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
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Music in Motion

06 February 2016

Her identity was easy, as the young lady's name was printed on the corner of her postcard. Miss Ruby Corrick. Wearing an elegant gown she holds a piston valve cornet while on a table behind her is a mellophone. Clearly she is a professional musician, but from where? Not German or French. American? Maybe British? The postcard was never mailed but the printer left a company name: Dodgson & Muhling, Print. Perth.  That's Perth, Western Australia. She has traveled a great distance, practically halfway round the globe, to find a place in my collection here in the mountains of North Carolina.

Names are very useful things on the internet and within a week of acquiring her postcard, I found her on another one, posed with her father, mother, brother, and five sisters as the "Corrick Family" Entertainers. Miss Ruby again has a cornet, and a mellophone lies on a table in front of her. Her brother holds a clarinet, one sister has a flute and a piccolo in her lap, and three sisters have violins, as does her father. The men wear formal white ties and tailcoats, and the women are attired in a splendid array of long evening dresses, some adorned with corsages. This was not the image of a small town orchestra, but of a high class musical troupe.

What made it interesting was that this card was posted in 1909, but not from Western Australia. The printer was based in London, England. That's a very long span between two postcards of the same person. So was Ruby Corrick's family an English or Australian musical group?

Actually neither. They came from New Zealand.


In January 1909, the London theatrical weekly, The Era, ran an advert for the Corrick Family within its announcements page. The section title, Music Hall Artist's Wants, was a place for stage artists and musical groups to post their availability for bookings.

London The Era
January 16, 1909

Wanted Wanted Known
of Entertainers

Nine Brilliant Instrumentalists,
Vocalists, Handbell Ringers,
National Dancers,
Humorists, and

Just returned from a Phenomenally Successful
Tour of the Australian Colonies, New Zealand,
Ceylon, India, and the Far East.

Every member a Star Artist of remarkable

Professor Corrick, Conductor, Pianist, Violinist, Bass.
Madame Corrick, Contralto, Double Bass, Artist.
Miss Corrick, Pianist and Accompanist.
Miss Amy Corrick, Flautist, Vocalist, Dancer.
Miss Ethel Corrick, Violinist, Soubrette, Dancer.
Miss Jessie Corrick, Vocalist and Violinist.
Miss Ruby Corrick, Champion Lady Cornet Soloist and
  Mellophone Soloist, Vocalist, and Dancer.
Mr. Leonard Corrick, Baritone, Clarionet Soloist, Dancer, and
   Bio-exert; and (Viola)

Miss Alice Corrick, the Brilliant Dramatic Soprano.

Nightly changes of Programme, each a perfect
galaxy of Musical and Pictorial Art, including
Orchestral Selections, Choruses, Glees, Duets, Instrumental Solos and Duets, Cornet, Mellophone, Flute, Piccolo, Clarionet, Expert Handbell Ringing, National Dances, Excerpts from Grand and Light Opera, Ballads, Folk Songs, Chorus Songs, and Humorous Sketches, Monologues, and Songs, concluding with a display of Leonard's Beautiful Pictures.

Eight horse-power electric engine and dynamo carried on all country tours, brilliantly illuminating Halls inside and outside where necessary.

Open for engagements singly or collectively.

For particulars apply to
Manager, Mr. Harold G. Coulter
Woodfield Lodge, Mount Ephraim lane
Streatham, S.W.


The Corrick Family Entertainers, circa 1905
Source: Wikipedia

The origin of the Corrick Family Entertainers started with its patriarch, Albert Corrick. Born in Somerset, England in 1848, Albert's family immigrated to New Zealand in 1862. They settled in Christchurch where he pursued an interest in music to become a church organist and music teacher. While leading his church choir he pursued another interest, Sarah Alice Calvert, a young singer, and married her in 1877. Like Albert, Sarah's family also came from England, and together she and Albert opened a music academy in Christchurch that offered music lessons and sold musical instruments and sheet music. In the course of time they produced 8 children –  seven daughters and one son.

Like the families of many music teachers, Albert and Sarah discovered their children were gifted with exceptional musical talent. Their second oldest daughter, Alice, had a particularly fine voice and in 1898 was invited to perform in Hobart, Tasmania. This required a journey by ship of over 1400 miles and about a week from Christchurch. Her success with the Australian audiences encouraged Albert to organize a concert tour of New Zealand for the entire family ensemble in 1899. These performances proved so popular that they continued for another two years. In 1902, the Corrick Family traveled again to Tasmania to begin a long series of concerts that would take them all around Australia over the next few years. The image from their Wikipedia entry shows a group of only eight, as the two youngest daughters were left behind in New Zealand under the care of family relations. 

