New Tuba Provides Oomph to the Band

On Saturday, January 26, band leader Bill Hall and tubist Nate Griffith traveled to Des Moines to try out a restored bass/tuba for the 1st Nebraska Band. The owner, Steve Sprague, leader of the Liberty Band of Iowa, was selling the instrument because they had switched from upright bell horns to Over-the Shoulder horns. Steve had the instrument restored by Southeastern Musical Services in Huntsville, Alabama.


As Nate opened the sturdy case the beauty of the polished brass finish shined forth. Nate carefully picked up the tuba and began to play a series of high notes on the horn. They projected clear and beautiful. Next, valve compression was checked, and each slide popped when pulled out, meaning that a good vacuum was maintained because the valves were sealing the tubing. Nate finally settled into playing some notes in the normal playing range of the tuba, adjusted the length of the valve slides, and found good intonation throughout the chromatic series. Thoroughly satisfied, Nate presented Steve with a nice check for purchase of the instrument.

The tuba is an upright bell side action rotary valve E-flat Bass in polished brass manufctured under the Lyon & Healy name. Lyon & Healy produced brass instruments from 1864 until 1928, and sold them in their retail store in Chicago.

We can’t wait to see how the instrument sounds combined with the rest of the band. So looking forward to our February rehearsal. Thanks, Nate, for investsing in this beautiful horn.


1st Nebraska Receives Christmas Gift

On December 10th, band leader Bill Hall received a phone call from a fellow Civil War band enthusiast in Iowa asking if the 1st Nebraska had received enough donations in the recent Washington County Gives campaign to purchase a desired period alto horn. Bill sadly replied “No, we didn’t.” To which the friend asked if the band would like to receive a donation of a circa 1870 Ernst Seltmann top-action, rotary valved, upright bell alto horn that was not in current use. Well, Bill was more than elated, especially because December 10 is his birthday!

Ernst Seltmann immigrated to the United States in 1857, from Neukirchen, Germany. He settled in Philadelphia and began producing brass instruments by 1860, where he stayed in business until his death in 1883. Most of Seltmann’s upright bell horns follow the same pattern as the above alto.

The donated alto horn has a beautiful singing tone and is very agile, accurately making large skips. The instrument has been lovingly restored and is in excellent condition. Bill put the horn to immediate use in the band’s Dec. 22nd performance at The Durham Museum.

Below is a detail photo of the alto horn’s string action rotary valve mechanism. The top action levers are easily visible, and when depressed turn the valve by way of the string’s winding movement.

The shape of Seltmann’s maker’s mark stamped into the instrument’s bell indicates an approximate year of manufacture of around 1870.

The 1st Nebraska Volunteers Brass Band now owns 4 period cornets, and a period alto horn, tenor horn, and baritone horn. In addition the band has a turn of the 20th century E-flat tuba, and a Civil War reproduction rope-tensioned snare drum. The band is 5 instruments short of a complete collection of period instrumentation.

Soon we’ll begin posting our 2019 performance schedule that will include participating in the 150th anniverary celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in Council Bluffs, Iowa in July.

Contact us if you’d like to have the band perform in your community.

2017 Performances Have Begun!

This was a busy weekend for the 1st Nebraska. On Friday, Bill drove to Des Moines to acquire an antique baritone horn from the Liberty Band of Iowa. The maker, William Seefeldt, lived in Philadelphia during the Civil War and later and made a wide range of brass instruments. The baritone we purchased had been completely restored and re-plated to look like new, and it’s a beauty. Playing tests revealed its beautiful open tone and the relative ease of operating its Berliner valves. We’re looking forward to adding this instrument to the band.

Our first performance of 2017 was given yesterday at the Elk Ridge Villages Assisted Living Center. We always enjoy performing for senior citizens because they are so appreciative of our music. Many of the folks used to listen to band concerts in their youth, and some even played in their school or town bands. In addition to standard Civil War favorites, such as, Dixie, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, and the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the 1st Nebraska played a variety of quicksteps and marches. We premiered Washington Greys, Coronation March, George Hart’s Quickstep, Louisville March, and Home, Sweet Home.

Our next outing will be on Saturday, April 1st in Blair, NE, where we’ll perform at the Good Shepherd Communities Senior Center at 10:00 AM. If you’re in the Blair area be sure to drop by. Also stay tuned to our 2017 schedule list as it will be filling rapidly.

New Cornet for 1st Nebraska

This morning (November 7, 2016), FedEx brought our newly purchased Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory SARV B-flat Cornet. The instrument was produced in the 1870s based upon patterns E. G. Wright used during the Civil War. It has Side-Action Rotary Valves, a very popular design for brass instruments of the period, and was played valves-up with the first finger of the left hand nestled in the finger crook.


The gentleman who sold it to us had played the cornet for several years but no longer had a use for it. You can tell just how much he valued the instrument by it’s great condition. He told me the story of how he acquired the cornet: “I bought it from the original owner’s grandson. He called me one day and said ‘I have a clarinet.’ I asked him if it was wood or metal, he said metal, and I told him it wasn’t worth anything and to chuck it. LOL He showed up a few months later with the cornet and I realized I had only ever seen one in a museum. After he passed his widow sold me the horn.”



The instrument comes with its original mouthpiece and leather case. We’re so proud to own this beautiful cornet, and will put it into use early in 2017.






1st Nebraska Buys Vintage Cornet

Yesterday I traveled to Des Moines to purchase a vintage Moses Slater TARV (top-action rotary valve) E-flat Cornet for use in our Living History Civil War band. The E-flat cornet is the main melody instrument for a Civil War band and its highest pitched voice.

The cornet was formerly owned by Steve Sprague, leader of the Liberty Band of Iowa who had the horn fully restored and buffed to a like-new shine.Slater left

Note the unusual valve action on the horn. Modern valves are upright pistons activated by depressing a button on the valve top. Here, the rotors are activated by the levers at the top of the instrument.

Slater nameplateMoses Slater, manufacturer of our “new” cornet,  was born in England in 1826, immigrated to the United States, and settled in New York City. He joined Stephen Gordon, and later Robert Martin to manufacture musical instruments, finally establishing his own firm. Slater died in 1899, but his firm continued to operate until 1920. (Musical Instrument Makers of New York, pg. 144)

Our goal is to outfit the entire 15-piece band with period instruments so that we can authentically recreate the look and sound of Civil War bands.

Target #1 – E-flat Bass Saxhorn

E-flat Bass Saxhorn – $6,500

Hi Friends,
Cribbs bass tallA fellow Civil War bandsman in Pennsylvania is selling his E-flat Bass Saxhorn at a GREAT price! This beautifully restored horn is of the Over-The-Shoulder (OTS) type so common among period bands. The seller still played the horn as of last year, and from the photos you can tell that there are no major dents, and that the patina has been buffed.

The E-flat Bass Saxhorn is the foundation instrument of the Civil War brass band, and has the lowest range. In today’s modern bands we replace the bass saxhorn with the tuba.

As with all Civil War period brass, the size and shape of the instrument’s tubing and the thickness and alloy of the metal are quite different from modern horns. To truly recreate the look and sound of the Civil War band 1st Nebraska needs to purchase these kinds of instruments.

Cribbs bass top

Won’t you help us purchase this fine instrument for our band. 1st Nebraska is a 501c3 public charity and donors are eligible for tax deductions. You can donate with PayPal or credit card on our gofundme page

Please help!