Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Joseph Bruhl Territory Band Collection

Collection ID:
Bruhl, Joseph R., 1909-
Physical Description:
1.33 Cubic feet
3 boxes
The collection primarily consists of photographs and a scrapbook documenting Joseph Bruhl's experiences playing with territory bands from the early 1920s through the late 1930s. There are also some materials that relate to his personal life.

Scope and Contents note
Scope and Contents note
This collection is organized into two series. Series One contains personal papers, and Series Two contains scrapbooks. Bruhl's personal papers consist of official documents, such as his high school diploma, United States Armed Services discharge notice, a notarized certification of birth, and the Bruhls' death certificates. Other personal papers include his correspondence, his writings, publicity materials promoting him, and photographs of Bruhl pictured in various stages of his long career. The scrapbook series includes two scrapbooks, one featuring Bruhl's wedding and honeymoon, and the second, larger book documenting Bruhl's travels as a territory band musician.
Bruhl's wedding scrapbook contains records of his 1929 marriage to Vera Bruhl, née Halsted. The scrapbook also includes photographs, postcards and brochures from their honeymoon, as well as several letters and telegrams of congratulation from the Bruhls' family and friends.
Bruhl's territory band scrapbook contains numerous photographs dating to the 1920s and 1930s, including many captioned snapshots of small-town main streets, roadways and local attractions as well as of the musicians and their friends. Accompanying these photographs in the scrapbook are performance billings and posters, letters of recommendation, newspaper clippings, women's dance cards, association and labor union cards, business cards, menus, and radio broadcast schedules. Items appear in the scrapbook roughly chronologically and were grouped and annotated by Bruhl, reflecting his membership in a series of territory bands.

The collection is arranged into two series.
Series 1: Personal Papers, 1922-1980, undated
Series 2: Scrapbooks, 1925-1938, undated

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
Joseph Robert Bruhl (December 7, 1909-October 11, 1980) was born in Plattsmouth, Nebraska and attended Mitchell High School in Lincoln, Nebraska. From the time of his first engagement to play piano at local radio station WMAH at the age of twelve, Joseph Bruhl immersed himself in music. Bruhl played in local bands, and after two years in college decided to become a professional musician. Proficient with the banjo, guitar, and piano, Bruhl traveled from the mid-1920s until the late-1930s with what were then popularly known as "territory bands." Such bands journeyed to various locales within a fixed geographic range to play for local events. Bruhl's early engagements spanned Nebraska, Wyoming, and the Dakotas, where he accompanied a series of traveling orchestras to play in ballrooms, theaters, and at other local celebrations. Such travels required long trips over unpaved roads and necessitated the acquisition of transfer passes from the Lincoln chapter of the American Federation of Musicians (Local # 463), of which Bruhl was a member. From the beginning of his career as a full-time musician, Bruhl avidly collected and preserved performance billings and other memorabilia from his travels.
From 1927 on, Bruhl's performances reached listeners across the West and Midwest on several early radio stations, including WNAX, WOW, KGHL, KFAB, and KFSO. In 1929, Bruhl married Vera Halsted, while he continued to build his career as a musician traveling with various bands. Stints playing with orchestras led by Russ Henegar and Milt Askew in the late 1920s and early 1930s preceded Bruhl's 1934 move to the San Francisco Bay area. From there he assumed his most prominent role as the piano player in Joaquin Grill's Orchestra (1935-1939). With Grill and company, Bruhl traveled even more widely, reaching as far as Lake Tahoe and several southwestern states in 1937 and 1938.
Drafted during World War II, Bruhl became the leader of an Army band unit. After the war, he returned to broadcast radio. Bruhl eventually settled in San Leandro, California, where he opened and operated a successful Fender franchise guitar school and music store in the 1950s and 1960s.

Kimberley Braun
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to the Archives Center in 2004 by Joseph Bruhl's nephew George M. Bruhl.
Processing Information
Processed by Kimberley Braun, intern, 2005; supervised by Vanessa Broussard-Simmons, archivist.

Using the Collection
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Restrictions on Access
The collection is open for research. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
Preferred Citation
Joseph Bruhl Territory Band Collection, 1925-1938, Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Gift of George M. Bruhl.

Related Materials
Materials in the Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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Helen May Butler Collection NMAH.AC.0261
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm Collection NMAH.AC.1218
Virgil Whyte's "All-Girl" Band CollectionNMAH.AC.0503
Henry S. Bukowski Big Band Collection NMAH.AC.0678
Jazz and Big Band Collection NMAH.AC.1388

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Weddings Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks -- 1900-1950 Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Posters -- 20th century Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- 1900-1950 Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Musicians -- 20th century Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Menus Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bands (Music) -- 1930-1940 Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bands (Music) -- 1920-1930 Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Letters (correspondence) -- 20th century. Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Military discharge -- United States Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012