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 Harry Sisters - part 2

25 January 2020

In every fairy tale
there's always an adventure
that the heroes undertake
to seek their fortune.

It might be some great task to complete,
or rich treasure to find,
or giant obstacle to overcome.
Yet despite all the risks
the heroes accept the challenge.

The three Harry sisters may have looked like
characters in a children's book,
but beyond the photographs
their lives did not imitate a fairy tale.
Instead theirs was
a story of true fortunes
both sweet and bitter.

For part 1 of this story


In about 1885 in addition to having photographs made of their trio, each Harry sister posed for her individual portrait as well. In this cabinet card photo by the Carlisle photographer, John Nicolas Choate (1848–1902), Angella E. Harry sits in a studio chair with her violin under her chin in playing position. She gives us just a hint of a smile. On the photo's back her name is carefully centered in a fine cursive style, with "Harry Sisters" written in block letters in the lower corner.

In the photo of her younger sister Celestia,  Mr. Choate arranged the smaller girl onto a different chair with a small hassock to rest her feet. Unlike Angella, she is dressed in a lacy white frock with her violin displayed upright on her thigh. On the back is her name in the same handwriting.
L. Celestia Harry
of the
" Harry Sisters. "

This third photo of the Harry sisters shows them standing together in Mr. Choate's studio. Emma, the eldest, and Angella look down admiringly on Celestia in the center as she plays her violin. The older girls wear matching folk type dresses with cute banded shoes and long aprons embroidered with a floral motif. We might assume that the Tyrolean-like dresses were their mother's handwork, as expected of a mother in this era. But Mrs. Emma S. Harry was born in Pennsylvania and the Harry family were not of Germanic descent. So it's possible that their father, Prof. J. B. Harry, engaged a skilled seamstress to make suitable stage costumes for his three daughters.

Once again their names are recorded on the back in the same hand. The clarity of the elegant script leads me to believe that one of their parents signed the names. But it's also possible that one of the girls, maybe Emma, practiced her penmanship on the photos. In any case, the formality suggests the names were added to enhance the photos' souvenir quality.

In the 1880 census the family of Emma S. and James B. Harry lived in Mount Holly Springs, PA but by 1882 they had moved six mile north to Carlisle. Singing master Prof. J. B. Harry had opened a "singing school" there in 1867 which was then his eighth music school in the region. He then boasted of one thousand students which can be taken as a testimonial to his skill as a music teacher as well as an example of how popular vocal music had become.

Northumberland PA Public Press
29 June 1888

The Harry sisters began performing "professionally" in 1882, and six years later in 1888 were still picking up short "reviews" like this one from the newspaper in Northumberland, PA, about 66 miles north of Carlisle on the Susquehanna River. It is likely that Prof. Harry wrote most of the notices himself and then sent them o the newspapers in advance. The sisters Emma Viola, Angella E. and Lydia Celestia Harry were now age 17,  14, and 11 respectively. Their concerts were occasional events in the region and never advertised like traveling music hall artists. Prof. Harry emphasized their violin and vocal talents, their reading and recitations in English, German, and Spanish, and their youth.

_ _

The main problem with promoting children as musical artists is that the shelf life of cuteness is very short. Eventually every child is captured by puberty and transformed into a gangling awkward young adult. So it was with the Harry sisters, perhaps minus the gangling part, as their last performance was reported on May 3, 1890. After that date the trio seems to have stopped all public concerts.

My research might have stopped on that day as well, except for the Harry family's good fortune to  live in Carlisle, Pennsylvania a city that took pride in education. In the 1890 Carlisle, the county seat of Cumberland County, had a population of 7,620. This was small compared to Harrisburg, the state capital, 22 miles east of Carlisle, which had 39,385 citizens, but comfortably in between two adjacent county seats, York and Gettysburg, which respectively had 20,793 and 3,221 residents. 

In this decade Carlisle could boast of 14 churches, five newspapers, two banks, two cornet bands, dozens of fraternal and society lodges, and two important educational institutions. In 1879 on the grounds of an old military barracks the federal government established a large boarding school for Native-American children, called the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The photographer for the Harry sisters, John N. Choate, was under contract with the school to photograph the Indian students. and took thousands of photographs to document this school.

