One of our most interesting music collections is the Hazen Collection of Band Photographs and Ephemera, which contains materials from about 1818 to 1931, documenting the fascinating story of the brass band movement in the United States. The collection was accumulated primarily through purchases from dealers, over a period of several years, by two scholarly music historians (and skilled musicians in their own right), the husband-wife team of Dr. Robert M. Hazen and Margaret Hindle Hazen. The collection aided their research for a landmark book on the subject, "The Music Men: An Illustrated History of Brass Bands in America, 1800-1920," published by the Smithsonian Institution Press in 1987. After the book appeared, their collection became part of the Archives Center’s holdings. Although the collection includes “ephemera,” such as music, advertisements for musical groups, and advertisements from musical instrument manufacturers, photographs of brass bands and musicians form the core of the collection.
The Hazen Collection images reveal a long-lost American world that may remind us of the Broadway musical “The Music Man,” an America in which not only schools and colleges, but families, towns, social clubs, and even businesses enthusiastically formed their own marching bands and concert bands, usually featuring brass instruments. These bands often had their own uniforms and were a source of entertainment, cultural enrichment, and civic or organizational pride. I come from an Indiana town with a strong high-school marching band tradition, and when a former band member became Miss Indiana in the Miss America Pageant, the band naturally accompanied her to Atlantic City in order to march and play in full uniform to demonstrate hometown support (she didn’t become Miss America, but did receive an award for that strong civic support). Therefore these photographs tend to stir my personal nostalgia—and even produce a kind of faux nostalgia for times and places I’ve never actually known. The photographic images take many forms, including small tintypes, large prints, and picture postcards. A few examples from among the picture postcards, both photomechanical reproductions and actual photographic prints on postcard paper, are shown here. Unfortunately, all the photographers are unidentified.
The Archives Center happens to have a supply of item-level registers (collection catlogues) of this delightful collection, containing more than one hundred pages, with illustrations. They can be mailed anywhere, free of charge. If you would like a copy, contact me at email@example.com.
David Haberstich, Curator of Photography, Archives Center
1. Band Stand, Depot Park, Lindenville, Vt.: picture postcard, ca. 1900, lithoprint photomechanical reproduction.
2. Six Counties Firemen's Convention: "real photo" picture postcard—original photographic print on photographic postcard paper, ca. 1910.
3. Picture postcard with reproduction of group photograph of children in Orphan's Home, Seattle, Wash., with instruments. Caption includes children's names and nationalities. Postmarked 1906, with message on verso addressed to Clara Eckert, Peshtigo, Wis.
4. Mason City Band, Mason City, Iowa: color photomechanical picture postcard. Postmarked 1909, with message, addressed to Arthur Rice, Forest City, Iowa.