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Burton Edward Fischer Collection

Identifier: RH-A-3831

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of one booklet containing lyrics and sheet music for five songs composed and published by Burton Edward Fischer. They are “Laddie,” with words by Mrs. N. W., “Absence,” “What’s in a Kiss,” “A Message,” with words by Daniel Derby, and “Saint of Sinner,” with words again by Daniel Derby. The opening page notes that the group of songs are dedicated to Burton J. Lenihan, and that the booklet is priced at one dollar.


  • Publication: 1908


Biographical / Historical

Burton Edward Fischer (also known as “Bertie”) was born in Kalamazoo on February 27, 1882, and was buried on July 31, 1965. Burton’s father from Germany and his mother from Michigan. He built a successful musical career in Kalamazoo with his older brother, Charles (Charlie) Leonard Fischer, as a prolific pianist, instructor, music publisher, and composer. Together, their most popular songs include pieces written specifically for the Western Normal School (WMU) football team (“The Squad”), Kalamazoo College (“All Hail to Kazoo!”), the University of Michigan’s junior dance called the “J-Hop” (“A Toast to All the Girls”).

Burton began getting involved in music when he was only ten years old by participating in a holiday concert under Madam Jannasch-Shortt, with other students at the Academy of Music in December 1892. By the time he was fifteen, he was playing for dances and other social occasions with his brother and their friends. While still in high school, the group formed their first professional symphony orchestra in 1896.

This seven member orchestra consisted of Charlie Fischer, director and first violin; Burton Fischer, piano; Carey Lull, second violin; James C. Hatfield, second violin; Arthur Slocum, second cornet; Harry B. Parker, flute; Allen Hughes, first cornet; and Ary Bradshaw, alto. Their first professional engagements were at the local YMCA. By 1899, Fischer’s Orchestra was working steadily by frequently playing for parties, dances, and other social gatherings within the community with of six full-time members. In June 1899, the orchestra was contracted to play for the Paw Paw High School commencement exercises and the social dance that followed.

The orchestra found their big break in the spring of 1901, when Charlie signed a contract with E.M. Statler to play a twenty-week engagement at Statler’s Pan-American Hotel in Buffalo, New York, in conjunction with the 1901 World’s Fair. They were also selected to perform at the Michigan Building on the Exposition grounds during Michigan Day, on August 20th of that summer. Thereafter, the orchestra became known as Fischer’s Pan-American Orchestra, and later, Fischer’s Exposition Orchestra.

Although the orchestra unfortunately did not issue any commercial records, they did make several attempts to keep their organizations up-to-date, and always at the forefront of technology for their time. In October 1917, the orchestra traveled to Camden, New Jersey, to make a few test recordings for Victor Records. According to Victor ledgers, the band cut at least a half-dozen sides on 10 October 1917. These included a few of Burton’s compositions, “Casino Jazz,” “Vienese Melodies,” “Oodles of Pep,” and an arrangement of “Annie Laurie.” In 1922, the Fischer brothers tried again to capture the sound of their orchestra on record. This time, they traveled to Richmond, Indiana, for a session at Gennett Records. According to discographer Brian Rust, two pieces were attempted during the October 7th session; “Maggie Blues” (no. 11198) and “Faded Love Letters” (no. 11199). However, for unknown reasons, neither attempts amounted to any of these recordings being issued commercially.

The Fischer brothers did not limit their musical scope to orchestra pieces, they also formed the Fischer Jazz Band after World War I, when musical tastes began to change. Always eager to keep their organizations up-to-date, the Fischer brothers formed a host of touring jazz bands during the nineteen-teens and early twenties, just to meet the growing demand for a “peppier” syncopated sound. These included the Fischer Jazz Band, Fischer’s Jazzadores, Fischer’s Banjophiends, and Fischer’s Serenaders. The group remained extremely busy for the next couple years. During the summer of 1920, Fischer’s Exposition Orchestra played at the “Big Casino” in South Haven, while Fischer’s Jazz Band (featuring James “Jazz” Johnstone) entertained the crowds at Kalamazoo’s Oakwood Park, Fischer’s Jazzadores played concert and dance engagements at the resort hotels in Charlevoix and Petoskey, and Fischer’s Banjophiends filled engagements elsewhere in Kalamazoo and around the state.

The two brothers also formed music related businesses in Kalamazoo. Charles Fischer owned and operated a retail music store, Fischer’s Music Shop, downtown from 1911 through 1919, where the latest popular music sheets, including Burton’s compositions. Victrolas, and 78rpm records were also sold. Fischer’s Orchestra performed at the store on special occasions, including a concert performance during the grand opening in June 1911. Burton Fischer formed his own music publishing company, The Burton E. Fischer Publishing Co., as a commercial outlet for many of his own compositions and the work of others.

In 1908, Charles Fischer and his wife purchased a stately home at 912 South West Street (now 914 South Westnedge). Aside from being his family residence and orchestra business office, the Fischer home served as a rehearsal space where band members could work out the intricate arrangements of their latest compositions, and an instruction room for band members who gave music lessons to supplement their orchestra commitments and various “day jobs.” 912 South West Street would remain the primary address and business office of Fischer’s many orchestras and ensembles for some 22 years.

Burton Fischer himself never married and lived at 622 and 624 John Street with his younger companion, J E Haseland. The orchestra also operated at both residences until they moved to 912 South West Street. Burton then moved to 4326 Bronson Blvd in 1956 and lived there until his death.


1 Volumes

Language of Materials



This collection dates from 1908 and was copyrighted and published by Fischer in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Material donated by Louise Forsleff.

Physical Description

The collection consists of .05 cubic feet and is composed of one thin booklet, 12 ¼”x 9 ½ ” with a brown paper cover with “Five Love Songs by Burton Edward Fischer” written both in black ink and gold lettering. The spine is bound with reddish-brown braided thread. The back cover is the same brown paper as the front. There is minor tearing on the cover in the corners and along the opening side.


The majority of the information presented on Burton Fischer came from the Kalamazoo Public Library’s “All About Kalamazoo History” section as well as census records from 1930 and 1940 and Kalamazoo City Directories.


Gift from Louise Forsleff.

Burton Edward Fischer Collection Finding Aid
Abby Buckham
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490