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 }

An Atlantic City Love Story, part 1

27 July 2019

What is the price of fame?
We know it takes hard work,
requires willpower and perseverance.
But what is the personal cost of winning celebrity?
Lost time? Divided family?
Broken friendships? Failed love?

This is a story about that struggle
between ambition and desire.

 In 1904 a newspaper headline set the scene.

 The Long Distance
'Phone Romance
of the Millionaire's
Daughter and the
Italian Band Master

An Atlantic City Love Story

Buffalo NY Sunday Morning  News
21 February 1904


Longtime readers of this blog may remember one of the two principal characters in this love story whose postcard featured in my post from May 2018. He was Oreste Vessella, the charismatic bandleader of an Italian Band that performed at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey, America's premier recreation resort in the 1900s. Though most people came for the sun, sand and surf, many enjoyed the musical culture provided by concerts at the Steel Pier.

In 1904 Oreste Vessella was a recent immigrant having arrived in America in July 1901 at age 24. A native of Alife, a small town in the Campania region of Italy, Oreste received his first musical training as a clarinetist at the Naples Conservatory and then went on to study composition in Genoa. His uncle was Alessandro Vessella (1860–1929), a noted band director and composer in Rome. His father and brothers were also skilled musicians, and Marco Vessella, the youngest brother, later became a popular band director at a Pacific coast resort in Long Beach, California. (See my post from July 2015, Music on the Beach)

Allentown PA Morning Call
04 October 1902

Oreste's father, Crescenzo Vessella, was already living in Little Italy in Manhattan, New York when Oreste arrived in America, likely traveling with other musicians of the so-called Royal Italian Band of Rome. Whether he was the bandleader at that time, or just another clarinet is not clear, but by 1902 the 50 piece band promoted him as its new star conductor.

In 1903, Oreste secured an engagement for his Royal Italian Band of Rome, at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. It was the start of a long relationship that would continue for nearly 25 years. The pier opened in 1898 as a 1,650 ft long amusement park attached to Atlantic City's famous boardwalk. Combined with the many grand hotels along the boardwalk, the Steel Pier became an entertainment center for the many national conventions attracted to Atlantic City in the summer months. A covered section of the pier served as a stage area for concerts by bands and orchestras. Vessella's band would typically play 3 times every day during the summer season.

_ _ _

This postcard shows how the Steel Pier appeared in 1911. The two story section at the entrance contained a casino and a music hall which could seat 1,200 patrons. Further along was a dancing pavilion with room for 3,500 and another at the end which could accommodate 4,500. On one occasion during its first season over 18,000 people were admitted to the pier.

Here for the day
with the crowd
Lots of fun. Saw
somebody this morn-
ing, you know.

As amusement resorts flourished in the 1900s, so did the postal service with the advent of picture postcards. Seaside amusement parks sold thousands of postcards every day, and a picture of a animated Italian band conductor made for a flashy message to send back to the folks at home. 

This image of Oreste Vessella,
with his arms raised
dramatically in musical command,
was never posted, but was marked on the back in ink:
Atlantic City, N. J.
July 1st. 1905

Oreste's autograph on the front is printed.


The second character of this love story was Miss Edna Egan. Born in Ohio in July 1885, she was one of the seven children, three sons and four daughters, of Thomas P. and Alma E. Egan of Cincinnati. Mr. Egan was a "captain of industry" and a "multi-millionaire." In the summer of 1903, shortly after Edna's 18th birthday, the Egan family, rather than going abroad to the "fjords of Norway or the lakes of Switzerland," took their holiday in Atlantic City. Of course that summer the talk on the Boardwalk was about the handsome dark-eyed Italian band master, Oreste Vessella. So Edna went to his concert.

