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 }

Herr Julian Kändt and his Austrian Blue Band

28 March 2020

A conductor commands the pulse of his musicians.
They know the notes and rhythms
but they can't begin until
they see the flick of the baton.
And even then
the speed they play
is not of their choosing

but is strictly defined
by the conductor's gestures.

A band leader manages the show business of a concert.
He books the engagements; signs the contracts;
hires the soloists; procures the uniforms;
rranges the stage setup; and most importantly,
pays the musicians.

A music director selects the concert program,
arranging the music like a chef prepares a menu
to create a musical feast
that will please every kind of palate.

Not all conductors
have the business sense to be a good band leader.

And not all band leaders
have the artistic talent to be a music director.

Hull Daily Mail
1 August 1912
This is the story of one conductor
who had all the necessary musical skills and more.

He was a band leader who valued his musicians,
a music director who knew his audience,
and for extra bonus,
a violinist who played enchanting melodies.

His name was Herr Julian Kändt,
the favorite of Bridlington's New Spa.

In this first photo postcard, Julian Kändt stands on a small stage with his "Famous Band", as noted in the caption, at the New Spa Bridlington, 1910. With him are 17 musicians dressed in splendid uniform coats with military type hats. There are seven string players from violin to double bass. And an assortment of wind instruments including two horns, cornets, trombone, flute, and clarinet.

The location was Bridlington, a town in East Riding of Yorkshire, on the North Sea coastline of England. Promoted today as the "Lobster Capital of Europe", in the 19th century Bridlington became noted for its mineral water spring that turned it into a seaside spa and holiday resort. By the late-1890s developers had built numerous amenities and amusements that attracted thousands of seasonal visitors from around Britain and Europe.

1895 Bridlington Quay, The Parade, Yorkshire, England
Source: Wikipedia

In July 1896 a private enterprise opened a theater and seaside pavilion on the southern end of Bridlington's beach front calling it the Bridlington Spa. After a fire destroyed its theatre in 1906 it was quickly rebuilt as the New Spa. In this next postcard we can see an ornate octagonal structure pushing out into the promenade. This is the band stand, which I believe, is where Herr Kändt posed with his bandsmen facing an interior garden. Though the shadows are dark, I think there is a band playing inside the oriental gazebo as dozens of people listen on benches outside. The message on the side reads:

The Parade is better than
this. I have a monthly ticket

The writer may be referring to the other end of Bridlington's seafront, where the municipal council managed more amusements and hired a second band  to entertain the public in competition with the New Spa.

When the Bridlington Spa opened on 27 July 1896 its first concerts were performed by Herr Meyer Lutz's Grand Band. Meyer Lutz (1829–1903) was a Bavarian-born British composer, well known for his operettas and incidental stage music produced for London's theaters. Trained in Germany, Lutz was one of many German and Austrian musicians in the Victorian era who built a successful career after moving to Britain.

London Morning Post
9 June 1897
Julian Wilford Kändt, or Kandt, without the umlaut as it was usually spelled in English, was part of a later generation of Germanic musicians who emigrated to Britain, and his name first appeared in 1897 newspaper advertisements of musical ensembles for hire.

Julian Wilford Kandt's Celebrated Royal Salon Orchestra, under Royal Patronage, may now be engaged for Concerts, Parties, At Homes, &c. No agents, –Adress Curzon House, 35, Albany street, Regent's Park. Cutting from "Society," November 14, 1896.—"This orchestra is unequalled."
In the other adverts next to his listing were: Lacon and Ollier's Blue Hungarian Band; Herr Iff's Orchestra; The Plantagenet Orchestra;  Moritz Wurm's Original Viennese White Band; The Co-operative Orchestra; and Ashton's Blue Hungarian Band from Budapest. All available for balls, receptions, dances, garden parties, &c. and most appearing in costumes.
_ _ _

To judge by the number of curled mustaches on his musicians, as well as his own carefully groomed 'stache, Herr Kändt's orchestra presented a very Germanic appearance on the concert stage. The reason for this was due to the enthusiasm in Britain for the waltz, or more particularly the Viennese waltzes of Johann Strauss the Younger (1825–1899). Strauss was arguably the most influential composer of his time, crafting elegant tunes with infectious toe-tapping rhythms into brilliant waltzes and witty polkas that became enormously popular with audiences around the world.

Like Johann Strauss, Herr Kändt was both a violinist and a composer, and more appropriately an Austrian too. After a couple of seasons his advertisements announced a new name for his band. The Austrian Blue Band, with most elaborate and artistic uniforms. The term "band" and "orchestra" were often used interchangeably in this era and meant basically a small ensemble capable of playing arrangements of both orchestral music and band music. By 1900 many of these "Austrian" and "Hungarian" bands were represented by one large entertainment agency in London who probably used the colors–blue, red, white– to easily distinguish their groups.

London Morning Post
21 November 1899

By the early 1900s, Kandt's Austrian Blue Band was regularly booked for the summer season at British seaside resorts like Scarborough, and Weston-super-Mare. In the winter season his salon orchestra moved indoors for more refined concerts. In 1903 on the occasion of King Edward and Queen Alexandra's 40th wedding anniversary, Herr Kändt's orchestra entertained over 400 guests at a dinner party held at Buckingham Palace. Performing for such a prestigious event was a priceless endorsement for any musician working in the high society circuits of Britain. Kändt shrewdly used it to his advantage, and was soon engaged by the Royal Yacht Squadron at the Isle of Wight to provide the musical entertainment during its summer yacht races. The patrons at the R.Y.S. clubhouse at Cowes represented the elite of Britain's wealthy upper class, and orchestras like Kändt's became a prize when they performed for balls, house parties, and charity benefits.

Bridlington's society was probably a few steps down from London, but after Herr Kändt's band played its first engagement at Bridlington, his band's music and Austrian style quickly attracted a devoted following. A photo postcard of the Prince's Parade in Bridlington shows a typical crowd on a summer day. Though many people did indulge in swimming along a stretch of Bridlington's sandy beach, in this more genteel and modest age, most people simply strolled along the parade or promenade.

