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Music in Early Fargo

There were a significant number of thespians, musicians, and other artistic entertainers in Fargo between 1880 and the 1893 destruction.  Music and theater entertainment appears to have been a substantial industry in Fargo.  In 1888, according to the directory there were at least two music stores operating in Fargo.[1]  In addition to this, most theaters ran six nights per week and also had daily rehearsals.  The Vaudevillian theaters employed 458 individuals between 1885 and 1887, alone.[2]  Most of the performers of Fargo came through on short contracts or with traveling troupes.  Aside from traveling troupes, Fargo also had professional bands and orchestras which were permanently established in Fargo during this time.

The Union Orchestra was an example of such a group.  It was arranged in 1889 and led by C.W. Simmons until 1882; when Steven Braun, a music teacher and director, took over.  The group was comprised of violinists, a viola, a bass, a flue, two clarinets, two coronets, a trombone, drums and traps, a piano, along with the director and conductors.  Its members included A.M. Vorhees, G.C. Grafton, E. R. Wright, George Holgate, W.D. Allen, C.A. Douglas, R.C Henry, W. F. Cramer, B. C. Holes, H. L. Babst, T. A. Evans, William Hart, and C.W. Simmons.

There was also the Union Band which was a brass band with positions held by many players from the union orchestra and was also under the direction of Steven Braun.  Instruments included clarinets, saxophones, cornets, trombones, euphoniums, bass, and drums.  The presence of a drum major indicates that this was also a marching band in addition to a brass band.  The members included Herman Leushch, C.A. Douglas, R.C. Henry, W.D. Allen, J.F. Treat, W.F Cramer, H. Rud, B.C. Holes, George Holgate, Charles Beck, L. Lensrud, C.W. Simmons, Fred Irish H. L. Babst, E.R. Wright, Mark Ramer, P.A. Evans, P. Sloan, and William Hart as the drum major.

Another was Rupert’s Orchestra which was organized by A. O Rupert, a violinist.  It contained instruments such as cornets, two violins, and a bass.  It had a membership of four.  It later expanded to become known as the Fargo Orchestra and included instruments such as the flute, the piano, drums, and a trombone.  Its members included Mr. Rupert, A.j. Schirrmann, E.R. Wright, A.V. du Vall, H. Leusch, J.H. Rupert, Arthur Walves, W.A. Stickley, H.A. Lensrud, C.G. Baernstein, and James Butts.[3]

-Valerie Tescher


[1] Fargo City Directory. Fargo, ND: City of Fargo, 1891. Print.

[2] Browning, Richard James. Early Fargo Theaters: Record of the professional theatre activity in Fargo, Dakota Territory from 1880-1888. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University, 1979. Print.

[3] Masonic Library Staff. Fargo Masonic Files. Fargo: North Dakota institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University, 1979. Print.

Valerie Tescher is an undergraduate student in Anthropology and History at North Dakota State University.

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