The Columbian Trio
[Editor’s note: Through many years of collecting, one consistent thing has been that advertising postcards offer some of the most humanistic, interesting, and potentially educational history lessons. Stories such as this one of the Columbian Trio Concert Company would have long ago been forgotten or at least languished in old Ohio newspapers and would seldom, if ever, been read again. Postcards change that!]
The cards that have brought this concert trio to the attention of Postcard History have no publisher’s mark but from experience they can be identified from the postcard apparatus as coming from the Rose Company of Philadelphia.
The two cards in our possession clearly identify the work the trio planned for their fifteenth and sixteenth seasons. It is only a guess, but some arithmetical calculation would result in an estimate that the cards come from 1908 and 1909.
The cards are great, but the stories of the advertising claims and the events they advertise come from newspapers of the era. A rather casual search of a newspaper archive has produced literally dozens of articles about the Columbian Trio. The oldest of which comes from an Illinois newspaper published in September 1908. A rather interesting article from just a few months later follows:
From The Arcanum Times (Ohio) Thursday, January 9, 1909: The Columbian Trio Concert Company consists of Alva C. Fehrman, violin virtuoso, baritone, and whistler; Charles J. Myers, flute soloist, pianist, and tenor; B. F. William, tenor soloist, humorist, and piano accompanist. These celebrated musicians received their education and musical training at the Ohio Institution for the Blind at Columbus and have traveled together for fourteen years under the name of the Blind Trio Concert Company. They have given over 3,500 concerts in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Their repertoire embraces over 300 vocal and instrumental selections, ranging from the popular of the day to the classic works of the masters, which makes the audiences cry with laughter and last of all the old-time melodies which never fail to touch the most hard-hearted.
The Columbian Trio Concert Company is a fine blend of voices, all the members are artists in their own line, and depend entirely upon their ability to render good music in an artistic manner. The greatest solo voice in the world if out of harmony with the other two would be ruinous to an organization of this nature. Hard work has crowned their efforts with success and thus the trio is greeted everywhere with a gladhand which denotes popularity. Their programs have the special merit of variety consisting of solos, duets, and trios that always please. The trio, assisted by their manager, also give several well selected vocal quartet numbers at each concert.
[Note: there is a sentence in the first paragraph that mentions their working together for 14 years. This seems unlikely since Myers was born in 1872 and would have been only 13 years old in 1885. The following clipping comes from twenty years later and mentions that the trio had been touring the country for 36 years, which would set a starting date of 1893, a much more “believable” date.]
From Sidney (Ohio) Daily News, Monday, October 21, 1929.
The members of this party are blind and for thirty-six years … have been touring the U.S. from east to west and north to south bringing inspiration and spiritual uplift. There is a finish and charm about their work that brings delight. Their sunny disposition, their joy in living, their delight in giving pleasure to others, their remarkable musical ability combines to make an evening never to be forgotten.
It is truly remarkable what delightful evenings of music these men present.
Of the articles available online, most are of the same caliber, each offering high praise of their musical talent and the promise of an unforgettable evening of entertainment if you attend the concert.
The three principals were Alva C. Fuhrman (1868-1955), violin. Alva married the daughter of a concert sponsor in 1909. He achieved world renown as a violin soloist with several major orchestras, including the Cleveland Symphony.
Charles John Myers (1873-1941), flutist and tenor with a three-octave range married his wife Laura when she was 39 and he was 34. The couple lived on West Buckeye Street in West Salem, Ohio, and for many years the third member of the trio, Benjamin F. Williams (born 1871) who never married, lived with them.