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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Like Father, Like Son

20 November 2021


It's a photo game we all play.
Look at their faces and spot the difference.
Do they share eyes and nose? Yes.
Chin and ears? Maybe.
Hair? Definitely.



Even with people we've never met,
we still guess at similarities we think we see.
From the curl of the hair
to the shape of the brow,
we marvel at what the camera reveals.

This is especially true
with photos of father and son.
What manly traits were passed down?
What mark in a likeness deserves remembering?
A grandfather's chin?
A mother's cheeks?
Today I feature two musical duos.
Both unknown fathers and sons
but handsome portraits just the same.



My first image is of two cornetists, father and son, on a cabinet card photo taken by the Blake studio of Bellows Falls, Vermont. The son, around age 10 or 12, stands beside his seated father, who may be in his mid-twenties. To judge from their carefully oiled hair, both have just visited the town barber. Their cornets gleam with fancy engraving. The photo is in superb condition with gold edging on the card stock. I estimate that it dates from about 1895 when the population of Bellows Falls, a village in south central Vermont, grew 40.3%, from 3,092 in 1890 to 4,337 in 1900.


My second son and father pair is a bit unusual for two reasons. The first is that both are dressed in top-line band uniforms, and the second is that both are holding fifes. The boy, again about 10 or 12 years old, stands next to his father who sits in a typical 1890's photography studio's rattan chair. This cabinet card photo was taken at the J. W. C. Floyd studio of the Kreamer Block in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, probably around 1895 like the other photo. Lock Haven, a county seat, is on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, about 100 miles north of Harrisburg. In 1890 its population was 7,358.


Their uniforms are modeled after a military cadet style, with flat kepis, trim tunics decorated with braid and a gold stripe along the trouser legs. The fifes are very simple wooden pipes with metal ferrule ends and six or maybe seven finger holes. This instrument has none of the complicated keys of flutes and piccolos, and is designed with a recorder-like metal whistle for the sound production. This makes it easier to play than traditional fifes and flutes which require blowing across a tone hole. 
The cap badge on their hats has four initials, CH DC.  but I haven't found a group that matches those letters. Many fraternal societies of this era organized fife and drum corps to accompany the society's members when marching in formation. American cities and towns of the 1890s-1900s seemed to host a parade every month, and detailed parade orders were regularly printed in newspapers. It's likely that this father and son commemorated a parade in Lock Port with a nice photograph to remember the occasion.

Wouldn't you like to hear these two father son duos play?



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where you can always bet on a pair to win.


Monica T. said...

Oh yes... I've been doing a lot of that with "anonymous" old family photos... (sigh) ;)

Molly's Canopy said...

Yes, I would indeed like to hear them play. Two excellent photos of "pairs" -- and how alike the fathers/sons look, especially dressed in their band uniforms. I am amazed that, no matter how small the town, they each seem to have had a band of some sort. Perhaps before radio and television, live music held a more prominent place.

La Nightingail said...

Perfect father and son matchups! There's no denying the match especially in the first photo. My goodness! And both fathers and sons playing the same instrument. They probably played duets - at least at home, if not in concert. Special times for the two, I'd bet. :)

Barbara Rogers said...

What great photos of fathers and bands no less!

kathy said...

Give that first boy a mustache and little more eyebrow hair and I think he would be a mini-me of his father. I always wonder about the dynamics. How much of this musical pairing the dream of the son, or of the father?

ScotSue said...

A very enjoyable psot seeing father and son in similar uniforms and with similar expressions - but all so serious!

virginiaallain said...

Good analysis and background on the photos. Enjoyed your post.


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