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 }

Pretty as a Picture

28 September 2019

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

And so is grace, charm, and elegance.

We can behold all that and more
in this photograph of a string quartet of young women
posed with their two guitars and two mandolins.

It is a superb cabinet card photo
with a satin gloss finish on the print
which is mounted on ivory cardstock with scalloped edges.
Only a hint of wear and a minor bend crack
detract from its exquisite quailty.

The photographer was
Gaites of 221 N. Randolph St., Macomb, Illinois.

The embossed logo includes
an intertwined monogram of  WHG
though as I've discovered, the initials
are not necessarily those of the photographer.

The artful arrangement of these four lovely women
shows great skill by the photographer.

A gently directed sidelight illuminates the backdrop
giving an angelic glow to their beautiful white gowns.
Instruments, hands, shoulders, faces
have been carefully positioned for the camera lens.

It's as if their concert is about to begin.

On the back of the photo
is a date written in ink.

Winter 1895

And four names
below it in pencil.

Bertie Keeper
Georgia  Gumbart
Maria Bartleson
Sarah Tunnicliff

The year 1895 neatly matches the women's fashions and hairstyles, as well as the decorative embellishments of the cabinet card photo.
_ _ _

The city of Macomb is in western Illinois, about 77 miles south of Davenport, Iowa and about halfway between Peoria and the Mississippi River. Macomb is the county seat of McDonough County, and in 1895 its population was approaching the 1900 census count of 5,375 residents. Today its inhabitants number about 21,516.

The photographer's address, 221 N. Randolph St., is along one side of Macomb's city center park, which has a typical small town bandstand and Civil War monument with a statue of a Union army soldier. Yet despite being a small community, it contained the usual hierarchy of American social classes for this decade, and these four women represent the genteel refinement of Macomb's high society in 1895.

The date in ink looks contemporary to the photo. Perhaps it was a memento given to a friend or relation. However the names appear more like a later addition. In 1895 a pencil was too crude a writing tool for this kind of annotation, so I think the names were added years later. I presume the name order from top to bottom follows the women's order in the photo left to right. The first name happens to have a simple spelling error typical of someone writing from memory decades after a picture was taken.

The first guitarist's name was Bertie Keefer, not Keeper. She was born in July 1873 the daughter of John M. Keefer, the proprietor of a Macomb drugstore. It's not recorded if "Bertie" was short for Bertha or Alberta, but she and her older sister Wissie, were children from their father's first marriage. In February 1879 John M. Keefer married Lucy A. Beard of Wacomb. In the 1880 census, Wissie and Bertie are each listed as Step Gran Child as the Keefers were living in the home of Mrs. Keefer's mother, Lucy J. Beard. Eventually Bertie and Wissie gained a step-sister named Ruth.

Mr. Beard's drugstore was started by his older brother who opened it in 1861, their father having been a druggist too in Maryland. After returning to Macomb following 3 years military service in the war as a hospital steward, John M. Keefer took over the business in July 1879 on the death of his brother. Keefer, born in Maryland, considered himself a Democrat, though it was said, without political ambition. He was a Royal Arch Mason, and a member of the Knights of Pythias. Keefer held stock in the local building and loan association, sat on the board of the Macomb Tile and Sewer Pipe company, and was regarded as one of Macomb's prominent and most successful businessmen.

Assuming that "Winter 1895" is January-March rather than December, in this photo Bertie is age 21. Given her dark beauty and her father's good fortune, the way the ring on her right hand is displayed is probably not accidental. By June of 1895, she became Mrs. Harry H. Gardner. Her husband's occupation? Druggist.

The second guitarist's name was Georgiana Gumbart. The only daughter of George C. Gumbart and Esther Feilbach Gumbart, Georgia was born in 1871. She and her two older and one younger brothers were born in Illinois but their father was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1826. However in the U.S. census Gumbert's birthplace was recorded as Bavaria, even though Frankfurt is actually in the German state of Hesse.

George, or probably Georg, Gumbart, as a young man studied civil engineering and did five years service in the German Army before emigrating in 1853 to New York. After some time there he moved to St. Louis in 1859 where he worked as an editor of a German-American newspaper. When the Civil War started his previous military experience won him an appointment as a lieutenant in a Union artillery battery. His unit fought campaigns in Missouri and Kentucky, where he was twice wounded, and then Tennessee and Mississippi, where in the summer of 1863 his disabilities forced him to resign his Captain's commission. He then moved to Macomb to manage a restaurant. By 1880 he had moved into the insurance business, and won election as mayor of Macomb. Like many loyal Union soldiers, he was a Republican, yet curiously he also favored women's suffrage.

