Rafael Kubelik was music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as a frequent guest conductor of orchestras around the world.

Jan Kubelík died in Prague at age 60 in 1940. He was one of the first violinists to achieve success with making early gramophone recordings. YouTube offers this 1911 example of Kubelik's sound which I think is an appropriate piece for a father of eight children, two of whom were "famous twins". It's entitled Perpetuum Mobile by Niccolò Paganini, (1782-1840), who was considered the greatest violinist of his time and the composer of some of the most challenging music for violin. His music was a specialty of Jan Kubelik.



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where two is always double the fun.

Herr und Frau Biedermeier

22 March 2019

Nostalgia is a strong emotion.
Remember that special place?
That time when life was fresh and green?

 It's a powerful feeling to recall a sentimental life now past.
Ultimately all our fond memories are bound up in a love
that affects each of us and our collective culture too.

But each generation treasures a different era,
and a century ago, German nostalgia
focused on a time long ago in the early 19th century.

 That's what is depicted here
with Herr und Frau Biedermeier.

This postcard shows
elegantly dressed man and woman
looking as if they have just stepped off
the top of a wedding cake.
She wears a hooped white dress with elaborate hat
while the gentleman is attired
in a light colored tailcoat and top hat.

The card is captioned:

Herr und Frau Biedermeier.

In a variation of the first postcard
this second card shows
the woman without hat but with fan.
This postcard was sent from
Leibnitz, Austria on 25 July 1918. 

The term Biedermeier refers to a historical era in Central Europe from 1815 to 1848 which was time of relative peace and prosperity between the end of the Napoleonic era and the start of the Revolutions of 1848. In German and Austrian culture there was a boom in the middle class which encouraged an appreciation of new artistic styles in literature, music, the visual arts and interior design. In 1918 the fashions of the Biedermeier era were only 60-70 years gone, so this couple are modeling a style from their grandparents' generation.
The handsome couple are music hall entertainers, Franz Maier and Mina Walter. In December 1909 they were on the playbill for the Hotel Elefant, in Ljubljana, a city then in Austria but now in Slovenia.

Ljubljana, Slovenia, Laibacher Zeitung
14 December 1909
Dienstag den 14. und Mittwoch den  15. Dezember
der  populären Soubrette
Mina Walter
in ihrem modernen Programm.
Besonders zu  bemerken:
Die Schirmhändlerln, Parodie a. d. Operette
„Die Dollarprinzessin",  A bisserl geht er!
Höher geht's nimmer!  und  weitere   Originalschlager.
Theater  u. Variété!  Die ganze Welt und a Stückerl dazu!
 Im Luftballon
Maier  -Walter
neue Kostüm - Duette:
„D' Luftschiffer"
Maier - Walter al „ Renner - Buben"
Anfang 8 Uhr.
Zu zahlreichem Besuche ladet höflichst ein
Franz Maier, Direktor

Tuesday the 14th and Wednesday the 15th December
guest performance
the popular soubrette
Mina Walter
in her modern program.
Especially to note:
The Umbrella Merchants, parody a. d. operetta
"The Dollar Princess", A bit he goes!
Higher is never possible! and more original hits.
Theater and Vaudeville!  The whole world and a lump(?) to!   
In the balloon
Maier -Walter
new costume duets:
"Sunday's Children"
"D 'airship"
Maier - Walter al "Renner - Jacks"
Beginning 8 o'clock.
To many visits invites politely
Franz Maier, director

Franz and Mina first appeared in my story from May 2015 entitled Things Are Not Always What They Seem where they were dressed in matching men's suits and smoking an odd cigar pipe-thing.

This postcard dates from 18 September 1906 and was sent  from Graz, Austria.

In July 1906 the couple, dressed in the same suits, appeared in an engraving that was used in an advertisement for the Hotel Terschek in Celje, the third-largest town in Slovenia. In pre-WW1 era is was known as Cilli.

Deutsche Wacht
13 May 1906

I've not discovered what D'Lerchenfelder means exactly. Larks Fields is the direct translation, but I think it is a slang term perhaps for two men-about-town on the make. Uns hams g'halten is harder to understand. We hold something? Franz Maier (Mir geht's schlecht ~ I feel bad) refers to his hit song, a comic number that gave him his stage nickname. Mina Walter (mit neuem Repertoir ~ with a new repertoire) was his partner. 

I found only one short bio for Franz Maier on the internet, unfortunately in an encrypted German archive. It indicated that Franz Maier was born in 1851 in Tulln, Austria on the Danube River and died in 1928 in Wien (Vienna). He also was married to Mina Walter. So perhaps their wedding cake costume was authentic. I imagine Franz and Mina's act was not unlike the American comedy duo of George Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen. And though Maier's specialty was comic songs,  I suspect Mina, like Gracie, always got the best laughs.

