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 }

Getting Around Old Wien part 2

25 July 2020

It was once very hard, if not impossible,
to depict the humor of daily life in a photograph.
Even by the 1900s cameras were still tricky to operate
with limitations on recording light and motion.
The notion of taking a
spontaneous snapshot was still unthinkable,
so capturing any impromptu funny event onto a negative
was a difficult endeavor for a photographer.
And in color?
That was preposterous!

But for an artist
humor was easy.
With clever imagination
any laughable idea
could be quickly sketched,
painted and printed.
And color?
No problem!

A skilled artist could illustrate movement
that a photographer could never duplicate.

They could assemble subjects
that would never pose for a camera.

And for a talented artist
the lighting and perspective
of a country landscape
were easily done. 

While a photographer might wait forever
to get the right combination
of subject, scene, and action,
an artist only needed
another clean sheet of paper.

A photographer could place actors in a studio
to recreate some theatrical skit,
but an artist was free to arrange
everyone and everything
exactly anywhere they liked.

Even pictures with fantastic props
and absurd adventures
were simple for a inventive artist to draw.

This weekend I continue a series on postcard art
with another story on Fritz Schönpflug (1873 – 1951),
an Austrian artist, whose postcards described
the colorful characters and outlandish lifestyles
found in his city of Wien–Vienna
during the final decades
of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
Last year I featured some of his postcards
on horse-drawn carriages in my story entitled:
Getting Around in Old Wien.
This story extends that exhibit
with more examples
from Fritz Schönpflug
of Viennese transport.

The first postcard shows a motorcycle and sidecar
driven by a brave soldier
with his stout officer seated beside him.
The card was never mailed
but Schönpflug's signature ends with 909
which signifies 1909.
The officer's saber and smug smile
complete the gentle joke.

* * *

The second postcard has a cavalryman and his horse
jumping to avoid colliding
with a young soldier on a bicycle.
The caption reads:
Höher gehts nimmer
It never goes higher

The postmark is obscured
but it may be dated 1915 as
it has a military censor's frank.
The initials K.u.k. stand for
"Kaiserlich und Königlich", i.e. "Imperial and Royal"
for Kaiser Franz Josef's complicated position
as Kaiser (Emperor) of Austria, and King of Hungary.

* * *

The third postcard shows another near-collision,
this time between an automobile
and a drum-horse of a mounted military band.
The caption reads:
Feindliche Pferdekräfte
Enemy horsepower

This postcard was sent from Wien on 25.11.09
by Mama (?) and Papa to their child.

* * *

The next postcard is a confrontation
between an automobile and a very large bull.
The front is decorated with several notes
including the date 5 Dicembre 1906.
It was sent from Belgium
to Monsieur and Madam Jacques Hollander
in Italy.

* * *

The next three postcards are my favorites
because they are true flights of fantasy
that only an artist could dream up.
In the first card Schönpflug designs
a flying Viennese hackney carriage, or Fiaker,
suspended from a gas balloon
and propelled through the air
by a motorized propeller.
The driver holds a steering wheel as if guiding a horse
while his two passengers seem blissfully unconcerned
at their airborne carriage's height above the rooftops.
I think the artist may be subtly suggesting
that the woman is pregnant too,
as if swinging in a cradle.

This card was not mailed
but Schönpflug's signature dates it as 1909.

* * *

The next postcard is a similar flying Fiaker,
with the two passengers, a woman and her dog,
complaining to the driver that
he is going in the wrong direction.
In this design Schönpflug
makes a steering bar with reins
for the driver to hold.

This card was sent from Wien
on the 30 July 1909.
The writer added a caption, probably humorous, to the front,
and a message in Czech to Marka Fiskrova (?)
in the town of Švihov, in the Klatovy District,
of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic.

* * *

The last postcard of flying Viennese transport
shows a marvelous aerial tram
filled with passengers and their bags
approaching a rooftop to pick up another rider.

The front of the card has a long detailed message
which is in Hungarian as the postage stamp and postmark
are from Hungary's Postal Service.
It was sent to someone in Bad Swinemünde, Germany,
now Świnoujście, Poland,
which was a spa town on the Baltic coast of Pomerania.

It's interesting to note that the postcard
shows three versions of dating conventions.
1909 viii 9      9.8.1909      909 Aug 10

The postcards produced by Fritz Schönpflug were sold in many places in central Europe and to judge by the number and variety they were very popular with the public. His humor and wit convey a quality rarely found in photographs of this era. And of course he was painting with the colors we never see in early photos. That is especially interesting to see in his portrayal of Viennese fashion and uniforms. 

