The University of Michigan Marching Band in 1897, one year after its formation and when formal uniforms were “still a thing of the future.” The band celebrates its 120th anniversary this month. View a larger version. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)

This month in history (120 years ago)

The Michigan Marching Band began in the fall of 1896 when a 17-year-old from Ann Arbor, Harry dePont, invited musicians on campus to form a band for the university. The idea was not a new one — in previous years, there had been several attempts to start up a band but all had failed due to lack of support. To dePont’s delight, nearly 30 musicians gathered in Harris Hall on Nov. 13, 1896, for an initial meeting. An entirely student-run organization, the band received no support from the university, and the biggest problem was that they had no place of their own to rehearse. DePont asked President James Burrill Angell for assistance. Angell replied, “I shall be very glad to assist the band, but you must show me that this is a sincere venture.” DePont assured Angell that the band was prepared to provide music for the Law School’s annual observance of Washington’s Birthday. On Feb. 22, 1897, the band performed on stage of University Hall. Angell granted permission for the band to rehearse in Room A of University Hall. By spring, the band had established itself as one of the most popular groups on campus as it played at all the indoor track meets and baseball games. The first appearance on a football field was in the fall of 1898 when the presence of the band at the games had become an indispensable part of the Michigan tradition.

Michigan Marching Band website