As usual YouTube provides a suitable historic film
made at a San Francisco vaudeville theatre in 1912
which I think comes close to the act that Franz and Mina performed.
There is no sound but it shows a couple
clearly doing some comic bit that also includes some dancing.



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

All That Jazz

15 March 2019

A very tiny micro story
sketched from a large photo

David turned toward the curtained end of his studio, put his finger to his lips, and paused a moment in thought. "Okay, boys. Here's what we're going to do." He pointed to the piano. "Julius, you're in the center. I want you to turn the piano so I can see the keyboard. Then don't sit so much on the bench as leap at those ivories. I want to see your claws out!" 

"Yes, sir, Mr. Bloom." snapped the young man.   

Now directing his attention to the lanky trombonist, David inspected the man from head to toe. "I don't think we want you to look like Arthur Pryor, do we Joe?" 

The boy grinned and said, "No way, Mr. Bloom. We sure ain't no marching band."

"That's what I thought," said David. "How about you crouch down just there by the piano leg. Is that comfortable? And move Julie's banjo up. Yeah, that's right. Can you give me one of those big growls? That kind of smeary sound with the slide?"  

"Sure thing! It's my specialty." Joe blew a loud ripping noise as he slowly drew in the slide. "Always gets the girls attention."   

David laughed. "Perfect! Keep your arm out like that."

"Now three more. Let's see you fellas." David faced the other musicians and cocked his head. "You, the cornet. Bert? No. Bud! That right?" The man nodded. "You get down opposite Joe and point that horn just left of the camera."

"Now for our virtuoso concertmaster." David patted the shoulder of the violinist. "How's your mother, Sol? I hope she's well."

"She's good, Mr. Bloom," said the young man.

"Swell, that's nice to hear. You give her my regards when you see her next. I took photos of her troupe years ago when she was playing the Imperial circuit. She still dancing once in a while?"

"No, Ma put her tap shoes up in the garret a long time ago." Sol smiled. "But sometimes if I play an old waltz she'll take a spin around the kitchen linoleum."

David chuckled. "Swell, swell. You give her my best." He waved his hand at the piano. "You get behind Julius. There. No, wait, don't stand, you're not tall enough." He paused again with finger to lips. "Step onto that chair, and try sitting on the back. Can you do that? Great!"

With a deft twist David spun around to the last musician. "Now you, the drummer, Vincent was it?" he asked. The man wagged his head. "Let's put you and your gear on the other side of Sol. Get some sticks ready like you're going to set fire  a string of firecrackers."

David framed a rectangle with his fingers and thumbs and squinted one eye. "That's the idea. A little closer to the frog, Sol, and reach for the high note. Vincent, get those sticks up, maybe use more cow bell. And Bud, you make like you're blasting dynamite too."

"That just perfect, fellas." David walked quickly to the camera flipping a black cape over his head. "Hold it," he shouted. "Let's turn the heat up on that jazzy music to full boil. One. Two. Three!" He squeezed the shutter bulb. As he ducked out from under the camera shroud he exclaimed,  "Just swell! I think it's a keeper. I'll print these up tomorrow and they'll be ready for you to pick up later. Say after 3:00, okay?"  

The boys of the quintet beamed and chattered as they began to put away their instruments. "Say, fellas," David called, "Before you go, could you give me a sample of your stuff?" 

"Sure, Mr. Bloom," said Sol. "Here's a little hot-pepper tune we just learned last week for that college gig we got. We're still not sure what to call it. Maybe something Dixieland." He ran his finger up the keys in a fast gliss to a crashing chord. "Hit it, Vince!"

In a flash David's photography studio seemed illuminated by a bonfire of wild frenetic music. It wasn't just the unexpected loudness that startled him but the fast upbeat rhythms seemed alive with a primal intensity David had never experienced before. The five musicians kept a lively beat that wasn't like any patriotic march he'd ever heard. The melody was sprightly enough but it was much more intense and entangled than the usual love-struck song from an operetta. It sounded like the spring on the Victrola was broken, unleashing a turbulent froth of sound.

He suddenly realized he was tapping his foot. It was disconcerting to not understand the music and yet still get caught up in the noise. "Very peculiar," he thought, "Maybe it will catch on." He grimaced. "Then again maybe not. Just another fashion of youthful energy." He waved to the boys in the band as he escaped into his darkroom.

