John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), the most famous bandleader ever known, was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training base during World War I.
Sousa composed 136 military marches, including what is arguably the most famous march in the world, “The Stars and Stripes Forever" (1896).
In 1917, at the height of his career and in support of the war effort, Sousa assumed the musical directorship of the Great Lakes Band.
Sousa’s Band Battalion, as it was called, toured the world and raised over $21 million in war bonds. “The Naval Reserve March,” also known as “The Great Lakes March,” was written in 1918 during his tenure as the director of the Great Lakes Band.
Panorama of Sousa and his Great Lakes Band Battalion, circa 1918. Courtesy of the Great Lakes Naval Museum.
The popularity of Sousa’s music and the incredible musicianship of his band carried America’s growing national pride to the world. The Topeka Daily Capital noted in 1902 that, “All the way through a Sousa program, you can see the old flag waving, hear the clothes flapping on the line in the back yard and smell the pork and beans cooking in the kitchen.” In other words, Sousa’s music represented the heart and soul of America.
Curt Teich postcard, 1929 (5461-29)
In 1987, "The Stars and Stripes Forever" was declared the National March of the United States.