In 1907, the Marvellous Corricks, as the musical troupe was advertised, embarked on a grand tour to the other Asian parts of the British Empire, performing concerts in Singapore, Malaysia, Ceylon, and India. Albert arranged for the trip to continue back to Britain, via France, so that the children, especially Alice, might benefit from study under music teachers in Paris and London. They arrived in England in January 1909 when evidently their advance agent, to judge by the advert in The Era, was still looking for concert opportunities.

Miss Ruby Corrick
Kalgoorlie Western Argus
April 16, 1907

By April, at Easter week, the Corricks were billed to play at the Victoria Rooms, Cheltenham. Headlining their advertisement was the Brilliant Dramatic Soprano, Miss Alice Corrick, and Miss Ruby Corrick, the wonderful Girl Cornet Soloist

Cheltenham Looker On
April 03, 1909

The reason this is interesting is that the postcard I acquired of the Corrick Family Entertainers was sent that same week, on April 14, 1909, to Miss May Hardwick of Landford Farm in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire by someone who had just attended one of those Corrick concerts.

 21 Tivoli Place
Dear May - We all arrived home
safe + sound, but feeling a little tired
The train was half an hour late at
Ross. We all had a very enjoyable
time + thank you all very much.
Tuesday evening four of us went
to hear the Corrick Family. It
was very good. The next will
be the theather + skating then I
think it will finish for this week
Kind Love to you all
From Eva

The aptly named Cheltenham Looker On published a review in the following week.
The paper's critic used a few more words than Eva to say that the Corricks were very good.

Cheltenham Looker On
April 17, 1909

As a musical family they make up a combination admittedly the cleverest at present before the public. There is something about their performance which is altogether dissimilar from that of the majority of musical families. Each member of the party is so individually entertaining that it is difficult to distribute praise with equal fairness.  

The review continues, remarking on the delightful singing of Miss Alice and the excellent playing of Ruby on cornet and handbells. But it ends with a comment on the most remarkable thing about the Corrick Family's Entertainment. The programme was varied by a selection of Leonard's Pictures, and it is safe to add that for clearness and effect no pictures to surpass these have ever been shown in Cheltenham before.

Leonard's Pictures were moving pictures, short cinema films that Leonard Corrick introduced to supplement his family's variety shows. As a Bio-expert, Leonard's first pictures were short newsreels, trick films, dramas, travelogues and comedies that came from the leading cinema companies of the time - Pathé, Edison, Gaumont and Itala. By 1906 the Corricks traveled with an electric generator to power a film projector, fans, and stage lights. The family bought a cine camera in 1907 to make their own films. Often when they reached a new town, they advertised that they were going to use a camera during the day, to then entice an audience to come see themselves on film later that night at the Corrick's show. 

Some of Leonard's first pictures were just magic lantern slides projected as backdrops for music that the family performed. It seems likely that for these early silent movies the family also provided music. Here is an example of an early Pathés film from 1905 entitled, La Poule aux Oeufs d’Or – The Hen that Laid the Golden Egg. It uses color effects that were handpainted onto each frame of the film. Since the Corricks also featured dancing in their stage act, these films may have included dances as well as musical accompaniment.



La Poule aux Oeufs d’Or (1905) The Corrick Collection

This next short novelty film is entitled The Hand of the Artist by R. W. Paul.
It shows some very imaginative special effects that are impressive even today.



Leonard's camera also recorded some of the first moving images of Australian people. This next short made in 1907 shows a clever view taken from the center of a busy street in Perth with all the hustle of big city life. At about 0:30 there is a curious altercation that is either typical of Australia or a set up by Leonard to add some drama. At about 1:00 a quartet of young ladies cross the street and they may be Leonard's sisters. 



Perth Western Australian
July 14, 1909

The Corricks returned to Australia shortly after the concerts in Cheltenham, and by July 1909 were advertising shows in the Perth newspapers. It would be the start of their longest concert tour of Australia. Their agent, Harold G. Coulter, a government officer in the state Land and Survey Dept. would win the heart of the fourth daughter, Ethel Corrick, and they were wed in 1912. Besides featuring Alice and Ruby, the Marvellous Corricks' program now included Mr. Ernest Leathley, the Marvellous Mimic and Comedian. Like many vaudeville acts, Albert Corrick was  constantly looking for new novelty bits to enliven the audiences. By 1912 the youngest daughter, Elsie Corrick, now age 18, could join the tour, making the Corrick Entertainers a complete musical family band for the first time since their New Zealand performances in 1901.