But a more notable educational institution for the city was Dickinson College, a private liberal arts college established in 1783 making it the first college founded after the American Revolution. For almost 100 years it was open only to young men, but in the 1880s Dickinson College began to admit female students into its academic program.

Again fortune favored the Harry sisters as their home in this enlightened community was just a 15 minute walk, less than a mile, from the Dickinson College campus. Included in its 1891-92 college catalog was a list of the freshman class of  '95 with 28 names. Under the Classical Section was Harry, Emma V., resident of Carlisle at Prof. Harry's.

1891-92 Dickinson College catalog
The college was also affiliated with a preparatory school for younger students, effectively a high school. And in the listing for the senior class was Harry, Angella E., and for the junior class, Harry, Celestia, both residing at Prof. Harry's.

Like many colleges, the students at Dickinson produced an annual journal entitled the Microcosm. The one for the 1891-92 school year was filled with witty observations of college life and clever cartoons like this one illustrating Emma's class of '95.

1891-92 Microcosm, Dickinson College annual
Source: Dickinson Archives
Emma V. Harry entered Dickinson in the fall of 1891 choosing the Classical Course of study. There were 32 freshman students in the class of '95, with 18 in the Classical Section. The students were required to take five hours in Latin and five in Greek, following standard textbooks on grammar and studying some of the works of various ancient scholars. Five more hours were devoted to mathematics, both algebra and geometry, and three hours for English study. There were also lectures in anatomy and oratory, which included Voice-building, Drill in Vocal Gymnastics, Gesture, together with Lectures on the Art of Breathing, with Description and Analysis of the Various Organs of Speech.

Tuition at Dickinson College in 1892 cost $50 per year, roughly $1,460 by 2020 measures of worth. Dorm rooms rented between $5 to $12 for the Fall term and $7 to $18 for the Winter/Spring term, the extra expense covering the cost of coal heating. Board was extra, typically $3 to $5 per week. Lab fees were $10 and $15 per term, and all students paid an additional general college service fee of $25 in the Fall and $35 in the Winter/Spring.

Emma Harry resided, of course, at her family's home in Carlisle so she was not obliged to pay room and board fees, and the service fee was reduced for local students. Fees for Angella and Celestia at the Dickinson Preparatory School were less, $28 for the Fall term and $56 for the Winter/Spring term, inclusive of general service fees. As accomplished performers the Harry sisters were already better prepared than most young children their age. In 1891 Emma Harry won a first prize freshman scholarship of $25 for the best entrance examination from the preparatory school students, and the following year was awarded a similar prize for attaining the highest class ranking. 

It was exciting to discover that the precocious Harry sisters were continuing their adventures with higher education at a time when women rarely chose such a college career path. In fact few young women in the 19th century could even aspire to an advanced academic degree since almost all American colleges were closed to women. Surely Prof. Harry and his wife saw the opportunity that Carlisle presented for their three daughters and endeavored to prepare them for college when they realized the girls' gifts for language and music. But a connection to a notable Carlisle family may also have influenced the girls' educational prospects.

Zatae Leola Sturgis Longsdorff Straw
(1866 – 1955)
Source: Wikipedia

The first woman to graduate from Dickinson College was Zatae Leola Sturgis Longsdorff Straw (1866 – 1955). She enrolled in 1884 to study medicine, and graduated from that institution in 1887, becoming a prominent physician in New Hampshire, one of the first female doctors in the state. In the 1920s after women were granted the right to vote, she served two terms in the New Hampshire state legislature.

Zatae was the daughter of Dr. William Henry Longsdorff, also a Dickinson alumni. While checking the Carlisle city directories for James B. Harry, I discovered that in 1882 the Harry's lived at 105 W. Louther St., only a quarter mile from the Dickinson Campus, and in 1887 they were a few blocks further away at 43 E. South St. But their previous address at 105 W. Louther St. was now the home and practice of Dr. William H. Longsdorff. And Dr. Longsdorff and his wife had a large family. Not only did their daughter Zatae graduate from Dickinson, but so did her two brothers and two younger sisters, Hildegard and Jessica Longsdorff, all becoming physicians. 

In 1882 Angella Elizabeth Harry joined her sister Emma at Dickinson College, entering as a freshman, Class of '96, also in the Classical Section. My research used some of the Dickinson College catalogs available on, but a better source of detail was found in the Microcosm, the college annual, and the Dickinsonian, the college newspaper, both found at the Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections.