Georgia Gumbart was 24 years old on the occasion of this photo. Three years later in March 1898 she married Willis J. Sanborn, a Baptist clergyman.

The mandolinist with her head turned coyly in 3/4 profile is Maria S. Bartleson.  She was the next to youngest of six children, four sons and two daughters, of Gannette and Horatio R. Bartleson. For some reason Mr. Bartleson's wife was not  included in the 1880 census, so with six children he employed a live-in housekeeper while he managed his business as a lumber dealer in Macomb. At various times he also worked in Macomb's city government serving as a school inspector and clerk. In 1900, after most of his children, save the youngest daughter, had left home, Horatio was employed as a railway station and telegraph agent in Macomb.

In 1895 Maria Bartleson was 21, and like the other two women, soon found a partner, marrying Ben B. Hampton in February 1898. At the time, Hampton operated two small newspapers in western Illinois, but by the 1900s he was in New York City publishing his own magazine. Around the time of WW1, Marie and Benjamin B. Hampton moved to Los Angeles where Ben became a minor Hollywood film producer, mostly of westerns.

The second mandolin player was Sarah B. Tunnicliff, whose birth year was 1872. Her father was Damon G. Tunnicliff and her mother shared the same name of Sarah. Mrs. Tunnicliff was Damon's second wife, his first wife having died in 1865 leaving him with five children, and Sarah was the middle child of three more daughters from this second marriage. It was a big household which in the 1880 census included a brother, a brother-in-law, and two servants too. Mr. Tunnicliff was able to support this extended family as he was Macomb's most respected attorney of law. Born in New York in 1829, Damon migrated to Illinois in 1849 and read law in Chicago. After moving to Macomb in 1854 he joined a partnership with another attorney which eventually evolved into his own practice specializing in general law and collections. In 1885 he received an appointment as an Associate Judge of the Illinois Supreme Court but was replaced a few years later when the Illinois statehouse changed political parties. On resuming private practice his son George D. Tunnicliff joined the law firm.

Sarah B. Tunnicliff was age 22 when her quartet photo was taken. Surprisingly she did not marry like her three friends did, and instead pursued an occupation as a teacher. In 1899 she decided to travel abroad to further her education and applied for a U. S. passport. It doesn't include her photo, but it does have a description.

Sworn to before me this 9th day
of December, 1899
Sarah B. Tunnicliff

Description of Applicant

Age, 27 years
Stature, 5 feet, 5 inches, Eng.
Forehead,   high
Eyes,   gray
Nose,   grecian
Mouth,   medium
Chin,   round
Hair,   aub.  brown
Complexion,   fair
Face,   round

I think it's a good match for the woman on the right in the quartet. It certainly doesn't contradict her appearance and supports my idea for the order of names.

_ _ _

Sarah's father died in 1901, and I don't know if she ever used her passport for foreign travel. In the 1910 census at age 37 she is living in Chicago with her mother Sarah H. Tunnicliff, age 64, and her younger sister Ruth, age 34. Only Ruth has an occupation, employed as a doctor at an infectious disease hospital. The sisters remained together through the 1940 census, after their mother passed away in the 1930s. Sarah never listed an occupation and may have been disabled as the census taker in 1940 marked her as U, unable to work.

Georgia Gumbart Sanborn died in Palo Alto, California in 1910 at age 39. Maria Bartleson Hampton, who also moved to California, died in Los Angeles in 1922, age 49. Bertie Keefer Gardner lived until age 82, dying in 1955. And Sarh B. Tunnicliff lived the longest reaching age 85 on her death in 1957.

 * * * *

This story started as an exercise in research, inspired by this beautiful portrait of four musicians. The addition of full names and a date presented perfect clues for sketching out the life story of each woman. After finding the basic information on their families, I was also intrigued at how they represented a fine example of American culture at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately there are no Macomb newspaper archives on the internet for the years 1894-95, so we can't know the concert occasion when this mandolin guitar quartet played. My first supposition was a high school graduation, but the women are too old for that. As far as I know Macomb did not have college or teachers normal school until after 1900, so my best guess is that they were dressed for a recital presented by their music teacher. Obviously they are dressed for an indoor performance, so that also limits the venues where they might have played. A church? The town's "opera house"? Maybe I'll stumble across the answer someday.

