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Historic Images Find a Home at the National Music Museum

By Sarah Richardson
Curator of Musical Instruments

A significant collection of historic photographs have found a new home at the NMM. The collection, part of the Frank Holton & Co. Archive, donated to the NMM by Conn-Selmer, Inc., (Elkhart, Indiana) in 2008, contains hundreds of photographs of American bands, bandsmen, and soloists from the 1880s to the mid-20th century; scenes of the Holton factory and its employees; and images of Holton instruments used in company mailings and catalogs.

The bulk of the collection consists of various bands and musicians proudly holding their Holton instruments. Many of these images were submitted to the manufacturer in the hope that they would be used in one of the Holton Company’s publications, such as Holton's Harmony Hints. Many of these images are inscribed with the names of the musicians and the type of Holton instrument he or she played (a factual "jackpot" for researchers). Photographs of professional musicians who endorsed Holton instruments comprise another significant portion of the collection. Overall, the images are in remarkable condition, many of them seemingly untouched by time.

Note: Click on any image below to see an enlargement.


Photograph of Irving D. Lindley, member of the Bonesteel, South Dakota Band, posing with his Holton mellophone on November 17, 1907. The back of the real-photo postcard bears a handwritten endorsement: "It seems hardly possible for such a fine & mellow tone to be produced on a brass horn, and with hardly any effort—I am a firm believer that the Holton has all that is best and most beautiful in a horn." This image was selected for publication in Holton's Harmony Hints, No. 3, 1908-1909.

Irving D. Lindley, Bonesteel, South Dakota Bandsman, 1907


Gardner Band, Gardner, Massachusetts, 1913

Photograph of the Gardner Band from Gardner, Massachusetts, January 12, 1913. If you look closely at the tuba bell, you can see that the image was touched up for use in publication.


Perry George Lowery, 1918

An especially exciting photograph in the Holton Archive is this signed image of Perry George (P. G.) Lowery, an important African American musical pioneer. During his lifetime, he was considered one of the most talented African American cornet soloists. He performed and led groups on vaudeville and for circuses for more than thirty years, where he was Ringling Brothers' first African American band leader. In addition to performing, Lowery composed music. His most well-known composition is the gallop, Prince of Decora. At the peak of his career, he was admired by Scott Joplin whose composition, A Breeze from Alabama, is dedicated to Lowery. P. G. Lowery endorsed Holton's "New Proportion" cornets and was featured in many issues of Holton's Harmony Hints.

Lowery's autograph on photograph

Inscription:  Compliments of P. G. Lowery / May 12, '18. / To My Esteemed / Friend / Mr. Holton


Many photographs of female musicians can be found in the collection. This undated image of the vaudeville duo, Bingham and Gabler, features Miss Elsie Gabler, a low brass player who endorsed Holton's instruments.

In the 1906 issue of Holton's Harmony Hints, Gabler describes Holton's trombones as "the ideal trombone for ladies' use, as it responds to the slightest breath."

Vaudeville duo, Bingham and Gabler, ca. 1906


James Miller, Porterville, California, 1915

This beautifully preserved image shows in great detail the highly ornate engravings on an early twentieth-century Holton trombone. The inscription on the back reads: Mr. James Miller and his 'Holton Special,' Porterville, California, Sept. 12, 1915.


Herbert L. Clarke, noted bandmaster and composer, is widely considered to be one of the greatest cornet soloists of all time. Clarke and Frank Holton both played with the John Philip Sousa Band and remained close friends throughout their lives. In this undated photograph, Clarke poses with his highly engraved Holton cornet.

Herbert L. Clarke, undated photograph


Holton bell spinners

Among the numerous factory photos included in the Holton Archive, is this undated image of a group of skilled laborers spinning bells for brass instruments at the Holton factory in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

The photographs and other materials in the Frank Holton Company Archive are available to researchers and scholars by appointment in the NMM's Sally Fantle Archival Research Center.

Return to NMM Newsletter Index (March 2010)

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Most recent update: August 27, 2010

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