Thursday, November 15, 2012

Background History

I didn't buy this photograph for the people.  I bought it for the background.  The posters are a wonderful bit of history.  Right behind the people are advertisements  for a  Dwight L. Elmendorf  lecture, and a People's Symphony Concert. To the left, a benefit for German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war in Siberia.  To the right the New York Symphony Orchestra.

 I found a lot of info about Dwight L. Elmendorf on line, but no actual biography.  But are all those bits and pieces about the same man?  The earliest mention of that name was linked to the murder of Maximilian  Eglau, an artist and teacher at the Institution for the Improved Instruction of Deaf-Mutes in New York.  A Dwight L. Elmendorf was the last known person to see Eglau alive.  He also provided an alibi for the Fitzgerald brothers, the prime suspects.  Dwight, also an instructor at the school, was dismissed from his position under cloudy circumstances.  That was in 1896.  Jump ahead to the Spanish-American war were Dwight L. Elmendorf was a photo-journalist.  And then from the early part of the twentieth century through the 1920s Dwight L. Elmendorf made his living as a travel writer and lecturer.  I would say it's a good guess that Dwight the photo-journalist and Dwight the travel writer were one and the same, but Dwight the teacher of the deaf?

The People's Symphony Concert Series started in New York in 1900.  But it wasn't an uptown, for the upper crust,sort of thing.  The whole idea of the People's Concerts was to bring classical music to young people and workers.  The People's Symphony is still in business. As a matter of fact, if you've got $37 to spare and can get to Washington Irving High School in New York City, you can buy tickets right now.   I don't know whether they're still trying to sell tickets to factory workers, but they're still going after the young.

The  New York Symphony poster advertises an appearance by opera singer Alma Gluck.  That was a name that jumped out at me.  Gluck was born Reba Feinsohn in Bucharest, Romania, but emigrated to the United States, with her family, at an early age. She became one of the best known operatic sopranos of her age.  I have some 12 inch, one sided, 78 rpm records she made in my collection.  Listen to the Mockingbird, and Carry Me Back to Old Virginey, the first million selling recording in history.  She was married to concert violinist, Efrem Zimbalist, Sr., and the mother of actor, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.  She retired in 1925.

The poster that really fascinates me is the benefit poster for war prisoners, sponsored by the Austrian Society of New York City, with a performance date of Monday, October 30.  It's obviously from World War 1, and by checking a calendar I was able to date it to 1916.  The United States entered the war in April of 1917, and since Germany and Austria-Hungary became our enemies...well, I doubt there were too many benefits for enemy prisoners after that.

One of the listed performers was Ernestine Schumann-Heink.  Schumann-Heink was born in Austria, which explains her willingness to lend her services.  She became a citizen before the war, in 1905, and spent April 1917 to the end of the war giving free concerts to American troops.  When she died in 1936, Schumann-Heink was buried with full military honors. She spent the last years of her life at her farm in San Diego County, but died in Hollywood.

And finally, the posters look like they're all from Carnegie Hall, so we even have a location.

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