Kandt's band usually played at least two concerts, afternoon and early evening. Amplified by the bandstand's acoustics, the sound might have carried a fair distance down the promenade, but the concerts were designed to bring patrons into the Spa, which is what Julian Kändt's music was very good at doing. Reports of the competition between his band and the municipal band at the Prince's Parade always awarded Kändt with the most accolades. Part of this was due to Julian Kändt's beautiful violin playing.

In this souvenir photo postcard, Herr Julian Kändt stands with his violin at rest. He wears a kind of military uniform jacket with ornate toggle cording, doubtless colored in an Austrian blue hue. His Pince-nez glasses perfectly mirror his upturned mustache while he gazes calmly at some unseen vista. In the lower corner he has signed it.
Yours faithfully,
Julian Kändt 

It was sent from Taunton on 3 December 1904 to Miss May Alder of Taunton.

I hope you
have enjoyed
listening to my

The programs for Kändt's Austrian Blue Band included a wide variety of music. For balls or skating halls, the dance lineup usually had two dozen waltzes, mostly by Strauss, interspersed with an occasional two-step. A formal concert might include opera arias of Puccini, Bizet, and Verdi; overtures of Rossini, Weber, and of course Wagner;  music by Liszt, Elgar, Berlioz, Sibelius, and other composers now forgotten; and for an exotic flavor, Kändt might play a Hungarian czardas on his violin. One reviewer in 1910 said, "(Kändt) produces a flawless, silver filigree of sound...his band has a ruling passion for the dynamics of their music. They are ever sudden, but never do they go off at an outrageous tangent. They achieve the proper'bouquet,' or flavour, that you associate with Viennese music by means of attack, quick expressions of feeling, and amiable lingering on sentiment and luscious passages."

Lincoln NE Star
22 June 1904

Descriptions of Kändt's Austrian band style contrast sharply with the reviews of the many Italian bands that were then becoming a craze in the United States. The British public's taste for the exuberant Italian conductors like Oreste Vessella, in my story from August 2019, An Atlantic City Love Story, part 2, seemed less fervent and more attracted to the Viennese character.

In 1904 Julian Kändt was interviewed for his opinion about the new dance fashion in London of two-steps, cake walks, and ragtime music introduced from America. The two-step, (not to be confused with the foxtrot which came later) placed dance partners side by side rather than facing each other. This had a benefit of fewer shin kicks and torn gowns. But Herr Kändt felt "rag time" was altogether detrimental to dancing.

"It requires a very unmusical person to dance against the time," Herr  Kändt said, "and yet I have seen couples dance a sort of two step to a Strauss waltz.

"I have also seen dancers perform a cake walk under these conditions before a roomful of people. The steps of a cake walk are often unlike any known dance, and the effect is frequently ridiculous.

"But there are many beautiful dancers still, and I find that the very best style is to be seen at hunt or county balls."

The report was picked up by several newspapers in the U.S. and gives us a sense of Herr Kändt's personality as well as his position in London's entertainment hierarchy.

_ _ _

The musicians of Kändt's orchestra, as seen in this next postcard of his band, were not all Austrian or German. Some were Italian or Hungarian, and several were likely English but nearly all sported a mustache with a Prussian curl. Talented instrumentalists often switched bands, perhaps for better pay, or for engagements closer to their home, so his roster of players, generally between 12 and 18 musicians, was changeable, but newspaper reports said some bandsmen had been in the band for 10 to 15 years.

Rail travel in Britain was of course much easier for entertainers than in the United States, but music ensembles also crossed the channel for concert tours on the continent. However I've found no reports that Kändt ever did this with his group, working mainly in England, Wales, and Ireland. Probably this was because in Europe there was too much competition from similar German and Austrian groups.

This is another souvenir postcard of Herr Julian Kändt with his violin. He also signed this one in 1908. It is addressed to Mrs. Hall, R. Y. S. Castle, Cowes, I. o. Wight, who might have been the chairwoman of the entertainment committee of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

from, Julian
& Cissy Kändt 

Hull Daily Mail
19 August 1910

In 1910 Julian W. Kändt, at the height of his popularity, was interviewed by a reporter with the Hull Daily Mail and the piece provided lots of information on his background.

Kändt was born in 1874 in Linz, Austria on the upper Danube River. Though his father was not a musician, on Julian's fifth birthday he gave him a violin and it became his passion. After study in Leipzig and then Vienna, in 1893, at the age 19, he was invited by an English restaurateur to bring a small ensemble of eight Viennese musicians to London.

They played at a restaurant on King Street, St. James where Kändt had the good fortune to meet the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, (and also the commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron.) This good fortune opened new opportunities for Kändt to find work outside of London performing for the many people within the circle of the Prince of Wales.

In 1910 Kändt was married with two children. He and his wife Cissy, who was born in London, lived at 16 Regent's Park Terrace, in a fashionable part of London not far from the train stations serving the north of England.

_ _ _

In the summer of 1914
Herr Julian Kändt was 40 years old,
keen to finish his engagements at Bridlington
and return to Cowes for the R.Y.S. regatta.
The August event attracted hundreds of yachts,
under sail and steam, and in all sizes.
Even though Kaiser Wilhelm II
did not plan to attend Cowes on board his yacht,
he still managed to leave a big mark on the occasion.
Britain declared war with Germany on August 4, 1914
just one day before the start of the Cowes regatta. 

There would be no music.

After the start of the war in August 1914, many holiday resorts like Bridlington tried to carry on as usual. Bands added more patriotic material and some entertainers joined in military recruitment drives. It was a chaotic time yet most people expected the war would end in a few months if not weeks. But it didn't work out that way.

On December 16, 1914, the Imperial German Navy sent a fleet of 27 battle cruisers and destroyers to raid the English ports of Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool and Whitby along Britain's east coast. The German warships' bombardment resulted in 592 casualties, mostly of civilians, of whom 137 were killed. The attack inflamed the British public with anger towards the German Navy and brought widespread condemnation of the Royal Navy for its failure to prevent the raid.

Just a month later on January 19, 1915 the Germans introduced the world to strategic aerial bombing with a raid of two Zeppelin airships that dropped bombs on Great Yarmouth, Sheringham, King's Lynn and surrounding villages. Casualties were thankfully very light, only sixteen people were injured and four killed, but the terror generated by the raid was immeasurable. More attacks were attempted in February and March but bad weather kept the Zeppelin air fleet from crossing the English Channel.