However their hometown, Macomb, was a county seat and fortuitously featured in three editions, 1875, 1885, and 1907 of The History of McDonough County, Illinois, an amazing compendium on the history of the place and the notable persons of Macomb. This kind of local encyclopedia was once very common throughout the United States, and many are now available on They provide a wealth of statistics, history, and biographies that cover the Great Gap between 1880 and 1900 caused by the missing 1890 U.S. Census records.

But as my readers know, I'm never satisfied until I dig a bit deeper into the hidden history of a photo. This week with all the genealogy detail I discovered on Gumbarts, Tunnicliffs, Bartlesons, and Keefers, I forgot my usual research on the photographer, which often is the only clue for photos like this one. I wanted to know how far the Gaites studio was from the women's home addresses, who, not surprisingly, lived very close to each other. In fact it was just a short walk of a few blocks for them.

In the 1910 Macomb census I found Henry W. Gaites, whose initials are on the cabinet card, but his occupation was Confectioner, Own Store. Yet his wife, Laura B. Gaites, was listed as Photographer, Own Gallery. Laura was surely the eye behind the camera that arranged these four women to look their best on this beautiful photograph!

Mr. Gaites sold his candy store July 1904 suffering from poor health and died in 1919. His wife continued with her photo gallery and in 1921 was advertising special prices with a funny story of how she once accepted 12 chickens as payment for a dozen photos. Even with ten cut-price offers, there were Bargains too numerous to mention. Studio open every day from morning until night, including the noon hour.

Macomb IL Daily By-Stander
21 October 1921

In October 1951, newspapers across the country
ran a short filler report with a headline:

St Louis MO Post Dispatch
06 October 1951

Photographer, 90,
Believes She Is
Oldest in Nation

MACOMB, Ill., Oct. 6 (AP) — A spry old lady who believes she is the nation's oldest active photographer will be 90 years old tomorrow.
   Mrs. Laura B. Gaites, who has been a photographer for 69 years, was asked if she planned to retire.
   "Oh, my no!" she snapped.
   She says that during her 69 years as a photographer she has taken an average of 500 pictures of children a year, or a total of 34,500. She also has taken many fiftieth wedding anniversary pictures of couples whose wedding pictures she made.
   She recently photographed a husband and wife on their sixty-third wedding anniversary. She also had taken their wedding picture.
   Mrs. Gaites is in good health. She works with her daughter, Bessie, and her grandson's widow, Mrs. Florence Gaites.

_ _ _

Sadly in March of 1951, Mrs. Laura B. Gaites died in hospital. She was in St. Petersburg, Florida where for some years she and her daughter had regularly spent the winter months. The Tampa Bay Times printed her photograph along with her obituary.

Tampa Bay FL Times
15 March 1952

My photo history story began with an old saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." For one brief moment in 1895 it was Laura B. Gaites's eye that took the measure of Bertie, Georgia, Maria, and Sarah. She was the artist behind the camera who arranged this string quartet so that we can admire their elegant beauty today.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

The Newspaper Boys' Band

20 September 2019

"What's black and white and read all over?"
"A Newspaper!"
It's an old grandfather's riddle,
perhaps less familiar to children today,
as newspapers,
now printed in glossy multi-colors,
struggle to stay relevant
in the age of the internet.

However at the beginning of the 20th century
newspapers were the dominant media
that gave everyone in their community
something to read and talk about.

Big cities and even small towns
often supported two or more papers.
which competed for readers and subscribers
by reporting on all the latest local, national and international news.

Yet sometimes that wasn't enough
to attract their community's attention,
so creative publishers recruited a few dozen boys,
dressed them up in fancy uniforms,
gave them shiny musical instruments,
and had them parade through their city's streets
playing music to the beat of a big bass drum
advertising the name
of the young musicians' newspaper sponsor.

It was also the age of the postcard
another important innovation
in what we now call social networking.
And newspaper publishers
had no problem printing up
thousands of postcards to give away.

But to proper subscribers of course.

This is a story of two of those boys' bands
depicted on three postcards.

* * *

The first image comes from a postcard with the half-tone image of the Denver Post Boy's Band advertising the Colorado State Fair, in Pueblo, Colorado, on September 10 to 12, 1907. The band had 44 boys under the guidance of Prof. Sidney Beal, music director and H. Wayne Russell, manager.

