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
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Music on the Streets of Paris

26 June 2021


1er Nov. 1901

If I haven't written to you earlier,
it is because there's
nothing new and I haven't yet
seen anyone.
A thousand kisses — Paul

It's a simple message written in French
on the bottom of a
picture postcard.
The caricature shows two scruffy looking street musicians
singing as they accompany themselves on guitar and fiddle.

The postcard was sent
from Belfort, France addressed to
Monsieur Jules Rémond, notaire
at 31 Grande Rue, Besançon, France.

Paul's note is very like the messages still written on millions of postcards today, but in his case he wrote it during the first great age of French cartes postales. The illustration depicts a typical Parisian scene of musical buskers performing outdoors on a public street. Unlike sepia tone photographs from this era, here the publisher is able to add color to the drawing to accentuate the novelty.

The artist was Lubin de Beauvais, (1873–1917), a native of Paris who did many illustrations for French newspapers, children's magazines, and sheet music covers. With his quick pencil he deftly recorded the bohemian life in Paris. He must have produced hundreds of postcard sketches and I have found ten, all sent to the same address during the winter of 1901-02.


The second postcard was posted a few days later on 4 November 1901. Paul writes, "Nothing new, everything is fine. I hope someone will reply to my interesting letter of yesterday."  This card shows a drawing of a trio, a cornetist, trombonist, and a bass drum/cymbal player, with a young boy listening.


The next postcard was sent five days later on 9 November 1901. Paul says, "I am swamped with work: circle (?), conference, confessions, sermon, etc. etc. And then I have no good news."  This card shows a man playing a valved trumpet or cornet while a stout woman blows a trombone. Two children look on from the side.


The next card is dated 12 Nov. 1901 and Paul replies to a telegram he received. The sketch shows three performers, at the front a singer wearing a busted top hat dances while a trombonist and a man with either a flute or clarinet play behind him. 

Two weeks pass and Paul sends another card on 26 November 1901. "Don't despair completely of seeing my prose (writing?). Truly, it's been impossible to find a minute. And however (much) I keep my resolutions, it may even be because of that, I will write later this evening." This caricature shows a man with a mandolin or lute-guitar accompanying an old woman who sings as she does a dance step.


The sixth postcard is dated 6 Xbr 1901, the postmark shows the month is December, not October. The message is the first to connect Paul to the addressee Jules Rémond. He begins, "Dear Parents. Your letter of the day before yesterday killed me. It's lucky that it crossed with another of mine which already replied [ ____ ]. But true, I haven't been able to keep my resolutions any more. I will give you a letter [to the Doctor?]"

The drawing is similar to the last card with another guitarist accompanying a stout woman who is clearly belting out a song in full voice.


On 15 December 1901 a different writer sends a postcard of Lubin de Beauvais's buskers to the Rémond household in Besançon. It is addressed to Madame Chamecin (?) and I think the writer is Paul's father writing to a housekeeper or governess. "We found snow here, but happily it's not been too cold. We're returning to Besançon at 9 o'clock Monday evening. Kisses to all. [ ?]

This card shows a trio of two singers, a man and a woman, who also plays guitar, and another man seated behind them with a small keyboard instrument, probably a portable reed organ with pump pedals. The man reads off a sheaf or papers. Beginning in the 16th century, English minstrels often sold printed lyrics of their ballads which told long stories in musical rhyme. This popular songs were called broadsides or broadsheets and were still common into the early 20th century, so I suspect French buskers did the same. In my collection I have found several French postcards from 1910-1930 with printed songs that include lyrics and musical notation.

Besançon is a modest sized city about 230 miles southeast of Paris in eastern France, very near the Swiss border. Belfort, France is a much smaller town, about 55 miles further to the northeast on the way to Mulhouse, France and Bern, Switzerland. Until 1871, it was part of the French département of Haut-Rhin, in Alsace. But during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 Belfort successfully withstood a siege of 103 days against the Prussian army. At the end of the war in 1871 when the Treaty of Frankfurt was negotiated, Belfort was not annexed by Germany as was the rest of Alsace and Lorraine. Instead it was retained as part of France and called the administrative district Territoire de Belfort


At the end of December 1901, Paul sends a greeting in Italian to Mademoiselle Marguerite Rémond. "Happy holidays, my dear. I wish you every happiness for this new year." I believe this card was addressed to his sister.

