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 Well Dressed Clarinetist No. 4, the E-flat Edition

29 May 2021

 

It's an unimpressive looking instrument.
At first glance most people would call it
just a clarinet, thinking it's the longer standard clarinet in B-flat.
But this variety of clarinet is shorter, only 19 ¼ inches long,
and that diminutive stature is what gives it
a much pointier, penetrating power.

It is the E-flat Clarinet,
the razor-sharp rapier of the woodwind family.


 
 

 
In the early 19th century
as brass bands became popular,
an instrument was needed that could play
the high descant counter melody.
Something with a treble voice
loud enough to carry a tune above
the overtones of the brass cornets and saxhorns.
The little E-flat clarinet fit the bill perfectly.
Its high reedy tone makes babies cry and dogs howl.
With nimble fingers it plays faster than the wind.
And when wielded with skill, its sound can slice
thorough 6 cornets, 10 trombones, and 4 tubas at a single stroke.




 

 Even a big brass band needed only one E-flat clarinet.
Any more would be unbearable,
like too much chili powder in the stew.
It was an instrument
that required a skilled musician,
someone with the courage of a soloist,
as there was no hiding its sound in a concert.
Every squawk, every honk, every faulty note would be heard.
It is a fearsome little instrument with a deadly bark.

So today I feature
another collection of photographs
of well-dressed bandsmen,
masters of the E-flat clarinet.

 
 

We begin with an early tintype, or ferrotype, photo of a dashing bandsman.
He is dressed in a short military jacket, a tailcoat I think,
with fringed epaulets and three rows of brass buttons.
His shako hat has a rolled feather plume
and a cap badge embossed with a musical lyre.
On a very fake, painted column
he rests his E-flat clarinet.


 
 

 A ferrotype camera records light directly onto
the chemical emulsion painted on a metal plate.
This creates a mirror image in the same manner as
that used by the early daguerreotype and ambrotype photographers.
Through the magic of digital photo software
I have corrected the contrast on this typically dark tintype image
and reversed it right to left for a true lifelike view.
Here the clarinet is positioned as the musician would hold it,
with his right hand being lowest on the instrument.
A ferrotype was usually made on a large plate
with room for multiple small exposures.
This photographer then snipped out each individual photo,
this one is
2½" x 4", and hid the ragged edges
in a simple paper envelope, which of course was easily lost.
The ferrotype's metal back doesn't take pencil or ink very well
so there is no identification for this bandsman.
I would guess it dates from 1866 to 1878
when the tintype technique was most popular.
The ribbon on his jacket is probably a souvenir
of some grand event involving a parade,
perhaps for a political rally or public holiday.


 
 * * *
 
 
 
 

 The next E-flat clarinetist is a cabinet card photo taken at the studio
of R. N. Ham, 86 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois
opposite the Academy of Music.
This musician with his brushy mustache
wears mid-length uniform coat
with ornate embroidery and toggle buttons.
He stands next to a fake fireplace mantle
where his clarinet rests next to a heavy book.
His cap and uniform are marks of a professional band.
I estimate his photo was made around 1885.
 
 
 
* * *
 
 
 
 

My opening image of an E-flat clarinet
came from this cabinet photo of an unknown bandsman.
It's from a later decade perhaps around 1900-10
as it is mounted on an over-large olive green cardstock
which has no identification of the photographer.
The young man's uniform is quite fancy despite the dark color
as the coat is embellished with complicated embroidery.
The only clue to his location
is his cap's badge with the initials D.B.A.
which is not very helpful.
And unfortunately the camera failed to pick up
the title of the sheet music on the music stand beside him.
His clean shaven face makes me think
he dates from about 1910.


 
* * *
 
 
 
 

 My fourth clarinetist stands in the studio
of Peck & Son, 74 & 78 Water St. in Newburgh, New York.
Behind him is a landscape backdrop
of what I presume is the Hudson River,
as Newburgh is about 66 miles north of New York City
on the west bank of the Hudson.
This bandsman's uniform is richly decorated
with frilled epaulets, fine embroidery, and white cuffs.
He wears a tall British-style custodian hat
with a large embossed badge and feathery plume.
It's a style often worn by a band of a state guard regiment.
This photo is from late 1880s to 1895, I think.
It is an unusual long cabinet card, 4" x 8½",
compared to the typical cabinet dimension of 4¼" x 6½".

