Celebrating WWI Veterans on Veterans Day 2023

On this 2023 Veteran’s Day we celebrate the musicians who served during WWI as the musicians of the Great Lakes Naval Battalion Bands under the leadership of John Philip Sousa.  The musicians pictured in the four top images were members of the 7th Regiment Band that served in 1918.  The photographs are part of the Loren Kent Papers that were recently acquired by the Center.

Loren Kent (pictured in the second image far left) played tuba in both the 7th Regiment band and later the Sousa band.  The members of this band are pictured in the top images standing outside and inside barracks 629.  Notice in the bottom two images of the musicians that some of bass players are pictured with Helicon horns rather than tubas or sousaphones.  Most professional civilian bands of this era had already discontinued using these older bass instruments.

Loren Kent and the 7th Regiment band were assigned to the USS Pennsylvania in 1918.  Throughout the war the Pennsylvania served only in American waters as a training vessel, but did serve as an escort ship in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson traveled to France to participate in peace negotiations.  The photograph next to Sousa’s image has the 7th Regiment band seated on the deck of the ship with their instruments.

John Philip Sousa was commissioned as the commander of the Great Lakes Naval Battalion Band between 1917 and 1920.  He agreed to this naval commission with the proviso that he be paid only one dollar each month for his services and be given the flexibility to temporarily step away from his military duties as needed to complete his civilian band’s contracted performances.

However, his letter  to his wife, Jane,  written on September 21, 1917 (pictured bottom left) does raise some interesting questions about how he approached telling her this news.

Dearest Jane, we leave at 6 that is the band does.
I leave at 6:10. I am enclosing a check to cover the
amount you ask for.  No dear, I am not in the Navy
as a regular but as a Reserve Officer ordered to
active duty which gives me as long as I am under
orders as an active Lieutenant the pay and allowance
of a Lieutenant (Senior Grade) of the Navy.  My pay
stops when I am over my active duty.  My orders read,
“You are ordered to active duty in the interest of the
public.”  There is no time limit.  I was out to a dinner
party last night at the South Shore Club and Madame
Schuman Heink was in the party.  She has three sons
in the American Army and Navy and one in the German
Submarine.  Must be awfully unpleasant for her.  She
was on the point of tears several times.  Address me
at Kansas City – Hotel Muelbach, the U.S. Naval Station
Contingent.  With much love. Philip.

Sousa never seems to mention to Jane that he actually agreed to serve as a naval officer for only one dollar per month.  It is likely that she was eventually told this particular financial detail and we can only imagine her response since we have no further correspondence written to her about this arrangement.

A question the Sousa Archives frequently receives about Sousa’s involvement with the Great Lakes Naval Band asks where he lived while stationed at the Great Lakes Naval base.  For years we have been unable to authoritatively answer this question.  However, the Frances Carter and Marjorie Moore Sousa Research Files that were acquired in May 2023 includes extensive handwritten correspondence from the March King.  Most of the letters written to his wife in 1918 from Chicago were sent from the Hotel Moraine which was located south of the navy base in Highland Park.  It is quite likely that Sousa would have used the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee urban railroad line to travel to the base each day because a station was located on the Great Lakes base.  The Hotel Moraine, located on the Michigan Lake shore, was an elegant establishment for vacationing Chicagoan’s from the city’s Gold Coast, and Sousa would have felt it was the most appropriate residence for someone of his stature.

For more information on the Loren Kent Papers and the Frances Carter and Marjorie Moore Sousa Research Files, either call 217-333-4577 or email schwrtzs@illinois.edu.

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