Roller skating was a pastime that became very popular in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century. The initial skating rinks were established in London in the 1850’s and, with the introduction of the ‘modern’ roller skate in the 1870’s the craze took off, with rinks being opened in all the major towns and cities. Many of these establishments had bands to provide music for the skaters – either professional bands that were engaged for a season, or ad hoc arrangements with local bands/groups.
The paper linked below takes a look at the roller skating phenomenon and the bands associated with it.
I recently posted these images on the History of Brass Bands Facebook Group site. As with the previous set, they are anonymous (with a couple of exceptions), but nonetheless still very interesting examples of the costume and instruments of the past.
What is the story behind this first photograph? I suspect we will never know. It is anonymous, with no indication to location other than somewhere in Britain. The young cornet player’s uniform has no clues, and the girl could be his sister or girlfriend? Is he on his way to play with his band, or just posing for the photo in his finery? The second photo is also of an unknown player, this time not in uniform – but we do know this was taken by a photographer in Dewsbury, in his studio. Both are undated, but will be early 1900’s.
Another couple of anonymous cornetist photographs, both from the UK, but location unknown. The first has a collar badge with CA (or AC) on it. The second, older one (probably c.1870/80) has the name Harry Loadly (or Loady, Coudy, Coady….) – I can’t make out what it actually is. A search for a similar name has not resulted in anything, yet!
A couple more anonymous photos. Two lady cornetist from c. 1920. Sadly a rescan of the photo at a higher resolution failed to bring out the writing on the displayed book. A horn player, c. 1910
Two more of my unknown photographs to ponder over. The first is a conductor/leader judging by his instrument and baton held proudly – probably military judging from his cap and shoulder badges (anyone recognise them?). Why is he sitting in a wood? The second is a father and son? members of the Salvation Army. The lad is probably a member of the local Young People’s (YP) Band.
This photographic pair are tuba players, both c.1890. The second one is wearing his carrying strap and his bass has the lyre attached, so it was probably taken after/before a marching engagement.
Two cornet players, who are clearly in the same band and were photographed in the same studio, probably at the same session – father and son perhaps? Very elaborate braid on the jacket and a military-style cap badge.
Conductors and bandmasters of the 1910’s and 1920’s seemed to favour these designs of uniform coats, known as Guards Frock Coats. The first photo is of Henry Gallon Amers (1875-1944) who directed the Eastbourne Military Band for a while. He was more famous as the leader of the Eastbourne Municipal Orchestra from the early 1920’s to 1935, and had previously conducted the Band of the Northumberland Hussars for about 15 years prior to WW1. The second picture is Edmund Maney, conductor of the Royal Meister Orchestra in 1904 (later to become Margate Municipal Orchestra).
Some couples and groups. The first is a group from Holmfirth, the second is a trio of bandsmen, c. 1920, in a cellar? The third is a group of five Salvation Army bandsmen, each from different bands, and finally two men in a back garden somewhere.
Lastly, in this set of pictures, an unknown member of the band of the 2nd Oxfordshire Rifle Volunteers. This photograph was definitely taken after 1878, but will probably not be later than 1885. This band was originally the Oxford City Corps Band, active from 1875 through to 1880. After the reorganisation of the volunteer corps in 1880, a successor band was formed in May 1882, with conductor Sergeant Gaitley. George Gaitley was born in Athlone, Westmeath, Ireland, around 1840. He served as a sergeant in a fusiliers regiment at Gosport, later joining the volunteers as a bandmaster, moving to Oxford around 1875, where he remained with his family until 1886 when he moved to Brighton.
Flockton Brass Band was a typical Yorkshire mining village band. The local colliery employed many of the menfolk and, although the pits were shallow, unlike the deep pits of other regions, the work was still hard and dangerous. The Band was established in 1838 and produced a small Centenary Booklet in 1938. In the article linked below, the wider history of the band is examined with additional information to augment what is in the booklet.
The acquisition of a single faded photograph, certainly the only example I have seen, sparked an investigation into the life and times of the Lamberhurst Brass Band, which kept this Kent village entertained from the early 1870’s through to the 1930’s. Their first conductor, Walter Bailey, remained with the band in various roles, including cornet, trombone, bandmaster, until the band ceased, eventually dying just short of his 100th birthday.
The details of the band’s activities during the sixty years of its existence, and a little about some of its members, can be found in my paper:
When a band official resigns or retires, they are often presented with something to show the appreciation of the members of the band for their work and service. In some cases, this takes the form of an object – perhaps a clock, or watch – usually something that relates to their position (conductors often received engraved batons). In other cases, a certificate may be presented to mark the occasion, such as the highly decorated and illustrated certificate presented to Charles Ashby on 30 March 1914, on serving as secretary to the Rushden Temperance Silver Prize Band for 21 years.
A glimpse into his life and the early times of the Rushden Temperance Band are given in my paper:
Insights into the life of a tuba player with a Chicago band. In trying to identify his band, I came across a lot of information about his life, but sadly failed to pin down which band(s) he played with.
This is Katherine and Viola Elfgen, photographed in a tuba in 1913. The tuba was played by their father, Fred.
Frederick Kirsch Elfgen (1883-1967) and his wife, Beata (née Bertha Helesina Nilsson, 1886-1983) lived in Grant Park & Oak Park, Illinois – both seen in the second photo below.
Frederick played in a local band – it is not known which, but there was an earlier Grant Park Cornet Band, and the Grant Park Band was active in 1909. Equally he could have been a member of one of the many bands in Chicago during that time, some of which regularly played at Grant Park on the lakeside. I have failed to spot him in various photos of Chicago bands. Katherine (b. 9 March 1911) and Viola (b. 17 November 1912) don’t seem to have taken up their father’s musical interests in later life.