The clarinet he holds may not be an E-flat,
but I don't think it is long enough to be a standard B-flat.
Clarinets were manufactured in a bewildering number of sizes,
from a midget-sized A-flat clarinet (the ultimate squeaker)
to a monstrous 10 foot long Contrabass clarinet.
I suspect this New York bandsman's clarinet
is sized in the key of D or C,
which still plays some pretty high notes
capable of frightening horses.


 
 
 
* * *
 
 
 

 
My last well-dress clarinetist photo is a bandsman
in a splendid high contrast uniform
with a short coat covered in ornate white embroidery,
white trousers, and white custodian hat topped with a Germanic spike.
Its extravagant style is too flashy for a military band,
so I think he is the member of a circus band
where over-the-top fashion was part of the entertainment.
 
 
 
 

 What is interesting about his cabinet card photo
is that the photographer's studio
was Dahl Bros. of Mayville, North Dakota,
a very small town in eastern North Dakota
about 58 miles north of Fargo.
My guesstimate is that this photo was taken about 1898-1904
which was when only 1,106 people lived in Mayville.
His attire is too fancy for a small town band,
but would be expected for a bandsman in a large traveling show
like a three-ring circus or wild west show.

 
 
 

 The length of his instrument
looks a bit longer than an E-flat
and may be a D or C clarinet
like the previous clarinetist.
But even so, he has the sharp-eyed stare
of a confident musician who knew how use
his clarinet to cut the heart of any audience.





The E-flat clarinet is still commonly played
in bands and orchestras, but it is no longer
a featured solo band instrument as it once was in past times.
When played well, and with a good reed,
it makes beautiful soprano music.
But in the wrong hands, its shriek is like the sound
of a banshee's fingernails on a chalkboard.
 
You don't want to sit too close.

 

 
 
 
 
 
For more clarinetists in uniform check out:

 
 
 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone has stuff to move this weekend.  





Music In Algeria

22 May 2021

It's a peculiarity with French military bands.
Whenever they posed for a photo
a pyramid of brass plumbing
was placed in front of the band.
In this case it's a balanced arrangement
of a flute, clarinet, trombones,
a couple of horns, a bass drum
and a baritone saxophone.

The officers wear French uniforms
but the bandsmen are dressed differently
with short embroidered jackets,
soft caps, and baggy white trousers
that give them a very exotic look.

Which is not surprising
considering that they are not in France,
but in a very exotic place in North Africa,
the ancient city of Constantine, Algeria.



In this postcard dated 1916 we see Constantine from a great height above a canyon with a hazy view of plains and mountains beyond. Its buildings are tightly clustered on the edges of a rocky escarpment divided by a dramatic gorge. When I first saw this postcard scene I was instantly captivated by it's stunning landscape.

Some years ago I acquired a set of four novelty French postcards (not yet published on my blog) which were all sent in 1905 to a French soldier, a chef armurier – chief gunsmith with the 3rd regiment of Zouaves in Constantine, Algeria. It was a place I'd never heard of. Though I knew about Algeria's history as a French colony, this city's name was unfamiliar. After I acquired the postcard of the band of the 3rd Zouave regiment, I became curious to learn more about it. Constantine is located in Algeria's northeastern mountains near Tunisia, but inland, about 70 miles south of the Mediterranean. 
 

Map of French Algeria, 1934-55
Source: Wikimedia
 
Constantine is an ancient city founded by the Phoenicians, then later conquered by the Numidians, the Carthaginians, and the Romans. It was named after the emperor Constantine the Great, who rebuilt it in 313 AD. From the 8th to the early 19th century it was under Islamic rule as part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1837 Constantine was captured by the French army during its conquest of Algeria which had begun in 1830 during the Bourbon Restoration reign of France's King Charles X (1757–1836). By 1905 when my French soldier received his postcards from France, Constantine was a vibrant city in the vast French colonial empire in Africa.
 
Situated on a plateau above a deep ravine over the Rhumel River, Constantine is at an elevation of 2,100 ft (640m) overlooking wide fertile plains. The same scene as my 1916 postcard was photographed and colorized in 1899 (courtesy of Wikipedia). It looks like an identical image except that one thing is missing. Can you spot the difference?

