The Broom Brigade and Broom Drill


A Broom Drill.

A new idea in amusements this, and its inventors were some girls in Lowell, Mass. Twelve young ladies, commanded by a captain, gave a public drill of their proficiency in handling the broom. The girls were uniformed in red, white and blue. The brooms were decorated with colored ribbons, and as the young women marched with the streamers behind them they looked very martial and were warmly applauded. A young lady, dressed in the national colors, was the “drummer boy” of the broom corps. A fan drill is performed in somewhat the same fashion, only the fan can be used more gracefully and effectively than the broom.

But, after all, perhaps, the best broom drill is the one that takes place in the kitchen, where there is only one broom and no streamers.

The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Apr 14, 1881

Pasadena Broom Brigade - 1886

The above picture is from the Revolution blog, which appears to be an L.A. Times site?  The article that accompanies  this picture is from the L.A. Times. Hopefully, Carla is not a journalist. It seems like a few minutes of GOOGLING might have answered her questions about the mysterious photograph:

An 1886 photograph shown at the L.A. archives bazaar is a bit of a mystery. The man at their feet is identified as Lt. Rockwood, but why did members of the Pasadena Broom Brigade gather? (Pasadena Museum of History / October 17, 2009)

The women are lined up in a row–straight backs, dark starched dresses, sober faces. They clutch long-handled brooms to their sides, bristles up, as if they were rifles. The black-and-white photo is dated 1886.

A cleaning crew? Unlikely. For one thing, the women are too well dressed. For another, they look ready to march into battle or, at least, a parade.

“Isn’t it neat?” asked Laura Verlaque, collection manager at the Pasadena Museum of History, which counts the photograph of the Pasadena Broom Brigade in its archives. “We don’t really know what it was. We think it was a social group. Whether they marched in brigades, we don’t know.”

The mysterious photo was one of the artifacts that the museum displayed at the fourth annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar held Saturday at USC’s Davidson Conference Center.

Spencerport Broom Brigade, 1883

Image from Town of Ogden‘s photostream on Flickr.


The Broom Drill.

The most recent device for raising a church fund is an entertainment known as “the broom drill,” in which a number of young ladies, attired in pure white, with jaunty red caps, crimson collars and girdles of the same tint, go through the regular regimental evolutions, armed with brooms instead of guns. The young ladies, it is said, at some of these entertainments exhibit great precision in the manual and marching, and far more grace than half the crack military corps of the country.
New Orleans Democrat.

The Marion Daily Star (Marion, Ohio) Apr 18, 1882

The Universalist sociable, this evening, will be held in the hall over the church. The program includes a supper and other attractions, but the “broom drill” has been given up. The ladies do not propose to make the “broom” prominent so early in leap year.

The Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, Massachusetts) Mar 10, 1880

The Fair, Tuesday Evening

The fair of the Ladies’ Union Aid society in city hall, Tuesday evening, was well attended, the refreshment tables were liberally patronized, and the tables loaded with fancy articles, confectionery, etc., added considerable to the receipts of the evening. The musical entertainment included a piano solo by Miss Ida Smith, solos by Misses Carrie L. Davis and Hattie M. Goodwin, a duet by Misses Nellie M. Howland and Cora Goff, and two trios by Misses Howland and C. Jennie Jackson and Mrs. E.R. Farnsworth. All who took part in the concert gained the appreciative applause of the audience.

The great attraction of the evening was the “Broom Drill,” in which 17 young ladies, commanded by Capt. George Burford of the Fusihers, appeared on the stage in neat white sailor suits with red trimmings. The brooms were also decorated with red trimmings, and as the ladies marched with colors flying, keeping perfect time to the piano (Miss Kate Chaffin, pianist,) they presented quite a warlike appearance and fairly took the house by storm. They showed a proficiency in the usual military tactics which was truly surprising. At the close of the drill, the brooms were sold at auction by D.F. McIntire, bringing from 50 cents to $1 each.

The following is a list of the ladies who took part in the broom drill: Misses S el-la Lowe, Susie Cushing, Jennie Colony, Addie Putnam, Marion Putnam, Anna Putnam, Minnie Wallace, Fannie Smith, Mary Miles, Hester Miles, Gertie Chaffin, Annie Crocker, Nellie Wilder, Nellie Burr, Nellie Hewins, Flora Wright and Mrs. Caswell.