Trying to trace the personal history of a woman in the digital age can be very challenging because inevitably their surname changes to something different upon marriage. Or likewise a some other woman acquires the surname because of marriage. Finding the Harry sisters beyond their time as child entertainers was proving difficult and I was troubled that I was hitting too many dead ends after 1900. So the discovery of all three girls attending Dickinson College seemed an invaluable resource to follow their lives beyond their photographs. What bright adventures awaited these three young women?

 Sometimes a fairy tale can turn very dark.

The Dickinsonian
March 1893, issue 6, p 16
In Memoriam.

Miss Angella E. Harry, daughter of Prof. J. B. Harry, died at her home on Sunday February 5. She was a lovely and accomplished young girl, and a member of the Freshman Class of Dickinson College. The constant calls of anxious friends at her father's house for weeks before her death, and the sorrow which now fills their hearts, tells the deep hold which this lovely daughter has laid on so many hearts. Her characteristic traits were innocence, simplicity, and truth, fullness, and at the same time, most conscientious obedience to her parents and to the commandments of her Savior. Her illness was marked by a sweet submission and childlike faith.

At her funeral, Dr. Reed, president of her alma mater, Dr. Harman and Dr. Yocum, spoke in beautiful and touching language of her many virtues, and her fine mental qualities. The College bell was tolled, and the hymn "Safe in the Arms of Jesus," was sung by a choir of students. Four of her classmates were pall-bearers. As a token of respect the Freshman class sent a beautiful floral tribute.

In the Dickinson College annual
published later that year,
a poem was featured to honor Angella.
The poet's initials:
E. V. H.—Emma V. Harry

1892-93 Microcosm., Dickinson College annual
Source: Dickinson College Archives

In Memoriam

Angela E. Harry

Class of '96
Died February 5, 1893

Angela! 'Tis a music-breathing name—
   As sweet and low as gentle zephyr's sigh;
We murmur it—we call and call again,
   And wait, with aching hearts, thy soft reply;
But ah! thy sister angels claimed their own;
   They called thee ere life's early morn was past;
Thy kindred spirit knew their dulcet tones;
   Their mystic spell in love they o'er thee cast.
When morning's rosy finger paints the sky,
   And birds of spring well forth their liquid lie,
Or when the evening shadows lengthening lie,
   and the wild wind-harps wail their touching moans,
We only hear that music-breathing name,
   as sweet and soothing as the zephyr's sigh;
And, though with aching hearts we call again,
   We never hear thy gentle voice reply.
                                –E. V. H.

This was a devastating shock to the Harry family then, as it was to this researcher now 125+ years later. Angella E. Harry, born October 21, 1874 in Chambersburg, PA was only 18 years, 3 months old. The light of her life was extinguished. How painful it must have been for her two sisters.

But fortune can be terribly cruel.

Carlisle PA Evening Herald
02 May 1895

From a report in the Carlisle Evening Herald
published 2 May 1895.

L. Celestra (sic) Harry
Miss L. Celestra, youngest and beloved daughter of Prof. J. V. (sic) Harry and Emma S. Harry, died at the residence of the parents, No. 514 West Louther street, this morning at 9 45 o'clock, after a lingering illness from a complication of diseases. The deceased was aged 17 years and attended Dickinson College, being a member of the Sophomore class. She was a gentle and kind young lady, respected by her classmates. She was unusually bright and stood high in her class. The hour of funeral will be announced later.

Once again, Emma Viola Harry
composed a poem
in memory of
her beloved younger sister.

1895-96 Microcosm., Dickinson College annual
Source: Dickinson College Archives

In Memoriam

L. Celestia Harry

Class of '97
Died May 2, 1895

Bright flowers all around me may bloom,
   With their fragrance scent woodland and lea;
But my lily-bud frail is faded and dead.
   And all others are naught to me.

Sweet music entrancing may swell,
   With the cadence that ravished of yore;
But the harp-strings I loved are broken and still,
   And these poor chords can charm me no more.

No more?  Nay, beloved, not so,
   'Twas but born of the moment's pain—
For each beauteous thing wafts an echo to me,
   A breath from my lost love again.
                                 –E. V. H.