Constantine, Algeria 1899
Source: Wikipedia





The band of the 3rd regiment of Zouaves posed for their photo in 1913, as noted in the postcard's caption. It's a very large ensemble of 61 bandsmen and two officers, standing, I presume, outside their barracks in Constantine. With a nice balance between brass and woodwinds, the band's music would easily be heard echoing far below on the plains.
 
In this next postcard looking upwards toward a mountain above the city, we can see the distant viewpoint used by the photographer for the first postcard of Constantine. This image was also taken in the 1910s and shows the El-Kantara Bridge which crosses over the gorge of the Rhumel River.



This iron arch bridge was built in 1863 on the site of several ancient bridges. In 1855-56 the French-born American photographer and Egyptologist, John Beasley Greene (1832–1856) took a photo of the Constantine's earlier stone bridge.





The iron bridge that replaced it was a marvelous example of 19th century French engineering. In this next image of the El-Kantara Bridge taken in 1899 we see the reverse view looking down into the gorge.


Constantine, Algeria
El-Kantara Bridge, 1899
Source: Wikimedia

In the early 20th century the El-Kantara Bridge's structure was replaced with a stronger concrete span that preserved the iron arch's design. Now a century later in 2021 it has changed very little except that the horse-drawn wagons are replaced with vans and automobiles.





* * *

 

 

 
This next postcard from Constantine shows the band of the Tirailleaurs (La Nouba). There is no postmark but the quality of the printing is better that the other French postcards so I think it dates from the 1930s or even 1940s. The Tirailleaurs were a light infantry unit made up of indigenous men recruited from France's overseas colonies. The 25 bandsmen here, like the previous Zouave regimental band, wear a distinctive uniform of short jacket, baggy trousers, and fez cap. The group is a more typical size for a military band, and being French, they display all their instruments in the foreground.

 
One the left side of the first postcard of Constantine, a number of large buildings dominate the skyline. This is the military barracks and hospital which are pictured in this next postcard. It was sent by a soldier in 1911 who drew arrows to show his friend the location of his rooms. Ironically, today's smartphone technology adds GPS coordinates onto images that give a precise position, but it lacks the personal touch of a handwritten X.



The colorful uniforms of Zouaves and Tirailleur became a popular military fad in the 1830s. Inspired by the exploits and bravery of the first French Zouaves, many infantry units in other countries, including the United States, adopted the splashy Zouave uniform fashion. This next postcard photo shows a French soldier from the 3rd regiment of Zouaves in Constantine posing proudly for his portrait. The postmark is unclear but I believe it dates from 1910-1918. Many Zouave soldiers served with distinction during the Great War of 1914-18 and later again in World War II. Their heroism is still honored today in France.
 



After WWII, France struggled to maintain its colonial empire, but by the 1960's most of France's many possessions achieved independence, and Algeria won its home rule in 1962. However old military traditions last a long time, and today the French Army still has a mechanized infantry unit called the 1st Tirailleur Regiment. And of course, it has a band which is known as La Nouba. Here is the Nouba du 1er Régiment de Tirailleur performing  on 11 April 2018 dressed in the colorful Zouave uniforms. Notice how the petite piccolo in front manages to hold her music. Extra points if you can identify this popular French folk song.

* * *



* * *




The answer to my question about the missing element in the first scenes of Constantine is the slender line of a bridge that crosses the dramatic gorge in the 1916 postcard, but is missing in the 1899 image. This is the magnificent Sidi M'Cid Bridge, a 520 ft (164m) long suspension bridge across the Rhumel River that was first opened to traffic in April 1912 . In this next postcard photo taken from the river's cataracts below we get a breathtaking perspective of its great height of 574 ft (175m) which made it the highest bridge in the world until it was surpassed by the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado in 1929. Today that height doesn't even make the Wikipedia list of tallest bridges, which now starts at 660 ft (200m) and continues on up with 87 impressive bridges, with over half built in China. Yet the honor for the current tallest bridge is the Millau Viaduct in southern France at 1,104 ft (336m) tall. 





Below the Sidi M'Cid Bridge is a prehistoric rock formation which the Rhumel River created. This image, also from Wikimedia, shows a modern view of the gorge with both the man-made and natural bridge crossings. 


Constantine, Algeria
Sidi M'Cid Bridge
Source: Wikipedia
 


My last postcard of Constantine shows the city's main plaza with an Arab market next to several imposing French colonial buildings. The one on the right was a hotel which was converted into a theatre in 1914, and still functions today as Constantine's main cultural center.