Album Quilt - 1868-1880

Image from the Nebraska State Historical Society

The net proceeds of the fair will be about $150, to which will be added the $75 obtained for the album quilt.

The Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, Massachusetts) Mar 29, 1882

Patience (Image from


Eighteen Young Women in Novel and Effective Evolutions on the Stage.

A broom drill by eighteen young women students in the Normal College and residents of Harlem was a unique feature of the concert at Chickering Hall last night for the benefit of the Harlem Congregational Church. The broom drill was invented by a Captain in the Seventh Regiment, and is founded on Upton’s tactics.

At the notes of a march from “Patience,” played on the piano, the door of the stage opened and Capt. Florence J. Timpson led her company before the footlights. The uniform of the company was a short and beautiful white dress, with a cardinal red ribbon around the waist, a red cape around the shoulders, a jaunty red cap on the head, low slippers, cardinal red stockings, and white kid gloves. A red dust pan, with a letter C in white, did duty instead of a cartridge box, and a cardinal red handkerchief tucked in the belt passed for a dust cloth. Finally, each soldieress carried a broom, beribboned.

Capt. Timpson was distinguished by gold epaulets and a gilt band around her hat but chiefly by an enormous feather duster. A guard with a smaller feather duster did ornamental duty by hovering around the little squad as it maneuvred.

At the command “Order brooms!” the brushes whacked the floor in unison. When the recruits were commanded to they whacked the dustpans with their right hand and then whacked the brush of the broom. At the command “Fire!” they sang out “Bang!” in a tone calculated to convey terror. Then they marched by fours and by sections back and forth on the stage and were applauded for their precise execution of the evolutions. The evolution most applauded consisted in marching up and down the stage with measured steps and sweeping the floor. Finally brooms were stacked and held in place by a pretty red ribbon and slipped over the broom handles.

Chester Times (Chester, Pennsylvania) Mar 15, 1882


The understanding is that the “broom drill” will be repeated at the opera house.

One Dr. J.D. Words, says:

“But here’s to the ladies ‘Broom Brigade,’
Whether awake or sleeping,
May all your campaigns be well weighed,
Your victories be ‘sweeping,’
And may you, girls, whatever befall,
Amid your fun and laughter,
Secure, while in the manual,
The man u al (1) are after.”

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Sep 3, 1882

Red Stockings are for heretics? This is something else:


About two weeks ago, just after a successful strawberry festival, the Managing Committee of the “Twenty-ninth Congregational Church” under took to produce the Broom Drill spectacle, latterly so popular through the country, and for that purpose engaged the “John Calvin Broomstick Combination” — a company consisting of 45 young ladies, all of whom are experienced and capable artists. The spectacle was placed on the platform with the thoroughness characteristic of the house, and although speculators sold tickets at three times the usual price, every seat was occupied. The proficiency of the company in the drill act left nothing to be desired, and the singing of Miss Geneva Knox, who sang the famous “J’aime les militaires” from the “Grand Duchess,” was enthusiastically applauded. Pecuniarily the affair was a brilliant success, but on the following day a formal charge of heresy was brought against the managers by Deacon Bradford, who was elected to the Deaconate six weeks ago.

The specification under the charge of heresy was to the effect that the managers had knowingly and willfully permitted the ladies of the “John Calvin Broomstick Combination” to appear in red stockings. Deacon Bradford maintained that red stockings are one of the worst errors of the Roman Church, and that to substitute them for the pure white stockings of Protestantism in a spectacle produced in an orthodox evangelical business church is to cast contempt upon Protestantism and to lead the minds of the young and ignorant into Romanism.

The accused managers maintain that there is nothing in the creed of the “Twenty-ninth Congregational Church” which condemns red stockings, and that a member of the society may not only gaze upon, but may actually wear red stockings without being guilty of heresy; that the red stockings worn by the “John Calvin Broomstick Combination” were advertised by colored posters several days in advance of the entertainment, and no objection was then made to them by any one; that the pecuniary success of the entertainment was unquestionably largely due to the red stockings, and that if religious freedom is to be cramped by the success of bigots like Deacon Bradford, no church can carry on its business for six months — not to speak of paying dividends.

The accused managers are to be brought to trial for heresy next October, and in the meantime the “Twenty-ninth Congregational Church” will be closed, although it can be hired by worldly people for balls and other non-religious entertainments. It is a great pity that a thriving business church should have its prosperity checked in this sudden and painful way, and it is earnestly to be hoped that the efforts of Deacon Bradford will be in vain, and that Potterville will not be long deprived of its favorite place of amusement.

