In 19th cen­tury, brass bands were mu­sic to Ida­hoans’ ears

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - STAY CONNECTED - BY ARTHURT HART Spe­cial to the Idaho States­man

Brass bands were the fa­vorite kind of mu­si­cal group in 19th cen­tury Idaho Ter­ri­tory. They ranged in size from five mem­bers to 20 or more. Typ­i­cally, a brass band had two to three trum­pets, two to three French horns, two tenor trom­bones, a bass trom­bone, and a tuba. A bass drum and a smaller drum com­pleted the en­sem­ble.

On Feb. 17, 1870, the Idaho World re­ported: “Mu­si­cal Treat – the World was the re­cip­i­ent of a visit from the Cen­ter­ville and Idaho City Brass Bands on last Mon­day evening who, com­bined to­gether, thus mak­ing a dou­ble set of in­stru­ments, re­galed us with some of the best mu­sic we have ever heard in the Ter­ri­tory. It was quite a treat, for which our friends will ac­cept the thanks and best wishes of the World.”

A turn­ing point in the mu­si­cal life of Idaho City came in May 1879, when the mul­ti­tal­ented pro­fes­sor Gil­bert But­ler and fam­ily ar­rived in town on the Sil­ver City stage. “Mr. But­ler, as­sisted by his wife, will teach the pub­lic school of this city, which opens next Mon­day. They come highly rec­om­mended by the cit­i­zens of Owyhee County.”

By 1879 the Idaho City brass band had gone out of busi­ness ( I was tempted to say “dis­banded”). But the Idaho World could re­port that “the young men of Idaho City are or­ga­niz­ing a brass band, with Gil­bert But­ler as its leader.” On Nov. 28, 1879, the World re­ported: “The brass band played two or three tunes on the streets while re­turn­ing from prac­tice last Wed­nes­day evening. Al­though the boys have prac­ticed but two or three weeks, the gen­eral ver­dict was that they made pretty good mu­sic.”

When Gil­bert But­ler, on be­half of the new Idaho City Brass Band, ten­dered their ser­vices for the Fourth of July cel­e­bra­tion, the of­fer was re­ceived with ap­plause by the plan­ning com­mit­tee.

In March 1880: “Last Satur­day the Idaho City Brass Band took a trip to Cen­ter­ville, Plac­erville and Quartzburg. The day was rather cold, yet the ride was very pleas­ant, the roads be­ing in fine con­di­tion. The band played in the towns dur­ing the day, and after dark ser­e­naded a num­ber of the denizens of Plac­erville. The band boys were treated like lords by the cit­i­zens of the dif­fer­ent places, and did not re­turn home till the small hours of the morn­ing.”

Boise City’s young Brass Band was cred­ited by the Idaho Tri-weekly States­man in April 1869 with “rapidly im­prov­ing,” and was men­tioned again in June 1870, when it ser­e­naded Gov. David Bal­lard.

That Boise was not with­out mu­sic of sev­eral kinds we learn from the States­man of Sept. 17, 1874: “Our sav­age breast was soothed the other evening by the sweet melody and song of the Boise City String Band un­der our bed­room win­dow.”

In July 1875, the States­man wrote: “Brass Band – Mr. A. Stei­del, the ac­com­plished cor­net and clar­inet player, is get­ting up a brass band, and is now teach­ing sev­eral of the young mu­si­cians of this place how to ‘toot their horns.’ There is noth­ing that the peo­ple would sooner hear than a good brass band, and we say, all speed and suc­cess to the organization.”

Arthur Hart writes this col­umn on Idaho his­tory for the Idaho States­man each Sun­day. Email hist­[email protected]

Idaho State His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety

The min­ers’ band of De­la­mar, Idaho, was larger than most.

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