In 1910 Wien was a center of European culture, a capital city of grand art, opulent architecture, and beautiful music for a multitude of nationalities that made up the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Schönpflug postcards chronicle this vibrant period of Wien's urban life as it adapted to the modern inventions of the 20th century. For most Viennese people of the time the idea of flight and speed probably seemed unbelievable. Yet the Wien Museum has a wonderful watercolor painting by Jakob Alt of a Balloon flight over Vienna in 1847. And one of the first automobiles was built in Wien in 1888 by Siegfried Marcus (1831-1898). So Schönpflug's subjects were not entirely foreign ideas.

The horse-drawn carriage,
or Fiaker as it's called in Austria,
is still a traditional form of transportation
for getting around old Wien.
But here's a new improved innovation
for a 21st century E-Fiaker
that I think Fritz Schönpflug
would laugh to see
as he quickly pulled out his sketchbook.



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone is on wheels this weekend.

Mein System!

18 July 2020

Mein System is a good one!
I do it every day.

 Ten twists to left.
Ten more to right.

* *

Up on the toes!
Times twenty more.
Then arch the back
and calves
I stretch. 

* *

The bends to side
are most important
for balance
of the vital organs.

* *

And so to health
I am restored!

As fit and limber
as ever I was.

* *

This humorous set of four postcards
are the work of one of my favorite artists in my collection.
His name was Fritz Schönpflug ( 1873 – 1951),
an Austrian artist, who produced
hundreds of playful caricatures
of Viennese life in the time
of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
Last year I featured some of his postcards
in my story entitled:
Getting Around in Old Wien.

The first card was never mailed
but in Schönpflug's signature is the number "907"
which is an Eastern European shorthand for the year 1907.

The third card was postmarked from Berlin
on 13 November 1908
demonstrating the wide range of distribution
that Schönpflug's publisher
arranged for these popular postcards.

The fourth card with Schönpflug's
stalwart character doing squats
was sent through the French postal service
30 March 1909 to a Monsieur G. Rey at the
Gardieu de Batterie, Fort de la Revère.
This military fortress, built between 1882 and 1885
above the village of Eze,
is located on the French Mediterranean coast
between Nice and Monaco.

The second postcard with the gentleman on his toes
was sent on 29 January 1908
from Frankfurt, Germany
to Friedrick Mayer
(?) in Heidelberg.

I scanned this card only yesterday,
and when I looked more closely at the message
and greeting on the front of the card
I noticed that the sender signed his name
Dein (?) Freund ~
your friend
Fritz S pflug.

I believe this postcard may have been sent
by the artist, Fritz Schönpflug, himself.
The quick style of handwriting
is similar to the signature on his artwork,
and seems like a compressed mannerism
that a caricature artist would make.
If I'm correct, how cool is that?
I welcome any help on translating the message.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where for a change,
colors are on display this weekend.

Before the Parade

11 July 2020

The bandsmen patiently wait.
Trombone and bass helicon players
give their shoulders a break
letting their instruments rest on the pavement.
This brass band keeps in formation,
anticipating the command
to come to attention and play.
Their audience waits too.
Men in straw hats,
ladies with parasols,
and school boys in caps.
all hope the parade will begin soon.

Meanwhile the Sir Knights
stand at sharp attention,
heels together, arms straight.
The officers and ranks are in full dress uniform,
with feathered bicorne hats, full coats,
satin sashes and belts,
gauntlets, and a few swords too.

It's a warm afternoon day.
The crowd of onlookers
try to stay in the shade
of shop awnings.
Some are wondering
if there is time to get
an ice cream soda
from the druggist.

In that instant
the photographer opens the shutter
on his camera and captures the moment
just before the parade will start
on Congress St.
in Portland, Maine.

This street scene of a band and fraternal society was taken by Conant, Artistic Photographer, 478½ Congress St., Portland, Maine as noted on the front and back logos of this cabinet card. The photograph shows an assembled group that in late 19th century America would have been very common to see in most cities. This was an age of clubs and uniforms when people joined all manner of civic organizations. For men especially, the so-called "secret and benevolent societies" offered fellowship with like-minded comrades pledged together for mutual aid and public service.

Newspapers often used a shorthand phrase, "Sir Knights", that could refer to several benevolent orders that dressed in fancy uniforms. In Portland there were 6 encampments and 6 lodges of the I.O.O.F, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. There were numerous masonic lodges for both the Ancient Craft and Accepted Scottish Rite. The Knights Templars has 4 commanderies. The Knights of Pythias had 7 lodges which all met in a complicated schedule once a week at the same hall. There were also various commanderies, councils, and lodges for the Knights of Honor; the Patriotic Order Sons of America; the Ancient Order of United Workmen; the United Fellowship; the United Order of the Golden Cross; and the Sovereigns of Industry. For men in trade and business the societies offered a network of useful connections. And in an age of limited estate planning, for many the biggest benefit to membership was a society's life insurance paid to a member's family on their death.