The New York Times (New York, New York) Jun 9, 1883

THE broom-drill mania is extending all over the country, but it is noticed that the young ladies who are most expert in the drill generally go off on a visit when house-cleaning commences.

Title    The Odd Fellow’s Talisman and Literary Journal
Publisher    John Reynolds, 1882
Page 454

Broom Brigade - Union, Oregon (Image


The seating capacity of Turn Halle was taken up last night with a very fine audience to witness the entertainment by the ladies of Trinity church. In the broom drill were the following young ladies: Captain, Miss DeHart; drummer, Miss Katharine Grecu; sergeant, Miss Green; and Miss Savier, Miss Burnside, Miss Beck, Miss Wygart, Miss Myrick, Miss Teal, Miss Yarndley, Miss Eva Lewis, Miss Story, Miss McCraken, and Miss Effinger.

The uniforms were strikingly neat. The skirt was of black, reaching to the top of high-buttoned boots, and trimmed with a broad band of scarlet bordered with gold braid; black waistcoat; scarlet Zouave jacket, trimmed with gold braid a la militaire; scarlet Zouave cap, trimmed with gold bands and tassel. A dust pan and wisp-broom for a knapsack, with a broom for arms, completed the m????ic soldier. The drill, both in use of arms and marching, was nearly the acme of precision and grace, and each movement was received with loud applause. General surprise at the proficiency of the young ladies was shown, and after two encores had been demanded and answered, many congratulations were offered to those who had taken part. The floor was then cleared and all present danced until midnight.

Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) Feb 4. 1883

A Broom Brigade (Image from


The Girls with Their Brooms and Boys with Their Guns.

A gay crowd, as well as a very fashionable and select one, assembled early at Turner hall last night to witness the broom drill and the drill given by the Belkamp Rifles.

The Broom Brigade executed their maneuvres very well, but seemed to have grown careless since last drill and were not as perfect as before. The Belkamp Rifles surpassed themselves in any previous effort they have made and won golden opinions and rounds of applause from the spectators. All their movements were nearly as perfect as regulars, and the drill they were put through by Captain Bob Green was particularly severe.

The silent manual put up by a squad composed of Messrs. Maybry, Shook, Vaitz, Lingan, Dittmar, Jonas, Richardson, Truax, Rote, Tobin, Watts and J. Green. Then manual was gone through with simply at the tap of the drum, and the perfect manner of its execution, fairly brought down the house.

After the drill the hall was turned into a ball room, and the remainder of the evening was spent in tripping the light fantastic. There were at one time over 200 couples on the floor, and one of the quadrilles danced was the largest ever seen in Turner hall.

Refreshments were served in the club room adjoining the hall, and the boys realized quite a nice little sum of money towards the purchase of their new fatigue uniform, which they will take with them to Lampasas.

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Jun 6, 1885


There is a stagnation of news. Nobody seems willing to get into trouble for the public benefit. In the meantime the Broom Drill goes bravely on.

Daily Miner, The (Butte, Montana) May 9, 1882


All sport should be amusement, but it does not follow that all amusements can be called sporting events, the broom drill to-morrow evening for instance.

Daily Miner, The (Butte, Montana) May 26, 1882

Image from Calisthenics and Light Gymnastics for Home and School (Google book link)


Successfully Rendered a Third Time.

It is much to be regretted that the audiences at the performances of Penelope have not been larger. Taking into consideration the broom drill and the concerts, the inducements to attend an amateur entertainment have not been greater this winter. Last night the broom brigade, headed by the little drummer girl in dainty costume, was again the cynosure of all eyes. So sweeping was the applause that these fair daughters of the regiment actually underwent the fatigues of a campaign in marching on and off the stage, in response to the repeated encores. Penelope was for the third time rendered with spirit and effect, the dramatic talent displayed by Miss McIntyre, as well as by her support, Miss Lincoln, Mr. Duffet and the Messrs Pensrose, proving an agreeable surprise.

The actors and the audience were in equally good spirits, and the charming melange of popular music was well rendered and received. After the performances Fred Taylor auctioned off the brooms, dust pans, tassels-on-the-boots and other paraphernalia of the regiment so gayly mustered out of service, the whole thing realizing a total of about eighty-five dollars and thus testifying the generous appreciation of the audience. The dance and refreshments came last of all, happily closing a pleasant evening.