On the bass drum head, at the six o'clock position are the initials J. I. A. which stood for the Juvenile Improvement Association, whose full name was on a banner to the right. This organization was founded in Denver by Judge Ben B. Lindsey (1869 – 1943), a progressive jurist and social reformer known as the "Kid's Judge" who established Denver's first Juvenile and Family Court in 1903. The Juvenile Improvement Association raised money for the betterment of underprivileged children by financing nurseries for poor children, public playgrounds, and a juvenile detention home separate from adult facilities. It even had a bathtub installed in the courthouse basement for arrested children. The J. I. A. promoted sports for Denver's disadvantaged youth, mainly boys, as a way of giving the youth a useful focus, but with the assistance of the Denver Post newspaper, it also created a boys' band to teach discipline and teamwork.

The band leader, Prof. Sidney Beal, stands to the left of his band which seems rather drab in this newsprint image. In fact their uniform jackets were a bright scarlet red over white trousers. Formed in about 1906, the band soon became a favorite musical ensemble at state fairs in Colorado, New Mexico and  Wyoming.

This postcard was posted to Mrs. Maria Nolan of Harvard, Illinois on Sep 13, 1907. 

Dear Mother :-   I
am looking after a
booth for the "Post" at
the State Fair
in Pueblo this week.

* * *

Not quite a year later, the Denver Post Boys' Band (notice that the pesky possessive   has correctly moved from singular to plural. Good bass drum grammarians are hard to find.) put out a postcard advertising their appearance at Frontier Days, in Cheyenne, Wyoming on August 21-21-23, 1908. The band now has 50 boys, mostly on brass instruments with about 9 clarinets and 5 drums. Along the top edge is a slogan, They Met Me At The Depot with a message, "Some company here today from Stanton (?) Neb." (Nebraska) and "And maybe they will meet you."

The band posed on the steps to a different entrance, but the light posts and masonry are likely from the same building which we can presume was home to the Denver Post newspaper. At the back center, to the left of the drum major, is the band's leader, Prof. Sidney Beal. The postmark is obscured by the imprinted emblem on the message side, but 1908 is clear, so it was probably mailed in late August or early September to Miss Elma Osterberg of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Am sending you letter
with this. Write me
when you are coming
Wish I could go &
come back with us.
Everything as usual here.
Regards to Mr. Miller
Write me again all
the news. how fat
are you getting.

* * *

The third bass drum announced another newspaper band, The Independent News Boy's Band of Massillon, Ohio, a city south of Akron and Cleveland and just 8 miles west of Canton. The newspaper was The Evening Independent, and still in print today, minus the "Evening" part. Unlike the so-called unemployed delinquent boys in Denver, these Massillon boys were members of the National Newsboys Association, and worked as "newsies" distributing and selling the Massillon Evening Independent. Dressed in smart white uniforms with braid trim, and with a few trouser hems folded up, the 25 young musicians of the band hold primarily brass instruments with 5 clarinets and three drums. Behind them is the building's cornerstone for the newspaper publisher,  The Independent Company.

The band got its start in April 1908 when it put on an amateur minstrel show to raise around $450–500 to purchase a set of instruments. By the following year 1909, under the direction of Mr. William H. Gary, who stands at back center in a dark uniform and holding a cornet, the Independent Newsboy's' Band put on public concerts at the theatre in the Massillon Armory. On that Memorial Day they joined the city parade to honor the veterans of the G. A. R.  A few weeks later on June 19, 1909, just prior to boarding a tally-ho, a horse drawn coach, for a concert at a village school reunion, the band posed for this very photo. It was noted that "They will return this evening in time to deliver and sell the papers."

Massillon OH Evening Independent
19 June 1909

And just after the 4th of July, 1909 the Evening Independent printed the photo.

Massillon OH Evening Independent
05 July 1909

The Independent Newsboys' Band postcard
was sent from Massillon, Ohio on September 3, 1909
to Arabelle Armstrong of Fredericksburg, OH.

Dear Niece - I'll answer
your card which I rec-
eived a few weeks
ago. We are as well
as usual;, and hope
you are the same
with love –
Aunt Belle

* * *

In April 2013 I wrote a story about A Newsboy from Milwaukee, that featured a cabinet card photo, circa 1903, of a young alto horn player in the Milwaukee Journal Newsboy Band. It's a handsome portrait that disguises the boy's connection to the difficult social conditions that galvanized reform of child welfare. In this era, newsboys were particularly susceptible to exploitation, as they were then considered independent contractors, and not protected by the few laws against child labor. And newspaper publishers took advantage of the cheap labor pool desperate for work of any kind at any wage. Newsboys were forced to pick up papers early in the morning and work until late at night to meet their supplier's quotas. No allowance was made for weather, school, or family. It was a tough trade and unlike children in sweat shops, mines, and factories, newsboys met the public everyday on the street.

