Siblings in harmony

I’m guessing they’re siblings, but I can’t say for sure.  This early cabinet card photo came from a collection of musical ephemera in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Two other posts featuring photos from the same collection are Music and baseball in the forest and “Waldfreunde” Mandolin Orchestra (1922).)

Do their outfits suggest any particular place of origin?

Despite their ages, these young musicians look like serious professionals.

Siblings in harmony 2

Siblings in harmony 3

Siblings in harmony 4


I hope they found appreciative audiences!

Siblings in harmony 5



38 thoughts on “Siblings in harmony

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  1. Maybe siblings and cousins. They do appear to be very professional. I can’t help wondering how long they had to remain in those positions for the photograph to be taken 🙂 The little girl with the triangle has to be given extra credit!

    Just wondering-Has anyone ever contacted you to say they recognised their relatives in any of your photos?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The little girl deserves some serious extra credit! Her position would be the hardest to hold, I think. And you’re probably right about a couple of them being cousins.

      I don’t think anyone has contacted me about a relative in one of the photos. I was contacted once by a descendant of one of the photographers. That was cool! The photographer lived in Cork, Ireland, and the descendant lives in Seattle. (

      Liked by 5 people

  2. It was the little girl with the triangle that really caught my attention. She has quite piercing eyes. And the triangle seems to dwarf her. I hope they enjoyed their performances, and didn’t have to give them as a matter of survival.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point — they may look serious because their music may have been the way to put food on the table. Let’s hope they also took pleasure from it.

      I find the expressions of both of the youngest girls touching. Kids sometimes look at the camera with such earnestness. The older kids already have more of a mature facade.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. They all have a ‘presence’ don’t they? Very poised and dignified. The taller violinist has a wedding band, perhaps she was married to the banjo player? And the shorter violinist has a scarf tied at the end of her violin- I wonder if this could give a clue to their origin? Thanks for the diversion on my lunch break!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh, I hadn’t realized the scarf might be tied to the violin! I love it when readers make connections that I miss. At first glance their outfits don’t seem very elaborate, but when you look closer, you see some interesting embellishments and decorative patterns. I wish we could see their hats (?) more clearly.

      Thanks for the great observations, Louise!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The similarity in the females dress suggests a costume made for their performance. I too thought it to be a family with the couple on the left being the parents. However, the guitarist looks much too old to be a daughter. Perhaps a sister? There definitely seems to be facial characteristics that could indicate a family relationship. Fascinating.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Bob! I think family musical groups were more common in the 1800s than they were later, but I don’t have any statistics to back that up. Just an impression, really. Families tended to be bigger then, and they didn’t have radio or TV for entertainment.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. They do seem like siblings! Can you imagine how their family home must have been filled with music! That must have been delightful in a timely before radio. I love the little girl with the triangle. I wonder if it was heavy for her to hold so long?! Wonderful Brad 😊🎶

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Suzanne! They have such a variety of instruments, it makes me wonder what their repertoire included. I don’t know anything about the music of the 1870s-1880s…. Maybe they composed some of their own songs? It’s fun to think of the possibilities!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I come from a musical family, Brad. We have numerous professional photos of my grandfather and his two brothers from their childhood performance days. They were classical musicians and the photos reflect the seriousness of their work. They definitely contributed a lot to the family income.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d forgotten that! Your grandfather toured internationally, didn’t he? I seem to remember that he came to North America. My mother is a musician (flute) and former music teacher. My sister inherited those genes, but I didn’t, unfortunately. Great to hear from you, Kate!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s their instruments that caught my attention. Their solemnity might suggest classical music, but banjo, guitar, fiddle, and triangle suggest string bands or other traditional genres of music that moved to this country and still endure in family bands that have a great deal of popularity, such as the Carter family and the McLain family band. The similarity in their dress suggests intentional costuming, which would support the presumption of touring or concert-giving. I wish we had a recording of their music!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great examples, Linda! The Carters are the most famous family in country music. I wish we had a recording of these kids, too. Maybe they got back together in 30-40 years and made a recording. Not likely, but not impossible. 🎙💿


  8. To me they look like they’re originally from northern Russia or scandinavia – they seem to have that intensity of look that I associate with people from that region of the world. I might be wrong though. 🙂 I don’t think it’s in a studio, probably a small courtyard area, a bit ‘crumbly’ looking! I wonder if they’re part of a small school band?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The material on the left side looks like canvas, so they may be under a tent, perhaps on a platform set up for a stage. Oddly enough, I never considered Russia proper. I did think about other places in Eastern Europe, especially Poland, because so many Poles immigrated to this country. Many others came from the Pale of Settlement. I don’t know how many were actually ethnically Russian.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Amazing to see this fascinating image – my new book has five players, in a family of bears, with a banjo, a guitar, a fiddle – also a little drum and a tin whistle, but so similar to this set up, it is rather strange. The bears are the outsiders, everyone else in the book is as they are, ie, people. I have copied this photo into my file of images for the book, hope that is OK. I think it is enchanting, and so evocative, and the comments are interesting. Thank you for finding the picture and showing it to us…

    Liked by 2 people

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