By: Emily Bach
Side view of jacket.
Austrian knot visible on sleeve.
Back view of jacket.
Cording and braid-work visible.
Although the summer rehousing project this year has officially come to an end, thousands of costume treasures still reside in Pratt House waiting to be rehoused in the climate-controlled work room where their stories and construction will be admired. During this past week, I processed a man’s black wool jacket that holds a rich history once observed closely. Inside the the coat’s interior pocket, the signature of the original owner can still be deciphered as “Albert T. Schroeck.” Both this label and another one stitched below the coat’s pocket indicated that this jacket was constructed by “Russell Uniform Co.; Uniforms and Equipments New York,” a company located on 1600 Broadway as indicated by the address printed above Mr. Schroeck’s signature.
Label stitched on the interior pocket that reads
“Russell Uniform Co. / Uniforms and Equipments New York.”
Label inside the interior pocket reading
“Russell Uniform Co. / 1600 Broadway / New York / Mr. Albert T. Schroeck.”
The label includes the original owner’s personal signature.
Pinned to the front of the coat was a circular metal pin featuring a globe surrounded by a laurel wreath with “SOUSA” written on a blue banner in the center.
While searching “SOUSA Uniform” on the internet, images and articles of John Philips Sousa the composer appeared. Albert Schroeck, the wearer of this jacket, was a member of the famous Sousa Band. After researching Mr. Schroeck and looking at band rosters, I discovered he played the clarinet in B-Flat in the Sousa Band’s 1920 tour. A typical Sousa Band tour lasted for many months and often included multiple performances each day. Later in the day I found the jacket’s catalog card, which detailed that his sister Mrs. Elizabeth Ortman donated the uniform and that her brother did, in fact, belong to the Sousa Band.
Before processing this uniform, I had never heard of John Philip Sousa or his band, which is why I was so enthralled by this costume piece. Through this garment, I learned something new about American history. Although Sousa was a very famous composer and well known among many, I will introduce his story to those who, like me, are not familiar with his name and achievements. John Philip Sousa was born on November 6, 1854 in Washington D.C. He lived near the Marine Barracks where his father played trombone in the Marine Band, exposing young Sousa to the military and music at an early age. Sousa’s father enrolled thirteen year old John in the Marine Band as an apprentice and he remained there until he was twenty years old. In 1880, John Philip Sousa assumed leadership of the United States Marine Band and for the next twelve years he conducted the band “The President’s Own,” serving under multiple U.S. presidents. After two years of touring, Sousa resigned his position and began his own civilian band, which he named “Sousa's New Marine Band.” Sousa’s band quickly became known as Sousa’s Band and in 1896 Sousa composed “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the United States’ national march.
Sousa’s military background influenced the uniforms of his band, as exemplified by the Maryland Historical Society’s jacket. Austrian knots, which can be found on military uniforms, embellished the sleeves of the jackets and this militaristic braid-work continued on the front and back of the coat. In addition to Albert Schroeck’s uniform jacket, his sister Elizabeth also donated his Sousa Band hat as well. The United States’ coat of arms embellishes the hat with the word “SOUSA” lying between the eagle’s wings, creating a very patriotic and nationalistic motif.
Austrian knot on jacket sleeve.
Albert Schroeck's Sousa band uniform is just one example of how historic costume provides new perspectives to historical trends, events, and truths. Each costume in Pratt House connects to a larger historical trend in some way, whether it be by its provenance, construction, or time period. Ensuring the progression of the rehousing project of Pratt House and the funding of the project's Adopt-A-Box program means that each garment's story and significance will be preserved.
References and Links for More Information on John Philip Sousa:
The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa (Music in American Life), pg. 236.