* * *

In a keyword search of the vast historical databases of newspaper archives the terms "jazz music" or "jazz band" do not show up until the winter of 1916 – 1917. In most texts they appear in advertisement listings for gramophone records, the big technology craze of the time. In the late 1910s the word "jazz" was not a commonly recognized musical style, even though for some years before it was part of musicians' slang in the ragtime and tin pan alley entertainment world. But until the gramophone came out as the new marvelous machine, capable of playing music anytime and anywhere, journalists and music critics had no reason to use a word which the general public did not understand. But by 1918 the musical term JAZZ took off, becoming a word for a new age.

This 8"x 10" photograph of five anonymous musicians has no date or note. There is just the photographer's logo to give a location and a suggestion of time period. But the pose of this youthful  quintet and the way they hold their instruments is obviously a brash style more appropriate to the post-WW1 era rather than to the reserved gentility seen in American culture before the war. Did they play "jazz" music? That's hard to say with complete certainty. The group certainly fits the instrumentation of early jazz combos, combo being a more recent word. They probably used the word "jazz" to describe their music but it probably sounded closer to ragtime and Dixieland styles than to the swing jazz of 1930s big bands or improvised tunes of 1940s bebop musicians.

The photograph was taken in the Bloom Photography Studio of Chicago owned by David Hyman Bloom, who along with his younger brother Samuel Bloom and sister Beatrice Bloom, ran the studio from about 1910 to 1935. Their family with sisters Mary and parents Max and Bertha Bloom were Jewish immigrants from Russia, specifically Lithuania. According to the 1910 US Census the eldest son David Bloom, who was age 23 and a photographer, arrived first in 1902 followed by the rest of his family in 1905. (Though in the 1920 census, the years are marked 1906 and 1908; and in 1930 unknown)

Initially their photography business in downtown Chicago, a block from Grant Park on the 5th floor of 144 Wabash Ave., was named the DeHaven Studio, and in some of my early blog stories I've featured photos from this studio. The location of the studio was close to Chicago's theatre district and the Blooms made a specialty of photographing musicians, actors, and entertainment troupes for publicity photos. These promotional photos were not produced as souvenirs for the fans but instead were duplicated in the hundreds for theatre managers and booking agencies. It was the best way to hook a date on the vaudeville circuit, which is why a good photo had to describe a show biz act in a single picture. 

In October 2011 my story entitled A Vaudeville Girl began with a DeHaven photo of a young entertainer, a multi-instrumental female musician, someone I still hope one day to identify. Then in February 2012 I wrote about a series of large format DeHaven photographs of the The Verdi Sextett, a small troupe of musicians who played the vaudeville theatre circuits. In those photos, my best estimate is that they were produced around 1914-16. Shortly afterwards the DeHaven studio's logo on photos changed to Bloom Chicago.

Earlier this year, 2019, I presented one of my longer musical histories on The Three Weston Sisters, a trio of talented sisters who had a long career performing music on the vaudeville stages of America. After finding many other images of this group in newspapers, I determined that my two photos of the Weston sisters was taken in the Bloom Studios about April 1918 or possibly a little earlier.

If we compare the Bloom photos of the Weston Sisters with the photo of this Jazz Quintet, we can see that they all posed on the same carpet.

It doesn't prove much, but a first-class photography studio would have kept its set wardrobe of props, i.e. curtains, chairs, carpets, etc., current with the public's taste for furnishing. Who would want to pose on the same old-fashioned frilly carpet in 1930 that was used for your photo in 1920? So I think it very likely that the Jazz Quintet came into Bloom Studios sometime between 1917 and 1920 to sit for their lively photo. Or maybe I should say "cut a rug"?

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday.
Does anyone know what the kids today are up to?

Ruffles, Lace, and Violins

08 March 2019

Her gaze is direct
with posture relaxed
and her violin at rest

 This girl's eyes are cast upward
with arms at ease
yet cradling her violin .

This young woman
holds her violin her shoulder
with bow arm ready to play,
but her head is up as if watching
for the conductor's next beat.

This young lady looks down
as if gratefully acknowledging her audience.
Her instrument is tucked under one arm
as her fingers touch the strings.

* * *

The first young woman is dressed in a white gown with tiered skirts and sleeves trimmed with a colored lace. She is seated in an ornate rattan wicker chair placed in a vaguely oriental style set framed by a Persian carpet, an embroidered overstuffed pillow, an ornamental palm on a turned wood table, and two large Chinese urns. The photographer's name was Ward of Taunton, Massachusetts and his cabinet card dates to about 1900-1905.

 * * *

The second girl is also from Massachusetts. Her white or light colored gown has a more discrete fashion almost a classic Grecian style with just a bit of ruffles around the collar. She stands against a featureless background with a misty foreground that gives her an angelic look. The photographer was  Elmer Chickering of 21 West St. Boston, and her photo was likely early 1890s. On the back of this cabinet card is written a name which is not entirely clear.  
Rossi Garund (?)