Frederick’s father, Bertram, arrived in the USA from Prussia in 1855, aged 12. Beata was Swedish, arriving in the USA in 1902. Fred was a clerk at the local brick plant in North Alton and spent a few years working in Oak Park, near Chicago. Fred sprained his right arm, falling off a wagon, in December 1895. He attended the Edwardsville Public School, where he made a presentation “About Seeds” in 1896 and was the youngest member of the graduating class at the county commencement exercises – “a bright little fellow.” He graduated High School in June 1900, where their class motto was “Virtuo sola nobilitat”.
He applied for a job as a mail carrier in February 1902, and was ill in February 1903 to March 1903 with “grip”. He accepted a position in the office of the Hapgood Plow Company in January 1904. He became a candidate for village clerk in the election of April 1906. As village clerk, one duty was to issue the hunters’ licenses, which he commenced doing in July 1906. Also in July, he “rode the Oddfellows goat” and consequently “would have to stand up for meals for a few days.” Otherwise the goat did not “feaze” him. This was probably his induction into the local Independent Order of Oddfellows (I.O.O.F.) lodge – the “Greenwood” lodge, as he later went to inspect the Oddfellows home in Mattoon in September 1906.
He was busy in November 1906, issuing licenses for hunters to shoot, or shoot at, quails without molestation. He became proprietor of the North Alton Custom Mill, at the junction of Belle and State streets, in early 1907. March 1907 was a busy month for him – he lost his gold watch, chain and charm, with the initials F.K.E., offering a reward if found; he was elected to the post of Vice-Noble Grand in the Oddfellows; and as village clerk he was involved with officials from the Chicago & Alton Railroad to raise the bridge on Alby Street which had plagued the pedestrians for months. He moved to the brick plant at Galesburg in September 1907, later moving to another similar plant in Oak Park, Illinois, living in Grant Park. In March 1909 he was injured at the brick plant, suffering bruising to his lower limbs and feet. He joined one of the local Chicago I.O.O.F. lodges – the Grant Park Lodge, No. 429.
He married Beata in Chicago in 1910, making several visits back to his parents in Alton over the years. In April 1912 a violent cyclone hit Grant Park, destroying a large part of the town. It is not known what effect this had on the Elfgen family, but Fred, together with the I.O.O.F. lodges helped those members affected by it. The brick plant was damaged, with $30,000 worth of losses, and 25 men put out of work.
He finally returned to Alton in 1920, taking up a management position at the Alton Brick Plant. It is not known if he continued his tuba playing in Alton.
Eighteen months ago, I produced the paper “Brass Band Archive Recordings – a brief guide to recordings of brass bands in libraries, museums and other archives“. As a companion, I have now compiled “Vintage Brass Band Recordings“, which is a a listing of commercial recordings made by brass bands from the era of the wax cylinder to the compact disc. This is essentially produced from the lists of recordings I maintained in the IBEW website. Sadly, time, other distractions, procrastination, and lethargy have prevented me from adding much to the lists in the last 5 years or so – this is particularly evident in the listings of CD recordings, of which more recent releases are conspicuous by their absence. Nevertheless, I hope you find the listings of use or interest. See the link below to download the paper.
Of the many brass bands that have existed in the USA over the last 200 years very few have documented records covering their history. The directory linked below is an attempt to bring together information about some such bands and make it available to all. It is an expanded extraction from my earlier “Brass Bands of the World”. Over 8,700 bands are recorded here, with some 560 additional cross references for alternative or previous names.
Sadly, for the majority of bands, little is known other than their name and a brief mention in the historical records. This is an unknown, and probably very small, proportion of the cornet/town bands that actually flourished in the USA, particularly in the 19th century. I am sure there are many more still to be unearthed, hiding in newspaper reports or contemporary photographs and documents in museums, archives, the hands of private collectors and the attics of individuals.
My own research on a broad scale encompasses US brass bands from the 1840’s to the 1920’s. More detailed research is ongoing, but I have only reached 1872 so far – and I intend to issue an update when I have proceeded further into the late 1800’s! I must pass on my thanks to the historians, researchers and enthusiasts who have helped me with information about bands from their area or in their field of expertise.
I have uploaded updated versions of my papers on ladies’ brass bands and family brass bands. Originally produced in 2018 and 2017 respectively, a number of new bands and further information has been added to each.
Women and Brass: the female brass bands of the 19th and 20th centuries – The female brass band is a somewhat rare beast, even today, though it did enjoy a “golden era” during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in the USA. In this paper are details of some 410 female brass bands – a very small number compared to their male equivalents
Keep it in the Family – the Family Brass Bands that entertained the USA and UK in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – Family bands were not uncommon in the later 1800’s and early 1900’s. They were most prevalent in the USA but other countries had their fair share, including the UK and Germany. Some bands were amateur in their activities, and remained resident in their local area. Others adopted the professional mantle and travelled the country giving concerts, appearing at shows, circuses and on the stage. Although the various family bands had different line-ups and instrumentation, they were quite popular as entertainment troupes, sometimes singing, dancing and performing sketches in addition to their, often, multi-instrumental abilities. This paper gives details and pictures of more than 190 such named bands.
Brass bands on board Royal Navy ships in the 19th and early 20th centuries
From the middle of the 19th century Royal Navy warships, especially the larger vessels, often had bands aboard. These were generally brass, with occasional woodwind instruments and/or fiddles. Their ongoing upkeep was usually the responsibility of the individual ship’s officers with a modicum of support from the Admiralty. This paper below lists some of the known ships’ bands and their activities, although information about them is even more sparse than that for civilian, land-based bands of the same period.