Leonard's Beautiful Pictures were not to be missed and included A Magnificent Series Just to Hand, and Shown in Perth for the First Time. He probably included some of the earliest moving images of London and Paris that the Corricks had picked up from film studios on their world tour.

In our multimedia century, it is hard to imagine the delight that audiences in the 1900s enjoyed at seeing moving images for the first time. It was the beginning of a new art form that, though primitive by our standards, had a magical quality that in a few decades would overtake live stage performances to become the dominant medium of storytelling. 

Miss Ruby Corrick
Kalgoorlie Western Argus
August 10, 1909

The Corrick children were now adults who wanted to expand their individual lives beyond the family. The constant touring placed a great stress on their father's health and in 1914 Albert Corrick died. The family put on a last farewell tour of New Zealand that lasted until July 1915, and then chose to make Launceston, Tasmania their new home. Alice, Amy, Ethel, and Leonard all continued to be active musicians. Ruby married in 1920 and raised two children in Queensland. 

For decades, the hundreds of the short films used in the Corrick Family shows were stored in a family shed in Launceston. In 2006 the remaining canisters of deteriorating nitrate prints were given to the
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia which recognized the valuable cinematic and social history they represent. A major restoration project aims to bring Leonard's Beautiful Pictures back to a new audience that can appreciate the extraordinary legacy of the Corrick Family Entertainers.

This last video is a trailer for the NFSA project that includes
many more images of the Marvellous Corricks.



It is over 9,534 nautical miles (10,971 miles or 17,656 km) by steamship from Perth to London, via the Suez Canal. The Corrick's luggage included a cornet, a clarinet, a flute and piccolo, violins, violas, a double bass, maybe a cello, numerous handbells, probably a pump organ and maybe even a small piano. Not to mention reams of sheet music, flyers, and postcards too. Their steamer trunks carried countless costume and formal apparel for stage performances as well as their ordinary travel clothes. This was not a simple wardrobe either, with seven women in the troupe. Leonard's projector, lights, camera, film canisters (an extremely flammable hazard)  and especially the eight horse-power electric dynamo added even more volume to the Corrick show.

Somehow Albert Corrick persuaded his wife Sarah that it was worth the family effort to travel so far away from home and make music for 16 years on the road. To say that show business is hard work seems a gross understatement, but it must have been fun too. 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
Lights! Camera!... Action!

As many of my readers know, I'm never satisfied until I've found the whole story, and on the encouragement of Jo Featherston comment of looking up the Corricks on the Australian Newspaper Archive - Trove, I went in search of more. Here is a 1968 remembrance piece of the Corrick Family Entertainers from the Australian Women's Weekly that has such great pictures and stories, it deserves to be a nice epilogue to this post.

Click to enlarge the images.

Australian Women's Weekly
September 11, 1968

Two Bread Bands

29 January 2016

The people of Holland wear clogs

to keep their feet dry in the bogs.

But Dutch bands shod in cleats
ake a mess of the beats,

and dances become quite a slog.

It is a curious photo. Ten female musicians pose for a camera, with each young woman dressed in matching loose slacks, baker's white hat and apron, and wearing wooden shoes. And not the fancy painted kind made for tourists either, but genuine Dutch farmer's sabots. Their musical ensemble is likewise a curious mix of sousaphone, trombone, two saxophones, two trumpets, violin, piano, drums, and banjo. One flirtatious lady of middle-ish years, stands in the back wearing a more feminine gown. Her feet are hidden but it seems improbable that she clomps around in wooden clogs too. She looks like either the band's leader or more likely their star singer. Though there are no music stands, there is some sheet music on the piano and on the floor next to a couple of the players.

The band is pictured on a very small photograph, printed at half the size of a standard postcard and not much larger than a contact print of the negative film. There is no identification, but there are clues on two large chalkboards mounted on a wire cage behind the group that establish that this ladies band was not from Holland.

In fact they came from Pittsburgh.