Buffalo NY Sunday Morning  News
21 February 1904

The music was nice enough, "the Earl King", the march from "Tannhauser", but then the band played "Violets", Edna's favorite song. Suddenly emboldened she sent a note to the dashing conductor asking if he would repeat "Violets". Looking into the audience, Oreste spotted the tall, beautiful young woman in the first row, so of course it was encored. And over the following days repeated again and again. It did not take long before a mutual friend arranged an introduction. Charm led to infatuation led to desire. By the end of the summer, Oreste's heart was hooked. But a marriage proposal is a kind of business contract and Oreste needed to negotiate one final hurdle. Edna's father.

Thomas P. Egan
Source: American Carpenter and Builder, 1910

Edna's father was Thomas P. Egan (1847–1922), president of The Egan Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio. Born in Ireland, T. P. Egan started work in Cincinnati at a machine shop where he suffered an accident and lost an arm. This misfortune proved most fortunate in that it moved him off the workshop floor and into the accounting and sales office. In 1874 he started his own company that manufactured every kind of woodworking machinery — wood lathes, band saws, table saws, mortisers, molders, jointers, and planers.  All belt-driven and made of cast iron, these were the machines that other companies used in their factories to make wood flooring, doors, windows, chairs, cabinets, wheels, wagons, etc.

These machines also made Mr. T. P. Egan a very, very wealthy man.

At Christmas in 1903 it was reported that he presented a gift of $15,000 to each of his seven children. Though only stocks and bonds that probably didn't need much wrapping paper, undoubtedly the presents were much appreciated. 

Topeka KS State Journal
26 December 1903

Mr. Egan insisted that before he could accept this brash Italian into the family, Oreste would have to come to Cincinnati. So at the end of the season, Oreste ventured west to Ohio to secure his inamorata. His visit was successful and in February 1904 Edna and Oreste announced their engagement. But rather than place a simple paragraph in the society section, a full page article appeared in national newspapers in Boston and Buffalo to tell the story of of their fairy tale courtship.

The "Long Distance 'Phone Romance" refereed to in the story's headline was the latest trend in communication, the long distant telephone call. Every day at 4 o'clock Edna would place a call Atlantic City. Even if in the middle of a concert, Oreste would look at his watch, quickly pass the baton to his assistant, and then run to the 'phone. With his limited English and the numerous details of the wedding plans, their conversation could go on for some time. With telephone charges at $2.75 for three minutes, this pursuit of love was deemed a charming but extravagant expense. 

Buffalo NY Sunday Morning  News
21 February 1904

But it all came to good and on Wednesday, May 4, 1904 Oreste and Edna were married in a private ceremony held at the Egan home in Cincinnati. The next day the happy couple took the train to Atlantic City where Oreste's band greeted them at the station with a serenade.

Cincinnati Enquirer
06 May 1904


Over the next few months, there were reports about Signor and Signora Vessella's new married life taking a residence at an Atlantic City hotel. Edna was becoming an "object of attention" with her fashion style. They were planning a trip to Italy in the autumn. Her brother sailed for Honolulu in July. One sister and brother-in-law were in Sweden and another were leaving for South America. Her parents and youngest siblings were expected to spend a few weeks in Atlantic City. It was the typical news of high society affairs.

But then in October a dark cloud appeared in a Cincinnati newspaper.

Loves Bride, But Devotes Time to Music
Honeymoon of Signor Vessella and Cincinnati Bride
was Spoiled by Idle Gossip at Atlantic City
where the Groom is Bandmaster.

Cincinnati Post
07 October 1904
Edna was back in Cincinnati while Oreste was fulfilling an engagement in Philadelphia. Denying the recent gossipy tales from Atlantic City, Edna said,  "Living with a genius is not the easiest thing in the world; but there is absolutely no truth in the rumor that my husband and I do not get along well together." She recounted how after her arrival she became unhappy because this was the first time in her life that she had experienced a separation from her mother and sisters. Edna, who was not musical, was also unfamiliar with the work habits of her musician husband who devoted much time leading his band and composing new music.