For an Austrian musician with an umlaut in his name,
it was not a favorable time.

Hull Daily Mail
18 February 1915

In February 1915, the development committee of the Bridlington town council decided it should reconsider the contract it had with Herr Kändt. In an effort to appease the public, they recommended buying out Kändt's 1915 season contract for £300, with an option to cancel his booking for 1916 and 1917 for an additional £200. A "Councillor Davis, in moving the resolution, said he had the greatest admiration for Mr. Kandt as a musical director and a musician, and also as a gentleman. They had, however, to face the fact of the war, in consequence of which there was a strong feeling that he would not be so generously supported as hitherto."  If the resolution carried and Kändt accepted, the committee would seek to engage a good "all-British" band with as many members as Mr. Kandt's, and to pay the conductor £640 for the season. Herr Kändt was paid £1,050.

The report on the committee debate said Kändt had strenuously objected, claiming that though some people "regarded him as Austrian, it was a fact that he was not an Austrian, but of Russian birth; that his father was a naturalised British subject, and that Mr. Julian Kandt was born in England." (a mistaken report) He "could not understand why he should not command the same support as in the past."

The resolution was moved to be referred back to the full Council. One alderman said he "did not believe there was any strong feeling against Mr. Kandt." Another said he "had been told by a prominent tradesman that unless Mr. Kandt came the Spa would go down." Ten days later the Bridlington Town Council rejected the recommendation of its committee. Herr Kändt's band would fulfill its contract for the 1915 season at the Bridlington Spa.

Cardiff Western Mail
5 March 1915

Despite the council's vote of approbation, Kandt must have felt threatened by the growing anti-German sentiment in Britain as three weeks later an advertisement tinted with his indignation ran in the Cardiff Western Mail. It was for a two week booking at the Park-Hall in Cardiff.

Kandt's Band under the personal direction of Julian Kandt, will present a series of patriotic and popular concerts. 

Special note. I Julian Kandt, take this opportunity of assuring my many Friends and Patrons that I am ABSOLUTELY BRITISH, being the Son of a Naturalised British Subject of many years standing, and of Russian origin, and my Band is composed of Fifteen British and Three Russian Musicians.

His soloists were Senhor Jose de Moraes, the famous Portuguese Tenor, and Miss Rosina Buckman, the famous New Zealand Soprano. After the grand opening concert on Sunday, there would be concerts every evening at Eight p.m. with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at Three p.m. Balcony seats, 1s,; Floor, 6d.

_ _ _

That summer in 1915, Julian Kandt dropped the umlaut and renamed his group "Kandt's Famous Band". In September the Yorkshire Weekly Post published a reviewer's impression of the seaside resort in wartime. The writer added some light humor, recounting how he tried questioning an old fisherman about the minesweepers in the harbor while being careful not to be mistaken for a German spy.

Yorkshire Weekly Post
11 September 1915

The "Princess Parade" shows no signs of having suffered from the effects of the war. The flower beds are as bloomingly gay as ever. The floral clock seems as floral as before, and the hall has its baskets as beautiful as at any other time. Both the bands here and on the New Spa are conducted as usual by Signor Scoma and Mr Julian Kandt respectively. Hitherto I have been unfortunate enough to be at Bridlington during Cowes week, and Mr Kandt was always at that place. This year I was more fortunate. There is no doubt about the personality of this conductor. He has the quiet style that tells. Sometimes he becomes so quiet as to cease conducting altogether for a time - this to show that the band can free-wheel downhill, so to speak, once it has got going properly. You should just hear "Rags" done by Mr Kandt. They don't merely flutter in the breeze, as under some conductors; they simply dance and wave and tear themselves to tatters. It is enough to make the most staid old party jump up and begin to stump around. Our strictly British upbringing makes us content ourselves with a mere shuffling of the feet under the chair.

_ _ _

Cardiff Western Mail
10 November 1915

By November 1915, Kandt was back in Cardiff. now advertising his show with more desperation than indignation.

This time it was Julian Kandt and his Famous (All-British) Band for two shows at 3 and 8. His soloists were Signor Lenghi Cellini and Miss May Huxley. The ad continued with:

Julian Kandt will give a Percentage of his Entire Receipts towards War Charities.

Julian Kandt invites wounded soldiers to any of his concerts, free of charge.

Kandt's Band.


Owing to rumours circulated in Cardiff respecting my nationality,
I, Julian Kandt, again emphatically state that I am a British subject of many years standing, and of Russian origin.

Furthermore, every member of mu band is British born.

I will pay the sum of £500 to anyone who can prove the above statements to be untrue.

_ _ _

The following week a notice in the Cardiff newspaper was placed that Mr. Julian Kandt had agreed to cancel his band concert so that the Glamorgan Yeomanry Male Voice Choir could give their farewell concert before they left for the front. Surrounding the notice on the page were long columns of names—soldiers and sailors on the official list of casualties and deaths.

Cardiff Western Mail
15 November 1915

Kandt's orchestra  returned to Bridlington in the late summer of 1916. Advertisements appeared under the heading 'Health Resorts'. "For a restful, delightful holiday, Bridlington, Bright, Breezy, Bracing."  Signor Scoma's orchestra played three concerts daily at the north end, and Julian Kandt's orchestra twice daily at the south end Spa. There were "plays and entertainment in the Opera House, Golf, Boating, Fishing, Open-air Promenade Concerts, First-class Vocalists.  Such Quantities of Sand."

But his bookings were not the same as two years before. There was no regatta at Cowes. No grand house parties or charity balls. The war time rationing and regulations altered so much of British society and civic life, that entertainment took on a different meaning and purpose.

Hull Daily Mail
27 June 1917

In June 1917 the Hull Daily Mail announced that Mr. Julian Kandt would be unable to come to to Bridlington this season owing to illness. He had struggled through the past season's engagements under very painful conditions, but was now unable to resume his work. The Development Committee proposed to engage a band of 16 and conductor at a cost of 100 guineas per week.

_ _ _

Three weeks later on 17 July 1917, King George V
issued a royal proclamation 
that henceforth
he and his family would no longer be members

of the German ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha,
but would instead become known as
the House and Family of Windsor. 

