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Francis Johnson Exhibit

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Performances for Militia Units

Early in his career, Johnson entered into nonexclusive contracts with several militia groups in the Philadelphia area, including the Third Company of Washington Guards, the State Fencibles, and the Washington Grays. These militia groups were organized as a means of defense, but since they were rarely engaged in combat, their assemblies became opportunities for men of high society to gather and socialize. The groups scheduled marches and excursions to visit other regional militia and enlisted the services of Johnson's brass band to provide an air of distinction to their assemblies.

To sweeten his association with these militia organizations, Johnson would compose a march in honor of each group and dedicate it to the commander. Johnson was active in these militia groups until 1838, after his trip to London, at which point he focused on performing concerts and accompanying dances.

Baptismal Record "Third Company of Washington Guards Kent Bugle Quick March." Philadelphia, ca. 1820.

"After the war of 1812 the third company of Washington Guards established a military band composed of colored men. The leader was Frank Johnson. This was substantially a reed band, with clarionets [sic], flutes, one or two bassoons, a serpent, cymbals, triangle, bells, one or two French horns, and bugles, to give force and weight to the air, and a bass drum. There were a tenor drummer and a fifer who never played with the band, but filled up the intervals of the march while the other musicians were resting." (Scharf & Westcott, History of Philadelphia, 1884). According to the minutes of the Third Company, Johnson had been engaged as a bandleader by December 1814.
Directory Listing Portrait of Captain John Goddard Watmough (1793-1861). Reproduction of a print held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Watmough joined the Washington Guards in 1813 and led the unit until 1823. Johnson was apparently popular with Watmough; he hired Johnson to perform at the reception following his wedding to Ellen Coxe on 16 May 1820. Later in his life, Watmough served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1831-35) representing Pennsylvania.
Portrait Uniform of the Washington Guards, Philadelphia. Reproduction of plate from James H. Nesmith, The Soldier's Manual for Cavalry, Artillery, Light Infantry and Infantry (Philadelphia, 1824).
Cotillion "Washington Grays Kent Bugle Slow March and Quick-Step." Philadelphia: G. Willig, [1822?].
Kurt Stein Portrait of Captain George Cadwalader (1806-1879). Reproduction of a print held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Cadwalader was elected captain of the Grays in 1832, and Johnson's brass band performed for a number of assemblies, parades, and excursions under his command.
Kurt Stein Uniform of the Washington Grays, Philadelphia. Reproduction of plate from James H. Nesmith, The Soldier's Manual for Cavalry, Artillery, Light Infantry and Infantry (Philadelphia, 1824).

In February 1832, Johnson's band traveled with the Light Artillery Corps Washingon Grays, under the command of Cadwalader's predecessor, Capt. Joseph Worrell, on an excursion to Mt. Vernon, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Kurt Stein "Captain Page Kent Bugle Quick-Step." [Philadelphia, 1819?].

Johnson's band was first hired by Capt. James Page in September 1821 to accompany gatherings of the State Fencibles.

"After the third company [of Washington Guards] was disbanded, Johnson's band was employed by other companes [sic]. It was for many years constant in attendance upon parades of the State Fencibles, Capt. James Page. This band was also supplied with stringed instruments, added in service for balls and dancing parties." (Scharf & Westcott, History of Philadelphia, 1884)
Kurt Stein Portrait of Colonel James Page (1795-1876). Reproduction of photograph from Thomas S. Lanard, One Hundred Years with the State Fencibles (Philadelphia, 1913).

Page joined the State Fencibles in 1814 and was elected captain of the company in 1819. He remained in the post until 1861-a period of forty-two years. He also held a number of political appointments: he was elected a member of the Common Council in 1827, and from 1833 to 1841 he served as postmaster of Philadelphia.
Kurt Stein Uniform of the State Fencibles. Reproduction of plate from James H. Nesmith, The Soldier's Manual for Cavalry, Artillery, Light Infantry and Infantry (Philadelphia, 1824).

Johnson's band made a few long excursions with militia groups. In 1828, they joined the State Fencibles on a trip to New York City. In June 1832, a few months after the excursion to Mt. Vernon and Washington D.C. with the Washington Grays, the band traveled with the State Fencibles on a long trip to Boston by way of Newark, Paterson, Easton, New York, Providence, Roxbury, and Salem. Before retiring from militia commitments in 1838, Johnson made a few regional excursions - for example, to New Brunswick, New Jersey (1834), and Albany, New York (1837).
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