Excerpts from
The Journal of August Wetterman
"Memoir of A Gold Rush Bandmaster"
Compiled, Edited and Annotated by Kenneth Brungess

In 1850 I studied at the musical conservatory at Stockholm. One day pondering over my lesson, I heard a tap at the door and said, "come in." There were two gentlemen, to me perfect strangers. One was from the King=92s Theatre Orchestra, the other from the King=92s First Guards. The latter asked me if I would like to go to California and if I had seen the advertisement from Captain Norman that he wished to have a band of about six musicians to go with h im to San Francisco. We were told that the musicians were very scarce in San Francisco and that if we were a good band, we would do a good busines s.

So it was agreed that we should come again the next day with the other members and with our instruments. And we indeed surprised him as we gav e three different kinds of instrumentations, stringed-orchestra, reed-ban d and brass and music. The captain was very much pleased and it was agree d we should meet him in the city of Sundswall, where his brig was built a nd loaded with copper, iron, plank, etc.

The voyage across the North Sea was something terrible; It took us a f ortnight to reach Cowes, Isle of Wight, where the brig was coppered. Dur ing the two weeks we stayed at Cowes we gave two evening concerts and one morning concert (matinee); and at the matinee, the Duchess of Wellington was present. We finished with "God save the queen," using bras s instruments. [When] the whole audience stood up at the "fine" ; the duchess came up to the orchestra, followed by some of the audience, and thanked us for the music. We were asked if we had any books such as artists used for signatures of names for recommend-ations. We had none s o the duchess gave us some of her cards.

n the [Atlantic] ocean we had the very best time, as the weather for t he most part was terrific, with a smart breeze. We spent the time, rehea rsing, promenading the deck, etc. On some of our daily tramps on the deck , our solo violinist would say: "Wetterman, when we come to San Fran cisco and are strolling on the streets as we are on the deck now, you may be sure that we will stumble up against a lump of gold as big as our anc hor."

earing Valparaiso [Chile], the vessel had a new coat of paint and was in the very best of trim when we arrived there. We had been only seventy- four days coming from Cowes, the fastest trip on record at that time. Va lparaiso has no harbor, so we anchored in the ocean not far from shore. W e had for a neighbor a very large English Man-of-War ship with 500 men an d a splendid band. In the evenings we played alternately. One day we tol d the captain we would like to go on board the English Man-of-War, which lay at anchor close to us. He gave us permission and two of our sailors t ook us to the big ship; but the officer of the day would not allow us to board the ship. We felt kind of sad about it, so one of the bandmen said: "Send up the cards the Duchess of Wellington gave us." That wa s done and we were well received and an officer kindly showed us all arou nd the ship and the band played for us.

ext day, April 2nd, 1851, we passed through the Golden Gate , passed the Fort Point, the Presidio, with a few huts and little houses along the now [1921] northern part of the city; also a small number of te nts on Telegraph Hill. In the bay from the east side of San Francisco to Oakland were hundreds of ships of all descriptions, very few of which had a man aboard, as captains and crews had all left for the mines. Many ves sels were loaded and had to remain so on account of scarcity of hands to work them.

ne of the captain=92s friends, Mr. Qvillfeldt, who was formerly an off icer in the Swedish army, invited the band for lunch the next day at twel ve o=92 clock. We took our music and instruments along as the gentleman had kindly offered to find a good hotel for us. The lunch was most excell ent; and among the many good things we had bearsteak. Oh! It was just fin e. At the lunch was present an American Gentleman, Mr. Stevenson, proprie tor of the California Exchange on the northeast corner of Kearny and Clay streets. After hearing us play, he engaged us right away for his concert hall, to begin the same day, offering us sixteen dollars apiece per man. This being the time Jenny Lind has so successfully appeared in the Easte rn States, everything began to be called by her name; such as Jenny Lind hat, cake, drink, etc., and we being her countrymen, Mr. Stevenson and Qv illfeldt baptized us the Jenny Lind, in a bumper of champagne.

n the day of the election the Jenny Lind Band of eight people played n a wagon, from sunrise to sunset, going from poll to poll the whole day. The streets being in a very bad condition, we only played at the polls a nd after each time we had to come down from the wagon to drink and smoke. It was no use to say "No." We had to obey. As the revolvers and pistols were fired all the time in all directions, we were glad to ge t in under shelter. We were to have $50.00 apiece and double that amount for the leader; but the politicians were fickle and forgetful and all we received was a bitter dose of experience. From that day I never took an e ngagement from any political party unless money was paid in advance.

e were now bent on going up to the mines and we started immediately in company with the sea captain Wirstrom, for Bidwell=92s Bar on the Feathe r River, where the captain=92s wife lived and kept a store and where he s aid was good mining. In Marysville we stored up all our worldly belongin gs in our trunks with clothes, music, etc., and through the advice of Cap tain Wirstrom we bought two mining costumes apiece and mining tools. With a party, I went down the river where Oroville is now situated. We were t he first prospectors at that place. From here we went to Natches Creek w here we found a good deal of coarse gold and made from $12 to $25 a day f or about two months.

n June, 1851, Marysville was destroyed by fire. Skanberg lost everythi ng we had brought from home. All our clothes, instruments, music, etc., w ere burned. Only an E flat cornet was left. My first Fourth of July I cel ebrated in this camp [Natches Creek?). Being the only musician left of th e band, I played the patriotic airs on my E flat cornet and other miners joined in singing with me. A minister made the prayer and a lawyer read t he Declaration of Independence, and everything went off gloriously. My se rvice was all for glory, while my colleagues in San Francisco were paid $ 50 a man, double for leader for the parade.