When the war ended in November 1918, Britain returned to normal, but many activities and entertainments would never be the same again. The summer holiday season returned to Bridlington, this time with an "all-British" band. Waltzes fell out of favor and another American import—jazz music— took over the younger folk's need for rhythm. Newspaper classified sections no longer advertised Austrian bands of any color. It would be some time before German/Austrian musicians would be received in Britain with the same appreciation they had enjoyed before the war. 

Hull Daily Mail
13 June 1919

On 13 June 1919, the Hull Daily Mail ran a three sentence report in its music column.

The news of the death of Julian Kandt, at one time the musical conductor of the Parade orchestra at Bridlington, has been received. An Austrian by birth, and educated in Germany, he was a popular figure in his profession if somewhat of a showman. He was 44 years of age and suffered a long and serious illness.

I've been unable to find
any other death notice or obituary
for Julian Wilford Kändt. 

* * *

When I first began collecting vintage photos of musicians, I never expected to learn much about their backgrounds. The postcards of Herr Kändt and his Austrian Blue Band seemed a novelty of British culture, a faded oddity of another time. But as I began to put Julian Kändt into context of his time I was startled by his success and celebrity. It was amazing how he resembled André Rieu, the Dutch violinist, who today performs the same kind of romantic music to audiences around the world. Yet another example of the lasting influence of Johann Strauss. 

But as my research uncovered Kändt's struggle to remain a performer during the Great War while fighting a giant wave of anti-German prejudices that was affecting the British public, his story took on a desperate and ultimately tragic tone. As all I know comes from brief newspaper adverts and reports, we can only read between the lines and guess at the personal pain endured by Julian and his family, not to mention his bandsmen too. The rules of civil societies were very different in 1914-18 than today. Bigotry, racism, and hatred were often expressed openly and rarely hidden. Kändt's claim that he was "Russian" could suggest he was Jewish. Though I have no evidence he was, that would certainly add another dimension to his story. 

Many entertainers, musicians, orchestras, and bands in the 21st century world of show business frequently cross over the dividing lines of national origin and ethnicity. Music seems international, free of intolerance. But in 1914 Julian Kändt probably thought the same of his musical world. He was obviously proud of his Austrian heritage and musical training in Germany. But clearly he thought himself an emigrant too and a loyal British citizen. Hateful prejudices will always exist, even in music and art. 

Shortly after he mildly criticized the influence of American ragtime music, Julian Kändt followed his audience's taste in music and sometimes included a ragtime number on his programs. What the musicians of his Austrian Blue Band thought of this is unknown, but I bet they could put a Viennese swing onto any syncopated rhythm. 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where anyone on a seaside holiday
should    at    all    times    remain    at    least    6    feet    apart.

Three of a Kind

20 March 2020

It used to be a requirement
for every theater, opera, and concert hall.
Just before the performance began,
the house lights would dim,
and slowly the proscenium curtain
would rise.

On some stages
the velvet drapery parted rather than a lifted,
but the effect was the same.
What was hidden was now revealed.

A great program always had
a strong curtain raiser.
And likewise no show was ever finished
until the final curtain came down.

What happens to the curtain call
when there is no curtain?

* * *

My first image was clipped from a photograph of three women with brass instruments, two cornets and an alto horn. They are outside a house apparently floating above the garden lawn, as their long dresses hide their shoes. There are no clues to where, but I believe they are somewhere in North America. The chain link fence on the left was not manufactured in the United States until 1898. So my guess is that this photo dates from 1900-1910.

Bonus points if you spotted the little person in the photo.

* * *

Skipping to the third trio of calves and knees, they belong to a musical trio of young lasses dressed in Scottish tartans, kilts, and caps. Two musicians hold traditional Scottish instruments, the oboe and the tenor saxophone, essentially bagpipes without bags. The third woman has no instrument but presumably is in the photo because she's in the band. So she might be the bass drummer or the conductor. My guess is principal accordionist.

This is an unmarked photo postcard so the three women could be from Melbourne or Glasgow for all we know, but my bet is they are members of some Presbyterian college band in the United States, circa 1920-30.

* * *

With a hop back to the second image, those neatly turned ankles came from a large 8" x 10" promotional photo of three female entertainers wearing fine evening dresses from the 1920s. On left and right are a violinist and a cornet player. In the center a third woman is without an instrument but that is because she is a pianist. The reason I know this is due to a helpful note signed on the lower right. 

Kindest Regards
The Dann Trio

The Dann Trio was a musical troupe of three women from Worcester, Massachusetts who played violin, cornet and piano. From 1919 to 1923 they toured the country accompanying a noted tenor, Harvey Hindermyer, in concerts that promoted Edison Records, the first successful manufacturer of phonograph machines, cylinders, and disc records. The Dann Trio's recitals were sponsored by local music stores that sold the Edison Record's disc library. Often the tickets were free but required picking them up at the sponsor's store which gave the retailer an opportunity to demonstrate the latest in home entertainment technology. 

Visalia CA Times-Delta
30 November 1922
Their performance used a phonograph player, somehow concealed on stage, that would play the same music that the group was playing. As Harvey Hindermyer sang he would trick the audience by closing his mouth and yet somehow his voice from the record would continue. The Dann Trio also used the same effect to demonstrate with their records that there was no difference between the living artist's sound and Mr. Edison's wondrous invention.

Edison Record Logo circa 1910
Source: Wikipedia

Thomas A. Edison invented his phonograph machine in 1877, but set it aside to devote all his time to  perfecting his electric light bulb. It wasn't until 1887 that he returned to it seriously and brought out in 1889 an improved device that used wax cylinders to capture sound. But the wax cylinders were fragile and difficult to duplicate. The first mass produced cylinders were made from a more sturdy  plastic type material and first marketed in 1902. Facing competition, in 1908 the Edison Company came out with its improved version called Blue Amberol that could play 4 rather than 2 minutes of music. But by 1912 the cylinder record's deficiencies were no match for more popular disc records from Edison's competitors. So once again the Edison Labs came out with yet another system, the Diamond Disc.

