The picture which inspired Victorian Snapshots

I was having a tidy-up the other day and came across this document. It's the picture which inspired Ray Steadman-Allen's brilliant work Victorian Snapshots - On Ratcliffe Highway. When you compare the picture with the extraordinary depth of the work you realise just how much imagination and inspiration Steadman-Allen put into it. Picture attached.


2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
I suspect they look like the artist wasn't paying close attention to the layout of the individual instruments...

Interesting concept that; I’m inclined to think that such drawings captured the spirit of the event rather than all of the physical detail. A (skilfully taken) photograph might capture the spirit of an event too, and it captures much more detail.

From time to time I wonder about rotary valves and why they are not more commonly used. With today’s manufacturing techniques better rotary valves can be made than was once possible. It’s academic really though, piston valves work well so there’s only minor if any gains to be made by altering things.


Well-Known Member
If you take a wider perspective, rotary valves are very commonly used on brass instruments - on French horns more or less everywhere, on tubas and trumpets in many other countries (particularly those that follow a Germanic brass tradition), and of course as seen in UK brass banding, as a supplementary trombone valve. There's been a lot of experimentation in the past, and today's situation is the result of a long evolution - which is not to say that the results are optimal, but that many things have been experimented with in all musical niches in the last couple of centuries.

Rotaries tend to be a little less wieldy for rapid running around than pistons - I could imagine that that's why banding prefers pistons. But also I could imagine that it's just an accident of local design fashion that stuck.
The picture was published in the War Cry, the house journal of the Salvation Army, on 15th May 1886. Below is the text which accompanied the picture. Strangely enough, it makes no mention of the competing merits of the various valve systems of brass instruments. But I suppose the writer had other things on his did Steadman-Allen!

From a journalistic point of view, I particularly like the cross-head 'About Thirty Prostitutes'. That's how to draw the reader in!