fter two weeks I was able to accept an engagement at the American Thea tre in Sacramento. Carl Wehrter resigned and sold his cornet to me. The l eader of the orchestra was John Dean; Carl Carson, second violin and form er member of the Jenny Lind Band; Alex Berger, double bass; Fred Boehme, clarinet; August Wetterman, cornet. Our salary was $50 per week per man a nd double that amount for the leader. We sat on the balcony in front of t he theatre, where we were required to play three tunes before the perform ance. The managers had the idea that would draw and help to fill their th eatres.

n April 1855 I was offered a position of leader of the band of Lee and Marshall=92s circus. This gave me an opportunity to see most of the min ing towns and camps as we went over the route twice during the season. Al though we had a most excellent band wagon, the band men preferred to walk rather than to ride in the wagon during the hottest time of the day and take in the dust.

ack from the country [circus tour], I was engaged at the Sacramento Th eatre. Olle Bull and Strackoff gave two concerts in this theatre. During their stay in Sacramento, two Norwegians, Kent an actor, had a glorious t ime with the grand old man. We would either play Caroline, a Scandinavia n game of billiards, go bathing or to dinner, where Olle Bull would enter tain us with some of his experiences in America and other countries. At the concerts, Olle Bull came down to the footlights at the center of the = stage, stood erect with heels together, violin under his chin and his eye= s to then right looking at Mrs. Kent (wife of the actor I have mentioned)= =2E She was a very beautiful woman seated in a private box, and must have= been the source of inspiration to his wonderful playing. He never moved = his feet or his eyes while he played. After the concert we were glad to g= o to an ice cream saloon, as it was a very hot evening. Olle Bull told us= many pleasant stories and then said goodnight and farewell as he was goi= ng away the next day.


n 1856 the Sacramento Union Brass Band organized, all professional mus= icians and considered the best in the state as regards ability and unifor= m, August Wetterman musical director. The band was engaged by the Sacrame= nto City Guard, Captain Baker (Baker and Hamilton), to go down to San Fra= ncisco to participate in the funeral of King of William, who was shot by = James P. Casey. The band and company marched to the Oriental Hotel at the= junction of Market, Battery and Bush streets for lunch. Our captain and= officers had been let into the secret that Casey and Cora must hang befo= re King of William was lowered into his grave. Through opera glasses whic= h officers had along, we could see the two culprits dangle in the air out= side Fort Vigilance on the south side of Sacramento street, between Front= and Davis streets. The procession moved on to Bush street and Laurel Hil= l cemetery. Coming back to our hotel, as we had to take the boat for Sacr= amento.

n 1857, on the night of July 3rd, ball to six o=92clock in = the morning of July 4th. Parade in the forenoon. Picnic in th= e afternoon to 5 o=92clock. On board in an open wagon through heat and du= st for fifteen miles. Ball to 6 a.m. July 6th, and without any= rest, back in the same wagon for Sacramento. I made $95 with no expense= s; but my front teeth all loose and aching and, I was almost killed.


ee and Marshall=92s circus had been playing in Sacramento [again] and = was going to the State Fair at Marysville. The Forest theatre on J street= in Sacramento, where I had been playing had stopped for renovation. The = circus band, some members of which belonged to the Sacramento Union Brass= Band, said, "Wetterman, take your instrument and some music and com= e with us in the band wagon to the fair." At Marysville, it was soon= known that I had come up with the circus band. Leo Zimmerman had a cont= ract for the fair and he engaged me to conduct the band. The band had sev= eral other engagements, such as parades, funerals, balls and serenades. I= had to change constantly from E flat to B flat cornets. The six days=92 = fair was very hard work; but I brought with me home to Sacramento $150 cl= ear.

t the Atlantic Cable Celebration at San Francisco, the Sacramento City= Guards engaged the Sacramento Union Brass Band to go with them to San Fr= ancisco to participate in the day parade and the torchlight procession. T= he band in their splendid uniform and excellent playing had many admirers= =2E The company kindly presented me with a beautiful sword in appreciatio= n of our service. That took place August 16, 1858, when Queen Victoria s= ent the first message over the Atlantic cable to President James Buchanan= , U.S.A.

ugenio Bianchi [In 1859] and wife organized an opera company. . . with= good chorus and orchestra. . . At operas between acts, Bianchi would com= e down to the music room with his tuning fork, the Paris Conservatory of = Music pitch which had been founded upon human voices. He hit the fork up= on his knee, then hold to our ears and said: "This is the right pitc= h. Gentlemen, you are all wrong. When I want to sing B flat you make me s= ing B natural. That is outrageous; you must change pitch or you will kill= me." We stood the abuses knowing he was right. James Kendall,[*] = one of our best clarinetists started to turn off his clarinets (made them= shorter) and other musicians began to do likewise. When we ordered an in= strument from the East it was always to be high pitch.


he first year [1869-1870] the California Theatre cleared $100,000. On = the evening of our first anniversary, Mr. Barrett stood at the stage door= and invited every single individual belonging to the theatre, saying tha= t after the performance we should all meet up in Pacific Hall on the seco= nd floor of the California Theatre building, facing Bush street. Upon com= ing into the hall we were surprised with a large banquet table set in the= form of "T" and furnished from the best caterer, Maison-Doree,= at $5 a piece.