Rabbits and antimacassars: raising money for band funds

Concert fees, contest prizes (where lucky), carol playing and busking, and sponsorship (either through corporate patronage or individuals’ subscriptions) have always been the traditional main sources of income for brass bands. Many other mechanisms have been used over the years – merchandising (postcards, badges, mugs etc.), events (such as dances, balls, benefit concerts, bazaars, fetes), raffles and prize draws, more recently sponsored activities (e.g. play-a-thons, silences!). Here are few examples from the past – a larger selection of items will feature in a future paper of mine on brass band ephemera.

Hartlepool Temperance Band held two prize draws in 1895 and 1896, which featured some magnificent prizes – e.g. a 10 stone bag of flour (63.5 kg in “new money”), a woollen shirt, a gent’s felt hat, half-cwt [hundredweight] of Best Pilot Biscuits (25 kg), 1 cheese, couple of rabbits, a pair of antimacassars, a piece of cloth. All for a penny a ticket.

MINE (17)

MINE (15)

Another raffle, in 1894, by the Newtown Cornet Band of Pennsylvania, offered a slightly better prize – that of a gold watch – but this would cost 10¢ a ticket.

fr-raf (USA PA)

Two bazaars, or sales of goods, were held by the Mealsgate Rechabite Brass Band in 1890 and the Penmaenmawr Silver Band in 1902.


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A benefit concert on behalf of the Tapanui Brass Band (New Zealand) was held on 12 April 1889 at the Athenæum Hall.


Fund-raising dances or balls feature in these following items – the Schaghticoke Brass Band (New York) held its second annual ball on 27 December 1855, while the Canal Ironworks Band held its Carnival Dance at Saltaire on 9 November 1929.

The Mandurama Brass Band (NSW, Australia) held a Grand Ball on 16 November 1906, and the Sand Bank Cornet Band (New York) held its fourth annual ball on Christmas Day, 1891 – tickets 50¢ and supper an extra 50¢!

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Busking and carol playing was a key way to raise money for a band, some even announced their intentions in advance – e.g. Grimsby Borough Band’s Christmas season offering in 1906.


Finally, one of the more peculiar merchandising products sold by bands is this Phul-Nana Perfume “Bouquet of Indian Flowers” on behalf of the Pendleton Old Prize Band. The card itself was perfumed, to persuade the recipient to buy the product. The perfume was launched in 1891, containing notes of bergamot, orange, neroli, geranium, tuberose, ylang-ylang, patchouli, benzoin, cedar, sandalwood, opoponax, tonka bean and vanilla. It paved the way for oriental fragrances today – and is still available…




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