The loss of two daughters in less than 15 months must have been a heartbreaking blow to James and Emma Harry, and soul crushing for the eldest sister, Emma. The promise of three beautiful girls was reduced to a single hope for one. Lydia Celestia Harry, born October 27, 1877 in Chambersburg, PA was only 17 years, 6 months old at her death on May 2, 1895.

In less than two weeks, Emma Viola Harry
would sit for her final senior exams.
Graduation was scheduled for June 5, 1895

* * *

This is the second of three chapters
about the Harry sisters.
Stay tuned
for chapter 3 next week.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link for more children at play.

The Harry Sisters - part 1

18 January 2020

Once upon a time
there were three sisters
who lived in Pennsylvania.
Each was a nimble violinist
and a beauty too.

The three girls liked to entertain people
with music and literature,
playing their violins,
singing songs,
and reciting long poems and stories
sometimes in foreign languages.

Everyone marveled
at how smart the three sisters were.
It made their parents proud.

Their father was a singing master
who taught them everything about music.
Their mother was a skilled seamstress
who made wonderful embroidered frocks

for them to wear when performing.

Everywhere the clever sisters went,
they impressed people
with their many talents
and charming music.

Their photos could almost be illustrations
from a children's book of fairy tales.

They were the Harry Sisters
and they lived in
Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

From oldest to youngest
their names were:

Emma Viola Harry,
Angella E. Harry,
Lydia Celestia Harry.

And once upon an earlier time
before they were born,
their father
helped save the Union
for President Lincoln.

This photograph of the three Harry sisters posed with their violins is one of the gems in my collection. The photographer's imprint is difficult to see on the green card mount, but it is the same name as on the later buff card, J. N. Choate, Carlisle, PA. His full name was John Nicolas Choate (1848–1902) and he became a noted photographer of the students at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. From the school's founding in 1879 until his death in 1902, Choate produced thousands of photos of Native American children who were sent to this now controversial boarding school run by the Federal government. Over its nearly 40 years of operation until closing in 1918, the Carlisle Indian School accepted over 10,000 boys and girls from 140 tribes around the Unites States, yet only 158 student graduated. Many of those Indian school student photos Choate duplicated by the hundreds for promotional use by the school.

In just the same way, Choate's photos of the Harry sisters were printed in multiples to sell as souvenirs at their performances. This artfully arranged cabinet photo probably dates from about 1883-84. On the back are their three names written in a beautiful calligraphy.

The girls were the daughters of James Brown Harry and Emma Stuart Harry. James titled himself as Prof. J. B. Harry as he was a music teacher, specifically a "singing master", giving lessons to individual vocalists and also directing choirs. In the 1880 US Census the Harry family lived in Mount Holly Springs, PA which was then a village 6 miles south of Carlisle with about 1,200 inhabitants. James was age 51, his wife Emma, 37, and daughters Emma V., age 9, Angella E., age 6, and Lydia C., age 3. As Lydia Celestia , the youngest girl in the photo, appears about age 6 this dates the image to 1883-84.

1880 US Census Mount Holly Springs, PA

By this decade Prof. Harry had over 30 years experience working a music teacher in the central Pennsylvania region. Beginning in 1882, his name appears in newspaper reports announcing entertainments by his "educated babies." In October 1883 the Chambersburg PA weekly ran a notice saying the Harry sisters, age 11, 8, and 5 would give  readings in English, German, and Spanish and the eldest renders any piece of music handed her on sight, without the aid of musical instruments. The press, wherever they have appeared speak well of them.

Chambersburg PA Public Weekly Opinion
06 October 1883
Some of the venues where the Harry sisters exhibited their talents were "opera houses", which were actually just small town civic theaters. Generally they played in churches or schools with tickets sometimes sold as a benefit. They were not promoted like vaudeville entertainers as Prof. Harry never took out music hall type advertisements. His daughters' concerts were not like a variety act, but instead were a demonstration of their talent using violin music and literary readings.

By May 1884 the Harry sisters' local celebrity in Juniata township, about 35 miles north of Carlisle, rated a headline with their name. They played a number of fine selections from the most renouned (sic) masters and composers in a variety of keys and positions on that most difficult instrument, the violin. They will sing several charming duetts, and a variety of German and English songs. Their readings will consist of prose and poetry from the best authors in the English, German, and Spanish languages. Admission, Adults, 25 cents; Children, 15 cents. Doors open 7:15 P.M.

