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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Junction City Musicians

24 October 2010


Seven young kids look into the camera for a snapshot of their school orchestra. A photo postcard not all that different from similar photos posted today on the internet or sent as email attachments. But this one was saved from deletion and ended up on an antique dealer's stocklist. And what makes it unique is on the back.



Meet Theodore Hogan -that's him on clarinet. His sister Emily Hogan, holding the rolled music, is the pianist. His buddies Dwight Aultman and Jack McBlain play violin; John Montgomery is on drums; Roy Moore [sic] on trombone; and Robert King on cornet.

Theodore sent his note and souvenir in an envelope, so with no postmark or address we will never learn who "Everybody" is. But one clue added by the antique dealer does help identify everyone else. Ks ? Junction City translates as Junction City, Kansas a place where I too once lived from ages 6 to 9.

 A search through the internet archives available on Ancestry.com provides all the background (and more) on these 7 children.

Theodore was born in Junction City, Kansas, on 18 January 1903 and his sister Emily in 1902. Their father Thomas Hogan was an immigrant from Ireland and owned a flour mill in Junction City. Their mother J. Abbie Hogan was a music teacher on violin according to the 1910 US Census and later in 1920 was listed as a public school music teacher. This photo may be her small group of private music students.

Dwight Aultman Jr.was born in 1902 and his father Dwight Aultman was a captain in the US Army at Ft. Leavenworth KS in 1910 . His dad later reached the rank of general and Dwight Jr. went into the US military academy.

John or Jack McBlain born in 1901 lived in Ft. Riley KS in 1910 where his mother was the postmistress. Ft. Riley is a very large army post outside of Junction City and I too once called it  home. John F. McBlain Jr. is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery somewhere near his father who died in 1902 and was a captain in the 9th US Cavalry.

John Montgomery was born in 1901 and his father was editor of the Junction City newspaper. Roy C. More (not Moore) was born in 1902, the son of a store clerk. And Robert King was born in 1901, the son of a physician.

The older quarters provided to officer's families in Ft. Riley were made of great limestone blocks, not dissimilar to the stone work on this porch. It may be a school but it has the look of a home to me.  Given the birth dates of everybody, I would estimate this photograph was taken around 1913-14.

In 1920 Theodore and Emily were was still living at home in Junction City, and Theodore listed his occupation as Engineer, Roadwork.

In 1922 he applied for a passport to go abroad with the wave of young Americans who wanted to tour Europe after the war. The first page of the application describes him as a student wanting to visit BI (British Isles) England, Switzerland, Italy for the purpose of pleasure. Belgium, Holland also for pleasure; and France, Germany for  pleasure Novel. Perhaps there was an ambition to be be a writer? Here is the second page of the application with the 19 year old Theodore.

He left Galveston, TX on 15 July 1922 on the Elkhorn and returned on the Maurtania from Southampton on 2 Sept 1922. A short trip but no doubt a memorable one. Perhaps he finally got to see everybody.

Jersey City Musicians

19 October 2010


These anonymous musicians appear dressed for a high society concert. Perhaps they are members of a hotel or theater orchestra. The gentleman standing in the center holds a roll of music which is photographer's code for the leader and piano player. The instrumentation of  5 string players, clarinet, flute, and piano would be suitable for musical arrangements of light classics and popular tunes.



Again the same musicians but a different pose. Both photos are very large format prints and on the cardboard back is the photographer's name - George L. Wilms of Jersey City, NJ. He was born in Germany in 1857 and immigrated to the United States in 1863. He became a successful pharmacist and was listed in a kind of "Who's Who" of New Jersey in 1883.

George L. Wilms, Pharmacist, No. 142 Monticello Avenue, Jersey City Heights, — 
One of the most enterprising, thorough-going business men engaged in business as a pharmacist on Jersey City Heights is Mr. George L. Wilms, who is located at No. 142 Monticello Avenue. Mr. Wilms is a German by birth, but has been a citizen of the United States many years. He has had a long experience as a pharmacist, having graduated from the New York College of Pharmacy in 1865. He has been in his present location since 1878 and has become popular and won the confidence and esteem of the whole community by his courtesy and gentlemanly manner toward all. As a pharmacist he is thoroughly skilled in its every department and has a full and comprehensive knowledge of drugs and their properties and makes a specialty of compounding physicians' prescriptions and difficult formulas, which he prepares in the most accurate and skillful manner. Mr. Wilms' store is one of the attractive features of Monticello Avenue and is handsomely fitted up with elaborate show-cases and counters. A full and general assortment of pure drugs of every description, also chemicals and all the various pharmaceutical preparations and all articles required by physicians in their practice, together with articles for the toilet, are always to be found there. Mr. Wilms enjoys a large patronage and is regarded by all the community as one of the most reliable pharmacists on the Heights.