 * * *

The location of the third young woman is unknown as the photographer left no imprint. Her dress is white with quite a lot of gauzy material ruffled in the shoulders and sleeves. Like the first violinist she is seated in a rattan wicker chair with a painted backdrop. My guess is that her photo was taken in the early 1900s 

* * *

The last young lady is not quite seated but casually perched on the arm of a heavy carved wood and  upholstered chair. Her foot is atop a small hassock and beside her is a table supported by an impressive carved elephant. Her gown is white or possibly a light pastel color with a higher laced  collar and longer sleeves. She has a dark ribbon tied around her neck. Her instrument appears thicker than a violin so I believe it is a viola, the alto voice in the string family. The photographer was Walter E. Chickering of 476 Washington St., cor(ner) of Avon, Boston, who took pains to distance himself from Elmer Chickering who operated a studio at the same time in Boston. This cabinet card is late 1880s to early 1890s I think.

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

The Girls of Austrian Postcards

01 March 2019

Youth and beauty
are irresistible.

A young pretty face
is hard to ignore.

Artists have known this
since forever.

And so have publishers
and advertisers.

If a pleasing picture
of an attractive girl
will sell once
it will sell a thousand times.
Especially if is only costs a Heller or two.

Last year I acquired an Austrian postcard from around 1900 that displayed an etching of a ladies' orchestra. I was attracted to it because it resembled another postcard of young female musicians which I had bought some years ago. Indeed both postcards were signed with the same name, H. Torggler, and published by the same firm, Fr. A. Ackermann, Kunstverlag, München.

Intrigued by this artist's rendition of musicians I went in search of more. What I discovered was that the Ackermann Kunstverlag produced hundreds of postcards by this artist. Most are charming portraits of young women, and though a few include musical instruments, I was fascinated by the artist's depiction of German/Austrian female fashions and activities from the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. So I've started a new sub-genre in my collection that is a novelty outside of my usual musical themed photographs.

By way of introducing my readers to this artist, this story is about four postcards by H. Torggler. The first sketch is of a girl playing a lute-like instrument as she waits for the kettle to boil. Her attention seems focused on something hidden beyond the steam. The captioned title reads:

Heimchen am Herd

Cricket at the stove

This postcard was sent to Wohlgeboren Fräulein Toni Hengl of Mauer, a village southwest of Wien (Vienna) that is now part of the city. The term Wohlgeboren means well born and was an honorific used when addressing the lowest rank of German/Austrian nobility. The postmark is too faint to read but I believe it is sometime around 1900.

* * *

The second postcard shows a young woman brushing crumbs off a plate onto a windowsill for the benefit of two pigeons. Her eyes however are looking at something else The captioned title reads:

Auf die Krümlein harrt der Spatz
The sparrow awaits the crumbs

This postcard was sent from Altenburg, Germany,  a city in Thuringia south of Leipzig on 6 July 1899 to Fräulein Margarette Franke, Lehrerin (teacher) of Chemnitz, a city in Saxony, eastern Germany.

* * *


The next postcard has another young lady seated in a drawing room and wearing a heavyweight  garment suitable for cooler weather. She seems lost in thought, perhaps gazing at a photograph on the small table before her. The caption title is:

Gendenke mein !
Remember mine !

This card is postmarked 5 September 1899 from Luzern, Switzerland, from Catherine to Herr Seb. Zimmerman. She thanks him for his card and sends her heartiest greetings.

* * *

This last postcard of Torggler is a drawing of a more seductive woman that is also a bit musical. This young girl is dressed in a kind of gypsy costume that exposes a bit more skin and she holds a tambourine above her head. The caption reads simply:

which is a vigorous Italian dance known throughout Europe and often illustrated by tambourine-waving dancers. The card was sent 12 August 1900 to a Fräulein L... living in Hungary.

The postcards only have the artist's printed name, H. Torggler, but his full name was Hermann Torggler, (1878-1939) and he was born in Graz, Austria. These postcard sketches clearly represent early work that he created sometime between age 18 to 24. Evidently Torggler's youthful artistic talent was recognized by the city of Graz which awarded him a prize to study in Wien. There he established himself as a much admired portrait painter. His output includes several paintings of the great composers and writers associated with Vienna. Much of Hermann Torggler's success was helped by the Ackermann Kunstverlag which kept producing his paintings and sketches for many years into the 1930s.

I find Torggler's early sketches both charming and witty. They may be stylized images of an ideal young woman, but I like how they offer another viewpoint of Austrian/German culture from this pre-WW1 era that is different from the other musical photos I usually collect. As with many of my enthusiasms, Torggler's postcards now occupy their own special album, so my readers can expect many more on his artist.

this is my contribution to Sepia Saturday.
Click the link to see what's cooking.


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