Juniata PA Sentinel and Republican
07 May 1884
Sometimes the older girls played a word game with Celestia, possibly with a chalk board, that challenged her to spell and translate difficult foreign words and phrases. In Pennsylvania there would be many people familiar with German, though likely in an older form. But there can't have been many Spanish speakers then living in the Carlisle area who could judge the girls' pronunciation. Nonetheless the newspapers reported that people were amazed at their maturity and intelligent erudition. The girls also gave English renditions of humorous stories and traditional poetry, likely chosen for a morally improving message. Their songs would also likely be Christian sacred music, perhaps from the Methodist tradition as that was the faith Mr. and Mrs. Harry followed.

From about 1882 to 1890, the Harry sisters performed around central Pennsylvania. Carlisle is only 20 some miles southwest of Harrisburg, the state capitol, so a rail connection allowed Prof. Harry to easily book engagements from 30 to 130 miles from their home.  Newspaper reports do not mention Philadelphia or Pittsburgh so it seems the Harry trio never traveled to any big city venues.  They were small town folk. Their ambitions did not seek theatrical celebrity. 

 * * * *

For me the delightful quality of these photos is the way they capture the bright moments of three loving sisters, making them almost like characters from a fairy tale. But just like photographs never reveal the hidden history beyond the camera, fairy tales never tell the full story of a person or a family. Any true tale about children should include the joys and sorrows of real life.

So because it happens that I have more photos of the Harry sisters to show, and more of their history to tell, I've decided to break up their story into three chapters over the next few weeks.

But before I finish this chapter
I must tell the origin story
about the heroic adventures of their father.

 * * * *

I do not have a photo from the 1880s of James Brown Harry.
But I did find a halftone newspaper copy of Prof. J. B. Harry
from 30 years later showing a old man
with almost a biblical visage.

Prof. J. B. Harry of New Castle, PA
Baltimore MD Sun
24 July 1910

James B. Harry was born on Dec. 17, 1828 in central Pennsylvania. As a young man he demonstrated a talent for teaching music, and for many years traveled around the Harrisburg, Penn. region as an itinerant singing master. In the summer 1863, he was 34 years old, single, and surprisingly not serving as a soldier in the Union Army as so many other men from his state were doing. It was the third year of the Civil War, the great war between the states over secession, and so far the Union army had not fared well in battles against the Confederates. That summer there was a new threat as for the first time, General Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia into the north.

Lee's objective was Harrisburg, the capitol of Pennsylvania, and then possibly Philadelphia. As his forces moved into Pennsylvania, General Meade's Army of the Potomac followed in hot pursuit. Lee planned a flanking attempt to go around Harrisburg, and on June 28th, 1863 Major General Jubal A. Early's division captured the city of York. Their next target would be to enter Lancaster County by crossing the Susquehanna River at Columbia, PA, about 30 southwest of Harrisburg. This required securing the Wrightsville Bridge. It was then the world's longest covered bridge, 28 feet wide and 5,620 feet long.

At the time James B. Harry was living near Gettysburg, PA and as the war came closer, he experienced a vision that it was God's task for him to locate Lee's army using his intimate knowledge of the area. On the night of June 27th after he learned of the Confederate advance towards York, he drove his one-horse buggy 50 miles north to Harrisburg to warn the governor. Knowing that the Confederate forces were greater than the Federal defense at the strategic Wrightsville Bridge, Harry advised the governor that it should be destroyed before the Confederates seized control. This was so ordered, and when Early's cavalry troops arrived to capture the bridge, it was set ablaze by the Federals preventing any crossing. Lee's forces turned westward and marched instead to Gettysburg, where, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, a fateful battle would change the course of the war.

Several newspaper accounts of Prof. Harry's ride to Harrisburg were published in 1910, 1911, 1913, and 1914. These coincided with the 50th anniversary of the war, when the public began recognizing that the generation of soldiers who fought in this terrible war would soon be gone forever. As far as I could learn from the archives, Harry never served in the war. At 35 he was beyond the cutoff age for the federal draft. Most of the accounts are written in his own words and covey a strong personality with a devout Christian faith. The length of his stories suggest that he was a man who loved to talk, and show he was also very compassionate. In one long section he recounts an encounter with a free black family who were fleeing the Confederate invasion, naturally fearing capture and enslavement by the Southerners. He stops to comfort them and direct them to safety, assuring them they will be safe in Harrisburg. They thank him for his help and praise him for his respectful tone towards them.

