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Barbara Blaford’s Cornet and Papers Newly Acquired

Old black and white photos showing Barbara Blaford, Aunt Helen, and Uncle Elbert, all holding cornets, with a photo of Elbert's WWI band below.

Barbara Blaford, seated; Helen and Elbert Blaisdel; Elbert Blaisdel during WWI.

We recently acquired the Barbara Blaford Papers and Music Instruments which feature a beautiful ca. 1911 C.G. Conn “New Invention Model” cornet. The instrument is not only interesting in its own right, but also carries with it the memories and history of an entire local family who loved playing the cornet, as well as the Urbana High School Band program. The collection illustrates Barbara Blaford’s life, and also her aunt’s, Helen Blaisdel, and uncle’s, Elbert Blaisdel. Barbara’s family was originally from Allerton, IL, but moved to Urbana when she was a child.

The Conn cornet accompanied her uncle, Elbert, in his service during WWI, and features in many of the photographs taken of Elbert and Helen posing with their instruments together. As a child, Barbara was inspired by her aunt Helen’s cornet playing, and wanted to learn the instrument herself. When she joined the Urbana High School Marching band, she was its only female brass player. The band went to state and regional competitions, and after high school, Barbara continued to play the cornet—first in an all-girls dance band, and then throughout her life for her own and her family’s enjoyment.

Now the Conn cornet, a 1938 Buescher “Aristocrat Model” Cornet in Bb, and accompanying letters, photographs, and newspaper clippings can be found here at the Sousa Archives. We would like to especially thank Bonnie Blaford for the gift of the collection, and current Urbana High School Band Director Darren Hicks, who provided information about the Urbana High School band program. For further information, check out the finding aid here. We look forward to sharing this piece of local band history with you!

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