Unlike the more conventional method of a side-to-side lateral needle that recorded sound waves onto a disc, Edison's Diamond Disc records used an up-and-down vertical needle to make the disc's spiral groove. This improved the sound fidelity but it also meant that Edison records could only be played on an Edison phonograph machine. The placement of the needle and the speed of the turntable were different and neither disc system could be played on its competitor's devices.

In the 1920s, Edison Records needed a way to convince the public that their machine and records were better than anyone else's, so they used Harvey Hindermyer and the Dann Trio to market the life-like quality of recorded music. Hindermyer, born in 1878, was already a well-known vocalist in part because he had recorded some early cylinders for the Edison company.

Musical America
01 January 1921
In a 1921 report on one of their recitals, the Dann Trio were identified as Rosalynd Dann, violin; Felice Dann, cornet; and Blanche Dann, piano. This is 1/3 incorrect. The cornetist and pianist were sisters, but the violinist's name was Rosalynd J. Davis.  I found them pictured in a 1977 newsletter magazine for record collectors with the same photo but this time autographed by the three musicians.

June 1977 Record Research magazine, Brooklyn, NY
Blanche Dann and Maybelle Felice Dann were born in Worcester, in 1892 and 1901 respectively, and had another sister name Hazel G. Dann born in 1895. All three became professional musicians as listed in the Worcester city directory, though I don't know what instrument Hazel played. In the 1920 census, Blanche and Felice were still single, living at home with their widowed mother. They listed their occupations as Professional Pianist, Hotel and Professional Cornetist, Hotel, so their principal gig was likely a kind of salon trio. 

The trio's violinist was Roaslynd J. Davis, born in 1900 in Massachusetts. She was a high school classmate of Felice, and I suspect she was a replacement for the Dann Trio's missing sister, Hazel. She also made solo records for the Edison company, all quasi-romantic instrumental music played with a light sentimental rubato. An Edison True-Tone single with sides A and B  cost $1.85 in 1921.

Advertisement for Edison Records
The Dann Trio worked for about three years doing tours for the Edison Record company. But sadly despite having invented the first recording machines, Edison's stubbornness in business put him behind the new trends in sound recording made in the 1920s. Long after other companies had changed to electrical recording, Edison didn't convert until 1927. But the worst decision Edison made with the Diamond Disc was developing a media system with a serious limitation of being incompatible with machines made by other manufacturers. When they finally admitted to the error it was too late. The Edison Record company shut down in October 1929, shortly before the great financial crash.

Thanks to the wonders of the 21st century,
we can listen to music performed 100 years ago,
and pretend the artists are playing
right in our own living room.
Here is "Extase Rêverie"
by Louis Ganne, for Violin, Cornet & Piano
performed by The Dann Trio
on Edison record # 80525

* * *

* * *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where someone is always recycling old photos.

On Tour with the Metropolitan Ladies Orchestra - part 2

14 March 2020

Every adventure tale
always includes a description
of the delectable food,

or the hospitable accommodations.

Yet years later the memory
of some refreshing journey
on that adventure,

or a day of unexpected balmy weather,
seems as brisk and exciting
as if it all happened yesterday.

And for musicians
the whole experience
is always recalled
with an echo of music.

This is part 2 of my story
about the Metropolitan Ladies' Orchestra.
Click this link
for part 1

It is now late fall going into winter.
The seven musicians
of the Metropolitan Ladies' Orchestra
are finished with Chautauqua shows

but are still on the road
fulfilling concert engagements.

Six women have spot of tea and sandwiches at a train station using their steamer trunks as improvised table. One trunk has a stenciled MLO on the end. Along the bottom of the postcard is a caption:
The feeding of the animals.

Of the 15 postcard-sized photos in this collection that I acquired, this photo and one more were the only two that went through the mail. On the back of this photo are the clues that answered two important questions. Who took the photographs? And who wrote the annotations on the other photos.

The postcard was sent from Buchanon, Michigan on Dec 26, 1912 addressed to Miss Nellie Woolman, 628 E. La Salle, So. Bend, Ind.

Miss Woolman
Thanks very much
for the present from
you girls. How did
you guess what
I needed.

We leave via the
Chicago & Alton.  Mon.
Dec 30 at 3-00 P.M.
from the Union Station
Canal & Adams Sts.
So Long,
J. A. Conrad

Will be at Hotel __klow
in Chi Sun. eve.

* * *

The directions point to the Chicago & Alton Railroad, a train service going southwest from Chicago to St. Louis and Kansas City. The obscured hotel name was the Hotel Wicklow, 666 No. State St, about 25 minutes north of Union Station by streetcar. 

The writer was J. Albert Conrad, manager and cornet soloists of the Metropolitan Ladies' Orchestra. He answered my first question, as it was his camera that took the snapshots of the group and here he is using one amusing view of his six comrades to send a notice out about the group's next travel arrangements. We can only guess what thoughtful gift the girls gave him.

Metropolitan Ladies' Orchestra brochure
Source: University of Iowa Libraries

Born in Michigan in 1888, J. Albert Conrad was 24 years old, and unmarried when in 1912 he acted as the manager, cornet player, and male chaperone to his six female colleagues. Conrad's photo is in the Metropolitans brochure as he led the group from its beginning in the 1911 summer season. The bio lacks any personal details, noting only that he had played solos with "leading Chicago bands and in prominent churches," that he had "excellent technique and magnificent tone", and played on the new Holton trumpet model cornet. Crucially it left out his first name, which is a handicap in research. So far I can only find him in the 1920 and 1930 US census under his initials.

In another photo from the brochure of the Metropolitan String Quartet, Conrad is shown playing cello, so he evidently he had broad musical skills. His father was German and his mother was a German-Pennsylvanian so his musicianship had roots in the old country.

_ _ _

What made this simple postcard so useful is that it was sent to the musician who saved all these photos and added annotations to the backs. She was the cellist, Miss Nellie Woolman of South Bend, Indiana. In my story last week she is the one person in the group not identified by name. The snapshots were sent back home for Nellie's family to see, and since obviously they would recognize her, she merely wrote "cellist" to indicate herself. Here in the train station tea party she is second from left. Standing left is Sophie, the percussionist, and seated next to Nellie is a new face, an older woman  with glasses, who looks a bit like Senator Elizabeth Warren, lifts her teacup in a toast. We will meet her later.