Back in November 2012, I posted a story, The Toledo Newsboys' Band, about a band made up of newsboys of Toledo, Ohio. It was founded by a remarkable man, John E. Gunckel (1846-1915), a passenger agent with the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, who devoted his life to improving the lives of poor boys. He established the first Toledo Newsboys Association in 1892 at a Christmas dinner he put on for 100 newsboys of the Toledo Blade. In 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair dozens of similar newsboys associations formed the National Newsboys Association and they chose Gunckel as its first president. Like Judge Lindsey in Denver, John E. Gunckel used sports and bands to build self-esteem and teach useful skills so that boys would be encouraged to stick with their education and break the cycle of poverty. Many Toledo newsboys went on to successful careers in business, politics, and the arts and took great pride in their self-run organization. In 1942 Gunckel's Toledo Newsboys Association became the Boys Club of Toledo, which is now part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

The Independent Newsboys' Band of Massillon, OH had a short run from 1908 to about 1914 when their name disappears from the newspaper. The Denver Post Boy's' band lasted longer with reports of its activities continuing until about 1921. All of these local groups were part of larger state and national reform efforts to eliminate poverty and child abuse in America. And in nearly every town the first idea to help a poor kid on the street was to give him a musical instrument, a uniform, and a march tune to play.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
Extra, Extra! Read all about it!
Getcha Old News at Sepia Saturday!

The Band Mascot

13 September 2019

Hey Bud!

How do you like our band's new mascot?
His name is Tige because
since our Bandmaster's name is Braun,
it's just gotta be.
He's a great dog and a big favorite with the fellas.
Hank won him in a card game from some Marines in Frisco.

He's smart dog too!
Tommy's been training him
so when he leads our parades
Tige trots along right beside him.
He even turns when Tommy twirls his baton.
We think he wags his tail
in time to the bass drum.

Moose and his pals
still gripe about every little thing.
Maybe they'd think different
if they was in the army!

Madison is doing okay,
but wishes you was still here
to hold up the section's standards.
Andersen never will understand
how to play in tune and keep the beat
at the same time.

Charlie and Vern send their regards
and say you should save them
some of those French girls.
Write soon as you can.

Your old shipmate - Bert

* * *

The preceding postcard message is a complete fabrication as this U. S. Navy band's photo was never posted and has no marks to identify its time, place, or ship. Since they are in front of a brick wall they are obviously on shore. The uniforms for the bandsmen and the Bandmaster are an older style that sets them somewhere in time between 1913 and 1920. In this era most of the large battleships and cruisers in the U. S. Navy were assigned a band of about 24 musicians. Their main duty was to provide band concerts on board ship, or to lead the sailors whenever there was occasion to march in a parade. But bandsmen also pulled duty maintaining the ship like the band in my story from July 2018, Full Steam Ahead on the USS Georgia

Even if we never learn their name, a dog mascot in a photo is a very special bonus. My three favorite dogs found in my collection are pictured in The March of the SailfishMusic for a Desert Island, and for best of show, the 11th U.S. Cavalry Band. There's something about a dog's steadfast loyalty and boundless love that always improves a photograph. Years and years later when these sailors reminisced over their time in the service, they may have forgotten more than a few names of their shipmates, but I'm certain every one of them remembered that dog's name.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where Every Good Boy Deserves Favor.

For the Yearbook

07 September 2019

It's a perennial event.
Practically every scholastic year
since the invention of photographic printing,
students around America
gather on some well lit portico
to have their class pictures taken
for the annual school yearbook.

A skilled photographer wastes no time,
as a seemingly endless parade of students
must march onto the steps
and arrange themselves for the camera.
The shutter clicks for every athletic team.
Coaches assemble all their players for
baseball, basketball, football,
soccer, hockey, track, and more.
Then there is
metal shop, wood shop,
 French club, debate club, chess club, drama club,
glee club,
ukulele club, honor societies, service sororities,
academic and hobby clubs,

and of course the school's band and orchestra

These young musicians are dressed
in their very best suits and frocks.
The number of sweaters, vests, and coats
suggest it is autumn weather
which no doubt worries the photographer
that wind, clouds, or rain will spoil his work.
Standing on the right beside his musicians
is the school's music director
holding a very long baton.