Another Thoro Bread
Wins The Baking Derby
Not By A Nose But By
Quality Of –
.... toast

.... Oliver ?wist

Does The Hallerman Stop At
Your House ... If Not ... Why Not
'Get The Haller Habit'

Have Good Things
Served To You –
Oven To Home

By Haller

Don't Forget Mother    Sunday May 14th
See That She Has A Nice Cake
Be Sure That It Is Hallers
Ask Your

Pittsburgh PA Press
October 04, 1919

The 'Hallerman' was a home delivery service provided by the Haller Baking Company of Pittsburgh, PA which sold its bread directly to customers, rather than distributing their baked products through grocery stores. It incorporated in 1907, and was soon forced to defend its patented bread trademarks like Butter-Krust, Big Dandy, Pan-Dandy, Vienna, and Butternut varieties. 

Its advertisements sometimes included a cartoon mascot of Haller's Dutch Baker Boy, attired in loose trousers, apron, baker's hat and wooden clogs, just like the women in this band. Presumably the company name, Haller, had a Dutch ancestry.     

The only date on the photo is the one on the chalkboard - Sunday May 14th – Mothers Day. As this special day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, there are only a few years when that occurs: 1916; 1922; 1933; 1939; 1944; 1950.

Pittsburgh PA Press
June 15, 1930
Unfortunately I could find no newspaper accounts of this band, and the only reports connecting Haller's Bread with musicians was this 1930 notice of a weekly luncheon of a Pittsburgh regional Chamber of Commerce. The Haller Bakery radio entertainers were present. "Haller Jim" Hughes acted as master of ceremonies and did several specialty numbers. The Haller Quartet also was present.

So the members of this ladies band may be employees of the Haller Bread Co. or they may be a female radio band sponsored by the bakery. The cheery slogans suggest they were performing for an audience of housewives who came to hear a live radio broadcast, which would date group after 1920. The women's hair styles, especially of the singer, seem more 1930s than 40s or 50s to me. So my guess is 1933 or 1939. 

Pittsburgh PA Press
February 01, 1931

In 1931, the Haller Bakery Co. began promoting a new bread variety, Haller's Oliver Twist – A 'Dickens' of a Good Loaf.  Since the chalkboard above the Haller's Bread Ladies Band refers to this brand name, and Mother's Day coincided with May 14th only in 1933, that seems the most likely year for the photo.

Today in 2016 the Haller Baking Company no longer appears to be an active business. America's baking industry was highly competitive and Haller's business model of home delivery was likely too costly. In 1931, there was a newspaper report on an equstrian parade of Pittsburgh workhorses, which included a Haller Bakery Co. dray horse that was 25 years old and still in harness making daily bread deliveries. Horse drawn bread wagons don't seem an efficient method for delivering bread still hot from the bakery oven. Did homes keep a breadbox next to the milk box by the kitchen door?


History may not record the musical program of the Haller's Bread Ladies Band,
but I'd bet a bag of bagels that they played a company theme song.


Take one  violin and one accordion,

add a banjo and three guitars

mix in another squeezebox and fiddle

Bake until piping hot, and you've got
Happy Johnny and his Bond Bread Gang.

Happy Johnny is not identified on the postcard of the Bond Bread Gang. Frankly all eight musicians, seven men and one woman dressed in baker's white uniforms and hats, look a little bit too happy. But my guess is that he is one of fiddlers. Maybe the violinist on the left with the bigger grin. The microphone in the center shows they are standing in a broadcast studio of WBAL, a radio station in Baltimore, MD.

This band was much easier to document than the Haller ladies band. For one thing their photo is on a postcard mailed from Baltimore MD on Oct. 12, 1942. The printed message thanks Miss Elaine Gribb(?) of Red Lion, PA for entering a contest and encourages her to keep chuckling and enjoy Vitamin-Enriched Bond Bread in her home. Signed Happy Johnny.

Fitchburg MA Sentinel
May 05, 1936

Unlike Haller's Bakery, Bond Bread came out of an enormous amalgamation of several bakeries started in 1911 as the General Baking Co.  By 1930 its Bond Bread was produced by over 50 plants in 18 states that were capable of baking nearly 1.5 million loaves per day. The early advertisements emphasized Bond Bread's freshness – Always Guaranteed Pure ... now Guaranteed Fresh! 

At the start of the 20th century, American mothers needed convincing to try store-bought packaged bread. Was it wholesome? Fresh? Healthful? Guaranteed free of gypsum and rat poison? The advertising industry made millions from writing appealing catch phrases and reassuring declarations of quality for the baking companies. Music served to bolster the companies' claims and attract the attention of new consumers. For musicians it was the start of a different kind of patronage that came from advertising sponsors instead of traditional persons of nobility and wealth. It was a partnership that made a lot of money for the music industry too. 


