GrandPapa's Letter part 20
Franklin B. Van Valkenburgh

Music and Politics

About this time there came into our house and family a Miss Loomis, who was afterwards for some time a teacher in the Milwaukee Female (spare my blushes,) College.

She came to teach MUSIC in the Academy, and brought with her the first PIANO I ever saw or heard, and the first one ever seen in the village: It was set up in the parlor, and was for many a day the greatest attraction of the village, and was visited, examined and commented upon by all comers.

We had always had music in the house, but this new fangled instrument with its pleasant owner doubled the amount and much improved the quality, and it was no uncommon sight, of an evening to see the house and porch full to overflowing with those who gladly came to assist in making or in listening to the improvised concerts. There was always a Brass Band in town, or at least a Band with Brass instruments, commonly called a BRASS BAND, which was expected to make music when required, and which often did make what it considered music, without any demand by anybody but its members. We used to go down to the Cannon House to hear them practice sometimes, and in the innocence of our youthful hearts thought we were listening to music??

During the presidential campaign in which Grand Father Harrison, he of the HAT, and John (?) Tyler took prominent parts, music and campaign songs were very much in evidence: A "Jaw bone Band and Glee Club," was organized in our village, and did yeomans service in the cause of good government? They travelled around the country in wagons decked with the Stars and Stripes, and the insignia of the party for whose benefit they happened to be engaged for the nonce, and added greatly to the pleasure of both the contending parties.

The band was named from it's leading musical instrument, which was the lower jaw bone of a horse, cleaned and polished so as to resemble ivory, and decorated with numerous bells and tinkling brasses. It was played by striking the inner sides of the jaw with another bone, as the triangle is played. The other instruments were of a similar character; I remember a pair of CYMBALS, made by Dan Neff the son of the village Blacksmith, out of an old cross cut saw; and then there were the TRIANGLE, and several pairs of BONES, which were straight pieces of the ribs of sheep, polished and held between the fingers on each hand, and played by striking them together as the Nigger Minstrels now play them: These BONES were easily obtained, and sometimes half the boys one met on the streets would be practicing on them.

At the Harrison Mass Meetings there was always a LOG CABIN, and a barrel of HARD CIDER displayed, either in full size or in miniature, for these were the symbols under which the WHIG PARTY fought that campaign, while at the LOCOFOCO or Democratic gatherings you were sure to see a RACCOON, which was their trade mark that year. The Glee Clubs sung all over the country, and their songs were as familiar as house hold words to every boy and girl in the country. "Mattie Van is a used up man, " was the refrain of one of them, and "Get out of the way Old Dan Tucker, You're too late to get your supper, " was another. Tippacanoe and Tyier too; was another, and there were many more which one heard all the time and in all the places. Many of the meetings were held in veritable LOG CABINS, and I have already told you how the sorrow of the Whigs found expression in the burning of theirs when they heard of the death of their IDOL, President Harrison.

Father was in the Legislature of the State of New York in 1845, and I have just found and put in my Scrap Book a speech made by him at the session of 1845 "On the Bill to authorize the the construction of the Albany Bridge, " cut from the Albany Argus of April 24th 1845. My sister KATE was in the Normal School in Albany then, and read a Poem at their Commencement, which, with very favorable comments you can also see in the Scrap Book, where you will also find if you care to, a plain paste board card, having on one side the engraved card of ERASTUS CORNING: and on the other, in his hand writing the following words. FREE to June 1845. HON. MR. VANVALKENBURGH. Chairman of Rail Road Committee Assembly. ERASTUS CORNING, PRES.

I presume this is as old a specimen of the much used and abused and commented upon RAIL ROAD PASS, as can be found in these United & Independent States of America. It bears the marks of usage, and shows that Rail Road men early acquired the habit of PASSING Legislators???

Getty and Amanda Loomis went to Mississippi to teach in private schools in 1846, and Mary took the little school, in Father's old office, on the North side of the Square, and was our teacher for a while, after which she also taught for some time in Mississippi.

I was the only member of our family who never taught school, as I was the only one who never enlisted in the war of the Rebellion. Ger. was quite a famous teacher in Michigan; He was bright, and sociable, and a great favorite wherever he was, of which fact I had peculiar evidence on one evening, when I went into his DISTRICT to attend a Spelling School where he taught; It was just dusk, when after a ride of several miles in a cutter I entered his school house for the first time, and was seized and kissed by a lovely young lady, before I got through the entry; It was a serious blunder for her, but not at all unpleasant to me, except for the consequences, for when she discovered her miss-take, she refused to enter the room, and I did not have the pleasure of spelling her down???

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