This drawing has an unusual duo of a young boy on violin and an older man with a large harp. The boy holds his instrument like a cello. Their curly hair suggests that they are Italian, as this combination of instruments appears on numerous Italian picture postcards of folk musicians.   


A month later on 25 January 1902, Paul writes, "Dear Parents. No News. I wrote to you yesterday after the dining room of D'. I hope that my letter will have given you almost all the information asked for 19 times by Maman [mom]. Kisses to all."
This sketch depicts another duo. With arms akimbo, a large imposing woman sings with full throat while a swarthy man saws away on a violin. Though the loud mechanical noises of modern urban life did not exist in 1902, Paris was far from being a quiet city. Its streets must have echoed at all times of the day with the vibrant sounds of human voices calling, shouting, and singing. I imagine some buskers like this pair earned a good living by being paid to go sing somewhere else.


The tenth and final card was mailed on 30 January 1902, once again to Paul's parents. He reports no news but I think he sends arrangements to visit Besançon. The card displays another singing duo, this time with a male vocalist wearing a straw boater hat. He sings while holding his music or lyrics with more sheets clasped under his arm.


The ten postcards of Lubin de Beauvais are charming sketches demonstrating the lively musical nature of Paris. Beginning with the Exposition Universelle of 1889 when the Eiffel Tower became Paris's iconic symbol, Paris enjoyed a golden age of architecture, fine art, literature, and music. But not all music was high culture, and these buskers probably did more to define the image of the French people's Joie de vivre — Love of life. And 120 years later, the descendants of these buskers are still serenading the visitors and residents of Paris.
 * * *
 Special thanks go to my multi-talented wife, Charlotte,
for providing translations of these postcard messages.

Initially I wondered, who was Paul?
A student? A soldier?
A government worker?
Did his short notes leave any clues?
It was very helpful that he included a greeting to his parents,
whose home still stands at 31 Grande Rue in Besançon, France.
It's located on a narrow pedestrian-friendly street
where a chic shoe shop occupies the lower floor
of the four story building.
31 Grande Rue, Besançon, France

Jules Rémond's occupation of notaire
was the equivalent to a lawyer or solicitor
providing legal work in contracts and property estates.
 So yesterday after I found the street view of his address,
I decided to search for his son, Paul Rémond,
just to see if there was anything else
I might add to my story of these musical postcards.
Not only did I find Paul,
but I discovered that he was no ordinary man.

I'm very pleased to introduce Monseigneur Paul Rémond.
Monseigneur Paul Rémond
Source: Les Enfants & Amis Abadi

Paul Rémond was born in Salins, France on 24 September 1873, the eldest of a family of seven children. His father, Jules Rémond, born in Clairvaux-les-Lacs in 1841, settling in Besançon in 1880 to work as a notary. His mother, born in Salins in 1828, was a young cousin of Louis Pasteur.

After his secondary studies Paul went to the University of Besançon where he graduated in 1894 with a degree in letters. He spent another year studying in Germany at the University of Freiburg to improve his German. Then at the age of 22 he entered the French seminary in Rome where in 1899 he obtained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

On 30 July 1899, Paul Rémond was ordained a priest in Besançon and on August 3, he celebrated his first mass in the church of Salins where his parents were married, and where he was baptized. From August 1900 he was vicar of the parish of Saint Christophe in Belfort where he stayed for six years. In 1906, he took up the duties of chaplain of the Lycée Victor Hugo in Besançon where he distinguished himself in social actions with students of all faiths. In 1914 he was named an honorary canon of the cathedral of Besançon.
Paul Rémond (r), 1914-18
Source: Les Enfants & Amis Abadi

When France mobilized for war with Germany in August 1914, Paul Rémond took up another calling as a territorial infantry lieutenant with the 7th Army Corps. He saw his first combat in November at the Aisne front. By January 1916 he had been promoted to captain and was commanding a machine gun company at Verdun. From the end of 1916 to November 1918, he took part in the battles of Argonne, Champagne, Verdun (for the second time), Lorraine, and the Somme. For his heroic action in 1916, Rémond was awarded the rank of commander, an army citation of merit, and the Legion of Honor. Sadly the war took his youngest brother, Pierre, who was killed in April 1917 at the age of 25.
Following the war Monseigneur Rémond was assigned the post of bishop and chaplain inspector general of the French army occupying Germany's Rhineland. From 1923-24 he represented around forty French parishes, eight German bishoprics, and also had jurisdiction over Syria and Lebanon, then administered by France. In this next portrait of Monseigneur Rémond his military medals are pined to his cassock with the Legion of Honor next to his crucifix.


