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From: "Randi Richardson" <>
Subject: Bloomington Bands: A History--Part I
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 2004 15:04:37 -0500


Bloomington (Indiana) June 24, 1896, p. 4.

BLOOMINGTON BANDS
Something about the Tooters of Long Ago

The crowds that throng the sidewalks and blockade the streets with carriages to listen to the weekly concerts of the Bloomington Mechanics' Band know but little about the different stages through which the present organization has evoluted (sic). From the time John McCrea taught the first band way back in the thirties to the present there have been several changes, especially in the personnel of the organization. As a proof that music has changed in that length of time, we are told that McCrea played a clarinet with the mouth piece upside down. How he did it, even W. H. Seward does not know. Bloomington has always been a musical city, and the memory of the oldest inhabitant cannot revert to the time when we did not have a band of some sort or description. It is true that those old timers did not have bespangled uniforms, a pompous drum-major nor a little darkey to hold the music, but they were nevertheless the pride of the townspeople, the heroes of political campaigns, !
and the envy of the juveniles.

The first band organization in Bloomington was about the year 1838 when Austin Seward, grandfather of the present leader, formed what was known as the "Seward Band." It was rightly named, too, for in it was his two sons, John and James, and later their brothers, Bryce and William. To hear William B. Seward recount some of the exploits of those old times would lead one to infer that even at that early date people knew how to have a good time.

The Harrison campaign of 1840 furnished all the needed opportunities for practice. This band also played at the famous Tippecanoe battle ground celebration. Among the members of this first organization were the Sewards that we have mentioned, of whom John was the leader, Johnson McCullough, Elbert Johnson, Emery Voss and William A.Leg (?Legg). Uniforms were not thought of. In place of the cornet they had the bugle, and for the alto and tenor they had what was known as the Ophe Cleide horn. Also a twisted wooden concern called a serpent.

A strange coincidence is recorded in connection with this band. About 1840 Dr. T. Wylie and wife returned to Bloomington from their bridal tour. The band called at the old house on East Second Street and serenaded them. Fifty years later in the same house the doctor and wife were celebrating the golden anniversary of their wedding. In honor of the event, James Seward, one of the serenaders of 50 years before, came and played a solo on the same old clarinet that was blown so joyously a half century past.

(to be continued)


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