A Band of Bands

This post will not be about a person, a family, or a place.  It will be about a photograph and an event.  The photo that will be discussed is this one.

3 bands Xtif

I am not sure who has the original photograph, but a copy of it can be found in Mary Dillon’s Wittenberg book.  By the way, if you have a copy of this book, you are fortunate.  We no longer have any to sell at our museum, and they are no longer being printed.  In this book, you will find some information regarding this picture.  First, we have these facts.  It also contains the reason why I am writing this post on August 12th.

3 bands description (2)

The Frohna picnic grounds were located right behind Concordia Lutheran Church.  The area where it was is no longer used as picnic grounds.  I remember a few occasions when I, as a child, attended mission festivals at those picnic grounds.  Three bands gathered from the towns of Frohna, Altenburg, and Wittenberg.

Next, we have this description of the reason for this event.

3 bands description (3)

First of all, if this event took place in 1915, then the Frohna Band must have been started in 1890.  However, I have a little doubt about the date that is shown for this event.  August 12th in 1915 was a Thursday.  I have a hard time believing that town bands from three locations would get together for a celebration like this on a week day.  Maybe this event happened in either 1916 or 1917, when August 12th fell on a Saturday and a Sunday.  Another possibility is that this event may have taken place on August 14th or 15th in 1915.

The accounting of this event goes on as follows:

3 bands description (4)

When I read this paragraph, to me it sounded like Rev. Martin Oberndorfer was the pastor in Kewanee, Illinois at the time of the band gathering.  When I looked into Rev. Oberndorfer’s life, I discovered he didn’t become the pastor in that town until the 1920’s. He didn’t show up in the Kewanee census until 1930.  Also, this World War I draft registration which was filled out in 1917, shows that at that time, he is still a student at the Springfield seminary.

Martin Oberndorfer – WWI draft registration

I think the way the description should be interpreted is that Martin Oberndorfer, who eventually became pastor in Kewanee, Illinois, served as the master of ceremonies.   I even think that maybe Martin was the conductor for this mass band on the day they came together for this celebration.  When young men attended schools back in those days to become preachers and teachers, they often received extra training in music.

This photograph of the three bands is also attributed to Paul Lueders of Frohna, who operated a photography studio located in that town.  It took a special photographic technique to get this panoramic picture of these bands.  Paul also must have been a player in the Frohna Band, which is the group located in the middle of the photograph.  Paul is one of the trumpet players.

One of the great things about this photograph is that every one of the men in it has been identified.  I will let you determine if they have been identified correctly.  Here is an enlargement of the Frohna Band with the listing of its members below the photograph.

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Frohna Band

Frohna and Wittenberg bands listing (2)

Next we have the Altenburg Band which was seated on the left side of the large photograph.

3 bands Xtif (2)
Altenburg Band

Altenburg band listing

Finally, here is the Wittenberg Band, pictured on the right of the panoramic photo.

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Wittenberg Band

Frohna and Wittenberg bands listing (3)

Town bands in those days were made up of brass and percussion instruments almost exclusively.  In this photograph you will see that in the Altenburg Band, Leo Lottes and Albert Hellmuth are playing clarinet, as well as Gottfried Bergt in the Frohna Band.

One question can be asked about the Wittenberg Band.  In the front row on the right, we see Otto Lueders, and he is not holding any instrument at all.  What instrument would he have been playing in this band?  I think I can answer that question with another photograph.  Otto Lueders is shown in this band photograph.  The photograph was taken at the wedding celebration for the marriage of Otto Richter and Linna Schmidt, which took place in October of 1910.

band wedding good X

Otto Lueders has been identified as the person on the left holding the bass drum.  I don’t think these bands owned or needed more than one bass drum.  The Wittenberg Band probably had two men who played the bass drum.  They probably took turns playing, and one of them was Otto Lueders.

By the way, here is the marriage license for Otto Richter and Linna Schmidt.

Richter Schmidt marriage license
Richter/Schmidt marriage license

These two were married at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna, which was Linna’s home congregation.  Otto, on the other hand, was from Wittenberg, and you can see him listed in the Wittenberg Band enlargement above as a trumpet player.

This photograph of a Perry County wedding celebration illustrates some characteristics of their culture.  The man on the left in the front of the photo is identified as a Mr. Schmidt, maybe one of Linna’s brothers.  He is holding a cigar box.  Cigars were often given out by the groom at his wedding.  The cigar box in this photo is getting an additional use.  It is said that the box was being used by the band to take a collection.  The money was used to pay for the beer, which was provided by the band.  You can also see the tray full of beer glasses being held by another young man on the right.

I am guessing that this celebration was held somewhere in Frohna because that is where the wedding took place.  There are some men identified in this band that were from Wittenberg, including Otto Lueders.  Plus, the groom was in the Wittenberg Band.  However, the size of this band makes me think that this group may have been made up of members of both the Wittenberg and the Frohna Bands.  What do you think?  I also notice a very young looking lad standing right behind the bride and groom.  Was he a member of a town band, or was he just attending the wedding reception and allowed to play with the band?  Who knows?

I cannot resist.  Did anyone else notice the two ladies photo-bombing this picture on the extreme right?  Do you think they knew they were being photographed?

3 bands Xtif (5)


One more thing.  Otto Lueders will be one of the main characters in a book that I am writing about Wittenberg.  It’s a piece of historical fiction.  I suppose I should make sure he plays the bass drum somewhere in the book, huh?

I am placing a gallery here of the band photos and enlargements you find in this story.  I am thinking this may allow you to see these photos in a larger format.  You can click on the thumbnails.






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