Historic 1927 Photograph of Marching Illini on Roller Skates Donated to the Sousa Archives

Marching Illini Pictured on Roller Skates on 6th Street, April 2, 1927 as part of University of Illinois Roller Skating Derby.

This unusual photograph of members of the University of Illinois’ historic Marching Illini band was identified on the Internet several weeks ago by a friend of the Sousa Archives, and was purchased and donated to the Center’s collections that document the legacy of the University Bands’ program.  Several days before this photograph was taken a March 29, 1927 Daily Illini article began with the headline, “Plans for Roller Skating Derby Halted as Entry Book Disappears, But Halt is Only Temporary: New Book is Secured and Latest Feature — A Skating Band.”  The writer states, “Harding promises band.  Fifty University bandsmen — all of them on skates — will be present at the derby and will play their instruments to the accompaniment of all the noises which go to make up a skate race.  The presence of the band was assured last night by A. A. Harding, director.  The musicians will be in charge of Ray Dvorak.  The drum major will be an expert fancy skater.”

While there is little documentation to confirm whether this was the first time a university band ever “marched” in a parade on roller skates, the image and article provide some wonderful additional insight about the University of Illinois’ band program and its first director during America’s 1920s.

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