Shippensburg PA News Chronicle
March 24, 1942

In 1942 Happy Johnny and his radio artists made many appearances around Maryland and Pennsylvania. Some movie theaters still offered vaudeville type shows but increasingly there were performances by small musical groups playing music in the western swing styles as popularized on radio. The State Theater in Shippensburg, PA presented

The Show You All Have Been Waiting To See!
–On Stage ... In Person !–
"Happy Johnny"
and his combined show of Radio, Screen and Stage Artists
The Plainsmen and Mary Ann from Old Cheyenne
Direct to You from WBAL Baltimore  12:05 Daily

My guess is that Flash is the loopy looking accordion player. Take your pick. Woody sounds like a good moniker for a banjo picker. And Lefty?

There's only one musician in the Bond Bread Gang that fits that nickname. Did you spot him? Check out those guitar players again. Lefty is right there.


This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where something sure smells good!

Three German Family Bands

22 January 2016

Mother and Father,
with zither, violin, and flute.

Sister and Brother,
with violin and sailor suit.

Brother and Brother,
with violins too.

Together they make a family orchestra
posed in a garden
on 21.VI.25 or June 21, 1925.
The place and their names are unknown.

The only clue to their location is found on
the back of the sheet music advertising
So it seems likely that this happy family group are somewhere in Germany or Austria. The father has the air of a professional man, though not necessarily a professional musician, perhaps he was an academic, a lawyer, or even a doctor. The musical heritage of the Germanic people makes for a considerable history that is far too long to elaborate here. Instead I'd like to focus on three families where music was indisputably an important aspect of their family heritage.


This musical family trio promoted themselves as the Salon-Trio Fischer, Leipzig. Father stands with a fine blackwood and ivory flute, as his daughter sits at an upright piano, and his younger son, who wears a sailor suit, is holding a violin. One the floor are two rotary valve brass instruments, an alt-horn trumpet and a bass-horn trumpet similar to a valve trombone. Behind them on top of the piano are another violin and a standard rotary valve trumpet. The boy looks about age 10 and the girl is maybe 14 or a bit over.

The postcard was sent from Leipzig by way of the German military Feldpost on 8 Nov 1915 to Artillerist - artilleryman Arthur Zinger. The message's handwriting is too challenging for my ability to translate, but the writer, I believe, is Kapellmeister - bandmaster Franz (?) Fischer, the flutist father pictured on the card. Another signature on the lower left reads Else Fischer, who is probably his pianist daughter.


This next family band are professional performers too, but they come from Dresden. 
Trompten-Quartett — Piston Virtuos  Oscar Schreyer
mit seinen Kinderen  Elisabeth, Althorn-Solistin
Zwillinge: Renata, Bass-Solisten, Kätchen, Piston-Solisten
Ständige Adress: NIEDERPOYRITZ b. Dresden

Unlike the typical German brass instruments with rotary valves, the trumpets that Oscar Schreyer and his three beautiful daughters hold have piston valves, which were a characteristic of the brass band instruments played during this era in France, Britain, and the United States too.

The eldest daughter, Elisabeth, seated right, holds an alt-horn trumpet, while one Zwillinge - twin daughter, Renata holds a bass-horn trumpet and the other twin, Kätchen holds the smaller standard size trumpet. The rotary vs. piston valve plumbing technology makes no difference in the sound of these instruments. However there is a slight difference in how the instrument's action responds for the player. At this time they would have been considered a novelty in Germany and Oscar includes the word Piston to distinguish himself and his three daughters from the ordinary German brass musicians. In 2015 rotary valve trumpets still remain the prevalent style for trumpet players in Central and Eastern Europe, but the variety of lower pitch trumpets has diminished.

Not content with just a quartet, Piston Virtuos Oscar Schreyer added another young member of the family to become a quintet. Little Antonia joined her sisters with a pair of Pauken - tympani.  Despite their miniature size, these tympani appear to have tunable drum heads that can change pitch just like orchestral tympani.

This postcard was sent from Marienberg in southern Saxony, Germany on 8 Nov, 1918 from an Elisabeth Lor..(?), not Schreyer I think, to Fräulein Helene Uhlig. It is interesting to note that just three days later the Great War would end. That would be as good a reason as any for Helene to save it for posterity.

