Valse Tabromik by Otto Heitzmann

‘Valse Tabromik’ by Otto Heitzmann, published by Gebethner & Wolff (Warsaw, 1921) and illustrated by Wilhelm Ludwik Rudy.

Alexandra Chava Seymann wrote us from Vienna about her grandfather, the composer of Valse Tabromik. Otto Heitzmann (1885-1955) was born in Linz, Austria. His parents continued the prestigious Viennese piano company founded by his grandfather Johann Heitzmann in 1839.

Otto M. Heitzmann (private collection of Ms Seymann).

But as Alexandra Seymann tells us “Otto M. Heitzmann turned out to be more interested in actually creating and making music than in manufacturing pianos. He became a composer, conductor and music director. He worked in Poland, Denmark, Iceland, Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic. He was married three times, first in Poland, then in Denmark (where he left two children), finally in Austria (where my mother was born). Unfortunately, due to his vagrant life, two world wars, and also family conflicts (his third wife was not exactly happy with his artist’s life and cut ties with him), there is close to nothing left of his portfolio.

Otto Heitzmann composed the Tabromik walz while working in Poland in the early Twenties. The sheet music is used to promote Tabromik, a vodka and liquor factory in Poznán and Gniezno, Poland. The brand took its name from the first letters of the factory owner’s name, Tadeusz Bronislaw Mikołajczyk (1895-1933).

Tadeusz Bronislaw Mikołajczyk (source: ‘Mistrz interesu i przegrany w życiu‘ by Rafał Wichniewicz) .

Mikołajczyk was an ambitious businessman who had only completed elementary school. He taught himself marketing and advertising and founded Tabromik in 1920. It is not clear where he got the funds for the company’s development but after a year it is said he already employed 250 people. He also started other successful projects but got involved in speculative and shady business and ended up bankrupt. Shortly thereafter, he died young as the result of an accident.

The illustration of the sheet music was created by Wilhelm Ludwik Rudy (1888-1940). The same year Rudy also designed a set of air mail stamps. They were issued by Aerotarg, the first Polish airline, in agreement with the Polish Post. Attached to each stamp was an advertising label, inscribed T.A.B.R.O.M.I.K. These stamps had to be bought for airmail in addition to the normal postage rate.

The left stamp shows a Junkers F-13 plane dropping mail over Poznan. The right one shows Icarus against Poznan’s sky. Both designs by Wilhelm Rudy. (source: wikipedia)

The short-lived Aerotarg was founded in Poznań in 1921 in order to serve visitors of the first Poznań Industrial trade fair. The organizers of the fair financed the venture. Aerotarg leased six Junkers F 13 aircrafts and the first regular Poznań-Warsaw and  Poznan-Danzig flights were set up.

Junker F13 used by Aerotarg for the Poznań-Danzig connection, 1921.

Between May and June the newly created airline transported  around 100 passengers and 3 tons of parcels. The venture turned out to be unprofitable and ceased operation less than a month after it’s start-up. The fair committee lost its venture capital.

Wieczor‘ (Le Soir) by Jan Rozewicz, Published by Gebethner & Wolff (Warsaw, 1922) and illustrated by C.F.

In the copyright statement of Valse Tabromik Mikołajczyk proudly mentions Tabromik’s ‘Publishing and Advertising Department‘, giving it a prestigious cachet Compared to other Polish sheet music from the time though, it looks to us a rather clumsy publication. It is printed in black and white on thin, cheap paper with the notes shining through. The typography is uninspired. In an attempt to brighten up the cover Wilhelm Rudy drew a slightly bizarre couple: he grins idiotically at his waltzing partner while she —oblivious to her fraying hat— stiffly tries to ignore an upcoming nipple gate.

Valse Tabromik, detail.

Apart from the few air stamps above, I could find almost nothing about the life and work of this illustrator, although there is the horrendous fact that Wilhelm Rudy died in the Katyn massacre in April 1940.

