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Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, 1103 S. Sixth Street, Champaign
Sousa Archives and Center for American Music
Like most musicians and music ensembles that toured throughout the United States at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Sousa Band traveled over 1,272,000 miles by railroad. Before the age of the inexpensive automobiles and the development of America’s interstate road system, reliable and efficient long-distance transportation between cities and states was only possible by rail. Train travel also had its downside which often included delays brought about by mechanical failures and accidents associated with collisions, derailments, locomotive boiler explosions, and bridge collapses. When Otto Mesloh performed with the Sousa Band between 1898 and 1899 he travelled extensively throughout the Northeast and Midwest, and his rail experiences were always positive. After leaving the band in 1899 Mesloh took a position as the lead cornetist with the Elite Musical Four and travelled extensively by train to perform numerous concerts in New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City. This exhibit briefly highlights Otto Mesloh’s career with the John Philip Sousa Band and the Elite Musical Four, and graphically describes the 1906 train wreck that nearly took his life.