Many men and women also belonged to other charitable associations that served Portland. There was the Aged Brotherhood, incorporated in 1869, for people age 65 and upward. Members were assessed dues of $1 per year. There were two separate brotherhoods for the men who worked side-by side on steam locomotives, the firemen and engineers. There were charity missions for the poor; for widows and children; for veterans,  longshoreman, bricklayers, and seamen. There were 11 different temperance organizations, and numerous Christian church groups.

Source: Illustrated Catalogue of Uniforms
for the Knights of the Golden Eagle,
Louis E. Stilz & Bro. Co., Philadelphia, 1906
In order to distinguish one group from another, many society members were outfitted in colorful military style uniforms. The uniforms of the I.O.O.F, the Knights Templar, and the Knights of Pythias were particularly elaborate with complicated symbols and regalia that mimicked the full dress wear of army and navy officers. Plumed hats, swords, and various accoutrements were required dress whenever an order conducted a public event.

And of course all of these fraternal orders marched in parades, so there had to be a band. In later decades some of the larger societies were able to form their own bands. But in the 19th century typically a town's band, or bands, would provide nonpartisan music for any and all occasions, whether Democrat or Republican, Presbyterian or Methodist. Portland had two marching ensembles. Chandler's Band, organized in 1873 by D. H. Chandler, was "composed of performers of much practice and distinguished ability."  The Portland Band, "organized in 1825 for the performance of martial music", was the oldest band in the state of Maine.

Bandsmen also wore very colorful uniforms that imitated military styles. This band have striped trousers, light-colored full coats with epaulets and cross belts to hold their music pouches, and tall custodian hats with a large cap badge. Both bands were described in newspaper reports as having  talented instrumental soloists. Mr. Chandler's band seemed to be the more successful in the Portland community.

The photographer's full name was Charles Bean Conant. Born in 1839 in Topsham, Maine, Conant listed his occupation as photographer in the 1870 census for Lewiston, Maine, 30 miles north of Portland. In about 1875 he moved to Portland with his wife Eleanor and 4 children, and in 1877 set up a larger photographer's studio at 478½ Congress St.. This location was in the heart of Portland a few blocks from the city hall and next to the Market Square, now called Monument Square. Charles B. Conant took our an advertisement for his studio in the 1879 Portland city directory.

Source: 1879 Portland ME city directory

In 1880 Portland could boast of 33,810 citizens. It was the most northerly major port on America's Atlantic coast and had a large transient population of travelers and seaman. The Portland city directories had several pages devoted to long lists of the sailing ships, barks, barkentines, brigs, schooners, sloops, steamers and other vessels, 382 altogether, that operated out of the port.

Source: 1877 Portland ME city directory

In the early days of photography, landscape photos were difficult to make. Getting the contrast balanced between sunlight and shade was tricky with the glass plates then used in cameras. Any movement of subjects, whether people or trees, would blur images or leave faint fog. In the right middle ground of this photo there is a band of light which I suspect is the ghost of a Portland street car.

But it is Conant's unusual choice of perspective that interested me. The camera is positioned high above street level, at a 2nd or perhaps 3rd floor window. As cameras of the 1870s were bulky and delicate optical instruments, it seems likely that Conant would found it easiest to take from his studio window on Congress St. In the Portland city directories I found a street listing for all the adjacent businesses near his studio. Diagonally across the street from his address was Preble House, where an apothecary, or druggist, occupied a corner of the building block. Visible just above the awning advertising ice cream soda, choice cigars, and pure drugs, is a sign with a chemist's mortar and pestle.

In the 1885 Portland directory Connant's studio on Congress St. goes missing, and his name is absent altogether by the 1886 directory. Evidently he moved away from Maine. But by coincidence, the editors of the 1886 directory published a full page heliotype photo of this very intersection of Congress St. and Market Square. Even in the dark scan we can see the same awnings, the tall bricked up false windows and the streetcar tracks.

Source: 1886 Portland ME city directory

In the 1870s the drug store at 473 Congress was owned by Fred T. Meaher, who took out a small advert in the 1879 city directory as a druggist and apothecary. Physicians' Prescriptions a specialty.
Dealers in Imported and Domestic Drugs, Fluid Extracts, Patent Medicines, Cigars, Perfumery, Trusses, Suspensory Bandages, Shoulder Braces, etc. Plus a large assortment of pure Confectionery.