Constantine. – Place Nemours et le Marché Arabe. LL.

We passed through here on our way down. The city is big and handsome.
Cold in winter because it stands high among the Aures mountains.
It is the Aures that divide the fertile plains of northern Africa from
the desert. Constantine is a whole day's train ride from
Biskra so you can tell from that
how far in the desert we are.
                                              E –



The postcard was sent to Philadelphia from Biskra, Algeria, about 150 miles southwest of Constantine, which has a nickname "The Door of the Desert" for its location on the Sahara Desert.  The postmark is too faint to read a date, but I think it is from around 1908 to 1910.



 
 
 
Finally I offer a dramatic modern Google 360° view
of the Sidi M'Cid Bridge, taken from near the military hospital.


* * *





* * *




The full history of the French empire and Constantine, Algeria is a long, complicated, and ultimately tragic story. The world still suffers today from the consequences of European imperialism forced on the people of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. In 2017, President Emmanuel Macron described France's colonization of Algeria as a "crime against humanity...It's truly barbarous and it's part of a past that we need to confront by apologizing to those against whom we committed these acts." It will be many generations before the world resolves this dark legacy of colonial subjugation.
 
Yet the beauty of Constantine is what attracted me to this place. It's one of the rewards for investigating the history behind the photos and postcards in my collection. It allows me to wander through exotic cultures and fascinating history.

 

 

 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone is on a world tour.




Three Drum Majors

14 May 2021

 
It was a drum major! Hurrah
A drum major—no base imitation; a real drum major,
a drum major with a bearskin two feet high;
with a great red plume waving away above that altitude;
a drum major with a gold tipped baton,
a drum major with a gorgeous costume,


 
 
 

 

A drum major who could walk backward
as gracefully as he could forward,
a drum major with a commanding eye,
whose glare told the band and the small boys
he would stand no nonsense; a drum major who could juggle
with his baton as he sped along.
That was the kind of drum major he was.










He carried his head high and strutted along
with an I–am–the–whole–procession air,
for he knew that heaven had bestowed upon him
the greatest opportunity to exhibit himself
which had ever fallen to the lot of any drum major
since evolution had raised the human race to that
pinnacle of perfection necessary for
the producing of drum majors.

Oh, how he stalked in lonely lordliness and
how he swung his baton as he passed the Governor's stand
with his band filling the air with triumphant melody.
No such drum major was ever seen before
and the world can have no hope that his like will ever appear again.
This was an excerpt from a newspaper account about a parade
in New York City honoring then-Governor Grover Cleveland,
as reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on 2 November 1884.



Once upon a time a parade was a common event in the life of a city. Political rallies, religious processions, and other civic celebrations often called for a parade through the city streets leading toward some kind of public spectacle. Of course any parade required a band to play music, and every band needed someone to lead it in the marching. This important duty was the responsibility of a band's drum major.
 
In November 1884, New York City hosted one of the greatest political parades of the 19th century for its state's governor, Grover Cleveland, the Democratic Party's candidate for President of the United States. The reporter for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, who was clearly carried away by his enthusiasm for the occasion, began his article with a wonderfully poetic description of the drum major who led the parade's start. He was the unnamed leader of Patrick Gilmore's famous military band and the drum corps of the Twenty-second Regiment of the New York state guard. 
 
The reporter estimated that "It took these people three and a half hours, marching swiftly, to pass the reviewing stand sixteen abreast. There were fully 75,000 people (more likely 35,000) in the line and every one was a voter. It was the finest procession ever given in honor of a Presidential candidate in New York, and the 500,000 people who lined the streets on which they marched were right in applauding it to the echo, as they did." Every group of Cleveland supporters in the parade was led by a band. There must have been hundreds of drum majors marching that day

Grover Cleveland went on to win the Presidency in 1884, the first Democrat since James Buchanan in 1856. Though Cleveland carried enough states to win the Electoral College votes, his Republican opponent, James G. Blaine of Maine, despite numerous scandals of corruption, still did well in the popular vote. Of the total ballots cast, Blaine narrowly lost with 48.28% to Cleveland's 48.85%.
 
