Brass Bands of Scott County

Nothing says “summertime” like an outdoor concert, and that was as true 125 years ago as it is today. Back then, the music of brass bands filled the summer air, creating a festive soundtrack for community celebrations and events. Brass bands peaked in popularity between the 1850s and early 1900s, a time when new cities and towns were springing up all over the United States. This music brought community members together and helped foster a sense of civic pride. Here in Scott County, nearly every town had its own brass band; below is a brief history of some of these bands:

  • The Valley Cornet Band of Belle Plaine was established in 1890 by Mr. E.E. Chamberlain. As of 1891, they had around 16 members. Aside from brass players, the band also consisted of a couple of drummers and a piccolo player. The band played at a variety of events, including horse races, baseball games, weddings, and parades. According to a quote in the Belle Plaine Herald in 1891, “The members all have good instruments, handsome uniforms to which they have recently added leather music pouches for every player. They are now as fine a musical organization as can be found in the Minnesota Valley and Belle Plaine can justly feel proud of them…”
  • Shakopee was home to the Shakopee Cadet Band, started in 1901 by Hubert Stans (father of Maurice Stans). Like the Valley Cornet Band, the Shakopee Cadet Band performed at local celebrations, parades, fairs, and events. One such event was a street fair in honor of James J. Hill, the railroad tycoon from St. Paul. He gave a speech, and then the band played a song. Afterwards, Hill gave Stans a $50 bill (a lot of money in those days!), which he used to treat his band members.
  • There were several brass bands in Jordan, but the most prominent was led by Al Hagie. Al Hagie was a traveling musician who ended up in Jordan thanks to the Nicolin family. The family (who owned the Nicolin Opera House among numerous other Jordan businesses) wanted to get some better musicians in town, so when Hagie came through with his group, the Nicolin family convinced him to stay. He went on to become the dominant musical figure in Jordan, starting numerous bands and orchestras over the years.
  • The New Prague Cornet Band, also known as the Bohemian Brass Band, was established in 1893 by J.W. Komarek. Like other Scott County brass bands, this band performed at various community celebrations and events. The name “Bohemian Brass Band” alludes to the band’s cultural background; New Prague was primarily settled by immigrants from Bohemia who brought their musical traditions with them. The Bohemian Brass Band existed for a long time and produced a number of talented musicians who went on to perform in other bands and orchestras including Minneapolis and St. Paul Symphony Orchestras and the U.S. Marine Band. The Bohemian Brass Band can still be seen today, in mural form on New Prague’s Main Street.

Of course, brass bands continue to perform at parades and events, so the next time you hear those lively brass melodies, remember that you are hearing music that has long been part of our county’s history.


Valley Cornet Band circa 1891
Valley Cornet Band circa 1891
Shakopee Cadet Band, 1901
Shakopee Cadet Band, 1901
Jordan Cornet Band (Al Hagie is pictured front row, third from right, next to his son)
Jordan Cornet Band (Al Hagie is pictured front row, third from right, next to his son)
Mural of Bohemian Brass Band of New Prague
Mural of Bohemian Brass Band of New Prague


Advertising in the 19th Century

scrofula You know those infomercials that play on the television late at night, advertising products that claim to improve your daily life, or state that they’ll cure any and all illnesses, only if you call within the next five minutes?! Well, before the television and radio, those infomercials were published in newspapers.

This advertisement for Hood’s Sarsaparilla Cures was discovered in a 1895 article from the Belle Plaine Herald. As you can see, the advertisement uses a testimonial from a user of Hood’s Sarsaparilla, as well as a claim that the medicine “cures this and all other forms of scrofula”. The advertisement certainly catches the eye and draws in the audience.

The beginnings of Hood’s Cures had a humble start in Lowell, Massachusetts. Charles Hood, a son of a druggist, formed his own apothecary – C.I. Hood & Co. – in 1875, and offered many  different types of medicines, although sarsaparilla was by far the most popular. Although the ingredients were rarely listed in advertisements such as above, Hood’s Sarsaparilla included sarsaparilla root, dandelion, gentian, juniper berries, and alcohol. For those unaware, sarsaparilla is actually a root used for medicinal purposes – often which it was said to treat gout, gonorrhea, arthritis, cough, fever, indigestion, and more. Some individuals might also recognize sarsaparilla more immediately for its use in root beer.

shak courier mar 14 1888

Some advertisements just speak for themselves. This advertisement for Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Purgative Pellets was found in the March 14, 1888 article in the Shakopee Courier.

Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce studied medicine and graduated from The Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati in 1862. He studied medicine in Titusville, Pennsylvania for four years, and moved to Buffalo, New York in 1867. Not long after, he began manufacturing his own medicinal prescriptions, and created his own World’s Dispensary Building, as well as Pierce’s Palace Hotel in 1878, and the Invalids Hotel and Surgical Institute. In 1883, he founded the World’s Dispensary Medical Association, where he merged all of those buildings together in to one organization.

Most of his medicine focused on aiding “weak” women – not women who were weak emotionally, but rather those who were weak physically from their strenuous lives. Although ingredients were not listed in the advertisements of his medicine, some of the most used ingredients were often alcohol and opium.

shak courier mar 21 1888 Although this advertisement doesn’t have a drawn image attached with it, it still manages to attract the reader. This advertisement was found in a March 21, 1888 article in the Shakopee Courier.

Similar to the medicine noted earlier, Paine’s Celery Compound was created by Edward E. Phelps, M.D., L.L.D., but unlike Hood’s and Pierce’s, Edward Phelps’ medicine was not listed under his name. The prescription created by Edward Phelps was used in prescription books of Milton Kendall Paine, who was a local druggist. The prescription soon after became known as Paine’s Celery Compound.

As you can see, the ingredients in the compound are listed as celery and coca (the coca leaf  is used to produce cocaine, and has been used in Coca Cola). In some reports, it’s said that 21% alcohol, and even heroin, are noted as ingredients. The advertisement states that the compound will act “gently but efficiently”, but with those ingredients listed, it’s certain that this prescription had quite the kick to it!

Just like infomercials, these advertisements – and their many variations – can be found everywhere, particularly in newspapers of the 19th (and 20th) centuries. In newspapers, these advertisements can be found in nearly every other page, or at least found at the end of each newspaper print for the week. It’s very interesting to wonder if individuals from Scott County were convinced by the advertisements and bought some of this medicine themselves!


Presented in Smell-o-Vision!


While looking through a 1959 newspaper for marriage announcements, I came across an 1959 article declaring that “Smell-O-Vision” will be movie theaters’ next innovation. I never could understand the appeal of smelling what I’m watching: sewers in Buffy, horses and people in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, job sites in Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, not to mention the tendency of smells to hang around and mix towards the end of the movie. But, smell-o-vision is coming back, it seems. A 4D version of Batman vs Superman in New York came with smells and there is even a device available that emits scents.

In 1959, smell-o-vision was introduced to keep people coming to movie theaters, which were closing in droves, thought to be because of the availability of television. They had 35 scents in one (and it seems the only) film, The Scent of Mystery: including roses, garlic, banana, a sooty tunnel, and the sea. This wasn’t the only innovation, however, the same 1959 article states that a horror film came with a hypnotist so the audience would “experience horrors first-hand through the power of suggestion,” not something I’d be interested in! The only problem the theaters anticipated: a lack of good new films to show!


Original Device from

As you can imagine, this never quite took off, and who knows if our current reintroduction of the idea will fare any better. One article tells of a Japanese invention where the smells are released directly through the monitor, and only from the pixels of the source of the smell!  It currently can only produce one scent (until the cartridge or capsule of scent is changed), but who knows how many scents might be available, or how large and expensive these cartridges may be?

You never know what you’ll find when looking through Scott County Historical Society’s collections!

Smell-o-Vision image: from

First blog post

The Scott County Historical Society (SCHS) has tons of stories, images, and “stuff” to share.  We figure one of the best ways of sharing is through a blog.  With this first post, we thought we’d tell you a little bit about ourselves.

We are located in a really cool museum that has four exhibit galleries (really, five if you include the front atrium); research library; amazing programs; extensive collection; museum store; plus great staff!