Click this newspaper image to read Prof. Harry's story.

Carlisle PA Sentinel
23 January 1914

Prof. Harry's role in the history of America's Civil War was surely a very minor exploit among the many larger events leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. As expected for a man in his 80s, the retelling of an adventure 50 years past might easily stretch the truth and misstate some of facts, but there is one interesting part of his story that rings true.

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to dedicate the Soldiers' National Cemetery. He would only speak at the end of the ceremony following the two hour oration given by Hon. Edward Everett. Lincoln's brief remarks became known as the Gettysburg Address, possibly the most celebrated speech in American history.

And Prof. James B. Harry was there to hear it.

    When President Lincoln was called to Gettysburg to make the dedicatory address, Prof. Harry was there, and much to his surprise he learned that his aged mother had come from Ohio to see the great emancipator. Prof. Harry led his aged mother into the vast throng, and as there were no seats he was surprised when two soldiers came to them and informed them that President Lincoln had prepared places for them on the platform, as he had learned of Prof. Harry's bravery and devotion to the Union, and especially of his heroic midnight ride for the defense of the state capitol. When they reached the platform President Lincoln greeted them warmly. Mrs. Harry was at that time 75 years of age and had traveled the three hundred miles of her journey from Ohio alone. 
    Prof. Harry, now venerable with age, attended the semi-centennial anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg last July and there amid familiar scenes of his youth renewed the memories of the past and greeted the survivors of the great struggle for universal freedom.

In November 1863 a few photographs were taken at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery by an assistant of famed photographer Mathew Brady. Because of the way early cameras had to be arranged for outdoor photos, the photographer was a good distance from the speakers platform and the images did not seem worthy of printing at the time. But in 1952 researchers at the Library of Congress realized that one photo had enough detail when enlarged to show President Lincoln seated on the platform. Analysis of the shadows puts the time of the photo at noon, about three hours before Lincoln made his speech. I can't make out any elderly woman on the platform, but I think somewhere in the crowd is the face of the future father of the three Harry sisters.

Detail from a photograph taken on November 19, 1863
by  David Bachrach of President Lincoln at the dedication ceremonies
at the Soldiers' National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Penn,
Source: Wikipedia

In 1913, the year before the last account of Prof. Harry's ride to save Harrisburg, he attended the Gettysburg memorial anniversary and was given the honor of reading Lincoln's famous address. I suspect his daughters knew the words by heart too. Maybe even in three languages.

Carlisle PA Sentinel
03 July 1913

James Brown Harry died in Michigan at the home
of his daughter Emma Viola Harry
on September 15, 1918.
He was just three months short of his 90th birthday.

* * * *

This is the first of three chapters
about the Harry sisters.
Stay tuned
for chapter 2 next week.

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

Kids with Talent

10 January 2020

Sometimes the sequins give it away.
Costumes with glitter,
fringed sleeves, and short skirts
are not the clothes regular kids wear.
This is the wardrobe of professional entertainers.

Shoes are the best clue.
Normal boys in 1900
were shod in sturdy, durable boots
for muddy streets.
Entertainers wore shiny buckled slippers
to glide around the footlights of a theater stage.

And well groomed hair is another clue.
The fashion of the theater
demanded that a child star's
coiffure should be perfect,
gleaming of scented oil,
and every curl in place.
An ordinary youth might need to pass
their mother's standards
only on the weekend.
But for a young entertainer to look the part,
every day called for their Sunday best.

The costumes of these seven children
reveal them as professional entertainers.
Their multiple instruments are evidence of their talent,
but it is the confidence in their eyes that shows us
they are not ordinary kids.
They are artistes of the musical theater.