In the election of 1888, the tables were reversed and Benjamin Harrison, a former Senator from Indiana, defeated Cleveland, with 20 states going Republican to 18 Democratic. But again the popular vote margin was narrow, 48.6% to 47.8%. Four years later, Grover Cleveland returned to the political stage and won the next election in a three-way contest against the incumbent Benjamin Harrison, and James B. Weaver of the Populist Party, becoming the first, and only, U. S. President to serve two non-consecutive terms.
 
President Cleveland saw a lot of drum majors in his career. Not all of them in a parade either.
 
"Pioneer Cleveland"
26 August 1896, Puck magazine
by Louis Dalrymple (1866–1905)
 Source: loc.gov

This political cartoon was published in August 1896 and shows Cleveland  holding an axe labeled "Political Wisdom", in a forest where he has been cutting trees labeled "Gold Standard". Approaching from the left is a procession led by Mark A. Hanna, as drum major, followed by William McKinley, Garret A. Hobart, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas B. Reed, George F. Hoar, John Sherman, Henry Cabot Lodge, and others. One man carries a banner that states "The Republican Party is unreservedly for Sound Money - the existing Gold Standard must be preserved. Rep. Platform."
 
The illustration of a drum major in tall bearskin hat and colorful uniform was a powerful symbol in America because the public understood a drum major's charismatic power to lead people. Today I present three vintage photo portraits of drum majors.
 
 
 
 

The first drum major is a very young man, a boy really, about age 13-14 or perhaps a bit older, but not by much. He is dressed in a simple white uniform with short sailor's jacket and knee breeches. His hat is a kind of brimless cadet's cap. Attached to his jacket are the swallow's nest shoulder wings of a military bandsman. The point on his mace has a very fine insignia with the letter S. The card has some bad abrasion but it isn't the reason for his  missing left hand. It is merely hidden, bent behind his hip.

The photographer was Heinrich Veldmann of Kiel, Germany at Holtenauerstr. 32. This style of this carte de visite dates to the 1890s, I think, but it could be from later, perhaps even  the 1900s. Kiel is a major port city on the Baltic Sea in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. It was the home of the Imperial German Naval Fleet and I believe this lad was a drum major for a German navy band. 
 
The faded backdrop behind the young drum major looks like a body of water with a wooden bridge beyond. It's possible that it depicts the great Kiel Canal which connect the North Sea to the Baltic Sea. Construction of this 61 mile freshwater canal transiting from Brunsbüttel to Holtenau was begun in 1887 and officially opened on 20 June 1895 by Kaiser Wilhelm II. Undoubtedly there were many big parades for that event. 
 
And though this boy was German, it's not impossible that he might have been in the parade for Governor Cleveland, as there were many communities of German immigrants in New York who supported the governor.

 

 
 
 
* * *
 
 
 
 

My second drum major portrait show a more senior gentleman with a stern military gaze. I would say he is in his late 30s or 40s. Maybe 50s? He wears a mid-length uniform coat fastened with 18 shiny buttons and tied with a sash belt, and a French-style kepi hat which has a star-shaped badge. The stripe on his trouser leg is a feature of military-style bands. One of my theories on men's hair fashions is that his mustache/mutton chops combo with a clean-shaven chin is a sign of a military veteran. 

This cabinet card photograph was taken by W. C. Davis of Waterloo, New York. In the 1900 census, Whitney C. Davis, age 38, was living with his wife Francena S. Davis on the farm of his in-laws, James and Libbie Sutherland. At that time Whitney C. Davis listed his occupation as Photographer, Retired. In the 1894-95 business directory for Seneca County, located in New York's picturesque Finger Lake region, W. C. Davis was listed under Photographers and Bicycle Dealers. So I would estimate this drum major posed for his picture in about 1895-99.
 
 

 
 
 
* * *
 
 
 
 

My third photo of a drum major is a prize winner. This fellow has a splendid uniform with a long coat that gleams from its rows of brass buttons and gold thread embroidery. We can almost see the photographer's camera in the reflection on his mace's dome head. But the real glory is in his tall British-style custodian hat with its horsehair plume. It's a magnificent portrait only marred by the young man's accidental resemblance to Don Knotts, the actor who played Mayberry's celebrated deputy sheriff, Barney Fife. 
 
On his cap's badge and his belt buckle is an American eagle which are symbols that would only be on a true military bandsman's uniform. So I believe he is a leader of a regimental band for a state guard. This is a photo that deserves to be colorized but I can't make up my mind for the coat's color. Scarlet red or Prussian blue?