Monseigneur Paul Rémond
Source: Les Enfants & Amis Abadi
In 1930, following the evacuation of French forces in Germany, Pope Pius XI appointed Monsignor Rémond as the Bishop of Nice. In his first pastoral letter, (Religious Week, 13 July 1930), Rémond wrote, "I come to you ... with the sole desire to raise, to relieve, and to console those who toil and those who suffer, to instruct the ignorant, to defend the oppressed..."

From 1933 to 1939, he took public positions in numerous written interventions and homilies on international issues, both economically and morally, denouncing the desire of men to get rich quickly, their lack of scruples, and the progression of dishonesty and selfishness. But his deepest concern lay with the rise of Nazism. After Hitler came to power in January 1933, Monseigneur Rémond condemned the first anti-Jewish measures. In a sermon delivered on 9 April 1933 in the Church of the Sacred Heart, he denounced "persecutions on grounds of religion" and expressed his "painful sympathy" to the Jewish community, affirming "his desire to soften their sorrows and help them morally and materially". In radio speeches in 1939, Rémond called Germany “the sin of the world” and in 1940, he described Hitler and Stalin as “two gangsters”.

After the fall of France to the German army in June 1940, Monsignor Rémond, like many bishops, initially rallied to the side of Marshall Pétain who became France's prime minister during the time of German occupied France. However he never supported Pétain's collaboration with the Nazis and did not submit to the other leaders of the Vichy government. Strongly opposed to antisemitism in France. In May 1940 Rémond visited the internment camps for foreign Jews and obtained the release of a number of people. In November 1942 he condemned the Italian occupation of Nice, and when Italian troops entered the city in September 1943, he had the French flag raised over his bishopric residence.

During the summer of 1943, Monseigneur Rémond was approached by Moussa Abadi (1910–1997), a Syrian Jew who had taken refuge in Nice and was a member of the French Resistance. He asked Rémond for his help to save Jewish children who were in grave risk of capture and deportation to Nazi concentration camps. Rémond agreed to help, offering to hide the children in safe places at his bishopric residence and at other Catholic institutions in the diocese.  
After the German forces entered Nice on 9 September 1943, conditions became very dangerous for Moussa Abadi's secret network. One time the Gestapo arrested two Jewish boys who tried to evade the charge by claiming to be Catholic but they could not provide proof. Warned of the situation by a parish priest, Monsignor Rémond drew up Catholic baptismal and communion certificates for the two boys, along with a letter demanding their release and declaring himself ready, if necessary, to go to Gestapo headquarters in person.
With Monseigneur Rémond assistance, Moussa Abadi and Odette Rosenstock (1914–1999), his collaborator and future wife, succeeded in saving 527 Jewish children. For this act of bravery and compassion, on 2 December 1991 Monseigneur Paul Rémond was posthumously honored as one of the Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

Monseigneur Paul Rémond remained bishop of Nice until his death on 24 April 1963 at the age of 90.
Monseigneur Paul Rémond
Righteous Among the Nations
2 December 1991
Source: Les Enfants & Amis Abadi


"Nothing new
and I haven't yet
seen anyone."
It's a simple message
from a young priest to his parents.

The future seemed bright, but like it is for all of us, it was unknown to Paul Rémond in the winter of 1901-02. He could not imagine the horrors yet to come in 1914 and 1940. Yet his steadfast faith and strength of character guided him to protect people threatened by a horrible evil.
It's not unusual that Paul's postcards were preserved. They are colorful happy images of funny musicians in a past age. So it's not surprising that I found them for sale on the internet and bought the lot, since it's eccentric collectors like myself who search for ephemera like this. What is rare is that hidden in these innocent postcards is an extraordinary personal history about a truly courageous and righteous man.

