Every town used to have its own band

Reporter in Residence
Monroe Mouse

Serendipity — that is what I call what happened the other day at the Stroud Mansion, as I was at a loss as to what to write for the The Fanlight this month. In walks MCHA member Ed Gerhard with some items to be considered for acquisition. There were only a few things, so I thought I could sneak a look and not draw attention to myself.

There it was — a postcard, but not just any postcard. It would provide the topic for my article. Sent from Nazareth in 1911, the writer noted that the photo on the front was of the Glenwood Hall Community Band in Tannersville.

You younger people might say, “What is a community band?” It may be difficult to believe, but almost every town had a band by the 1880s and 1890s. All ages took part, making music for their own enjoyment and for members of their communities.

Members strutted forth in bold, colorful uniforms that projected a sense of community and patriotism. The earliest groups were brass bands and later woodwind instruments were added. By 1910, there were more than 18,000 town bands in the United States.
Without the distractions of the Internet, movies, and TV, the town bands drew large audiences who kept beat with the tunes of the day. The marches of John Phillip Sousa were popular, of course. Also popular was the “William Tell Overture” and let’s not forget “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

The Fourth of July was never without the appearance of the town band, often in a parade followed by a community picnic in the park. As early as 1873, there was a community band in Tannersville.

An entry in the diary of Alice Beisecker (age 17) of Poplar Valley recounts one July 4:

We went along very nicely and came to Brown’s Hotel when the band marched out. The drum frightened the horse and spilled the girls out and that was quite a time. At ten the band came back and marched over to the woods where all had a very nice dinner and a lot of ice cream. [Diary entry edited by MM]

The band that Alice heard in 1873 may have been an earlier group from which the Glenwood Hall Band grew. MCHA member Jim Werkheiser relates in his research that the Glenwood Hall Band was founded in Tannersville in 1887 (
The Jeffersonian, March 1, 1988). His research indicates that there were at least 19 town bands in Monroe County from 1865 to 1900.

Community bands at this time were almost always evident at political rallies where they heightened the enthusiasm of the crowds. Patriotic parades provided a welcoming audience and often spurred competition among the bands. County fairs were also a venue. Today in Monroe County this tradition is carried on by the Trinity Centennial Band, founded in 1992. The band’s original director was Rus Speicher, Pocono Mountain School District band director. This band still plays many of the pieces played by town bands a century ago.

Although community bands are almost a thing of the past, school bands have assumed their place and provide the opportunity for the younger generation to develop their musical talents and entertain the public just as the town band did in the past.

Today, summer band concerts create a sense of an earlier era, foster a sense of community, and provide entertainment for young and old alike.

Source: ExplorePAhistory.com