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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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On the Beat: 1915

On the Beat: 1915

New York City circa 1910-1920. "Police Orchestra." Another view of New York's finest. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

New York's Finest

This band was very good, from recorded evidence. The New York City Police Band made at least one record contemporary with this photo: Victor Herbert's "American Fantasy" on Brunswick 2007, recorded in July 1920, of which I have a copy. The performance is first-class, equal to any of the professional bands of the day, and Brunswick's recording technique is surprisingly lively, considering the company had just really begun full scale lateral record production. The group used in the recording studio would have been considerably smaller than that shown in the photograph.

No, Probably Not Danceable

Brass and woodwind bands were featured in the early days of recording, simply because they came across better, volume-wise, on the cylinders and discs better than, say, a solo piano did. For the same reason, Vaudeville performers like Billy Murray, Bert Williams, Al Jolson, and Sophie Tucker made a lot of hit records because they could really "belt" a number into the recording horn. And it would come out well on the other side.

I don't have anything by a Police Band, but the Sousa and Edison and Victor Military bands probably sounded much the same.

Examples are available by request, at the Pilsner's Picks page on MySpace. Which is me. New friends are always welcome.

The back row gets a photo of its own

Yesterday's "Police Brass" photo had the tuba players, all of whom (I think) can be seen and rear/center in the band's photo -- apparently in the same left-to-right order. On the left is one of those bell-up sousaphones, on the right the bell-forward ones. True tuba geeks will notice, in yesterday's photo, all the four-valve instruments (rather than three) -- a true "premium" model. Further tuba trivia: my local professional tubist identifies most of yesterday's instruments as made by Conn or Holton.

NYPD Orchestra

If Louis Armstrong were a NYC Police Officer there would have been no place for him in that orchestra. That would have been true for just about any city in the country.

Yeah, but you could dance to it?

With all that brass and woodwind, I'm thinking they specialized in marches. Kind of hard to waltz or even polka to the beat of a big brass band.

Lots of bands

My utility company had a band at the beginning of the century, composed of streetcar conductors and linemen. Most of the Southern mills fielded baseball teams in the minor leagues. There were much better opportunities for cheap family entertainment back then.

Bad Conduct?

The conductor's had more than his fair share of donuts.

From Bullets to Bar Chords

Yes, police departments still have such things. Some bands even get so good that they quit being policemen and go professional as in the case of the Norfolk Southern Lawmen.

New York Police Band Then and Now

Formed in 1903 discontinued in 1954. Reinstated in 1991 and still going strong. Also included in their ranks are a percussion ensemble, jazz ensemble and steel drum ensemble.

Check them out here:

The Police

Do large police departments still have such things??...

Sure they do, they even have special police band radios. And they occasionally include perps singing their lungs out.

Toronto Police Band

The Toronto Police Service has had a band continuously since 1926, and it is still in full swing. It occasionally plays gigs in the U.S. in the summertime, largely at the bandsmen's personal expense. I think police bands/orchestras were once quite common in North American cities.


they put you in the orchestra when you got to old to chase down perps.

The boys in the band

I never heard of a police department having an orchestra! Do large police departments still have such things??

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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