"Crazy in the head," Signor Vessella declared the gossips to be who said there was trouble between him and his young wife. "But these people, they talk so much about me and my wife," exclaimed the bandmaster in amazement. "I love my wife. I love her dearly and she loves me. So many say we have not been happy. But it is all lies."

Oreste produced correspondence from his wife to show the reporter proof of his wife's tender affections. While apart they wrote each day and he felt this evidence would silence gossipy tongues.  (There was no mention of any expensive 'phone calls which perhaps was a demonstration of restraint on their new marital economy.)

Edna's father was given the last word. "I saw my daughter and son-in-law much of the summer, and they get along about as well as anybody," said Col. Egan to The Post. "i was not able to learn what it is claimed gossips are saying. It takes young people who haven't known each other long some time get it pulling smooth together. I do not believe they are having any harder time than other young couples. After I left Atlantic City I think my daughter was somewhat homesick."

("Col." was an honorific of public prestige used in this era by gentlemen who did necessarily have any military experience.)

But then the dark cloud opened up into a storm.

Kansas City MO Star
10 October 1904

She Sued A Married Man.

A Breach of Promise Action Against Oreste Vessella, the Bandmaster.

On October 8, 1904 a lawsuit was filed in a New Jersey court against Oreste for Breach of Promise. The complainant was a 24 year old Italian woman, Gaetanina Lombari, (often misspelled in reports) who alleged that before Oreste immigrated to the United States, he had sought to marry her back in Italy. She claimed that Vessella had trouble getting consent from his parents, but that nonetheless in November 1899 she and Oreste eloped. 

When he ran out of money, he wrote to her parents begging their pardon, but they filed suit in an Italian court where the judgement went against Vessella. The penalty was eighteen months' imprisonment which was appealed. Signorina Lombari, (sometimes spelt Lombardi) had traveled to New York in an effort to gain justice in American courts. 

She sought damages of $25,000.

_ _ _

The announcement set off sensational reports, not all of them complete or correct. Was there any truth to the story?  Supposedly in 1898 Oreste had borrowed 2000 lire from his prospective Italian father-in-law as an advance on a 3000 lire dowry promised by the girl's mother. Lombari's lawyer had a letter from Oreste that asked her to join him in America, even suggesting she borrow $500 for a second-class ticket on a steamer as travel in steerage would look badly as his promised bride.

The Egans responded with reports that tried to counter this disruption to the young couple's marital harmony. Edna remained at her parent's home, away from the spotlight of attention at Atlantic City, as Oreste wrapped up his band's concert season and hurried west to Cincinnati. Mr. Egan expressed confidence in his son-in-law and said the lawsuit did not surprise them in the least as they had already discussed it with Vessella that summer. Concerning the suit he would not say much. "My son-in-law is able to take care of himself, I presume," he said. "I note that there are no specific charges, and, calculating from the dates and the Signor's present age, there is an apparent discrepancy in the girl's story. Besides, if Signor Vessella is sued for $25,000 and has no money other than what he earns, where is the good in suing? You may state positively that he has none of my money."

When asked if Oreste would be a guest at his home, Egan replied, "I have invited him, and I presume he will accept. When I invite a gentleman I think I am able to properly entertain him. Signor Vessella's private affairs are no concern to me. My daughter assures me of her absolute faith in him. The story of any estrangement between them is idle. We have reiterated that more than once. Neither is the statement true that I gave my daughter a present of $100,000. I did divide a certain amount of money among seven, and she was one of them.

"Personally, I think the whole difficulty is the result of a crowd of jealous people to whom Signor Vessella is a matinee idol. You know how foolish these worshipers act even here, and that gives you an idea of what they are in Atlantic City."

But that week Oreste stayed at a hotel in Cincinnati and not at the Egan home. The breach of promise case would be assigned to the New Jersey court's spring term in 1905.

Meanwhile newspapers as far away as Portland, Oregon made sport on the scandal.

