Historical Highlights of the Ringgold Band
The Ringgold Band didn’t settle on its current name right away. Here are some noteworthy dates that define the journey:
June 28, 1852 – A musical group organizes under the name Independent American Brass Band of Reading, in Berks County, PA.
November 1852 – Band members unanimously agree to play for the Ringgold Light Artillery (a military company that would become the first to answer President Lincoln’s call for volunteers during mobilization for the Civil War).
June 1853 – The Independent American Brass Band changes its name to the Ringgold Artillery Brass Band and becomes attached to the U.S. Army’s 25th and 99th regiments.
June 21, 1862 – Ringgold Artillery Brass Band, along with other regimental bands, is mustered out by order of the federal government. The City of Reading receives widespread recognition for the band’s loyal and patriotic service.
September 1866 – The Ringgold Artillery Brass Band is incorporated under the name Ringgold Cornet Band. Joseph Winter is elected leader and holds that position until 1901, when the band consolidates with the Germania Band.
1917 (photo at right) – The band provides fitting music at a World War I rally for employees of the Carpenter Steel Co. of Reading, PA. This row of employees is getting ready to ship out for the armed forces. Band members, in military-style caps and uniforms, peer out from behind the business-suited recruits.
1901-1923 – Monroe A. Althouse (pictured) is the next leader of the Ringgold Cornet Band. He would eventually become known as Reading’s “March King” because of the marches he crafted to commemorate special occasions or organizations throughout Berks County. [Today, Ringgold Band opens each concert with an Althouse march – our way of honoring his musical legacy.]
March 6, 1932 – Renowned “March King” John Philip Sousa conducts the last march of his life. Slated to appear as guest conductor at the Ringgold Band’s 80th Anniversary Concert, Sousa rehearses the band in one of his best-known marches, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Later that day, he attends a banquet and poses for this photo with Ringgold Band director Eugene Weidner (Sousa’s on the right). After dinner, Sousa retires to his room at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading and suffers a fatal heart attack. As a tribute to the late, great March King, the Ringgold Band concludes nearly every concert with a rousing rendition of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Who led the band over the years? These talented directors provided leadership to the Ringgold Band throughout the 20th century, an exciting period in U.S. history that included world wars, the Great Depression, the space race and the dawn of the computer age:
Robert Mattern – 1923-1924, 1936-1943
Eugene Z. Weidner – 1924-1936
Fred Cardin – 1936-1960
Walter Gier – 1960-1980
James S. Seidel – 1980-present
Although economic and political times have changed since the band first put down roots in 1852, enjoyable music remains timeless. Audiences of all ages continue to enjoy marches, old chestnuts, Broadway medleys, and other contemporary works by talented composers and arrangers.
Today, under the direction of James Seidel, the band maintains its dedication to upholding the time-honored traditions of concert band music, as well as providing music to satisfy any audience. We look forward to continuing to grow with you – both musically and geographically – throughout the 21st century.