In June of 1852, a musical group organized in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The group called itself the Independent American Brass Band. Then, in November of that year, the members of this group unanimously agreed to play for the Ringgold Light Artillery, which became the first group to answer President Lincoln's call for volunteers during mobilization for the Civil War. In June of 1853, the Independent American Brass Band changed its name to the Ringgold Artillery Brass Band, attaching itself to the 25th and 99th regiments of the United States army.
In June of 1862, the Ringgold Artillery Brass Band, along with similar regimental bands, was decommissioned by order of the federal government. The city of Reading, however, received widespread recognition for the band's loyal and patriotic service.
In September of 1866, the Ringgold Artillery Brass Band changed its name yet again to the Ringgold Cornet Band. Joseph Winter was elected as director and held the position until the band consolidated with the Germania Band in 1901. At this point, Monroe A. Althouse (pictured below on the left) became the next director of the band. He would eventually become known as Reading's "March King" because of the many marches he composed to commemorate various events or organizations all throughout Berks County. He would serve as the band's director until 1923.
In 1917, the band performed at a World War I rally for Carpenter Steel Co. employees in Reading, Pennsylvania. The picture below on the right depicts employees getting ready to ship out to join the armed forces. You can see the band members, in military-inspired caps and uniforms, behind them.
On March 6th, 1932, John Philip Sousa conducted the last march of his life. Slated to appear as a guest conductor at the Ringgold Band's 80th Anniversary Concert, he rehearsed "The Stars and Stripes Forever" with the band before attending a banquet and retiring to his room in the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading, where he suffered a fatal heart attack. As tribute to the greatest march king of all time, the Ringgold Band still concludes nearly every concert with a rousing rendition of Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
BETWEEN THEN AND NOW
Although the days of Monroe Althouse and John Philip Sousa are far behind, the Ringgold Band has seen many fantastic directors in the years that followed. Each director has helped shape the band, making it what it is today.
Robert Mattern – 1923 - 1924, 1936 - 1943
Eugene Z. Weidner – 1924 - 1936
Fred Cardin – 1936 - 1960
Walter Gier – 1960 - 1980
James Seidel – 1980 - 2018
Charles Ebersole – 2018 - present
Although political and economic times have changed since the band first set down its roots in 1852, its music remains timeless. Audiences of all ages continue to enjoy marches, show tunes, overtures, and more contemporary works by today's talented composers and arrangers.
Today, under the direction of Charles Ebersole, the band maintains dedicated to upholding the time-honored traditions of concert bands while entertaining a variety of audiences. We look forward to growing with you throughout the 21st century!