I don't pretend there is any profound connection between these postcards and Monseigneur Rémond's revered ecclesiastical or distinguished military career. The postcards are more like autographs of famous people,  small tokens of celebrity, little mementos of eminence. It's their tangible quality that makes them relics of a real hero worthy of memory.



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where Paris is just
as beautiful in June as it is in April.


Plumbing the Brassy Depths

18 June 2021


Some tubas bend to the right.

Some tubas twist to the left.

While the tubing of other tubas
coils round and around
until it looks like the player
might be strangled by plumbing.

Not to worry.
It's all about the

The left and right tuba pair up
for a nice stereo sound,
while the third in the center
adds the all-important sub-woofer.

But some tubist's pals wish
they'd just leave their bleeping oompahs
back on the parade field.

This is a 4" x 5" photo of three anonymous bandsmen standing in a military encampment, location unknown. Behind them is a row of army issue canvas tents of the type used before 1917. On one side next to a tree are music stands and a snare drum, perhaps the instrument of the man trying to catch a nap inside the tent. 
The chevrons on their sleeves and the stripes on their trousers resemble uniforms of a regimental band assigned to a state militia or national guard. Back in the day, each state in the U.S. typically maintained a number of guard regiments that met every year in the summer for a week or two of army training. The soldiers' drills included a lot of marching for which bands provided the music. Bandsmen might hold an enlisted rank but were excused from participating in the same training as regular guardsmen.
What makes this photo interesting for brass players like myself, is that the trio holds three varieties of  the lowest of the low brass instruments. The players on the left and right have standard piston valve tubas while man in the middle is encircled by a helicon, similar to, but not exactly the same as, a sousaphone. The left tuba is a shorter E-flat, about 17 feet in length including the valve plumbing. The right tuba and the helicon are both, I think, the longer BB-flat basses, so called "monster" tubas to use the popular band instrument term of this era. As two of the men sport fine twisted mustaches and the third is clean-shaven, I think their photo was taken around 1905-10, just about the time that mustaches in America began go out of fashion.

Tuba players and horn players share a fascination with brass plumbing. Both instruments have long conical tubing that amplifies the sound of the player's lips from a whisper to a roar. Both have multiple valve systems and complicated designs to wrap the tubing efficiently. And players of both the tuba and the horn spend a life time figuring out where the condensate water from our breath gets trapped in the instrument. 
Courtesy of the Yamaha Band Instrument Company, here is a short video showing the path of the tuba's sound beginning from the mouthpiece to the bell. For this demonstration all the valves are depressed which gives the tuba the greatest length for its lowest of low notes. It's long. Very long. 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where a few folks have gone for a ride.


Turn Your Radio On!

12 June 2021


It was a wonder of modern technology.
Somehow electric currents were tamed
to vibrate invisible air waves and carry
the sounds of the human voice
and musical instruments
great distances.

The first stations that broadcast the ethereal sounds of radio
required complicated and expensive equipment.
But the consumer devices receiving the signal
were relatively cheap to produce,
simple to operate,
and capable of picking up
hundreds of different stations. 

And all for free!


But there was a problem in the early years.
Producing content for this new medium was easy.
But getting the public to listen was hard.
Reports on news, sports, or politics,
didn't immediately attract much notice.
Newspapers were far better at informing people
about stories of the day.
But music?
That was different.
The real hook for capturing the ears of the masses
was for radio stations to offer music of every different variety,
some traditional, some new, and some just wacky.
Today I showcase postcards of three bands
from the early years of radio broadcasting.



My first radio band is a photo postcard of the Arizona Kid and his Cow Girls. This group of 10½ performers are arranged in close formation with everyone's name labeled. Two men sit on the floor, Popeye on the left, holding for some unknown reason a balloon and an egg beater, and Sheriff on the right with Cactus Sam, a ventriloquist's dummy and presumably the more talkative one. (How much skill did a ventriloquist really need to be on radio?) The other 8 musicians are all women except for the Arizona Kid. All are wearing cowboy hats except for two young ladies in the center, Chuckles and Winnie, who may be dancers to judge by their shoes and short skirts. Besides the Arizona Kid at the back holding a banjo, there is Sunset on string bass, Texas Jean on guitar, Moonbeam on trap set, Utah Ginny on accordion, and Montana Patsy on second guitar.

