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Silver Helicon Band

When you have as many photos to choose from as we do, it is rather hard to choose a favorite. I think, for me, it is probably more like my current favorite. However, this c. 1875 photo of H.P. Seavy and the Silver Helicon Band has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it even though I had no idea of what I was seeing.

David White showed me this image after scanning it a while ago. We knew it was a band because of the instruments. Other than that we had no information on the image. Clearly, it pre-dated the Orman Studio (as many of our photos do) and we could make a guess on the period from the type of negative and the clothing worn by the gentlemen in the photograph. Yet, that was all we had.

I have been doing research on Columbia’s history for several years now and I read anything that I can get my hands on in my spare time. That is what lead me to discover the background for this amazing photo. I was doing research on photographers that worked in Columbia dating back to the 1860’s and I ran across an advertisement for H. P. Seavy from 1869. I did some digging to find a Census and ran across an article in a Nashville newspaper about Mr. Seavy visiting the city for a musical show. The writer of the piece remarked that Mr. Seavy would know good music as he has his own Silver Helicon Band in Columbia. David and I were working on a photo shoot and I told him what I had learned. He asked if perhaps that was the band in the photo he had shown me. Honestly, I had not put the two together, but that made perfect sense.

So, I began to dig further. Soon I had pieced together a timeline for the Silver Helicon Band and identified that the instruments in our photo were helicon. More than that, H. P. Seavy was holding a helicon cornet, which is where he derived the name for the band. This photo was really starting to come to life. The careful staging of the band and H. P. standing in the foreground implied the experienced hand of a professional photographer. We began to believe that, not only did Seavy set the pose for the image, but also took the image too.

Since then, I have discovered the names of all 15 members of the band. However, we have yet to put the names with the faces. For this we will need the help of relatives of these men and we invite anyone that may have a family connection to come to the gallery so we can reach this goal. So many of you have already helped us identify people in our photos and brought in family photos to share your history that we are certain that someday soon we’ll be able to know the real Columbia Silver Helicon Band. Is your family here?

H.P. Seavy (leader), J. M. Hunter, Frank Cox, Bruce Pickens, Dr. W. C. Sheppard, Lynch Perry, J. P. White, Ed. Phillips, John Gartner, Thos. Langford, E. Yoest, Geo. Dooley, Dr. J. P. Herndon, W. N. Wilson, Stev. Herndon, Major White