In the 19th century, a pharmacist, or "Druggist" in the US and "Chemist" in the UK, often took up the trade of a photographer. Processing early negatives and prints used chemicals that were quite complicated (and dangerous) and it required skills that came naturally to someone trained as a pharmacist. And the early drug stores probably provided a suitable rooms for setting up the large studio cameras for portraits.


George Wilms  first listed himself as a photographer in the 1897-98 Hoboken & Jersey City directory. His address changed to 48 Harrison Ave. and the building still stands today in Jersey City. He took pride in his art and entered some of his landscape photographs in photography magazine contests of the late 1890's. He also was secretary of the New Jersey Kennel Club.  His name still appeared in the 1920 census listing his occupation as photographer..

There are no clues to the identity of this group of musicians. The Hoboken & Jersey City directory lists perhaps a dozen musicians but no orchestras. (However there are over a dozen dealers in Oysters and even two for Ostrich Feathers!)  Mr. Wilms' address would put the date after 1896 but probably are not much after 1900. They could also be members of a musical club or fraternal society. Undoubtedly Mr. Wilms would know the many German groups in his community, and music was an important part of German heritage. But these men look more like a hotel orchestra to me. Perhaps they are from across the river and perform in New York City.

They certainly had very fine tailors.

A Bandsman from Harrisburg, PA

14 October 2010

This photo postcard of a bandsman has no date, no identification, and no clues in the image. But it shows a trombonist dressed in one of the fanciest uniforms I've found in my collecting.

He wears a tall shako complete with medallion, sash, and two color plume. The jacket includes cords, embroidered sleeves, and a cape in contrasting color. The trousers are equestrian style jodhpurs with a side stripe of course. His boots are actually shoes but are covered by a kind of full length spat with tassels. And his music is carried in a matching side pouch. Nothing seems left out. If only we could see the color. I'd guess a dark green, with maybe a lemon fawn cape.


 

This might have been another dead-end mystery photo, until I chanced upon something that answered the where and when questions.



NOW this is a Band!  (click on the photo for full impact).

The Municipal Band of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania pose on Sunday, April 29, 1917 outside a civic building for their formal band photograph. The photographer is Gerhardt Studios and they printed this giant photo over 18 inches wide. The young trombonist, minus his wire-rim spectacles, is standing I believe on the back row, center right, just next to the tuba.  Unfortunately my usual online source of archives produced no names to go with this group. Perhaps later.

On April 2, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. How many of these young men would trade their splendid uniforms for a more practical one and serve in the U.S. army bands of WWI ?

A U.S. Army Horn Trio

02 October 2010

Three horn players, members of a U.S. Army field band, stand in front of what looks like the barracks or the bandroom. This photo is a very small format snapshot, perhaps taken by a fellow bandsman with a simple box camera. No writing on the back so no clues as to where or when. Judging by the instruments and uniform style, I would estimate 1917-1922. But there are probably more subtle clues to the date by identifying the types of leggings they wear.

The horns are single rotary valve horns in F. The bandsman in the center has the odd horn out, with the rotary valves placed on the underside of the horn, typical of German horns I've seen from this period.

Other than that, the identities and location will remain another mystery. On a different note, I recently performed an outdoor concert where the rehearsal was on stage in the late afternoon. The placement of the stage shell afforded no protection to some sections of the orchestra against the direct rays of the sun, and towards the end of rehearsal my horn had reached a temperature that made holding it extremely uncomfortable. The yellow brass bell was nearly too hot to handle! My colleague next to me was suffering from the heat too, but his silver nickle-plated horn was decidedly lower in temperature. It's an interesting attribute that I've never seen noted by band instrument companies.

You can see the sun's reflection on these three horns too. Are they yellow brass or silver horns?      And I can appreciate the practical broad brimmed hats too.

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