In the very center is a large microphone with the initials WXYZ, which was a station in Detroit. It started as WGHP in 1923, using the initials of its first owner, George Harrison Phelps, who owned an adverting agency. In 1927 it became one of the charter stations in the CBS Radio Network. Three years later it changed ownership and became WXYZ using a clever slogan that called itself "The Last Word in Radio". In 1934 it switched to the Mutual Broadcasting System and then later became part of the NBC Blue network.

On the postcard of the the Arizona Kid and his Cow Girls, the photographer kindly added a location, Reading, Pennsylvania, and a year, 1941. I could not find many details about the band but they seemed mostly active in the eastern Pennsylvania area from 1940 to 1942. The photo may have been taken during an appearance in Detroit but I was unable to find their name associated with WXYZ. The band was billed in June 1941 at Fairyland Farms, an amusement park near Allentown, PA. This venue is not unlike one used by another western band that I wrote about in March 2017, The Gang at the Sleepy Hollow Ranch. "The Arizona Kid" was the title of two popular Hollywood movies.  The first film was made in 1930 and starred Warner Baxter as The Arizona Kid, based on the short stories of The Cisco Kid by O. Henry. The co-star was Carole Lombard in one of her first roles. 

In 1939 Republic Pictures released "The Arizona Kid" with Roy Rodgers in the title role as a Confederate officer in Missouri during the American Civil War. George "Gabby" Hayes played his loyal sidekick. By this time Roy Rodgers had earned his movie nickname the "King of the Cowboys", but he actually got his start in 1931 as a singer in western bands which played on radio.
Allentown Morning Call
21 June 1941

* * *


My second radio band is something more exotic, the Spanish Gypsy Orchestra. This postcard shows eleven musicians and two dancers dressed in supposedly "gypsy" costumes that follow a stereotype used in opera and cinema productions. The only instruments usually associated with this kind of European folk music are the two violinists on the right. But I think it fair to say that the banjo, trumpets, saxophones and sousaphone are not typical of the "gypsy" genre. The man and woman in the center are posed in a classic tango stance.

The silent film star Rudolf Valentino (1895–1926) played a number of roles that helped popularize gypsy costumes and the tango music form in the 1920s. This group's outfits resemble a photo that I featured way back in September 2010 entitled The Gypsy Barons of Detroit. They were also a radio band which used trumpets, saxophones, and tuba.

Despite their name, the Spanish Gypsy Orchestra was photographed by Bailey Studios of Philadelphia, as noted on the back. There is no date but the group's picture was likely taken in the 1920s. In February 1920 their name appeared in an advertisement for new releases on the Columbia Record label with Night of Love. In the era before radio this was way most new music was promoted. As the world returned to normal after the Great War, 78rpm disk records became the newest craze. Many of the early recording artists gave concert tours to promote their label's records. A gramophone machine and records were not too expensive, but the only way a music lover could get variety was to buy more records. 
Allentown Morning Call
27 February 1920

Philadelphia Inquirer
12 June 1925

In June 1925 the Spanish Gypsy Orchestra played a twenty minute set on radio station WLIT out of Philadelphia. They were scheduled in between a spelling bee championship and Rufus and Rastus, "Dark Clouds with a Silver Lining". WLIT, broadcasting on 395 meters, was one of the first successful radio brands, and took its name from Philadelphia's Lit Brothers department store. In 1935 It merged with another department store's radio station and became WFIL. Since my postcard of the group was taken in Philadelphia, I suspect it dates from around 1925. In the Philadelphia Inquirer's program listing the orchestra's leader was J. M. Villa, whom I believe is the violinist standing right, and there was a baritone, P. Chavarria, that I think is the man standing at back left. 

Burlington VT Free Press
13 January 1927

 A few years later in 1927 the Spanish Gypsy Orchestra was listed with another leading station, WPG from Atlantic City, New Jersey. The variety of musical artists, bands, and orchestra is amazing, especially considering that this list was published in a Burlington, Vermont newspaper.  Signal strength was very important for a station to reach their audience. Many stations produced promotional postcards of their bands as a way to measure the effective distance of their broadcast market.

