Cornet bands of the USA

The brass bands of the USA in the mid to late 18th century had a wide range of formats and instrumentation, often including the odd woodwind instrument, but all-brass ensembles were quite common and styled “cornet bands” in many instances. Although the all brass format tended to fade away in the 20th century, being replaced by the military style marching and show bands, their legacy remains.

Many of these cornet bands had their origins in the bands associated with the civil war, though cities and towns also had their local bands, some, as in the UK, linked to industrial and manufacturing companies.

Perhaps the main reference source for such bands is the Hazen Collection held in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. A splendid book by Margaret Hazen, Music Men: Illustrated History Of Brass Bands In America, was published in 1987.

Many thanks to Kathy Lewis for submitting the picture below – a great example of one of these early bands.

A crude, but interesting view of the distribution of bands across the USA in the late 19th century is given below – this is based on an analysis of some 3,500 US band pictures in the IBEW archive.


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