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Masked Musicians
Circa 1920s, possibly Ohio, photographer unknown
Scanned from original 7 x 5” glass-plate negative. Collection of Zachary Sigall

Music In The Air

This lineup of five masked figures seated in a barnyard makes for an interesting photograph, and one appropriate for the Halloween season. The men’s fashions, including the button-up shoes, are all consistent with the 1920s, as are the store-bought masks. Each masked man poses with a distinctive object—an open book, a bottle, a Weidlich Royal accordion, a box camera (possibly a Kodak Premo Junior), and a round-back “potato bug” mandolin. At their feet are two additional props—a liquor jug and a negative carrier marked “exposed.”

Happy HooliganFoxy GrandpaAmong the masks are ones depicting a devil, a jack-o-lantern, and a cat, all enduring Halloween images. The other two masks show popular newspaper comic strip characters of the day. The mandolinist wears a Foxy Grandpa mask and the man with the camera masquerades as Happy Hooligan. Foxy Grandpa was created by cartoonist Charles Edward Schultze, known as “Bunny,” and Happy Hooligan was the brainchild of Frederick Burr Opper. Both strips debuted in 1900, and both endured for about three decades.

This image was scanned from the original 7 x 5” glass negative, then reversed to create a positive. Collector Zachary Sigall acquired the glass plate from a woman in Ohio, which suggests a possible location for the picture. Glass-plate photography first gained wide acceptance in the 1850s, displacing the earlier daguerreotype and calotype processes. Although flexible-roll film was introduced in the 1880s, glass plates remained popular with a large segment of the photographic community well into the 20th century. Some professionals, especially press photographers, were still using glass plates as late as the 1950s.

 

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