Portland Oregon Journal
03 March 1905

No More Flirting For Musicians In Jersey

Atlantic City, N. J., March 3 – A new rule is in force on the steel pier which forbids gayly-uniformed musicians of the royal marine band from flirting with impressionable young women who visit the pier. Wealthy papas of marriageable daughters need have no further fears.

Since the capture of the affectons of Miss Maud Eagan (sic), daughter of a Cincinnati millionaire, by Oreste Vessella, the leader of the band, the discipline of the organization has been seriously affected, the men neglecting practice, while they carry on flirtations. An instant discharge will follow any infraction of the new edict.

_ _ _


Wilmington DE Evening Journal
14 April 1905

Vessella Must Pay $10,000

Atlantic City Bandmaster Loses Breach of Promise Suit

In mid-April 1905 a jury, after 30 minutes deliberation, awarded Gaetanina Lombari $10,000 damages from Oreste Vessella for breach of promise. Vesslla was in court when the decision was announced but Lombari had left just as the case was given over to the jury.Her attorneys were jubilant.

During testimony, Vessella admitted he had been convicted in Italy on account of his relations with the girl. A letter written in June 1902, blazed with his love for his Italian sweetheart and repeatedly told of his desire to marry the girl, closing with unwavering love and thousands of kisses.

One hearing that Signorina Lombari had won, Vessella smiled broadly.
_ _ _

One newspaper in Maysville, KY took the wire report on Vessella's lawsuit and assigned it to their most creative writer as if the salacious story needed more spice.

Maysville KY Public Ledger
18 April 1905

Not-A-Count von Orestes Vessella, a cat-gut scraper from Italy, was obliged to leave that land of leisure and love because he wrote 300 letters and sent several million kisses to Miss Gaetinona Lombardi–and then refused to send for the Parson. Since he came to Uncle Sam he has managed a band at Atlantic City and married a Miss Egan, whose father is a rich man in Cincinnati. But his deserted Italian sweetheart followed him, and a New Jersey Jury has just given her a judgment against the No-a-Count for $10,000 in a breach of promise suit. Like many another fool American girl, Miss Egan appears to have married a bunch of hair and trouble.

_ _ _

Meanwhile other more generous newspapers published a large photo of Edna (Egan) Vessella on her first wedding anniversary, looking sad and posed seated in front of a weirdly pulsating op art design.

Owensboro KY Messenger
07 May 1905
Mrs. Oreste Vessella
Mrs. Vessella, who recently married a talented young Italian musician, is a pretty Cincinnati girl. Before her marriage she was Miss Egan, and her father is a prominent Ohio manufacturer. Mrs. Vessella has fair hair and blue eyes and is a very attractive woman.

Oreste appealed his breach of promise case to the New Jersey supreme court, but in November 1905 it upheld the lower court's decision. The Cincinnati Post ran a report with this headline:

Papa Egan Will Not Pay Damages

Bandmaster Vessella Must Raise Money
for Heart Balm or Go to Jail

Cincinnati Post
15 November 1905

When father-in-law Egan was questioned for his reaction to the judgment he said, "It's now up to Oreste to either languish in jail or declare himself bankrupt." When the reporter asked if he wished to see his son-in-law in jail, Egan replied, "I really haven't anything to do with it. I don't intend to pay a cent. It isn't my case, anyhow. And I wouldn't pay money of that kind, anyhow. Vessella was only 16 years old at the time this affair took place, and now nine years later this Lombardi woman comes along and says she was engaged to him. almost any man in the country could be held up in similar fashion. I don't intend to pay anything–not much."

It doesn't take much to read between the lines.
Thomas P. Egan was not pleased with this predicament
that his Italian son-in-law had brought on
to his daughter and the Egan family.

It would seem Edna and Oreste's marriage was on the rocks.
But maybe all was not lost.

