The Midget Band

"Martin Marching Band"
Edward Napier Martin, Anabel McCall Martin, and chlidren Estil Edwin, Edward Napier, Jefferson, Anna Marie, Edward McCall, Geneva, Thelma. In Florida.

This photograph is from my grandmother, Fannie Turner Graham’s album. On the back, my mother wrote “Cousins on mother’s side Annie Bell is first cousin (see her & husband on left – rest are their children!)” 

Until yesterday, I never found any information about the family band. Today I want to share two articles and what I learned from them about the family. Anna Belle is variously known as “Annie Belle”, “Anabel” and “Anna Belle”.

The Emancipator was published by James Edward McCall, Anna Belle’s brother, in Montgomery, Alabama from October 1917 to August 1920. While looking for the name “Martin” in The Emancipator, I found this item –

“Mr. and Mrs. E.M. Martin and their Midget and arrived in the city Sunday night en-route from Florida to Kentucky making the trip by road in their motor car.”

A mention of the band!   I also found when the family moved from Florida to Kentucky and that they traveled in their own car.  Next, I searched for “Midget Band”. Several articles come up, all in The Emancipator. The best was the one below, which included a photograph of the family. One thing that disturbs me about both photos is the forlorn look of all the children. Why don’t the boys in the photo below have on shoes? A barefoot marching band? Were they getting enough to eat?

In the article I found that their son, Edward McCall Martin  was born in Alabama because his father was teaching there. The article says that Edward Napier Martin had taught at the State Normal School six years before. That was the year young Edward was born – 1913.  All of the other children were born in Tennessee or Kentucky, while Edward McCall Martin was consistently listed as born in Alabama. I wondered why and how. Now I know.

Sat, Jul 5, 1919 – 7 · The Emancipator (Montgomery, Alabama) ·

“The musical, social and intellectual circles of the city are congratulating themselves upon the appearance of one of the most unique and highly interesting musical organizations that has ever visited Montgomery, namely Prof E.N. Martin’s Band which is composed almost entirely of midget musicians, the youngest being only three years old. It is the musical miracle of the age.

Prof. Martin, who six years ago was one of the teachers at the local Normal School, is a band master of rarest ability. He is accompanied by his wife who was formerly Miss Anabel McCall of this city, and their seven children ranging in age from three to eleven years. they are all trained musician and read notes at sight. They carry with them a brass band septette and two drums and is a revelation to listen to their music. Their director is only four years old and is a wonder. They are in the concert work and are already booked for a number of engagements in this city.

Prof. Martin’s Band carries with it many strong endorsements from some of the prominent citizens and musicians of our country. For example, Bishop Laine, founder of Laine College at Jackson, Tenn., says of them:- “I have never seen anything like this in my life, and in it I see the finest lessons in home-training that has ever come to my notice, and I have traveled all over this country.

While the band was giving an open air concert in Montgomery, some one asked of their nationality, whereupon Dr. M.B. Kirkpatrick who has offices are in the Bell Building, said “It matters not about their nationality. Just listen to the music.  It is the sweetest I have ever heard.”

They carry souvenirs from musicians of note, such as Sousa’s Band, Hawaiian Singers and others, who testify as to their talent and efficiency as musicians. Visit some of their concerts and be convinced.

Prof. Martin is a traveling representative for the Emancipator, the South’s leading Negro newspaper, which is being read all over America. This wonderful band will be in Montgomery for the next three weeks and churches or individuals wishing to have them fill engagements in near-by towns should write to Prof. E.N. Martin, 336 S. Jackson St., Montgomery, Ala. or in the care of the Emancipator.”

Other Posts about this family.

Oh, Dry Those Tears

Police Surprised “Uncle Ed”

More About Annabell’s Family

Click for more Sepia Saturday posts.

20 thoughts on “The Midget Band

  1. Just wonderful that you discovered this information on the band — and a ringing endorsement of newspaper research to unearth family history details! I think perhaps the boys may have preferred being barefoot in the grass — as may all of the children, since we can’t really see everyone’s feet.

    1. Maybe they did prefer to be barefoot, it just seemed odd for a publicity/newspaper photo. And newspaper research is wonderful, especially as more papers come online.

  2. Oh what a great find, and a couple of photos too! For a family to support itself with musical talent is such a commendable pursuit, but a strain on the members to be on the road all the time. Traveling with all that family, and instruments in a car must have also been quite a trick!

  3. Great find! They must have started their musical training as soon as they could sit upright!😊

  4. That first photo would have been perfect for the theme of a few weeks back too.(SS#400). It’s a shame none of them look happy in that line up, but hopefully they enjoyed playing their music. Great find!

    1. I know! I used it several years ago and then when I found the follow up newspaper article, I decided to bring it back, even if the prompt wasn’t a perfect fit.

  5. I had to look twice to make sure this wasn’t Mr Mike’s post. Ha ha! I enjoyed reading the story. What high praise they enjoyed even if they looked forlorn.

  6. They must have been fantastically well organized to travel about with the kids and instruments and music! The four-year-old must have been the conductor? I wonder any of them went on to pursue musical careers on their own.

  7. What got me was the parents with the smaller instruments and the kids with those big honkin’ things. Kind’a lopsided. Should have been the other way round. 🙂

  8. I always like it when I can tie an image with newspapers of the time, it helps to fill out the details that aren’t immediately obvious and gives depth to any associated story. Research well done, fascinating story.

  9. Bravo! I know that excitement when you discover a photo in a newspaper! Their lack of shoes is odd, but given the number of children, it may have been just the never ending struggle to keep growing kids shod. I have lots of similar family bands but few are as many as seven or so close in age. The term “midget” is unusual for a children’s group. I’ve only seen it used for circus sideshow bands of unrelated short people.

    The Martin’s must have worked very hard to train so many children and make any money. Certainly they had a lot of competition from professional adult entertainers and even larger orphanage/school bands too. Their simple white sailor uniforms makes me think they found a niche playing for tourists and maybe small town churches and county fairs. The trouble is that children grow up and the novelty wears off as their cuteness diminishes.

    1. Since I found this on, I have found several other news stories that fill in more details. Not very happy ones, i’m afraid. They were later known as the “Martino Famiy Band”

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