His cabinet photo was taken by Henry Ehm of 708-710 Broadway in Brooklyn, N. Y., Duplicates can be had at any time. The backstamp on the card is in a rare landscape format and shows a classical Grecian trio of young woman, youth, and cupid admiring a large portrait. Beside them is a camera and artist's palette board. According to Langdonroad.com, a useful list of 19th and early 20th century photographers, Henry Ehm operated a studio in Brooklyn from 1889 to 1912, and was at this address from about 1890 until 1910. The drum major's hat was a popular dress uniform fashion for bands and soldiers in the 1890s. 

 

It was this drum major's location in Brooklyn that sent me searching for "drum major" references in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. There were thousands of them in the decades before WW1. The report on campaign parade for Grover Cleveland was just the best of several detailed descriptions of how drum majors captured the attention of the public. It was an era when every ceremonial part of civic life included parades and march music. The drum major's position at the front of a parade served more to command the eyes of the spectators than of just his band. His directions controlled the speed of the marching step cadence and the timing of any special drill instructions. Tossing or twirling the drum major's mace was a display of juggling but it was also a mark of skillful art to generate impressive awe from an audience. 
 
The roll of a drum major still continues in modern military bands, though the need for parade marching has greatly diminished. Many modern high school and collegiate marching bands often have multiple drum majors who assist in presenting extravagant halftime shows. I think those over-the-top forms distract from the old traditions represented in these three portraits of anonymous drum majors. But who knows, maybe Grover Cleveland would have enjoyed seeing his Brooklyn drum major do a strut and spin.
 

 
 
* * *
 
 
 
 
I found several videos on YouTube
that demonstrated the best qualities of a drum major.
Here is a short video from Nigeria
showing of the drum majors of the FCT Council Boys' Brigade Band
at a 2017 music event  held at Kwali, Nigeria.
The band's playing is rough and unpolished
but the spirit of the drum majors
is inspiring to see.

 

 

 s
 
Here is a video of the Flying V Drum-Majors
from the Canadian Armed Forces Music School in Borden, Ontario.
There is no music, but instead we get to see how military drum majors
practice their movements and commands.

 
 

 

 
And this last video was also filmed in Borden, Ontario
on the same day in August 2016, I think.
Here Mcpl Brook practices his Drum-Major Routine.
There may be no music but this drum major
can hear the march tune clearly in his head.

 
 

 
 
 

 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where only the Shadow knows all the secrets.





Mr. Lincoln's Bandsmen

08 May 2021


 
At first glance it seems an absurd design for a brass instrument.
A trumpet-like horn is twisted around 180°
so that its bell faces backwards
over the player's shoulder.
It makes no sense.
Why would a musician
want their sound to go behind them?
 
Yet in the 1860's
as American soldiers, North and South,
marched off to war
this was the style of instrument
that they heard at the head of the column.
It was over-the-shoulder cornets and saxhorns that led them
and defined the sound of an American military brass band.

Today I present four over-the-shoulder brass players,
two of them bandsmen in Mr. Lincoln's Union Army.

 
 
 
 

My first musician stands proudly next to his upturned over-the-shoulder bass horn. He wears a long dark frock coat with a single row of brass buttons, and has removed his hat. His trimmed mustache and chin beard were the fashion popular with gentlemen from this era. He is likely a member of a regimental or brigade band in the Union army. 

The reason we can know this, even though his name is unknown, is because of where and when his photo was taken. On the back is the photographer's imprint, the Whitehurst Gallery, 434 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D. C., located across from where the National Gallery of Art is today. Carelessly pasted above it is a blue 2¢ U.S. Inter. Rev. Proprietary stamp. This shows that the bandsman duly paid a 2¢ tax for his carte de visite photograph.
 
 
 
This tax on "photographs, ambrotypes, daguerreotypes or any other sun-pictures" was enacted by Congress in 1864 and renewed in 1865 and 1866. It was effective from 1 September 1864 to 1 August 1866, and the tax was adjusted according to the retail price charged. In this case, the musician paid an extra 2¢ because the cdv cost 25¢ or less. Typically a photographer might offer a dozen copies of a cdv for $2.50, which would require a 2¢ revenue stamp. If the client only bought a single cdv for 40¢, then the tax charged was 3¢. Larger formats or framed photos added a higher tax.
 