Source: 1879 Portland ME city directory

In 1884, the drug store changed proprietors, coming under the management of C. H. Guppy & Co. And in around 1885 Charles B. Conant moved his Congress St. studio to 341 Cumberland, eventually leaving Portland altogether by 1886. This roughly dates my photograph of the Sir Knights and the Band to around 1877-1884. But could there be other clues?

On the corner wall of the building, behind a sign advertising, "Try the Bastianelli Cigar, Genuine Havana" is a billboard for the theater. There are two large figures, one dressed in tight leotards, and above it are the words: Maffitt & Barth... Was this promoting a traveling theatrical show?

Chicago Tribune
23 July 1869

It was indeed the famous Maffitt & Bartholomew Comique Pantomime Troupe appeared in newspaper notices from 1866 onward. This one ran in the Chicago Tribune in July 1869. The feature was a "Grand Trick Pantomime" called Dame Trot and Her Komical Kat. Also on the bill were the Brothers Rizarelli in "their unprecedented performance on the Double Flying Trapeze." The show commenced with another pantomime, Love Among the Milliners

_ _ _

Portland ME Daily Press
2 August 1878

The comic duo of James S. Maffitt and W. H. Bartholomew toured America for nearly 40 years from the late 1860s to 1900. Never described as exactly vaudeville, their troupe put out a series of panto musical revues, interspersed with circus and minstrel acts. They first played Portland in May 1876. Then returned again in March 1877, July/August 1878, and March 1880.

Notice that the shadows are cast to the right on Congress Street which has a northeast by southwest orientation. The sun is strong and the crowd of people are dressed for warm temperatures. If I am correct that Conant's photo was taken on a summer day after noon, then the billboard is promoting the Maffitt & Bartholomew show of July 26-27, 1878.

The notice in the Portland Daily Press had their feature pantomime as Flick and Flock. It also included N. D. Jones, Pantaloon par Excellence; A. W. Ravel, Harlequin and Miss Rose Thomas, Columbine; the great Ethiopian Comedians, Schoolcraft & Coes, in their mirth-provoking specialties; the beautiful, fascinating queen of the air, M'lle Geraldine, in connection with the great English athlete, George Leopold, appearing in their marvelous and sensational performance up the flying trapeze.

_ _ _

Portland ME Daily Press
4 May 1878

Earlier that year, Charles Conant earned a paragraph ot two in the local Portland paper. It praised one of his crayon portraits of Mr. Thomas Goodall, the proprietor of the Woolen Mills in Sanford, Maine. By coincidence, back in October 2019, I did a story on a photo of the The Sanford Mills Band.

The paper also reported that Conant was continually enlarging his gallery of theatrical celebrities. "No sooner does an actor strike Portland than he goes at once to see Conant and have his picture taken."

_ _ _

As a photograph made in 1878 of people 100 feet away from the camera had little chance of producing clear details on uniform patterns, it's impossible to say exactly which fraternal order the Sir Knights represent. By a frustrating coincidence, the Odd Fellows hall in Portland was at 439 Congress St. The Knights of Pythias hall was at 490½ Congress St. One commandery of the United Order of the Golden Cross held meetings at 457½ Congress St. And both the Portland Band and Chandler's Band had offices only steps away, at respectively, 19½ and 27 Market Square.

Portland ME Daily Press
12 July 1878

In July 1878, the Portland Daily Press announced that the Portland Encampment of No.19 I.O.O.F. would make their annual excursion to Bridgton, Maine on Tuesday, July 16th. They would be accompanied by Chandler's Band who would later perform an evening concert there at a pavilion illuminated by calcium lights.

On Thursday, July 18th all of the Portland Odd Fellows and their families were invited to another excursion to Cushing's Island where there would be swings, foot ball, bowling, bathing, and dancing. Again, Chandler's band would furnish music.

Don't you wish you could march along with them?

_ _ _

Portland ME Daily Press
15 July 1878

 * * *

I never expect to solve the riddle of this Portland photo, but because's archives provided several Portland city directories and the Library of Congress has digitized the Portland Daily Press, I was able to find good answers to my questions. I can't claim my analysis is 100% certain, but I think it's very, very close. 

On my blog I have featured other bands and musicians from the 1870s, but they are nearly all carefully posed studio photos. I have also featured a story set in Boston about The Grand Parade of the Knights Templar, but that photo was taken in 1895. This makes Mr. Conant's 1878 outdoor street-view photograph of the Odd Fellows and Mr. Chandler's Band a rare example of what public music once looked like in America 142 years ago. Shiny, colorful, and ready to strike up a strong beat as the parade steps off.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where uptown and downtown meet in the middle.