* * *

Looking like seven women on a shopping expedition, this next photo actually shows six musicians of the Metropolitan Ladies' Orchestra with one other woman outside the entrance to some kind of retail store. From right to left they are: Iona Leonore Hart, the pianist and reader; an unknown woman; Gretchen Cox, 1st violin; Elizabeth Harting, 2nd violin; Nellie Woolman, cellist; Sophie, the percussionist; and a new member of the ensemble, the unknown woman with glasses that sat next to Nellie at the train station. All of the women wear heavy coats that reach to their ankles and broad brimmed hats. A note on the back gives their location which explains why they are dressed for the cold.

(T)aken at Hibbing with one of Mr. Cos
_rove’s booking agents.  She w(as)
(a) gay old girl too believe me.

* * *

In Part 1 of my story, the last photos on the train caboose were taken when the group was on their way from Hibbing, Minnesota about to cross the border with Canada into Fort Frances, Ontario. In this annotation "Mr. Cosgrove" was the name of the Canadian presenter who secured numerous dates for a fall tour of the Metropolitans in Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.  On October 12, 1912 the Free Press newspaper of Winnipeg, Manitoba published a review of a performance by the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra.

A Concert was given in Zion Methodist Church last evening by the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra of Chicago. To people who like music in general, without confining their taste to either the popular or the classical kind, the programme given by this little groupe of musicians must have been very enjoyable. The audience, though very small, applauded with enthusiasm. The six young ladies and their manager, J. Albert Conrad, constitute a seven-piece orchestra which is capable of giving an acceptable rendering of classics such as standard overtures, as well as compositions that are of a more "popular" nature. They have all their work very well prepared, and play not only with commendable precision but with a good deal of enthusiasm. In spite of the smallness of the number of instruments, the ensemble is quite pleasing. In one number four of the players resolved themselves into a string quartette, giving a gratifying performance of "The Mill" by Raff, and Schubert's "Marche Militaire." Though their quartette playing is not remarkable for delicacy, their straightforward style is well suited to such compositions.

As soloists the company invariably made a good impression. Miss Gretchen M. Cox, the first violin and director of the orchestra, is remarkable for her masculine firmness of tone and vigor of style. Her technique is quite equal to the difficult "Fantasie Passiopata" by Vieuxtemps, which she played with appropriate fire and energy. That she excels also in the music of the opposite kind, was proved by her delightful renderings of Schumann's "Traumerei." Miss Cox is a very admirable violiniste. Miss Lawson has a sweet soprano voice, and her singing was well received by the audience. Miss Eckhart, who handles the "traps" of the orchestra in a satisfactory manner, made a good impression with her xylophone solo. The cello playing of Miss Woolman was distinguished by smoothness and beauty of tone and by musical feeling. Miss Hart is a good accompanist, and she successfully combined the piano with her monologues, her comic number being especially acceptable. Mr. Conrad played the cornet like a virtuoso, and in the quartette he showed himself a capable performer on the viola.

This was the only extensive review in 1912-13 I could find that identified nearly all seven performers of the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra. The new person was Miss Adele Lawson, whose first name appeared in another review. She was a soprano who had worked with the Metropolitans in the previous 1911-1912 season, and was absent in the 1912 Chautauqua summer season when Miss Langton, the clarinetist, took her place. The percussionist, whose surname was clipped from an earlier photo, was Miss Sophie Eckhart. She was also playing as a substitute, as was Miss Nellie Woolman, the cellist, who found Mr. Cosgrove's agent so bemusing.

The reviewer's slightly snippy tone aside, the concert's music was likely very similar to their summer programs, albeit with Miss Lawson's songs instead of clarinet solos. The arrangements the group played are typical of music reductions and adaptations that musicians have always used for entertaining audiences who prefer familiar tunes over sophisticated academic music. Though we might consider this kind of music a cliche, or even trite, we must remember that audiences of this era listened differently as their ears were not subjected to the constant repetition of recorded music that we hear in our time. Music performed live was really the only music people ever heard. The genres of music were less strict, so a popular song of Stephen Foster might follow an opera excerpt of Giuseppe Verdi. In fact the concert piece Miss Cox played by Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881), a Belgian composer and violin virtuoso, is exceptionally difficult and would require a very skilled violinist to play it well.

But Winnipeg was just the start of a northern adventure
for the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra
to finish the year 1912.

* * *

In most of the 15 photos in this collection the camera is about 10-15 feet away. But in this photo the camera is placed more than 40 feet away in order to get an entire farmhouse in the frame. It's a little house on the prairie with a hay wagon and large barn in the background. The image is a bit grainy but Miss Woolman is seated on the right corner of the porch next to a small girl. Standing behind her is the woman with the glasses. Mr. Conrad is on the stoop wearing a bow tie and winter cap. Behind him is a woman in a white dress with two children, her daughters I think. Gretchen Cox is seated center with Miss Hart next to her petting a black dog.  On the left are a man and woman I don't recognize from the other photos. And on the far left is a very tall man in a billed cap wearing gauntlets whom I believe is the farmer of this place.

(G)liechen  Oct 27
(R)ather 15 miles from Gliechen in
(fro)nt of the Bonnar bungalow.
(t)he whole family & us. They
(ma)de me think of Harry & Lydia.

* * *

Today Gleichen, Alberta has a population of about 325 citizens, but in 1912 there were over 583 residents and the town could boast of an Opera House. On October 26, 1912 the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra of Chicago played a concert there of Orchestral Selections, String Ensembles, Violin, Vocal, Cornet, Xylophone Solos and Readings.  The Best Yet to Appear in Gleichen.

Gleichen AB Call
24 October 1912

The Metropolitans were now over only 775 miles from Winnipeg.

* * *

I have never seen the spare tire in my newest 2018 car. I do know where the spare is stored in my 2006 truck, but in 15 years of ownership I've never bothered to remove it from beneath the truck's bed. But in an automobile from 1912, the spare tire was readily available under the right arm of the driver.

In this wonderful image, eight women are packed into an open top touring car. They grin with delight at the camera. Everyone is in heavy coats and winter hats. The car is parked on a dirt road outside a commercial type wood building. A windpump in the background has lettering on the vane. There are chains on the auto's rear tires.