Their smiles and grins speak for the comradery
in the teamwork required of any musical ensemble.
Placed front and center is the bass drum
with the ensemble's name stenciled on the drumhead.

High School

Like most orchestras
the strings are in front
and the winds and brass at the back.
Later in the spring when the yearbook is published
everyone will try to guess the little face
smiling through the door window.

 Altogether there are 34 musicians
in the High School of Commerce.
Surprisingly nearly all are string players
and almost half are girls.
And yet one young man on trumpet
sticks out as the only African-American.


Beneath the large 8" x 10" photo
is a caption written in ink.

Photo by Bosworth Studio

The photo's back has a penciled note:
Springfield, Mass.
but it was easy to confirm the location
as once a photographer finds a good background
he sets his camera in the same place every year.
This next image is the Springfield, Massachusetts
High School of Commerce Band and Orchestra
from the school's 1929 yearbook, The Caduceus.
The director that year was Mr. Leroy W. Allen.
He is at the back center,
but he is not the same man
as in the 1932 photo.

Springfield MA High School of Commerce
1929 The Caduceus yearbook
Band and Orchestra
The High School of Commerce was built around 1910,
and the building is still standing in Springfield
with little change to the distinguished front portico entrance.

Springfield, MA High School of Commerce

Vintage photos of school bands and orchestras
from the 1930s and earlier are very common.
Based on my observation of the many photos
in my collection, girls and boys did not often mix
in co-educational musical groups until the 1920s.
This may be because in most primary and secondary schools
extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, and bands
were not formally supported by school systems in the 19th century.

However finding a person of color
in an antique photo of mostly young white musicians
is very uncommon.
America's history of segregation
and the struggle to achieve equality and justice
for African-Americans is long and complicated.
It is very rare to find
photographic examples of exceptions
to how our society was once subject
to the divisive separation by race.
But even more extraordinary
is that this photo of a high school orchestra
with a single black musician
is the second photo like this
that came from Springfield, Mass.
I wrote a story about the first one in May 2013
entitled The Springfield Technical High School Orchestra.

Seated on the front steps around the bass drum
are three young ladies of color with violins. 
This photo did not have any caption or note
to date it accurately
but I believe it was taken
sometime between 1918 and 1928.

In 2019 the Technical High School has moved to a new location,
but in the 1920s - 30s the two Springfield high schools
were both off of State St. about 1/2 miles apart.
Certainly within earshot for the sound of drums and brass.

This curious coincidence raised questions
about how many students of color attended these schools.
I found no precise answer but
several yearbooks from both schools had photos
of other student groups besides the orchestras
which showed African-Americans students.
And though individual class photos
showed that they represented just a tiny percentage
of the total student population,
it was clear that in the decade prior to WW2
the Springfield public school system
allowed some black students to attend largely white high schools.
Furthermore in the early 1940s, just as America joined the Allied effort in WW2, this city in Western Massachusetts established a progressive educational program that became widely known throughout the country as the Springfield Plan. The plan was developed by Columbia University Associate Professor Clyde R. Miller to promote a national model for citizenship and multicultural education. 

From the Wikipedia article, "the stated purpose of the plan was to foster democracy and eliminate racism from schooling. It involved innovative advances in curriculum, including the use of cooperative learning and democratic living classroom activities. Students also participated in projects where they learned about the history and culture of other groups in their broader community. Beyond the school, the plan expanded education into local factories where adult workers were provided with citizenship classes. Lastly, it included new methods for teaching students how to recognize racist propaganda, while it was also innovative in producing positive propaganda, publicizing the advantages of inter-group education for the entire nation."

During the war and shortly after, the Springfield Plan became a target for Southern bigots who claimed its approach to multi-cultural integration would undermine their so-called "traditional Southern values" of racial segregation. For reasons far too complicated for me to explain here, the Springfield Plan attempted to fight racism but ultimately failed to change many attitudes in America. It would be nearly twenty years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 put an end to discrimination and implemented equal opportunity education systems across the nation.

These two beautiful school photos are only brief moments
in a long timeline of social history
and probably have no direct connection
to the Springfield Plan of the 1940s
that encouraged teaching tolerance
between our fellow citizens.
But they do illustrate how
this Massachusetts community
was atypical for its time
when it offered young people
an education with
freedom, equal opportunity, and music too,
that was then not available
to most children in America.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone's studying hard
for that chemistry exam.


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