The Solitary Musician

04 July 2020

A painting is static. Fixed in time.
Music is fleeting. As ephemeral as the wind.

When an artist lays down their brush,
the work is finished, ready to be viewed.

But a composer's notes can make no sound
without a musician to bring voice to them.

To do this, musicians spend
countless hours of their life alone,
studiously perfecting their skills
to recreate the composer's music.

It's usually a solitary pursuit,
though sometimes shared with a partner.
Yet it requires faithful dedication
to polish musical tones
into sparkling brilliance.

But it's only when the notes are shared,
harmony supporting melody,
that instrumentalists
blend into one unified sound.
In that brief time
the composer's musical notation
is magically transformed
into an intangible art form
that is heard but not seen.

It takes a talented artist
who can illustrate the earnest effort
it takes to make music.
These solo musicians
may remain immobile on the canvas
but in our imagination
we can hear them play.

* * *

The artist of this series of five paintings of musicians, reproduced as postcards, was Paul Stubbe,. (1874–1950). He was born in Neustettin, now Szczecinek, Poland, in 1874 when it was in a region of Germany called Middle Pomerania, about 60 miles south of the Baltic Sea. As a young boy he showed promising artistic talent, but his father, a merchant, directed him to a more secure profession as a doctor. Stubbe was sent to Strasbourg where he studied both medicine and art. He pursued more training in Munich before  returning to Neustettin in 1904 to take up a physician's practice. Within a few years he found such success as both a doctor and artist, that in 1907 Dr. Stubbe became the first person in his hometown to own an automobile.

During World War 1, Stubbe served as a doctor on a German hospital ship. When the war ended, Neustettin became part of Poland, so Dr. Stubbe moved to Hamburg, Germany. There he found employment as a commercial ship doctor which allowed him to travel the world. Unfortunately in the next war, bombing raids struck his home and studio in Hamburg destroying his artwork. After the war he tried to recreate some of his paintings, and I suspect his series of musicians may come from that postwar time. Paul Stubbe died in Hamburg on May 14, 1950. Much of what remains of his art is preserved at the Regional Museum in Szczecinek, where I found his history. 

Paul Stubbe's painting of the horn player
is aptly entitled:

Mit voller Kraft
With full Power

The title of his painting of a trombonist
is appropriately called:

Very Loud

The title of the forlorn violinist is:


The flutist performing for his wife is called:

Aus der Jugendzeit
From the Youth

The wind quartet
of oboe, bassoon, clarinet, and horn
is entitled:

Das Dorfquartett
The Village Quartet

None of the postcards ever went through the mail
but the artist's name in printed on the back.
Kleins Künstlerpostkarten
Paul Stubbe: (title)

The publisher was Kleins Buch und Kunstverlag GmbH, of Lengerich in Westfalia, Germany. This family-owned company was established by Alwin Klein in 1892, with a specialty for printing books and fine art. In 1922 it began producing paper sacks for the cement industry, and today the firm Bischof + Klein has become a major manufacturer of plastic packaging. 

It is difficult to place a date on these postcards, but to me the feel of the paper and print seem more suited to the 1950s than any earlier decade. Still I can't be certain that they may date from the 1930s or 1970s too. Since each postcard is numbered on the back, I do know that there are at least 6 in this series, of which I have found 5. With luck I will find the missing number with a postmark to establish the era. {See UPDATE below!}

I suspect these amusing caricature paintings by Paul Stubbe came from an early time in his career, possibly made when he lived in Munich at the turn of the 20th century. It was then, as now, a very musical city and no doubt an inspiring place for a young observant artist/doctor. His paintings have a wistful romantic quality that I initially admired for their gentle wit, but recently I've recognized myself and other musician friends in Stubbe's images.

The solitary activity of a musician practicing their art is still true today as it was in 1895. But Stubbe added an element of sorrow to his paintings that resonates with the isolation musicians everywhere have endured over the past few months. Music is an art form that requires a connection between both performer and listener, and one of the many consequences of this dreadful pandemic is the sharp break in that dynamic interaction. With theaters and concert halls closed, musicians are forced into a quarantine that sadly resembles the gloomy rooms depicted in Stubbe's paintings. Usually it is music that renders the sadness of the heart. Here it is art that mirrors the anguish of arrested music.


I found it.

The missing sixth postcard
depicts a solitary clarinetist.
The short length of his instrument
suggests he is an E-flat clarinetist,
who are the most solitary of all clarinet players.

Stubbe places his solo musician
standing with his music stand
in the sunlit half of a dark interior room.
The title is:

Sein Morgenlied
His Morning Song

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the motto of the day is
keep calm and watch your step.


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