* * *

The first musical trio of two sisters and older brother
are clearly dressed in theatrical garb designed to catch the lights.
The two girls hold cornets and centered between them
are a violin, clarinet, soprano saxophone and trombone.
I would judge their ages at
15 for the boy
and 14 and 11 for the girls.
Their photo is an unmarked cabinet card,
probably sold as a souvenir of their vaudeville performance.
The only clue is a place name, Stanley, N.D., written on the back.
In 1910, which is my rough guess as to when this photo was taken,
Stanley was a very small town in northwest
North Dakota
with a population then of 518.
However it was on the rail line between Chicago and Seattle.

* * *

The next two boys, are on a German postcard captioned:
Bruno    Georgi
Die zwei kleinsten Musik-Virtuosen und Duettisten
der Gegenwart. 9 Jahre alt Ohne Konkurrenz – Einzig
dastehend – Violine; Piston un Fanfarentrompete.
 The two smallest music virtuosos and duetists
of the present day. 9 years old without competition - only
standing - violin; Piston and fanfare trumpet.

Their surname is not noted,
but presumably Bruno and Georgi are twin brothers.
The piston cornets were not typical for German bands
but were more often used by music hall soloists. 

The postmark was stamped on 15 September 1914,
just a few weeks into the start of the Great War,
from Neumünster in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

* * *

The last two young ladies
with shiny blonde hair are definitely sisters.
They are pictured on a postcard with the caption:
The Misses Gertie and Flossie Edgcombe.
 The World's Youngest Cornet and Violin Duettists.

My guess for their age is 12 and 10.
Gertie's string instrument may be a viola
as it is larger than Flossie's violin.

The postcard was never mailed
but the divided back has a message on the left,

For INLAND postage only this space
may be used for communication.

This dates the card to sometime between 1902,
when the British Post Office first allowed
messages on the back, and 1906,
when messages on the back
were permitted for postcards sent beyond the UK.

All of these children were instrumental performers
on the music hall and vaudeville theater circuits
in the first decade of the 20th century.
It was a time when theaters, restaurants,
cafes, and even churches
regularly booked family friendly entertainment,
so it was not hard for parents of talented children like these
to find venues to get their kids into show business.
It's likely that most of these young stars learned music
from one or both of their parents, as musicians,
like shoemakers and cabinetmakers,could be a family trade.

Beyond the footlights,
the work must have been very hard for the parents.
Negotiating with theater agents; keeping accounts;
remembering train schedules; booking hotels;
repairing torn shirts; finding lost music;
polishing shoes; learning new routines;
and above all,
managing and protecting your child
who has been assigned a role
usually expected of an adult pursuing a career. 

 What music did they play?
How long was their set on stage?
When did they learn new material?
Where did they find time to be regular kids?
The answers to these questions and many others
may be impossible to know.
But at least we have photos to spark our imagination.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the kids are all right.

To Your Health!

03 January 2020

Three wishes for the new year:

A toast to your good health!

May nature cure any ailment.


And may music always
bring you great joy.

* * *

The first young woman
offers us a cheery toast
to the New Year - 1900.

Dein Wohl!
Your Health!

This postcard etching was sent from Prague
on the 30th December 1899

* * *


 The second young lady
thoughtfully contemplates something,
perhaps the beauty of flowers,
as she enjoys a refreshing foot bath.

Kneipp's Cure

Kneipp was Sebastian Kneipp (1821 - 1897), a Bavarian priest
who developed the naturopathic medicine movement.
His "Kneipp Cure" was a form of hydrotherapy that used
various methods of applying water at different temperatures
and pressures for therapeutic effect.

It was sent on the 26th January 1899
to Fräulein Emmy Tehle,
Hochwohlgeboren ~
High Well-born,
of Starnberg, Bavaria.


* * *

The five charming women in this third etching
perform on violins, viola, cello, and double bass as a
Streichquintett ~ String Quintet

This Austrian postcard was sent on the 27th April 1900
addressed with a most artful calligraphy to

Spanilomyslná slečna
Anna Lynsova (?)

The honorific is in Czech
but I could not find it in Czech-English dictionaries.
I believe it means something like "Enchanting Miss",
or possibly it is an archaic phrase used for nobility like
The message on the front reads:

Zasilám prvý to listek umelecký
I send the first letter of art

The sketches on these postcards
were produced by the Austrian artist

Hermann Torggler, (1878-1939).
Previously his artwork was featured in
Ein schönes Mädchen
Up, Up, and Away!
The Girls of Austrian Postcards

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where a smile is always welcome.


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