To conclude, Alexandra Seymann explains how so few things have remained from her grandfather’s musical opus: “Otto Heitzman died in 1955 in Waidhofen an der Thaya (Lower Austria), Austria, at the age of 70; my mother was merely 11 at the time, and I never got to know my grandfather as I was only born more than two decades later; the children from his second marriage died before I could get in touch with them. The Heitzmann family is now dispersed all over the globe, but there is very little information and very few documents left of Otto. I try to piece together whatever I can find in archives, old newspapers, official records. Finding a complete composition is a beautiful and touching moment!

A Matter of Time

Cover illustration by Fabien Loris
‘How Many Times?’ by Irving Berlin (Francis-Day, Paris, 1926), illustrated by Fabien Loris.

After all the stories, we take a few moments to wish you all the best for the New Year. Serve yourself and select which time you’d like to spend in 2018.

A Good Time‘ by J. Aerts. Sheet music published by Louis Aerts, Paris, 1922. Unknown illustrator.
Summertime‘ by Harry Von Tilzer & Jack Mahoney (Von Tilzer, New York, 1908). Illustrated by Gene Buck.
Tulip Time‘ by Dave Stamper & Gene Buck, Editions Maillochon, Paris, 1919. Left illustrated by M. Labbé, right illustrated by H. Pidot.
Mister ragtime‘ by Maurice Yvain, Editions Francis Salabert (Paris, 1920) illustrated by Atelier Salabert. Right: ‘Gentleman Ragtime‘ by Adalbert Ernst Geyer, published by Musikverlag A.P. (Leipzig, s.d.), unknown illustrator.
Moonlight Saving Time‘ by Irving Kahal & Harry Richman (Francis, Day & Hunter, London, s.d.).  Unknown illustrator.
Moontime‘ by Walter R. Collins (Editions Francis Salabert, Paris, 1919). Cover by Roger de Valerio.
Nesting Time‘ by Mort Dixon & James V. Monaco (Publications Francis-Day, Paris, 1927). Cover illustrated by Fabien Loris.
LEFT: ‘Flirting Time‘ by Charles Ewart (Editions Francis Salabert, Paris, 1927), illustrated by de Valerio  —  RIGHT: ‘Ev’ry Time’ by Gordon Jenkins (ABC Music Corporation, New York, 1944), unknown illustrator.
Modern Times‘ by E. Bilbao, published by Manuel Villar (Valencia, 1916). Cover illustration by Arturo Ballester.
Killing Time‘ by Lionel Renieu, published by Edmond Possoz (Brussels, s.d.) illustrated by V. Valéry.
LEFT: ‘Piccaninnies Bed-Time Dance‘ by Theo Bonheur (W. Paxton, London, s.d.) , unknown illustrator — RIGHT: ‘Many’s the Time‘ by Fred Fisher (Harms Incorporated, New York, s.d.), illustrated by Gene Buck.
LEFT: ‘She’s Dixie all the Time‘ by Harry Tierney & Alfred Bryan (Jerome H. Remick, Detroit, 1916), signed N.E. — RIGHT: ‘May Time  Charming Fox Trot Song’ by Vincent Rose & B. G. De Sylva (Publications Francis-Day, Paris, 1924), illustrated by J V R.
Dancing Time‘ by Jerome Kern with French lyrics by Louis Lemarchand (Max Eschig & Cie, Paris, 1922). Illustration Robert Laroche.
LEFT: ‘In Vacation Time‘ by Harry Von Tilzer & Andrew B. Sterling (Von Tilzer, New York, 1905), ill. Jenkins — RIGHT: ‘Sometime‘ by Anatol Friedland &  A. Seymour Brown (Jerome H. Remick, Detroit, 1914). Illustration by Starmer.
Sometimes‘ by Fred Elizalde & Philip Seeley (Francis-Day, Paris, 1929). Illustration by Würth.

See you soon with a new sheet music story! Meanwhile, enliven your gray and cold winter days with Irving Berlin’s song How Many Times?

A Frog Swallower

‘Ranita’ by Gil d’Azil, published by Cicada (Paris, 1927) and illustrated by André Marcy.

“Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”. The Frenchman Mac Norton took this advice from Mark Twain quite literally. About a hundred years ago he started his magician career by eating live frogs on stage. No wonder that our cute frog on the sheet music cover seems a bit worried.

Mac Norton ‘Das menschliche Aquarium’ – 1912

For his ‘human aquarium’ performance Mac Norton, artist name of Claude Delair, took from a fishbowl five frogs and six goldfish, and swallowed them alive one by one. Then he made a point of nonchalantly lighting a cigarette. After a relaxing moment of small talk with his audience he started to disgorge all the small animals, still alive. It is said that he could keep fish, frogs or other aquatic animals moving around in his stomach for more than two hours.

All Mac Norton’s shows centered around his stunning ability to hold large quantities of water in his stomach and to disgorge it afterwards. Sometimes he would emphasise the enormous amount of water by ordering a parade of waiters to bring him 50 glasses of it. He would then demonstrate La Fontaine: he expelled the water he had just swallowed into a delicate jet in which he washed his hands. Or he performed La douche. The water then gushed from his mouth with force, but still seemingly without effort.

In Berlin, Mac Norton did his trick with beer. Houdini who watched the show behind the scenes was not that impressed. “The filled glasses were displayed on shelves at the back of the stage, and had handles so that he could bring forward two or three in each hand. When he had finished these he would return for others and, while gathering another handful, would bring up the beer and eject it into a receptacle arranged between the shelves, just below the line of vision of the audience…”.  So at least some of it was a trick.

‘l’Amour Magicien’ (Mister Magician) by Charles O’Flynn; James Cavanaugh & Frank Weldon, French lyrics by Jan Marotte & Jean Cis. Published by Salabert (Paris, 1934) and illustrated by Ch. Roussel.

Houdini goes further. “I remember his anxiety on one occasion when returning to his dressing-room; it seems he had lost a frog—at least he could not account for the entire flock—and he looked very much scared, probably at the uncertainty as to whether or not he had to digest a live frog.”

‘La Grenouille au Nénuphar’ by Clapson & Teredral, published by Clapson (Paris, 1919) and illustrated by Lt. Fetaz.

Mac Norton himself believed that he had an extra stomach like a cow. But more likely he suffered from rumination syndrome. This is the effortless regurgitation of undigested food from the stomach back up into the mouth. There is no retching, pain or other inconveniences as in the case of vomiting.
Thanks to the treasure trove that is Gallica, I found out that Mac Norton became the subject of medical examinations in 1912.

Drawings of Mac Norton’s stomach. Fig 1: after ingestion of 125 g milk of bismuth. Fig 2: after ingestion of 400 g milk of bismuth. Fig 3: after ingestion of 3,5 litre liquid. From ‘Archives d’Electricité Médicale experimentales et cliniques’ – 1912

With radiography a doctor revealed the structure of the performer’s stomach. One would expect that he would have taken images of Mac Norton’s insides after swallowing the frogs. But no, he just made him drink some fluid and concluded that his stomach was ‘very muscular‘ and that was about it. How absolutely deceiving!

To illustrate once more that songs were made about anything, we insert a Dutch sheet music cover of a song about Röntgen’s discovery: X-stralen (X-rays). On the cover we see the first ever photograph of a human body part using X-rays. It is the hand of Röntgen’s wife on a photographic plate.

‘De X-stralen’ (The X-Rays) by Tommy & Bassy, published in 1896.
Mac Norton’s international career took him all over Europe and in various parts of South America. The protest actions of the American Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty made North America a no go for the frog eater. Claude Delair (1876-1953) continued his Mac Norton tricks until he was well into his seventies.
Claude Delair, aka Mac Norton, in the Forties.

I found a similar regurgitation act from 1931 by Hadji Ali in a Spanish-language version of Laurel and Hardy’s Chickens Come Home. Enjoy and have a drink!


Further reading on magicians and illusionists:  ‘Miracle-Mongers and their Methods’ by Harry Houdini.