But wait! There's more!

With the war over, Oscar Schreyer, Musikmeister, no doubt was encouraged to expand his family quintet into a septet by adding his two sons, Oscar and Eduard, on Glocken - bells. The two boys, dressed in white sailor suits, look about age 7 and 6 respectively and between them have about two octaves of small hand bells placed on Antonia's Pauken. Elisabeth Schreyer with her alt-trumpet is more mature than in the earlier postcards, perhaps about age 17-18. The twins Renata and Kätchen on bass-trumpet and piston trumpet have also become pretty young ladies. They do not look like identical twins.

The other photos were made in a Dresden photographer's studio, but this one looks like it was taken inside their home as there are two photos hanging on the wall behind them. Could that be a picture of mother Schreyer? The phrase: mit seiner Familie, im Besitze des Kunstscheines translates as "
with his family, in the possession of art certificate" implies that Schreyer has a proper diploma of musical artistry, and that his children are receiving an advanced level of music education.

Family bands by their very nature, have a relatively short performing career as the children grow up and move on. It is gratifying to think that the Schreyer family survived beyond 1918, but of course there were many more difficult trials awaiting anyone living in Germany in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. I find it especially challenging to research German and other European family names, as the various non-English internet archives are generally less than useful. So it was a great surprise that I found this small record from the 1949 Hamburg telephone book in the vast vaults of

In the middle of five columns of names, Schmidt to Schult, was an entry for:

Schreyer Oscar u. Barbara - Orc. Musiker Wickedestr 10
                                   (Orchestra Musician)

1949 Hamburg, Germany telephone directory

Is this Oscar Schreyer the father or the son? Or someone else with the same name and occupation?
I don't know that we will ever find out. But once upon a time
there was a family who truly loved music.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where families are always posing for the camera.

Two Brothers in Music

16 January 2016

Cute is timeless. Whether it is lovable kittens or adorable children, cuteness transcends language for a universal exclamation of "awwww!" These two young boys, dressed in band uniforms and holding their musical instruments, rate pretty high on the sentimental scale of cute.

The smaller boy with a cornet looks about age 6. His mother has neatly rolled his trouser cuffs to adjust for his youthful height, and no doubt admonished him later for moving his head just when the shutter snapped. The other boy with a clarinet, or clarionet as it was often called in the old days, is a good head taller and might be age 9. Both wear a kind of sailor's tunic over a white shirt with bow tie. Their caps are a typical bandsman style with a wreath insignia that unfortunately lacks any letters for identification. 


They appear on an oversize cabinet card produced by:

The Wint Studio
Allentown, PA

It's a charming example of two very young musicians from early in the 20th century.

Fortunately this photograph can be closely dated because someone left the boy's names on the back.

They are in fact, brothers.


Written in ink on the flip side are the names:

Paul & Erwin Laudenslager

Nothing works better for genealogy research than a distinctive last name. Yet in Allentown, Pennsylvania with its strong heritage of Germanic names, Laudenslager, proved to be a fairly common surname. There were several Pauls that were suitable for establishing an identity. And though the name Erwin was not a popular first name, due to the troublesome German pronunciations for v and w it has inconsistent spelling. This meant looking for Irvin, Irwin, or even Ervin as well. Fortunately there was only one household in Allentown with both an Irvin and a Paul.


The 1910 Allentown, PA census listed, Charles H. Laudenslager with his wife Elda M., and sons, Irvin C. and Paul R. Laudenslager. Charles, age 32, worked in a Brewery. His eldest son Irvin,  was age 9 and brother Paul was 6 years old. These ages correspond very nicely with the ages of the boys in the photo, so it seems a sure bet that it was taken in 1910 give or take a year. 

Laudenslager, Charles H.
1910 US Census - Allentown, PA

{By a curious coincidence, the Laudenslagers at No. 319 North Eight St.lived only a half-block away in  Allentown from Mary Merkle at No. 247, whose niece sent her a postcard from Berlin in 1906 of a German military band. My story from February 2011 was called Midday in the Pleasure Gardens. It is indeed a small world when forgotten names on postcards and photographs are once once reacquainted with their neighbors.}

Allentown PA Democrat
November 1, 1910

That Irvin and Paul hold a clarinet and cornet is not particularly unusual. Allentown had such an astonishing number of bands in the 1900s that it would be more remarkable if they had not played a musical instrument.

