North American Indian Concert Band archive

Finding aid prepared by Gina C Giang.
Manuscripts Department
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2203
Fax: (626) 449-5720
© 2016
The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.

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
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

Box 1

Business cards-Ships' passenger list

Folder 1

Business cards

23 items
Folder 2

Contract and agreement (1910, May 2)

Between Carl Wahler and David Russell Hill. Included: Undated purchase agreement concerning Michael Eberhart's sale of his store in Leborn. 2 item
Folder 3

Contracts returned (1910, Apr. 21)

List of engagements in various cities on various dates and accompanying earnings. Also, handwritten copy of a contract for concerts at Mannheimer Rosengarten
Folder 4

Correspondence--Bureau fuer Buehnenangelegenheiten [Office for Theater Affairs] (1910)

2 items
Folder 5

Correspondence--Garte, Carl (1910)

3 items
Folder 6

Correspondence--Greene, Romeo J. (1910-1913)

3 items
Folder 7

Correspondence--Grazer Herbtsmeese [Graz Fall Fair] (1910, Aug. 4)

1 item
Folder 8

Correspondence--Hill, David Russell (1910-1938)

12 items
Folder 9

Correspondence--Konzert - Bureau Emil Gutmann (1909-1910)

20 items
Folder 10

Correspondence--Mayor's office, Darmstadt (1910, [Aug.?] 31

Folder 11

Correspondence--Osterwind's International Artist and Concert Agency (1910, Aug. 16)

In this letter, writer requests that, when Wahler returns to the U.S., to find two small ensembles of "4-5 blacks, perhaps including a woman," who played folk and string music a la Kentucky - who are humoristic while also making halfway decent music
Folder 12

Correspondence--Passenger Department (1910, July 8)

1 item
Folder 13

Correspondence--Sculmann, Netty (1921, Nov. 8)

1 item
Folder 14

Correspondence--Wahler, Arthur (1910-1912)

8 items
Folder 15

Correspondence--Wahler, Eddie (1910-1911)

4 items
Folder 16

Correspondence--Wieneke Brothers (1910, June 22)

Letter of recommendation
Folder 17

Correspondence--Williams, Levi G. (1912, Apr. 10)

1 item
Folder 18

Correspondence--[Sara?] (1910)

1 item
Folder 19

Empty envelopes

9 items
Folder 20

Financial records (1910-1913)

20 items
Folder 21

[List of band members] [1910]

1 item
Folder 22

Memorandum--E. Tausinger (1910, Aug. 24)

Folder 23

Miscellaneous printed matter

6 items
Folder 24

Passport--Carl Wahler (1915)

1 item
Folder 25

Photograph--Band members [1910]

Included: Newspaper clippings. 3 items
Folder 26

Photographs--Carl Wahler (1882-1895)

Folder 27

Photograph--Carl Wahler and David Russell Hill (1910)

1 item
Folder 28

Postcards (1910)

One postcard from Ludwig Freitag, an artist and concert agent for the province of Saxony. The other postcard is from Rudolf Dosz, a theater agent of R. Dosz. & Company
Folder 29

Postcards (blank) [undated]

60 items
Folder 30

Program (document)--Red Star Line (1910, June 10)

1 item
Folder 31

Ships' passenger list--Red Star Line (1910)

1 item
Box 2

Volumes-Cultural artifacts

Folder 1

Volume 1 (1910)

Folder 2

Volume 2 [1910]

Folder 3

Cultural artifacts

Beaded bracelet and necklace