 * * *


My last postcard offers a band dressed in what must be one of the silliest costumes ever seen on radio. They are the WNAC Polar Bears, ten musicians dressed in white faux-fur jump suits. The costumes may be intended to imitate Eskimo clothing rather than actual polar bears as hoods are attached to their collars, I think. In any case they don't look very happy about it as they glare at their leader. His costume is definitely trying, though unsuccessful, to imitate a bear. Notice his fur gloves, shoes, and the floor rug. The band features another banjo, several saxophones including three sopranos, (a great deterrent for keeping away real polar bears!) and a string bass and cello. 

WNAC made its first broadcast from Boston, Massachusetts on 31 July 1922. The station was founded by a Boston businessman, John Shepard III, whose father, John Shepard Jr., owned a chain of department stores throughout New England. Shepard financed his son's radio venture as a way to promote his stores. In 1927 the station started a subsidiary station, WASN (Air Shopping News), marketing it for women as a home shopping network with reports from the Shepard chain stores. WASN was only on-the-air for about a year before technical difficulties closed it down. However one of its innovative ideas was to hire an all-women staff, and after it shut down several of the women continued with WASN. 
This postcard was sent on April 27, 1928 to Miss Beatrice Bergman of Brockton, Mass. The writer adds "Sincerely, Jane Day" in the lower corner. This is the name of the woman pictured in the vignette on the front of the card. She was first engaged as a reporter for WASN and then became a popular personality for WNAC.

A radio schedule for the Shepard Stores Broadcast, published by the Boston Globe in November 1927, puts The WNAC Polar Bears on at 9:30 AM. They played music just after WBIS record selections and shopping news at 8 AM and just before the WNAS Women's Club; Bible reading; vocal solos; and astrologist at 10:30. 

Boston Globe
29 November 1927

To get a better idea of what these bands sounded like, here is a YouTube video of a record produced in 1928 by the Shepard Department Store. It is the WNAC's house band, The Polar Bears, playing the station's official WNAC March. It was very common for businesses of this era to have their own theme song or march that was performed live on the radio every day whenever the sponsor's show came on. 

On the same page of the Boston Globe that had the November 1927 radio list, there was a photo of another WNAC band. They were called the "I-Car-De Chefs" and played every Tuesday evening at 7:20 PM. The costumes for the eleven musicians in this band were cook's or chef's white kitchen uniforms with white pillbox hats. There is a chef cellist in the front row that I bet is the same sad polar bear cellist in my postcard. Seeing these bands gives me no reason to ever complain about my orchestra's uniform of black tie and tux. 

Boston Globe
29 November 1927



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link to get better reception.

Three Postcards of Trombonists

05 June 2021

Almost all of the photographs in my collection
are portraits of either individual musicians
or musical groups of various numbers.
The oldest portraits are small tintypes,
carte de visites,
or larger cabinet card photos
produced from the middle to late 19th century.

But in the early 20th century
photographers introduced a new method
of printing photographs on standard postcard paper stock.
This combination of an image with the postal service system
quickly became popular with the public.
For the first time anyone could
easily send
their own personal portrait on a postcard.

One of my favorite types of postcard portraits
are of military bandsmen.
They were musicians and soldiers too,
who took pride in their musical instrument
and their military service.
Today I feature three men,
all trombone players,
and all from the same era
before the Great War of 1914-18.

My first trombonist is a young man dressed in the uniform of an American soldier. He wears the distinctive Montana peak or campaign hat, a short tunic, wide jodhpurs breeches, and lace-up leggings. His trombone has valves which made it easier to play and less prone to damage than the slide trombone.

The back of the postcard shows evidence that it was once pasted into an album. It also has a name: J. Rodrigues

Only the initials U.S. on the soldier's collar badge are clear. His unit collar badge is obscured. With his riding breeches he might be in the cavalry, but that government issued garment was also worn in the infantry and artillery too. His leggings are actually a very useful clue for dating his uniform, and this style was common from 1912 to 1917. A search through produced far too many results in census archives to be helpful, but there were a few documents in military post records that might connect to this soldier.