Practically every civic occasion in Allentown, whether it was a fraternal society convention, a national holiday, or a new school dedication required a parade with a band. Often two or more. For the annual Halloween parade in 1910, the newspaper published a list of expenditures for musical organizations. It cost $119 to engage four drum corps and 11 bands to march in the parade. Two of the bands, the Young America Band and the Juvenile Band were composed entirely of boys aged 6 to 18.    

It should be noted that when you increase
the number of kittens in a photo,
the cuteness quotient begins to diminish.


The Young America Band of Allentown, PA was organized on June 29, 1908, a date inscribed on the head of the band's bass drum. This postcard shows the band with 28 musicians with a full compliment of brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The youngest boys look about age 6 while a few might be as old as 18, though most are about 10 to 12 years old. They are dressed in splendid uniforms with ornate embroidery. They've removed their caps for the camera and placed a few on the floor in front. The bare headed band leader stands in the back center row.  

The postcard shows them in new uniforms, as it was reported in the Allentown Leader on March 3, 1909, that the postcards would be sold to benefit the band. The band director's name was George F. Bogh. A native of  nearby Catasaqua, PA, in regular life Bogh worked as a house painter and paper hanger, but for many years he had  played in several semi-professional bands in the Allentown area.

Allentown, PA Leader
March 3, 1909

In 1910, Allentown's city directory listed over two dozen masonic or fraternal groups, and the Young America Band was affiliated with one of them, a fraternal society called the Patriotic Order Sons of America, or P.O.S.A. This quasi-political society had 12 P.O.S.A. chapters or camps, in Allentown that met regularly nearly every week.throughout the city. The society, which still exists today, was established in 1847 in response to a wave of anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiment in American public debate. Since its early decades it was known as part of a Nativist movement supporting native born "patriotic" ideals and advancing Protestant Christian education over Catholic.

Only a year after organizing the band, Mr. Bogh reported that the Allentown Young America Band had grown to over 30 musicians with more than 12 concert dates booked through the summer months. By September 1909, he could boast that his young bandsman had played 40 engagements for the year. To honor its success the Allentown Democrat put this same image of the Young America Band on the front page. The archival scan is poor for the photo, but unlike the postcard, this image provides a caption with the full names and instruments of all 28 boys. Neither Paul or Irvin Laudenslager are in the band picture, though there are at least two sets of brothers among the names.

Allentown PA Democrat
September 01, 1909

If you look closely at the postcard, one of the clarionet players seated on the left has a mark.
Evidently someone thought he was a cutie too.

Addressed to Master Eugene Stein of Carborn(?), NY and postmarked May 3, 1909.
The message reads:

This is my
fellow  i will
put X on him
His name is
William Mosser


The Young America Band followed in the footsteps of another boys band, the Juvenile Band of Allentown, PA. Its bass drum proclaimed that it was organized on Jan. 15, 1907. This postcard shows a full band of 43 musicians. The band leader sits in the center of the group. To judge by the sheepskins and rug, this photo may even have come from the same studio that took the picture of the Young America Band.

This rather raggedy postcard has an undivided back but was never mailed. The only clue comes from the name on the drum, but it is enough.

The director was Prof. Joseph Smith, an experienced bandleader who also ran a music store from his home. In 1907 the band got its start at the Century Band Hall as a spin off from a local men's band led by Smith. Many of the boys were already music students of Prof. Smith, whose honorific denoted no actual academic credentials but referred only to a title for music conductor like the word maestro. At the time he was already the leader of  three other bands in the region. The instruments were ordered as a set from the Carl Fisher Company of New York. Like the Young America Band, it took a few summers and several benefit concerts to raise enough money for fancy band uniforms.

By 1910, the Juvenile Band played summertime concerts in the parks, memorial and dedication events, and of course, parades.  Initially the concerts presented short elementary level music, but Smith soon had them performing arrangements he made of more difficult concert pieces for solo instruments, standard opera overtures, as well as popular songs, dances, and patriotic tunes.


Source: Men of Allentown, 1917

Longtime readers of this blog have met Prof. Joseph Smith before in a story I posted in January 2015. Clover the Horse and the Boys Band tells the tale of the world's oldest race horse and a boys band at the Rev. John Raker's Good Shepherd Home for crippled children in Allentown, PA. Prof. Smith first took his Juvenile Band to the home to perform in 1909, and by 1921 he added to his Allentown musical legacy by forming a traveling band from boys at the home. If you click the next image to enlarge it, you will spot his distinctive walrus mustache on the second man in from the far left.

