This fine fellow with his mutton chop whiskers is Carlos. Carlos was photographed sometime in the 1860s, but I don’t know where as there is no photographer’s mark on the card. What can we glean from this image? Carlos was losing his hair and tried to do a fancy comb about on top that reminds me personally a bit of a baby’s curl. He compensated for his lack of upper hair with fine facial hair. His suit has wide lapels and you can see the satin or silk watermarks in them. He has a fancy silk neckcloth with some sort of fastener on it.
Can you read the handwriting? It looks like Carlos Deana Worlwich to me. Could the name Worlwich on a second line indicate that was where he lived? There’s a town in England with that name. Was the name Carlos a popular one in England?? So many questions!
What does this all have to do with the polka, you ask? I’m going out on a limb to suggest that Carlos was from Spain or Mexico & Latin America, where polka music was – and still is – very popular. Here in Southern California, we hear Norteño, Tejano, and Cojunto all the time, and probably don’t think a thing about it! During the 19th century, Europeans were emigrating to the Americas, and many settled in Mexico, Peru, Columbia, Brazil, etc. Of course the immigrants influenced local culture, and their music was combined, resulting in the polka style music with the Spanish lyrics. The accordion, tuba and piano are crucial instruments in an ensemble. Just as Mexican and Latin culture influenced European foods, these styles of music from “South of the Border” have an exciting spice and vitality to them!
Here’s a sampling of one of my favorite bands, Los Lobos, California boys who found fame when they provided music for the film La Bamba! which was about the fated singer Ritchie Valens. This recording is from 1987 when they were first starting out, but they are still around and still making great music!
To learn more about polka, just step off to Sepia Saturday for a whirl around the dance floor!