In May 22, 1906
an article appeared
on page 9 of the Cincinnati Post,
jammed into the corner by a report on
the city council's political infighting
over street repair and garbage collection,
and an account of terrible atrocities committed
by U. S. soldiers in the Philippines.
It was j
ust two weeks after
the Vessellas' second wedding anniversary,
and there was a photo of Edna smiling

below this headline.  

“Musicians Make
Ideal Husbands”
                   –Mrs. Vessella

Wife of Bandmaster Says
She is Infatuated With
Husband, Despite His Irregular Habits.

Cincinnati Post
22 May 1906

So what is the price of fame?

Readers will have to return next weekend
for that answer and more in

An Atlantic City Love Story,
part 2


I'm not absolutely certain but I believe that Edna's favorite music was a song entitled The Message Of The Violet, from the operetta "The Prince Of Pilsen" with music composed by Gustav Luders and lyrics by Frank Pixley. First performed in Boston in May 1902 and then with much success on Broadway in March 1903, the plot involves a case of mistaken identity. The lead is Hans Wagner, a widowed brewer and alderman from Cincinnati, who travels to Nice, France with his daughter, Nellie, in order to visit his son, Tom, who serves in the U. S. Navy. Upon his arrival, the Cincinnati brewmaster, is mistaken for the Prince of Pilsen, Carl Otto. Hilarity, confusion, and romance follow.

The song has words, of course,

but in 1903 John Philip Sousa's Band made a recording
of a band arrangement with the melody played
by the great trombonist Arthur Pryor.
Pryor performed many times
in New Jersey's early recording studios
as both a musician and band leader,
and surely was acquainted with Oreste Vessella
who also made recordings in New Jersey
with his Royal Italian Band.



In the Summer at the Gay Seashore, 1913
words by Herbert Thomson
music by Oreste Vesella
Source: The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where it's never too hot for a good photo.

The Contrary Bass

19 July 2019

Do you know what's funny?

Big and awkward is funny.

Making strange buzzy noises
or a sudden unexpected sour note
is always good for a laugh.

Or watching someone
get so frantic in frustration
with a musical instrument
that it makes them pull their hair out.
That's funny!

That was the humorous setup of

Karl Willing
humoristischer Streichbassist
humorous string bassist

This crazy German comedian's postcard
was sent from Hannover
on the 21st of February 1918
to Frieda Hümpe of Varrel,
a town in Lower Saxony, Germany
just south of Bremen.

Karl Willig's three pictures
wrestling with his double bass
gives a preview of the jokes
in his music hall act
that needs no translation.

* * *

Sometimes the humor of the string bass,
a.k.a. the contrabass, the double bass
or the bass fiddle

was associated with less sophisticated culture
like folk and country music.

In this case the instrument itself
can become a joke.
A crude homemade box
with three strings
would be all that was needed
for the bass accompaniment
of a Tyrolean folk ensemble.

This Bavarian folk comic and musician
was known as:
Der g'schert Girgl mit der Bassgeig'n
The sheared Girgl(?) with the bass violin

This postcard of Schnacklfranz
was never posted but it has note in French on the back
Munich la 14 V 09
Souvenir à
notre voyage de noce
Souvenir to our honeymoon
Charles & E...(?)

Certain musical instruments are inherently funny.
The shape, the sound, or the size
all contribute to punchlines that never get old.
These two entertainers knew
that a well-played joke on the double bass
was better that any concerto
because it could make an audience laugh.

We can appreciate the classic humor of the string bass
by watching these two clips of the brilliantly funny
British comedian and actor, Jim Tavaré
from two sets performed many years ago.

* * *

* * *

* * *

* * *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where there's always something funny going on.

A Sympathy Orchestra

13 July 2019

Good music teachers are patient.
They know a student's initial enthusiasm
for making a musical noise
will soon wane
as the student discovers
a bewildering maze of things to learn.

So the teacher waits.

Then one day they see the look.
The eager smile of accomplishment.
The clear eyed gaze of capability.
The teacher recognizes that now
the student has mastered
the first real music lesson.

