In the 1890s and 1900s, military bands were all the rage. From Gilmore’s band to your village community band, they were loved by everyone. One trend that came along with this fad included these bands and orchestras performing at local parks. Some of you may have heard of Arthur Pryor’s weekly gig performing at Ashbury Park in New Jersey, and this is exactly the sort of thing each town or county did all over the United States. Fellow recording star Fred W. Hager also led his band at a local park, almost competing with Pryor’s. Within the pages of Hager’s scrapbook, he provided a very thorough and unique look into this long forgotten tradition.
In Hager’s scrapbook, there are dozens of cut out pages from these various programs he conducted at St. Mary’s park in the Bronx. According to one source he clipped and pasted, he had been performing there weekly in the summer since 1896. The latest programs date from the summer of 1903. The majority of the programs date from 1901 to 1902, and thankfully Hager put them in chronological order, so we can see how they changed over time, and see how long certain pieces were popular. A lot of these program fragments can also help record collectors determine when his band and orchestra recorded certain pieces, creating a sort of timeline for dating a certain period of Zon-O-Phone and Columbia records.
These weekly performances began aroun