Exhibit galleries:


Main gallery: Currently on display (through Sept 2018) “Wish You Were Here: Tourism in Scott County“.  Sit in the High Roller rollercoaster car – shoot cans in the shooting gallery – try on Renaissance clothing & hats – see if you’re tall enough to be a jockey – smell some amazing & horrible aromatics & more.  The gallery theme changes approximately every 12 to 18 months.

20170119_093100Center Hall gallery: Currently on display (through May 2017) “The Minnesota River“.  Listen to riverboat horns, river songs – check out how ice was cut for use in ice boxes – discover all the ferry landings along the Scott County border – cool images too!  This gallery theme changes approximately every 6 to 8 months.  Coming in June: “Over There & At Home: Scott County in World War I

20170302_094725East Gallery: Currently on display “Maurice Stans: From Shakopee to the White House“.  Learn what it took for a geeky kid from a small town to make it as a U.S. Cabinet member.  From his Grandfather’s brewery to Watergate – it’s all covered here.

20170302_095151West Gallery: Currently on display “The Dakota in Scott County“.  Learn the history of the Native American residents of Scott County from pre-contact to today.  This gallery is a little thin right now.  Given funding, we hope to add a large, immersive and hands-on bark lodge to the gallery.

Research Library:

We’ve got what you need to dig up your ancestors (well, not literally).  Our resources are fantastic – from a surname index, to plat maps, to census records, to every newspaper every printed in the county on microfilm, to reference books.  Oh yeah, did I mention we are a Family Search affiliate library (meaning, you can order a microfilm from them and have it sent to us – where you can view it to your hearts desire).  There are two digital microfilm readers and two analog ones, plus we’ve got Wi-Fi and an amazing library volunteer that is eager to help you in your search.


  • Kids Kraft: offered FREE the last Saturday of each month (except December, June, July, Aug).  The program introduces children to museums, supports literacy and provTrin4th-8-filtererdides a wonderful opportunity for great family fun!
  • K-8 Education: programs meet MN Standards for Teaching benchmarks, are hands-on, include pre – post-activities, can be delivered onsite at the museum or school, include history-related activities and teacher resources.
  • Talks & Presentations: offered on a monthly basis, from Heirloom Gardens, to African-Americans in Scott County to researching your house history, we bring in authors and experts to discuss a wide range of topics tied to history and relevant to today.
  • Summer Library Programs: offered throughout the summer we bring a little history and a craft to each library where kids and adults can learn a bit about our local history.
  • Special events: offered whenever possible – such as: Spring Break Week – drop-in activities for kids; Youth Archaeology workshops; Women’s March & MCCL Rally story gathering; Winter Holiday Festival (and bake sale – yum!); to hand-craft workshops.
  • DSC00966Internships: offered primarily in the summer we provide opportunities for college students to receive hands-on experience in research, exhibit development, education delivery and more.  Students receive a great introduction to the field of local history and non-profit work, as well as help them build contacts and personal interests.
  • All Things Minnesota Book Club: meets at 3pm the third Thursday of each month for discussions of books written by MN Authors or about Minnesota.
  • Scott County Crazy Quilters: meet at 6pm the fourth Thursday of each month to share expertise and projects – all hand-crafters are welcome.


Over 20,000 items are logged into our collections catalogue with more being added everyday. We maintain the collection according to museum best practices (which means they are… stored in archival quality materials, in temperature – humidity – light controlled environments, and are accessible to the public).  Our catalogue is also searchable on our website.  We continually accept items for the collection as long as they meet our policies – the items must be related to Scott County and fill a need in the collection.  In other words, we cannot accept old newspapers or your Mom’s wedding dress (unless the dress is from an era we haven’t already got covered).  When in doubt, call us… before pitching your old stuff, call us (952-445-0378).

We are excited to begin an inventory of over 40,000 photographic items by local photographer, Leroy Lebens.  Thanks to a Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Grant (Legacy Grant), we hired two full-time, temporary curatorial assistants to work exclusively on this project.  I’m sure you’ll see more on this blog related to this.

Museum Store:

store-croppedOkay – so the store is a bit tiny – but the items in it are great!  You can pick up some very unique items here, include flour sack aprons, books on local history, fridge magnets, postcards, crazy quilt starter and more.  Hey, give us suggestions for items you’d like to see in the store!

Oooo – did I mention there’s a Kerig and comfy chairs in the store too?