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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • NORTH TUSCANY COAST, 1948

Marine Band: 1910

Marine Band: 1910

Washington, D.C., circa 1910. "U.S. Marine Band sextet." Dry plate glass negative, Harris & Ewing Collection. View full size.

 

Cool Dudes vs. Squares

Why do the brass and horn players always look like so much more fun than the bow-ers?

Noticeably

Given all of the buckles, buttons, medals & piping he's wearing, it's not surprising that PFC Cellist On The Left has an instrument which is covered in so many scratches. Imagine what the back must look like!

The interesting thing (to me, anyway) is his instrument itself: It has a strange, thin, slightly irregular shape with enormous F-holes placed unusually close to the edges and a general air of "My Uncle Heinrich made this for me personal before I shipped out." His instrument (as well as the violinist on the right) also appears to be equipped with an interestingly-designed sliding mute.

Meanwhile, LCpl Cellist On The Right is evidently more careful with his toys but still, being a Leatherneck, his more normally-shaped instrument still has dings a-plenty ("See that one? She took a glancing blow from a spear back at the Battle Of Manila").

Imagine the slogans they'd all chant during morning call:

This is my instrument *this* is my gun. One is for Sousa, one is for fun!

A non-musical observation

One thing that struck we as quite unusual about this picture, as compared to others we've seen of this vintage: nearly everyone is smiling.

The difference between a violin and a viola?

"The viola burns longer." -- Victor Borge

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

We hope you have enjoyed the show.

Brass Dating

The cornet player is holding a instrument made by C.G. Conn Ltd., probably the model 80A "New Wonder" Cornet. The tell-tale is the unique vertical "U" shaped tuning mechanism towards the rear of the horn. Conn started making that horn about 1914, so this picture may have been been taken a little later than 1910.

Charles Gerard Conn enlisted in the Union Army when he was about 17, and after the war got into the instrument making business. He repeated secured contracts with the various armed services to provide musical instruments to their bandsmen, so it is possible that all the brass in this band was made by Conn. They certainly made double-bell euphoniums and trombones as well, and employed master engravers (as you can see on the trombone).

The saxophone could be a Conn instrument as well (Conn claimed to be the first American instrument maker to make saxophones in the U.S.), but it looks like it might be a horn made by the Buescher Band Instrument Company. Can't see enough of it to tell.

The clarinet player is holding an "Albert System" instrument, which referred to the design of the keywork and placement of the toneholes. It was very common then, but has been almost wholly supplanted by clarinets using "Boehm System" keywork. Some dixieland enthusiasts still play them, as most of the original dixieland players did.

Tradition

Today, their uniforms are quite similar to these, but their shoes would be much shinier. Today's haircuts are still about the same, but I doubt that the cellist would be allowed to wear that mustache.

The clarinet seems to be a Boehm system, but with a reach-around octave key, a throwback to the older Albert system. This is pretty early for the Boehm system, the one that is used essentially exclusively in this country today.

Marine band dectet

Hazarding a guess, I'd say that an ensemble like this (assuming it's an ensemble and not just an ad hoc group assembled for the photo) might be employed for such official functions as diplomatic or Presidential receptions and balls.

Here's an interesting link mentioning the incorporation of string players into the Marine Band.

Shrinkage

Our sextets are smaller today. Perhaps it's the economy.

6 != 10

I am sure this reflects great ignorance on my part, but if they are a sextet why are there ten of them?

[There are six of them, plus a string quartet. - Dave]

Good Conduct Medals

Were tough to acquire. These guys look proud and competent.

Double Bell Euphonium

About the second bell, famed euphonium soloist Arthur W. Lehman once said during a Marine Band concert, "We use it to hold our white gloves when we are not wearing them."

I wonder....

which two of these guys are not in the band.

[Remedial Math is right down the hall. - Dave]

Parade practice..

starts tomorrow.You cello players may need to put in some extra time.

I don't want to fight the Marines, but...

wouldn't that be a nonet?

[Remedial Math is right down the hall. - Dave]

Mea Culpa. I'll take my seat promptly.

Sweet!

A double-bell euphonium!

River City

This is, of course, well past the era under John Philip Sousa's leadership. The vintage double-belled euphonium then in vogue was mentioned in Meredith Willson's "Music Man," set in the early 1900s at the height of the "golden age of the concert band."

 
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