Daily Miner, The (Butte, Montana) May 31, 1882

I have included this next article, not so much for the “Broom Drill” reference, but for the “A Look into the Future” performance further down in the article. It is set in the 1950’s, and is rather humorous.


The Young Ladies of the University Give a Splendid Performance at the Opera House.

A few such entertainments as that given by the young ladies of the University at the Opera House Saturday night and the gymnasium fund will be large enough to begin operations immediately. There was not a vacant seat in the house and standing room was at a premium. It was one of the largest audiences ever seen in the theatre, and best of it all they were well pleased with their night’s entertainment.

The program was very interesting from beginning to end and considering the short time spent in getting it up, the young ladies are entitled to a great deal of credit.

The music was furnished by the University orchestra, Professor Hillman director. Finer music was never heard at a theatre in Reno, and the applause that followed the first overture showed that the audience highly appreciated it.

The military drill, by privates Misses Gould, Maxwell, Saddler, Shafer, Allen, Mayberry, Fanning, Grimes, Longley, Hart, Evans and Jones, commanded by Miss Bender, was a complete success. The young ladies were dressed in their regulation uniform and carried the cadet rifles. They marched and drilled exceedingly well, and were frequently applauded on executing some new movement.

The sweet voice of Miss Mabel Stanaway always calls for an encore, but the solo rendered Saturday evening was received with more than the usual applause.

The next feature on the program was entitled Bellamy’s (Looking Backward). Nine young ladies with ghostly appearance, in flowing white robes and with masks on the back of their heads and their hair combed over their faces, went through with a sort of a quadrille.

This pleased the audience hugely and received a hearty encore.

The next was a broom drill, Captain Linnscott commanding, color sergeant, Miss North; privates, Misses Irwin, Steiner, Robinson, Bradshaw, Stubbs, Edmunds, Twombly, Patton, Virgin, Ward, Linn, Edmunds, Murphy, Douglas and Haines.

The young ladies were all dressed in red with white aprons, which made a very nice effect. They all carried brooms except the sergeant, who held aloft a large feather duster. Hanging at the side of each where the cartridge box is worn, was a dustpan.

This drill was exceptionally good, the young ladies going through with some very difficult evolutions. A very pretty effect was produced when different colored lights were thrown on them, especially the purple light, which changed the color of their uniforms from red to orange.

This drill also received a hearty encore.

The Soldier's Departure by Charles Hunt - 1868

Living Pictures, “The Soldier’s Farwell,” “The Soldier’s Dream” and “The Soldier’s Return,” by the Misses Douglas and Virgin, was well received, the first two pictures being exceedingly good.

“A Look into the Future,” (scene in the United States Senate, 1950) probably pleased the audience more than any other feature of the program. It was woman suffrage illustrated in the superlative degree. The audience having for some time been reading the GAZETTE’s articles on woman suffrage was the better prepared to appreciate it. It illustrated the Senate after women had secured the right of suffrage and had disenfranchised the men. The Senate was represented complete, from the Vice President, who presides, to the pages. There were also present the general of the army, foreign ambassadors and others. Bills were introduced for the remonetization of gold, for the granting of suffrage to men and various other measures. Speeches were made which were well delivered and highly humorous. The dignity of the Senate was occasionally interrupted by the chaplain falling asleep and it becoming necessary to awaken her. Everything was progressing quite smoothly until a spider dropped down from the ceiling, which created a panic for a few minutes. But at last a rat ran across the floor for which reason it became necessary to adjourn for the day. A man was finally produced to kill the rat.

The Fan drill, Captain — Miss Catlin — Privates Frey, Hironymous, Martin, Wheeler, Parker, Bruette, Robb and Phillips, was one of the prettiest parts of the whole program. The young ladies were tastily dressed, wore their hair powdered and carried large Japanese fans. They were exceedingly graceful in their movements and deserved the applause and encore they received.

The performance was closed by “The Famous Oklahoma Jubilee Singers,” who rendered some old plantation songs in good style.

The next performance will be by the boys, who will have to work hard if they outdo the young ladies.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Dec 17, 1894

Learn how to do the Broom Drill:

Title: New Games for Parlor and Lawn
Author: George Bradford Bartlett
Publisher: Harper & brothers, 1882
Page 127

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One Response to “The Broom Brigade and Broom Drill”

  1. dzboardman Says:

    Pat and I love it because it reminds us of Louisa.

    Well done to the present commander of the Los Angeles/Australian Broom Brigade.

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