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The Good Shepherd Home Band of Allentown, PA 1922

Before he took on the boys band of the Good Shepherd Home, Joseph Smith also led a ladies band. In July 1915, a special committee of ladies formed the idea of beginning an all female ensemble under Prof. Smith's direction. Unlike most other female bands of this era, this group developed not from young single women, but instead the interest came from older married women. Their first concert took some time to rehearse but by April of 1916 they were performing at venues in Allentown and even planned a festival of Ladies bands. Someday I hope to track down their postcard too.


In January 1912, George F. Bogh, the bandleader of the Young America Band, quit, "claiming a lack of interest on the part of the members." A replacement director was found but the band seems to have lost the interest of newspapers and by 1916 had disappeared from reports. The Allentown Juvenile Band maintained stronger enthusiasm, perhaps because it also organized a baseball team from its band musicians. On the seventh anniversary of its formation the band had over 50 musicians in 1915, but in this case its high numbers may have been equally unwieldy and unsustainable. Again this band's name does not appear in the papers after 1916.

The reasons are not hard to understand. These boys bands were run on shoe string budgets that needed continuous appeals for donations just to pay for music and travel expenses. More importantly, they were run by a single individual who lacked the accreditation of a real school, and it was in the 1910s-20s that music education first became part of a public school's curriculum. And then there are the kids, as of course youth groups of all kinds face the perennial challenge of recruiting new members to replace the old ones who grow up and move on. Undoubtedly many continued in music as members of adult bands and orchestras. Maybe even as professional musicians. But the times were changing. The United States entered the Great War in Europe in 1917. Radio became the new thing everyone had to have in 1924. Movie actors got a voice and stopped needing theater orchestras in 1927.  Music and culture are never static. Newspapers had bigger and noisier activities to report on than concerts by boys bands.

Allentown, PA Democrat
April 20, 1911

Newspapers of this era loveed to run long lists of names, especially band members. In April 1911, the Allentown Democrat ran a review of a Juvenile Band concert that included all the names of the musicians. There under second bb clarionet is Ervin Laudenslager. Brother Paul is not on the list but he may have played at one time too. Descriptions of the first Juvenile Band uniforms are sketchy but don't rule out the possibility that Paul and Irvin were dressed in their photo for the Juvenile Band. Both brothers married, settling down in the Allentown area, and both lived to a good age.  

When asked by a representative of  The Democrat what qualifications a boy must possess to be eligible to join the band, Prof. Smith replied, "A good set of teeth."

Cuteness was optional.

  17 JAN 2016 UPDATE:  

Like any archaeologist knows, there's always more if you keep digging. This morning I discovered another photo of the Allentown Juvenile Band published in a modern collection of historic photos called Bethlehem Revisited by William G. Weiner Jr and Karen M. Samuels. It was taken at Oakland Park near Bethlehem, PA in 1908. The uniforms are identical to those worn by Irvin and Paul Laudenslager and I feel certain that they are pictured in this photo too. How cute is that?


Just a week after I posted this story I acquired this second postcard of Prof. Smith's Juvenile Band of Allentown. It was postmarked in 1908 like the image just above, but this photograph was taken from inside a photographer's studio. There are 44 young boys in this band which is two more musicians than in the photo in Oakland Park. They are all wearing the same tunics but the caps in this postcard have a slightly softer shape. Perhaps there were caps for summer and winter.

The uniforms are subtly different than that worn by Paul and Irvin Laudenslager. Their sailor tunics had three stripes on the collar and three pipings on the sleeves, whereas this 1908 band have four stripes and no sleeve piping.  Are Paul and Irvin in this photo? In 1908 they would be age 4 and 7, so I think they were too young to play in such a large band. Which is another reason to date their photo at 1910. 

The postcard was sent to Miss Emma Kriebel c/o Daniel H. Kriebel of  Sansdale, PA on August 9(?) 1908.

Cousin Emma.
This band of boys we have heard play on
Sat. at the picnic  it was fine Hoping to see you soon.

The 1908 postcard photo excerpted from the book Bethlehem Revisited  has a note saying it was taken in Oakland Park on Aug 5 - 08, which was a Sunday. Katie writes that she heard them on Saturday which, based on the postmark, would be the day before. It's funny how coincidences can run in tandem.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where rescued children are a specialty.


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