Hartís Girl Band had its beginnings with a Hicksville jeweler, Mr. O. V. Hart, who in 1915 gathered five of his music students together to share in good musicianship. As the band added more instruments and musicians, its reputation for excellence spread to surrounding counties. With World War I depleting the ranks of Hartís highly respected Boy Band, the burgeoning All-Girl Band aptly filled the void. Successful street concerts led to requests to ballyhoo area fairs, because Hartís Girl Band always drew a crowd. 1918 marked their first annual tour.
By 1921, twenty-four band members were making yearly tours into different regions of the United States, eventually traveling in a special B & O coach with the bandís name on the side. Musicians earned $40 a week beyond expenses, and held membership in the American Federation of Musicians. Sometimes billed as the Scottish Lassies or the Ohio All Girl Band, they were advertised as being the countryís first (and some say only) traveling professional all girl band.
During their heyday in the 1920ís, Hartís girls crisscrossed Americaís south, plains, midwest, and Atlantic regions, as well as Canadaís Maritime Provinces. Their venues included state fairs, conventions, Vaudeville theatres, and Murphyís Circus, where they accompanied the acts. Among their stops were New York, Chicago, South Dakotaís Corn Palace, and Atlantic City. Their ten weeks on the Boardwalk of Atlantic City (pictured above) were highlighted by performances for President Woodrow Wilson and members of the Paul Whiteman band.
We can only guess at the impact Hartís Girl Band had on their far-flung audiences. In northwest Ohio, they paved the way for countless other groups and set a high standard of musicianship that lasted for generations. With their disciplined delivery of the classics and much vaunted presentation of popular music, the band won over listeners, often times changing the way they thought about music and female musicians.
The following letters and news accounts came from band leader Hartís daughter, Edith Hart Smith, who kept a scrapbook of band memorabilia.
Excerpted Letters from Band Member Lelah MohleyóAugust 1920
We left Clarion, Iowa Sunday at 9:30 and got into this town at 1:00. This is sure a swell hotel. We had a nice room and plenty to eat. We went around and advertised the fair at Strawberry Point. We are going out to the mountains tomorrow and Friday to the Mississippi River. Went up in an airplane the other day and looped the loop and did the nose dive. People out here never saw a girlsí band before and treat you like a queen. There are surely good people out here and they take us all over to see the sights. Well, I guess I had better quit as we have to be in bed every night at 8 bells. Hurry up and write and tell me a little news from home.
I am going to send you one of the plants we took out of the great ice cave today. We went in and broke some of the ice off and found these growing there where you almost freeze if you stay in there ten minutes. Another great sight was the greatest and most beautiful Catholic Church in the United States. It was all finished in 18K gold and mahogany. The church cost $300,000 but the people are very wealthy around here and donít think anything of that.
News Accounts of Hartís Girl Band:
Excerpt from The Iowa Daily Record
The many hundreds of people who braved the disagreeable weather to attend the musical concert at the Fairgrounds presented by Hartís All Girl Band were given a treat they will not soon forget. Well used to music of a high class, the fondest expectations were fulfilled in this organization, which for more than an hour gave an entertainment that critics say is the best ever heard at the Fairgrounds.
The concert given was a combination of sacred and classical numbers from the worldís best composers. Though weary from travel, the musicians stamped themselves as an organization of artists who will compare with the best in the land.
Uncredited News Article
It was at the eleventh hour that Secretary Baily of the Fair Association succeeded in securing the services of this unique and well balanced organization. The band which is composed of 25 girls from a college [sic] in Hicksville, Ohio and led by Prof. O. V. Hart of the same school, supported well the standard set by the 168th infantry band.
While the numbers rendered by the girlsí band were of the lighter and more popular variety, they were well received and the players enthusiastically applauded for their efforts. Following their part in the concert Sunday afternoon, the Hart girls began to play the week days on the midway in the automobile building and in the large dance pavilion.
The girls of the Hart band, all natives of the small city in which their college [sic] is situated, range in age from fourteen to twenty-two years. They are now playing their first concert tour which is in its fifth week. Already the young lady players are destined to rank with the best in America.
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