The photographer cancelled the stamp with a handwritten X to indicate that the tax was recorded, though sometimes a rubber stamp with a place name and date was used.  More information on this interesting philatelic history can be found at Civil War Taxed Photographs 1864-1866. It's a terrific website with lots of examples of dated photographs and explanations on the stamp variations.
 
The bandsman's instrument is nicely displayed to show its three side-action rotary valves and how the tubing was arranged to place the bell behind the player's head and ears.
 
 
 


It is a B-flat bass, longer than the B-flat tenor but shorter than the E-flat bass. In 1868 the catalog of the Isaac Fiske Musical Instrument Co. of Worchester, Massachusetts offered one in brass for $100 or in German silver (nickle) for $25. A novel feature was an adapter with a 90° bend that allowed the player hold the instrument against his chest with the bell pointed upwards.
 
E-flat Tenor and B-flat Bass Horns
1868 Isaac Fiske Musical Instruments Catalog
Worcester, MA

 
 
 
* * *





 
 

My second bandsman is dressed in a similar long uniform coat but with dark trousers. His forager cap has been placed on the newel post of the studio's faux railing prop. He holds his over-the-shoulder tenor horn at a parade rest position. In all the examples that I've seen of over-the-shoulder brass instruments, the keys were played with the right hand and the bell branch rested on the left shoulder. In contrast, my instrument, the French horn, has left-handed keys and the bell is supported by the right hand to keep it in tune.
 
This musician probably did not play for President Lincoln as this photo was taken a few years after the end of the war. But his uniform and instrument conform to the era's style for a regimental band, so I believe he was a member of a military band attached to a state militia, a guards unit from the state of New York.
 
His cdv was taken at the studio of C. C. Sherwood, Photographist, Main St., Peekskill, New York. Mr. Sherwood's full name was Crystepher C. Sherwood, but he later changed to Christopher Columbus Sherwood. He was born in New Hampshire in 1828 but as a young man moved to Peekskill, New York which is on the Hudson River above New York City, only 10 miles down from West Point. In the 1860s Sherwood worked in Peekskill as a jeweler. In about 1868-71 he branched out as a photographer, so this photo probably dates from this time, roughly 1871.
 
 
 

In the 19th century, just like in ancient times, a soldier's primary form of locomotion was marching. In the 1860s the roster of most units, both North and South, included field musicians who played drums, bugles, and fifes to keep the soldiers in step. They also served an important military function during battle and in camp by playing short signal commands which could be heard outdoors over the clamor. 
 
For formal parades and entertainment, the larger regiments and brigades retained a full brass band of between 16 and 24 musicians. At the start of the Civil War nearly every Union volunteer regiment brought along its own band. But as the war continued longer than expected, the cost of maintaining hundreds of non-combatant musicians proved too expensive and most were decommissioned in July 1861. 
 
The brass bands of this era had a variety of instruments to chose from. Beside the over-the-shoulder style with bells backward , some came with bells frontward and others with bells up. But generally when soldiers were assembled in parade formation the band in the lead. With the over-the-shoulder instruments, their sound, especially that of the basses who played a walking beat, could be heard by the units that followed. All of these instruments, sometimes called saxhorns, followed a design created by the Belgian inventor and musician, Adolphe Sax (1814–1894). These conical bore instruments came in numerous sizes, soprano to contrabass, and though originally imported from Europe, by the 1860s many were made in America. An 1867 catalog page from the Gordon & Slater Musical Instrument Co. of New York illustrates several kinds of brass instruments with special offers for the purchase of a full instrumentation.



1867 Gordon & Slater Musical Instrument catalog
New York City



 
 
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My third photo is a young boy dressed in a superior bandsman's uniform with a tail coat, fringed epaulets, three rows of brass buttons and a plumed shako hat. He is holding an over-the-shoulder tenor horn, that, I think, is very like the previous bandsman's instrument. The photographer has penciled in the pupils of his fair eyes which unfortunately makes him appear a bit cross-eyed. But his mother probably loved it.

