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North American Indian Concert Band archive
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administration Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Separated Material
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: North American Indian Concert Band archive
    Dates: 1882-1938
    Collection Number: mssIndianconcert
    Extent: Approximately 202 items in 2 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
    The Huntington Library
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2203
    Fax: (626) 449-5720
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection consists of business cards, correspondence, documents, financial records, photographs, printed matter, and photographs related to the North American Indian Concert Band, Onondago Tribe from Syracuse, New York.
    Language of Material: The records are in English and German.

    Administration Information


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, please go to following web site .

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    North American Indian Concert Band archive, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased from Cowan's Auction American History Sale, Lot 271, November 20, 2015.


    Carl (Karl) Wahler was a German-American who emigrated from Augsburg, Germany to the United States in 1882. When he was 50, he returned to Germany to tour with the Onondaga people. David Russell Hill was a Native American man who was reportedly Chief of the Onondaga Indians. The Onondaga people are part of the Iroquois, "People of the Longhouse." During the 1910s, they lived on a reservation near Syracuse, New York, where the people reside today.
    Around the same time Buffalo Bill closed his Wild West Show, David R. Hill and Karl Wahler tried to capitalize on the remaining Europeans and Americans who were still fascinated by the American West and American Indians. The men planned a grand tour through Europe with the American Indian Concert Band, "the only concert band in the world of its kind [with] unlimited repertoire, picturesque costumes, [and] a host of novelties and effects." The show sensationalized the American Indians, but on the other hand, offered work and the opportunity to travel.

    Scope and Content

    This collection of items relates to the North American Indian Concert Band and performances from the 1910s as well as attempts to reassemble the band in 1926. The bulk of the letters are from David Russell Hill (director) and Carl Wahler (manager). As a Native American businessman, Hill demanded fair wages for himself and his men. In the middle of negotiating their European tour, Hill wrote to Wahler: "I know the people in Germany think that I am charging an unreasonable high price but Mr. Wahler you realize fully what this means to me, toyou [sic], and to this country..." (May 7, 1910). There are also several letters from Wahler's sons Arthur and Eddie. In one letter, Arthur asks for money to assemble a "coon band" because "it cost running around after these coon" [undated]. The majority of the men in the band came from American Indian Schools. They were trained to play classical and marching band music, not traditional Native American songs. There is a hand-written list of band members that shows many of the men were from Southwestern tribes and a few from the Onondaga. The postcards (mostly duplicates) illustrate the band's elaborate costumes while holding Western instruments. The program from the Red Star Line shows that the band played American and European concert pieces. As a novelty, the band occasionally played stereotypical songs that did not necessarily properly represent the heritage and diversity of the Native American members' tribe.
    There are two volumes in Box 2. The first volume is a diary of sorts with names of Native American band members, notes pertaining to venues, and financial records from the tour in 1910. There is an index for the second volume and it lists names of band, accounts, postal card account, contracts, transportation, and Hill's pay.
    Cataloger's note: Some of the material in German.

    Separated Material

    Carl Wahler's wicker traveling trunk came with the collection but was discarded per the Curator. The trunk was photographed and can be seen on the Huntington Digital Library  

    Indexing Terms

    Personal Names

    Hill, David Russell
    Wahler, Carl


    Indian musicians
    Indians of North America--New York (State)
    Musical groups
    Onondaga Indians

    Geographic Areas

    Syracuse (N.Y.)


    Business cards
    Business records
    Financial records
    Letters (correspondence)
    Printed ephemera