Miss Woolman is third from right next to the driver. I don't think there is any space in the car for her cello. It's three weeks since the concert in  Gleichen, and the Metropolitans are around 225 miles farther north. (In 1912 the Canadians did drive on the right side of the roads like Americans, but in the early years of automobiles the steering wheel was often affixed on the right. Beginning in 1908 this flipped to left-hand drive on Henry Ford's cars.)  

Scat. Nov. 18
The skating party
Mother & girl and man
that took us.

_ _ _

* * *

After playing at the Gleichen Opera House, the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra followed the rail line north in the great Canadian plains. They played Strathmore, Alberta, population 531, on October 28, followed by a concert in Didsbury, pop. 726, on November 6.  Then Lacombe, pop. 1,029 on November 8th and Alix, pop. 267, on the 9th. These were concerts in churches, assembly halls, or civic "opera houses". The programs were rarely described but likely followed the repertoire the group had developed over the past few months.  On November 21 the Metropolitans reached Edmonton, pop. 24,900, to perform at the most northern venue. Two days later on November 23, they were in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, pop. 12,004. 

Mirror AB Journal
08 November 1912

Towns on the great plains of North America were spread out, often following the pathways mapped out by the railways. In 1912 Alberta, Canada was still a developing province and all of these "small" towns had seen a boom in population since the start of the century. Gleichen jumped from 101 citizens in 1901 to 583 by 1911. Didsbury's growth was nearly 550%, Edmonton increased by 848%, and Saskatoon's population shot up 10,523% in a decade! This wave of eastern Canadians and new immigrants moving to the western towns brought new vigor to the culture on the great plains. And little traveling troupes like the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra served a need these communities had for good entertainment.

* * *

It's rare to see how people traveled in earlier times. In this dark grainy photo, with contrast corrected,  the Metropolitans are lined up on a train platform in front of a pyramid of trunks. The top one is stenciled with METROPOLITAN LADIES ORCHESTRA, NO. 2 THEATRE . Each musician has a valise. Miss Woolman has her cello in a canvas case next to her. Mr. Conrad on the left wears his coat collar turned up and a winter hat. There is no annotation but I think they are somewhere above the lower 48 I think.

Moving south from Saskatchewan, the Metropolitans played their last concert in Canada on December 6 in Emerson, Manitoba the border twin of Pembina, North Dakota. Their return journey to Chicago included one final concert on December 12 in Crystal Falls, Michigan on the Upper Peninsula. From early October to mid-December the seven musicians of the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra had traveled over 3,700 miles and surely played may more times concerts than I could find in the newspaper reports. (My estimates of distance use the Google Maps highway routing, but train routes would be nearly the same.)

* * *
The producer of the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra was named Louis O. Runner. He was an enterprising trombonist and had put together two other ensembles of "lady" musicians, The Chicago Ladies' Orchestra, and The University Girls. The writing style of the time almost always used the adjective "ladies" instead of "women" to label these groups, less common "girls", and never ever, gasp, "female". The trade journal for Chautauqua and Lyceum entertainers, The Lyceumite and Talent, published a group photo of Runner's three ensembles. There are 25 women but L. O. Runner and J. Albert Conrad are the only men in the picture. Several references in newspapers indicate that players sometimes transferred from one ensemble to another. No doubt Mr. Runner kept a map of North America to track his talent, and a thick catalog of musician names.

The Lyceumite and Talent
October 1912
Source: Google Books

* * *

The final three photos in this collection are more intimate portraits of three of the musicians. This one shows Miss Gretchen Cox, violinist, with Miss Ione Hart, pianist, and Miss Nellie Woolman, cellist. It a classic musical trio and the three women look as if they have just taken a break during a rehearsal. Their shy smiles and relaxed posture suggest a good friendship of musicians comfortable with each other. There is no note on this postcard size photo.

* * *

Metropolitan Ladies' Orchestra brochure
Source: University of Iowa Libraries

The violinist and leader of the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra was Gretchen Marian Cox. In 1912 she was age 27, born in Wisconsin, and single. After this tour of the Metropolitans, in about 1913 she formed her own group, the Gretchen Cox Concert Company. This was a trio with a different cellist and pianist, which marketed itself to the Chautauqua and Lyceum circuits. Unlike the week-long summer festivals of the Chautauquas, Lyceums were generally musical recitals, concerts. and educational lectures scheduled throughout a fall/winter season as a series. They were popular with smaller communities which could not afford the price of booking multiple entertainers at once like the Chautauquas.  A typical sponsor might be a town church or YMCA organization selling tickets for its own benefit.

She was still playing the circuit in the summer of 1917, but with a different concert company, when her picture appeared in the Grove City, Kansas newspaper.

_ _ _

* * *

This next photo was taken at the same time as the last one. The same three women now pose without instruments next to a large fireplace. Gretchen and Nellie look over Ione's shoulder as she studies a music score. The light from a window is enough to illuminate the trio and give the image a warm artistic effect.

* * *

Metropolitan Ladies' Orchestra brochure
Source: University of Iowa Libraries

The pianist and reader for the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra, Ione Leonore Hart had previously  played with the group in the 1911-12 season. She was age 23, born in Illinois, and single. Her talent besides being a piano accompanist was giving "readings and pianologues = playing her own accompaniments." A pianologue is an unfamiliar term that I think is similar to what a piano accompanist would do for a silent film, but in this case recite a story or poem as they play descriptive music. It may have involved vocal and comedic artistry too. In the snapshots she appears to be an animated personality that make me believe she was always the center of attention, both on stage and off. In 1915 she married Leroy Link, raised 4 children, and moved from Chicago to Connecticut and then California.

* * *

The last photo in this collection is a single portrait of the cellist, Miss Nellie Woolman. Of all the string instruments the cello is my favorite for its tone, so similar to my own instrument the horn. It was taken in the same room as the preceding photos, and Nellie sits in front of the room's large fireplace. The image is quite small, almost a contact print of the film negative. But it is on a postcard that was mailed on February 3, 1913 to  Miss Emma Woolman, 628 W. La Salle Ave., South Bend, Indiana. Emma was Nellie's older sister and the recipient of most of these photos sent during the past several months.