For as all teachers know
the goal is not the destination
or the thousands of steps.
It's the journey itself that is the reward. 

This is a photo of two earnest young boys
who made their teacher happy
and their parents proud.

The boys are clearly brothers.
The older one, maybe age 10 or 11,
sits on a piano stool with his violin on one knee
and his younger brother perched on the other.
He is perhaps age 7 or 8 and is also holding a violin.
Beside them is a wire stand with music
and behind them an upright piano
with a jumble of sheet music
hiding an ornately carved front desk.

It's a postcard photo
likely taken in the parlor of their home.
No names, no location, no date.

But there are a few clues about the music they played.

On the music stand is a book of single line exercises
The camera captured enough of the room light
to read the music's key signature, one sharp,
and a title over the first staff, Chaconne,
a style of repetitive dance from the baroque era,
followed by Var. – Variations on the staves below.

It looks like a intermediate method book
with numbered exercises
to develop both instrumental skills
and understanding of music notation.
I'm sure a violinist in our time would recognize it instantly.
My first advanced studies were like this one,
a collection of 60 exercises
originally published in two volumes in 1833.
To this day the two books have never been far from my music stand
and remain an inexhaustible source of inspiration and satisfaction.
Maybe one day I'll master them all.

On the right side of the piano is piece of sheet music
with an illustration and a portion of the title.


I'm in Love with the Mother of My Best Girl
by Gus Kahn and Egbert Van Alstyne
Source: The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection

The music is a song: I'm in Love with the Mother of My Best Girl, words by Gus Kahn and music by Egbert Van Alstyne. The title is a riddle with the answer is revealed in the chorus. 

I'm in love with the mother of my best girl,
Her mother is in love with me.
Of course I love the girl, this sweet and precious pearl,
Still her mother's kisses set my heart a-whirl.
If I had to choose between the two I love,
I'd lead a most unhappy life,
For the girl you see is only three.
And the mother of the girl's my wife.

The lyricist, Gus Kahn (1886 – 1941), and the composer,  Egbert Van Alstyne (1878 – 1951), were prolific songwriters in the early years of vaudeville and then Broadway musicals. Alstyne wrote hundreds of hits before joining Kahn in 1913, the year this song was published, in a productive partnership. Both were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

On the left side of the piano is another illustrated music cover.
In the picture are women in a long gowns,
tall trees, and either the sun or the moon.
The title reads:

In the Shadows

In the Shadows
by E. Ray Goetz and Herman Finck
Source: The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection

This music was In the Shadows, a dance song composed by Herman Finck with lyrics written by E. Ray Goetz. Herman Finck (1872 – 1939), born Hermann Van Der Vinck of Dutch parents, was an English composer and conductor who wrote over 30 shows for the London stage. He was music director of the Palace Theatre and principal conductor at the Queen's Theatre. This version of In the Shadows has a copyright date of 1911, and became very popular. Notice that the publisher provided arrangements for high, medium, and low voice as well as male quartette; and had parts for piano solo; small orchestra; full orchestra; military band; mandolin solo; mandolin and guitar; mandolin and piano; two mandolins and guitar; two mandolins and piano; mandolin, piano, and guitar; two mandolins;  two mandolins, piano, and guitar; banjo solo; second banjo; and piano accompaniment. and piano. One of these versions was listed in the program for the Titanic's ship orchestra in 1912.

Oh! meet me in the shadows,
When twilight dims the day,
When the golden sun has gone to rest,
In the golden west, loving time is best.
For love dreams are the sweetest,
When moonbeams flood the sky,
Love will find its own, When we alone,
In the shadows, just you and I.

The Library of Congress has a wonderful audio recording archive called the National Jukebox. It provides a recording made on October 25, 1911 for Victor Records in Camden, New Jersey. The vocalists are Walter Van Brunt, tenor, and Helen Clark, soprano.

* * *

* * *

In the center of the piano desk is one more piece of music
with a typeface large enough to read.


Sympathy waltz-song from The Firefly
by Otto Harbach and Rudolf Friml
Source: The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection

The music was Sympathy, a waltz song from the 1912 comedy opera, The Firefly. The composer was Rudolf Friml, and the lyricist was Otto Haurbach. The producer of this operetta, Arthur Hammerstein, originally intended for Victor Herbert to write the music with the Italian soprano Emma Trentini as the featured star. But Herbert had a falling out with Trentini, who was appearing in his operetta Naughty Marietta, when she refused to sing an encore in order to save her voice. Hebert took it as an insult and refused to work with her again, Suddenly pressed to find a substitute composer for The Firefly production Hammerstein chose a relatively unknown Czech-born pianist, Charles Rudolf Friml (1879 – 1972) to compose the music. It would be his first Broadway success. His first visit to America was as the accompanist for violinist Jan Kubelík who toured the United States in 1901–02 and 1904. Friml's association with Emma Trentini also led to his divorce from his first wife in 1915.

{See my story The Famous Twins for more on Kubelik.}

The libretto was by Otto Abels Harbach (1873 – 1963), born Otto Abels Hauerbach  in Salt Lake City, Utah of Danish parents. As a young man he aspired to become a professor of English, but vision problems turned him toward a writing career that required less reading. In 1902 he went to a New York Broadway revue that introduced him to musical comedy and brought him into the world of theatre. He began writing songs collaborating with various composers without much success until 1912 when he was hired by Hammerstein to worked with Rudolf Friml on The Firefly.  They went on to write 11 more musical together. Harbach's more famous lyrics are for "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", "Indian Love Call" and "Cuddle up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine". In 1917 when the United States entered World War 1, Hauerbach changed his name to Harbach to fend off anti-German sentiments.

You need sympathy, sympathy, just sympathy!
You won't think I am free,
You will not scold or say I am bold
When I treat you tenderly, tenderly!
Don't blame me, for you know
I'm but showing sympathy!

Again the Library of Congress National Jukebox has a recording of this duet by the same vocalists, Walter Van Brunt, tenor, and Helen Clark, soprano for Victor Records, only made fifteen months later on January 8, 1913.

* * *

* * *

The heart of music making is fun.
This anonymous photo, taken sometime after 1913,
captures that feeling in a way
that lets us see the love between two brothers
and the delight they took in learning to play
the piano and the violin. 
Imagine the joy that their music
brought to their parent's household.

And did you spot the clarinet?

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone is as fit as a fiddle.

Getting Around in Old Wien

05 July 2019

I live in a world of black and white.
The dark shadows of tintypes,
the rusty hues of cabinet cards,
and the chalky tones of old snapshots
dominate the palette of my photograph collection.

As much as I love the variety of light captured in old photos,
I still miss seeing color in these records of historic life.

But obviously color never really disappeared
after Monsieur Daguerre discovered
how to preserve a moment of time
with his first camera.

Color has always remained the medium of artists
who paint the chromatic tints of reality.

One of these artists has become
a new genre in my collection.
His name was Fritz Schönpflug ( 1873 – 1951),
an Austrian artist who illustrated
the world of his beloved Wien
in thousands of lighthearted postcard caricatures.
Last year I posted a story called
The Art of Austrian Postcards,
which featured two of his postcards
with musical subjects.
At the time I couldn't read his signature,
but I have since learned to spot his colorful style.

This postcard is entitled:

Wien. Franz Josef-Kai.  Ferdinandsbrücke.

Wiener Typen - Potpurri 
Viennese types - Potpourri

It was posted from Wien on 15 November 1930,
but it depicts the street life of Vienna two decades earlier.

The first part of the postcard's title is an address in Vienna, 
The Ferdinandsbrücke is a bridge
which crosses the Danube canal
and intersects the Franz Josef-Kai,
an avenue built on the remains of the old city walls.
The bridge is now called Die Schwedenbrücke,
renamed in 1919 in memory
of the humanitarian aid for Viennese children
which Sweden provided after the First World War.

This next watercolor image shows a view
of the Ferdinandsbrücke in 1917
with the canal below.

Blick über den Donaukanal 1917
Carl Wenzel Zajicek  (1860–1923)
Source: Wikimedia

This next image is a photo from 1905
taken from a similar pigeon's point of view
but on the opposite side of the bridge.

Wien, Schwedenbrücke (1905)
Source: Wikimedia

What fascinates me about the work of Fritz Schönpflug
is his witty portrayal of the Viennese people.
By careful observation of everyday urban life
he created colorful impressions of a great city's people.
Wien was the capital of a vast empire
which made it the crossroads
for a wide variety of national and folk cultures.

It was a big city,
and getting around it
required reliable horsepower.

Nur immer nobel!
Always only classy!

This postcard of a Viennese hackney coach or Fiacre,
know in Vienna as a Fiaker,
was a popular theme
painted by Schönpflug.
These carriages with their four sprung wheels
and drawn by two lively horses
were a common means of hired transport in Wien.
The card was posted on 29 September 1912.

* * *

Nur nicht zu Fuß
Only not on foot

This postcard shows two cavalry soldiers riding in a Fiaker,
dressed in blue military jackets
with contrasting bright red caps and trousers.
It's an example of how an artist can record vibrant colors
that are missing in the photographs of this era.

The postmark is 1910 Aug 1
(some postal traditions eliminated
the first numeral in the year)
and it was sent from Brassó
which was the name of Brașov in Transylvania
when it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

* * *

The third image of this series
lacks a caption but shows
a Fiaker driver holding back his steads
as he conveys three passengers,
two men and a very stylish woman.

This postcard has a stamp and postmark from Denmark.
It was posted on 28 May 1907.

* * *

Schwerer Beruf
Tough profession

Evidently driving a Fiaker was hard work
and required a regular rest stop for refreshment.
This postcard was sent from Wien
but the postmark is obscured.
The stamp of Kaiser Franz-Josef is of an earlier design
than the large one used on the first hackney postcard.
So I think it dates to around 1901-1905

* * *

This next postcard of Fritz Schönpflug
shows one of the new problems in Viennese life
during the first decade of the 20th century.
A motor car has had some accident, a tire blowout perhaps,
and a horse, looking disdainfully at the mess,
has been requisitioned for a tow.

The card was sent by a soldier via the free military Feldpost
on 7 October 1918.

* * *

Der alte Stand im neuen G'wand (Gewand.)
The old stand in a new guise.

As the motor car took over the streets of Wien
they were adopted by the Fiaker drivers,
as any business must keep up with the times.

But Fritz Schönpflug noticed
that at the old Fiaker stand, now with taxis,
the old traditions of caring for the horses
were still lovingly maintained.

This postcard was never mailed but the motor taxis
are from the first decades of motor car design
about 1905-15.

Fritz Schönpflug was a prolific artist
who had a long successful career as a postcard caricaturist.
His work was popular throughout Austria and Hungary,
and his humorous observations even appealed
to the tourists in Berlin and Zurich.
As I have started a new album just for Schönpflug's postcards,
my readers may expect to see more
of his gentle satire in future posts.

Colorized postcards are an improvement
over black and white photos,
but both lack the one important dimension
of true realism — movement.

Here is a wonderful short film made in 1911
of street life in Vienna, Austria.
It has been corrected for speed
and includes a new soundtrack of real street sounds
that was not on the original of course in 1911,
but artfully conveys the sound of old Wien.



And for a second bonus
here is the present day Google street view
of the intersection of
Franz Josef-Kai and Ferdinandsbrücke,
now Schwedenbrücke, in Wien, Austria.
A few taxis but no horses.

* * *

* * *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone is welcome
but parking can be a problem.


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