In the April 1914 monthly report for the U. S. Army garrison at San Juan, Puerto Rico there was an enlisted man named Jose Rodriguez listed as a Private, "With the Band since July 7, 1913." He was one of two soldiers attached "Casually at Post", which I take to be a temporary assignment, and his unit was Company "H" for headquarters, typically the company for an army band. His unit was the P.R.R.I. for the Puerto Rico Regiment of Infantry, and this garrison had roughly 470 enlisted men and 17 officers. This regiment was first created in 1899 after the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1917 the infantry unit was assigned to defend the Panama Canal Zone, and after WW1 ended it was renamed the 65th Infantry Regiment in 1920.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S. Army Garrison
April 1914

This is hardly conclusive proof. The trombonist's name Rodrigues is here spelled with a z, a frequent variation on a common Spanish surname, and likewise his forename initial J could easily stand for Javier, Jesus, Juan, or Jose, not to mention many other J names. The coincidence of similar names was a major problem for military record keeping which is why soldiers and sailors are now given service numbers.
Nonetheless I think his portrait is a nice example of a typical soldier's portrait, with the added charm of his musical instrument instead of a rifle. It's a picture that any mother would be proud to place into the family photo album.  

* * *

My second portrait of a trombone player is not a soldier but a sailor. His uniform is a dark color, presumably navy blue, with a traditional sailor's open collar and neckerchief. He is seated in a relaxed cheerful manner in the photographer's studio resting his slide trombone on his crossed knee. In front of him is a folding music stand with a sheet of music. He is a youngish man in his twenties with a carefully trimmed Prussian style mustache that marks him as a seaman from the era of the German Empire. 

His sailor's cap hangs on the back of the chair but the lighting does not allow us to see the name of his ship that is stitched to the hat band. However his sleeve does have a patch for his rating. Surprisingly it is not the lyre symbol for a bandsman but a flaming bomb. I haven't found a period lexicon that explains all the varieties of this patch, but it was also used in later decades after the fall of the Kaiser. I believe it makes him a specialist rank, a gunner in the light naval artillery.  The postcard has no marks on the back except for printed lines for an address. Quite a number of German navy bands served onboard battleships and cruisers. I estimate it was taken around 1910-1918.
Kaiserlich German Navy patch
Gunner, Light Artillery
Source: The Internet

* * *

My third photo postcard is a trombonist wearing a splendid dress uniform. His tunic has a single row of buttons, a striped belt, braided 'Austrian knots' on the sleeves, epaulets, and an aiguillette attached to his right shoulder. The bell of his slide trombone has fine engraving. I would estimate his age as twenty-ish. His down-turned mustache is a good clue as to his country, Great Britain. The badge on his hat is very clear and identifies him as a bandsman in the Royal Artillery of the British Army.

Cap badge, Royal Artillery of the British Army
Source: Wikimedia
If I am correct that he is a bandsman of the Royal Artillery, then this trombonist may be a member of the oldest band in the British Army. The Royal Artillery Band was first granted official status in 1762 but traces its roots back to 1557. Made up of versatile wind musicians who could double on string instruments, it was also Britain's first permanent professional orchestra. There were a number of depot bands in the Royal Artillery stationed in ports like Portsmouth, Plymouth, and even Gibraltar, so he may not have been in the premier band.  
Since this card has no postmark I can only speculate as to the date that his trombonist's portrait was made, roughly 1905-1915. The divided back for meto ssage and address was only allowed after 1902. But I do know his name — Robert, or more specifically, Uncle Bob.

uncle Bob
this was taken the
morning Willie
went away

It's a simple note, clearly added by someone related to Bob, but missing enough family details to fix a time or place, much less a full name. Who was Willie? Where did he go? Does this explain Uncle Bob's sad expression? Unfortunately the meaning of the words are lost to history and must remain an enigma.
My dad was an officer in the U. S. Army and an enthusiastic amateur photographer, so I grew up looking at countless soldiers and photographs. Perhaps this explains why this type of portrait appeals to me. They were not like the postcard photos of kings, generals, or other celebrities. These were personal gifts intended for family, friends, and comrades. These portraits are mementos of military service that happen to include an occupational element of a musical instrument. That makes it fun to see a soldier or sailor with a trombone, a relatively non-threatening piece of military equipment. Though just because it doesn't shoot bullets, doesn't mean a trombone can't be a lethal weapon when it's properly armed.  

To conclude
here is a parade of the Royal Artillery Band
in London's Hyde Park on 02.06.2015.
Notice the busby hats and short swords,
and also that there are a number of women in the band.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where nearly every photo is a memorial.





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