Like the previous photo, this bandsman dates from after the war. But his location and dress place him in a band that would have played for parades of the Grand Army of the Republic and other political groups. The photographer was J. S. Saurman of 43½ N. Queen St.,  Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Mr. Saurman was one of five photographers in the 1877 Lancaster city directory, one on German St., two on Queen St., and two on King St. He doesn't appear in any of the earlier 1860s directories, nor in any of the later ones, so I estimate this photo was taken in around 1876-78. My bet would be 1876 because there were a lot of bands marching in the summer of America's first centennial year.
 
The back has a note written years later:
My Father
Aaron M. Dicken (?)

 
 
It's too bad that the last name has ambiguous letters. The D might be P and the last three letters could be hin instead of ken.  In any case, I was unable to find anyone in Pennsylvania by that name or any variable, so we will just have to call him Aaron.
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
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My last photo is definitely one of Mr. Lincoln's bandsmen and was the opening image at the top of this post. It's a musician dressed in a typical bandsman's uniform from the war years, a long dark frock coat with simple piping on the collars and cuffs, pale trousers with a stripe, and the classic Civil War forager cap. Frustratingly the camera lens could not capture enough detail to identify his cap badge which looks like either initials or numbers, or both. His uniform resembles a regimental bandsman's outfit from the Union Army. His instrument is a B-flat cornet, a lead instrument pitched like a standard B-flat trumpet, that would typically be played by a band's principal musician.
 
The photo is very worn with a bad crack across middle and a pinhole at the top, but I think this adds an authentic historical patina. On the back is an imprint: R. W. Addis, Photographer, 308 Penna. Avenue, Washington D. C. Mr. Addis's studio was also near where the National Gallery of Art is today, roughly a third of the way up on Pennsylvania Ave., between the Capitol and the White House.
 
 


 
Robert W. Addis was a popular photographer with Washington's many politicians and military officers. A number of his carte de visites are in the Library of Congress archives which help date my photo of  the cornet player to the war years.
 
 
Assistant Surgeon Walter B. Morrison
of Co. K, 3rd Michigan Infantry Regiment
R.W. Addis, photographer
Source: Library Of Congress Public Domain Archive


In this cdv, identified as Assistant Surgeon Walter B. Morrison of Co. K, 3rd Michigan Infantry Regiment, you can see the same carpet that my cornet bandsman stands on.
 

 
Dog "Jack," attached to
the 102d Regiment Pennsylvania Vols.
R.W. Addis, photographer
Source: Library Of Congress Public Domain Archive

Even better is this souvenir cdv of Dog "Jack," attached to the 102d Regiment Pennsylvania Vols. Not only is the carpet the same but Jack is lying in front of the same faux railing prop used behind the bandsman. It's fun to imagine that he and this heroic dog, (veteran of numerous battles, wounded, and once captured and exchanged!)  came from the same Pennsylvania unit. Perhaps like my dog, Jack liked to "sing along" with the band.

 
 
Regimental Band of Union Army
possibly of 12th Indiana Infantry.
Source: LOC

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Back in March 2018, I featured a medley of over-the-shoulder bass horns in The Big Brass. These wacky but impressive instruments were once common in early American brass bands, but they have limitations that led them to become obsolete by the 1880s. The directional sound quality worked fine for a band leading a parade, or while standing in a circle with the bells pointed outward. But they didn't work so well with musicians seated indoors, and couldn't be played in an orchestra.  The German/Bohemian style rotary valves were also difficult to maintain and repair. By the 1880s the French piston valves were easier and cheaper to manufacture and they quickly became the dominant mechanical system for most brass instruments in America. 

The Civil War, the War between the States, was a pivotal point in American history that produced profound changes in our society and collective culture. Over the remaining century, in both the North and South, military brass bands became an important influence on the development of popular music. These instruments and their sound shaped the public's growing taste for marches, dances, and songs.

In order to best appreciate this music, here is the Frontier Brigade Band performing as the 1859 Marine Band at the 150th Anniversary Reinactment of the Battle of Shiloh in 2012. They are dressed in the 1859 uniforms of the U.S. Marine Band and are using a number of over-the-shoulder saxhorns.

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This smaller ensemble of six musicians is a recent video from 2020 with superior sound and good closeups. They are playing  Reel - Boston Turns by The 8th GM Regiment Band at Manassas National Battlefield Park. In addition to their period instruments they are dressed in fine uniforms that resemble the ones in my photos. Their black gloves add a nice authentic touch too.

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This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where pictures don't always tell the full story.





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