SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
9000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Support Shorpy

Shorpy is funded by you. Help by purchasing a print or contributing. Learn more.

Social Shorpy


Join our mailing list (enter email):

Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

About the Photos

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.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Society Orchestra: 1923

Society Orchestra: 1923

Washington, D.C., circa 1923. "Happy Walker's Madrillion Society Orchestra." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5
To stay online without a paywall or a lot of pop-up ads, Shorpy needs your help. (Our server rental alone is $3,000 a year.) You can contribute by becoming a Patron, or by purchasing a print from the Shorpy Archive. Or both! Read more about our 2019 pledge drive here. Our last word on the subject is: Thanks!


You'll notice that those are 4 string banjos -- tenor banjos. They have the same tuning as a viola. It is possible that the violin player also doubled as a second banjo player, which might explain the two banjos.


In June 1923 the Restaurant Madrillion (1304 G Street NW) described the band in a Washington Post advertisement as Happy Walker and his Victorious Vaudeville Orchestra. In December 1923, the group was described in a Post radio schedule as Happy Walker's Golden Pheasant Orchestra. Within a few months they were simply called Happy Walker and his Golden Pheasants, or Happy Walker's Orchestra.

Yipes! Stripes!

Looks like the violinist hasn't earned his stripes (pants) or maybe he grabbed the wrong pair tonight?

1923, a great year for music

But not in this room. It's probably a good thing that this is a silent picture. I wonder if they had heard the new Gennett sides with King Oliver's band?

Conn artist

Thank you T.K. Tortch for the comprehensive rundown on the woodwinds. The C.G. Conn Company has been a stalwart in quality musical instruments of all types in the United States for many, many years. I played Conn French horns professionally for a long time.

Technical Notes

Me, I'm a fan of vintage saxophones. So focusing on the reed section, Stage Right to Stage Left, looks like we've got:

1. Musician playing a C melody saxophone, sometimes called a "C tenor." Pitched in C, they were wildly popular in the '20s. This one almost certainly made by C.G. Conn Ltd. in Elkhart, Indiana. The big horn to his right, a baritone sax in E-flat, probably by the Buescher Band Instrument Co., also of Elkhart. There are two soprano saxes, one straight standing up, one curved at his feet. Probably one is a C melody soprano and the other the more usual B-flat. They both look like Buescher horns; hard to tell about the straight one.

2. Musician playing an E-flat alto saxophone, almost certainly a Buescher. Two more sopranos, one straight and one curved; they both look like Conn horns. The black instrument is an "Albert System" clarinet, referring to the key layout. That clarinet key system was going out of common use then and is now archaic, though Dixieland traditionalists still like to use them.

3. Musician playing a B-flat tenor saxophone, probably by C.G. Conn. Compare it in size to what Musician #1 is playing; you'll see that his horn looks like the B-flat tenor in shape but is smaller. Standing at his feet one more soprano; hard to say but it looks like a C.G. Conn horn, too; beside that another Albert System clarinet.

All the saxophones, and probably all the brass, look like they are silver plated, though it could be gold. Silver plate was pretty standard then for all metal wind instruments up until after the Depression hit. They all appear to have the also-standard "satin" finish, which was achieved by sand or bead-blasting; the easiest horn to see this on is the big baritone sax at Stage Right; if you look under the lip of the bell you'll see a contrasting shinier area -- that's where the maker has its name engraved along with decoration, and it's just flat engraved but unblasted plated metal. Further, the bells of the saxophones and the brass probably have a light gold wash inside.

The leader's holding what appears to be a trumpet, not a cornet; judging by the multiple vertical braces near the first bend in the tubing on the far side of the bell, you could adjust this instrument's slides to play in a key other than the standard B-flat -- probably a half-step lower in the key of A.

And there are your technical notes for the day.

Deceptive name.

They don't look all that happy.

Buddy Rich would be proud

He's holding his sticks the correct way, he probably even knows how to drum.

Things My Mother Taught Me

1) Always wear clean underwear.
2) Always carry a spare banjo.

Wound a bit too tight

These guys need to unwind with rousing rendition of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades."

SHORPY OLD 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.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2019 Shorpy Inc.