Brass bands helped welcome the railroad as it made the final stop on its inaugural transcontinental trip.
WITH 133 YEARS of local music reverberating between them, two bands posing at the intersection of Main Street and First Avenue South are compared this week.
For our contemporary repeat, photographer Jean Sherrard and I chose Pineola, a quintet we know, admire and enjoy.
But for the uniformed brass players in the historical photo, we consulted Seattle author-historian Kurt Armbruster, our mentor in diverse matters, including the early history of Seattle’s music and railroads. Armbruster dismissed our first assumption that it was early Seattle’s most legendary band, Wagner’s. It seemed a reasonable choice because the stickered caption attached to the flip side of the original print reads, “Groups-musical The Town Band on 1st Ave. and Main, Sept. 14, 1883. Wagner’s Band.”
This, Armbruster noted, was both too easy and too early. T.H. “Dad” Wagner did not arrive in Seattle until the peculiarly smoldering day of June 7, 1889, a day after the city’s “Great Fire.”
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Instead, Armbruster, the author of the musical history book “Before Seattle Rocked,” offered us three possible candidates: the Queen City Band, the Seattle Cornet Band and the Carbonado Band. All are listed as playing during Seattle’s grand celebration on a late-summer weekend. The city put on a big show, welcoming Northern Pacific Railroad president Henry Villard and his trainload of VIP guests to the last stop on the Northern Pacific’s inaugural transcontinental run.Muara
The Post-Intelligencer of Sunday, Sept. 16, 1883, includes a sensational day-after summary of Villard and his entourage’s brief but boisterous visit. “If Seattle was filled with people on Friday, she fairly boiled over yesterday. Talk about Fourth of July, yesterday was Fourth of July with a vengeance.”
The Saturday parade was led by the 20-piece brass band from Carbonado, the town with Pierce County’s largest coal mine. Later, according to the P-I, the Seattle Cornet Band came before a special carriage carrying “Angeline, daughter of old Chief Seattle … for whom the ‘Queen City’ was named.” The Queen City Band led the parade’s next division.
Two miles long, the procession concluded at the University of Washington campus (downtown at that time) for grandiloquent speeches, followed by a feast of roasted salmon and steamed clams for the thousands attending.
The parade route was decorated with flags, posters, lines of fir trees arranged on both sides and three arches. One of the arches is seen in part in our photograph that looks north on Commercial Street (First Avenue South) through its intersection with Main Street.