WWI African American Band Poster & Photo, ca. 1919
Appraised Value: $2,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (3:44)
C. Wesley Cowan
Arms & Militaria, Books & Manuscripts, Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Photographs
Cowan's Auctions, Inc.
GUEST: These are two items that I found in my father's attic after he passed away and we were cleaning out the house. And it's a picture of the Minnesota Home Guard, the 16th Battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard. And this is taken in the old Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul.
GUEST: Now, the freeway has since gone through there years ago.
APPRAISER: Now, how do you know it's taken in that neighborhood?
GUEST: Well, basically there's some indication on the back that says that's the area.
GUEST: It's also the area where my father was born and raised, and I was born and raised.
APPRAISER: Oh, really? So these have special interest to you from that standpoint.
GUEST: Well, that standpoint, and a couple other standpoints. I played in a military band for 28 years, so I have the musical interest, and also I was born on February 10, which is the date this poster is dated.
APPRAISER: Well, that's just a great story. What you have here are two pieces of pretty scarce ephemera related to World War I, but also related to African-American history, and particularly the history of African Americans and their participation in World War I. First, you've got this marvelous... some people call them a yard-long photograph, of the 16th Home Guard. This was taken with a camera called a circuit camera. So the circuit camera, basically the photographer stands right in the middle, and he uses a special camera that has a lens on a track that would have started over here, and the lens then would sweep across the whole group. The film is advancing at the same time. And then you have a long strip of film that is developed to make a big picture like this. We see them particularly during this World War I era when entire army units wanted to have their pictures taken. Sometimes, to play a prank, one of the guys would stand on one end of the photograph, and then while the camera was moving, after it had taken his picture, he would run around and get on the other end of the same photograph. So sometimes you can see the same person in the same photograph. I would think that it might have been taken right when the group was mustered in, when they were going off to World War I.
GUEST: Yeah, there's some notation on the back of the picture that the photo was taken about 1917.
APPRAISER: Which is about the time that we got into the war. You know, the other thing, I looked at the back of the photograph, and it actually... it has the name of the owner and his address. That doesn't necessarily mean that's where this photograph was taken. That just means where that individual lived.
APPRAISER: So you may be right, but you might do a little bit more homework on the 16th Home Guard.
APPRAISER: This is really, I think, much more interesting to me-- this broadside or this poster advertising this concert that the 16th Home Guard band is going to give. And this is after armistice has been signed. It says here, "We're welcoming our boys back." This is the kind of ephemera that rarely survived, particularly for African Americans. This was an African-American band, it presumably appealed to African Americans, not white Americans, to come and see this concert. The band director is prominently figured here. It's just a great and rare kind of piece of ephemera. I think that's the key here. But when you put them together, it really makes a great package. I would think that in the right auction setting, the pair would bring about $2,000.
APPRAISER: So not bad for an attic find, right?
GUEST: Not at all, not bad at all.
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