Nellie Woolman was born in Indiana in 1889. She was now age 23 and like the other musicians, single. Her father was a mason and building contractor in South Bend, Indiana. Nellie was the youngest of five children in her family with an 18 year difference between her oldest brother and herself. Her first instrument was the violin and by the age of 19 Nellie was listed as a violin and music teacher in the South Bend city directory. But as we shall see, the cello became her main instrument.

The large message space on this postcard gives us the best idea of Nellie's voice.

Dear Emma :-                           
                                  How do
you like the artistic pose
Mr. C. took it with his
little pocket kodak the
day he took us three
girls at Quincy.  Wish
he could have gotten
a little of the piano
in—it was right
back of me.  I look rather
detached & it would be
quite impossible for me
to play in that chair.

Got Charles letter today
too—it was interesting
sounded just like him.

I forgot to give you
my new dates in
your letter so here they
Feb. 10 Yorkville  Ill.
                   11 Morroco   Indiana
                   12 Covington      “      
                   13 Logansport    “       
                   14 Churubusco    “       
                   17 Marlette    Mich.     
        18 Evart.           “
        19 Saranac        “
        20 Bronson       “
          22 Carson City “   

* * *

In January 1913 the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra played at least a dozen single engagements in a number of small towns and cities west of Chicago. Mr. Conrad's postcard was a reminder about the start of this tour. One concert was in Davenport, Iowa and the newspaper review included some of the program numbers and praised the musicians by name. Several pieces are unfamiliar to me "Overture Raymond" by Thomas; "La Poloma" by Yrodier. An excerpt of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" was followed by Meacham's march "America Patrol." The three string playerss with Mr. Conrad on viola formed a quartet to play Mozart's "Andante Allegro," which could be the title of nearly everything Mozart wrote.  Mr. Conrad gave a cornet solo, "Grand Russian Fantasia" by Levy, a theme and variations for cornet with lots of virtuosic embellishment and super fast notes. Miss Woolman's rendition of Chopin's "Nocturne" was "beautiful".  Miss Lawson sang two songs "with much feeling and finish." Miss Cox played the Vieuxtemps piece again and was "heartily applauded and gave as encore a simple folk song. As director Miss Cox showed no less skill than in her violin numbers."

_ _ _

It's unclear whether Nellie Woolman's dates for February 1913 are with the Metropolitan's again. I suspect this for a different ensemble, a piano string trio, where Nellie stepped in as a sub for the cellist, Adele Lawson's sister, who was getting married.  It was another route of over 1,000 miles.

As far as I can tell Nellie never played again in the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra. The group did play another two Chautauqua summer seasons in 1913 and 1914, and then briefly in 1919. Most likely L. O. Runner's three ladies' orchestras evolved and dissolved with the fickle change of taste in American culture. After the war many communities found it too difficult to maintain an annual Chautauqua festival and in the 1920s began to scale back on the size of their events. Bookings declined and many performers found the competitive circuit too grueling. And by the 1930s Chautauquas were old fashioned compared to the new entertainment of sound film.

In March 1914 Nellie Woolman was a member of another chamber trio, The Japan Company, with a soprano who also was a pianist. The Muscatine, Iowa newspaper ran a photo of Nellie with the program.

Muscatine IA News Tribune
18 March 1915

In 1915 she joined a six piece costumed troupe called The Bohemian Orchestra for a tour of southern state's Chautauquas. The next year 1916 found her in California living near San Diego playing in The Chicago Ladies Philharmonic Quartet. After 8 months she was back in South Bend. In the 1920 census she lived there with her other sister, Edith and family, listing her occupation as Concert Player (Musician). She was 31 years old and still single. But some people just need time to find the right person.

Sometime between August 1922, when she was included in a South Bend news items as Miss Nellie Woolman, and June 1923, when she was listed as as Mrs. Nell Woolman Walthe playing a cello solo in Wilmington, Delaware, Nellie got married to Albert W. Walther, a draftsman. But as a sensible musician she kept her professional name, and appeared on Wilmington church programs and once as a member of The Women's Symphony Orchestra of Philadelphia. 

But the best part was to find Nell Woolman Walther, cellist, listed in the radio schedule for WFI, Philadelphia. 3:00 P. M. – Program under the auspices of the Delaware County Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Scranton PA Times
26 march 1923

Considering how far she traveled on the train as a working musician, getting her cello to ride the radio waves at 395 meters and instantly be heard in all parts of North America, must have seemed a marvel to Nellie Woolman.


Sadly I could not find anything about Nellie Woolman Walther after 1927. Her name stops appearing in the newspapers and is not in the next census records. Her husband Albert was listed as a widow in the 1930 census and I suspect Nellie died sometime in that three year period, though I have not found any obituary or state records. If I am correct, she would have been around 40 years old at her death.

This small collection of 15 snapshots from 1912-1913 was a special keepsake. I don't know for sure it was Nellie's, perhaps it was one of her sisters who cropped the photos and pasted them into an album. There were probably more, now lost in time and space. Some of the names are incomplete, I may have them in a the wrong sequence, and there are insufficient clues to properly identify everyone. Was Mr. J. Albert Conrad's first name Josef or Johann? I'll probably never solve that riddle. 

Nonetheless the photos give a sketch of the working life of professional musicians in 1912, especially female musicians employed at a time when women did not enjoy equal opportunity in America. The ladies' bands and women's chamber music groups, like the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra, offered a place for talented female musicians to be heard, even as they were excluded from working in the dominant show business groups of all-male bands and orchestras. It's unlikely I'll ever find a contract that shows what the Metropolitan musicians were paid, but I suspect it was much less than what a similar male group would have received. For a woman of this era to make a career in music required perseverance, dedication, and likely support from their parents too. Yet as Nellie ends up on the radio, that is a testimony to her talent and appeal.

Mr. Conrad's pocket Kodak was an excellent camera. But it's the whisper of Nellie's voice on the back of his photos that inspired me to work out the context of the Metropolitan Ladies's Orchestra. I bet they sounded swell. I hope you can almost hear them too.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone has gone to the dogs,
which is actually a good thing.


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP