"The President's Own"

A History of the United States Marine Band by Col. John R. Bourgeois (Ret)

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After playing for dances of the Washington Assembly at Stelle's Hotel late in 1800, the band was prepared to make its official debut when President John Adams held a reception at the President's Mansion-not yet known as the White House-on New Year's Day 1801.

On 4 March 1801 at the first inauguration held in Washington, the Marines, along with their band, riflemen and artillery paraded at ten o'clock in the morning in front of President-elect Thomas Jefferson's lodgings at McMunn and Conrad's. The Marine Band played Jefferson's March and other airs. The inauguration took place at noon. Since then, the Marine Band has played at every inaugural.

Lieutenant Colonel Wharton, who succeeded Lt Col Burrows as commandant in 1804, was amazed to receive on 28 February 1805 a letter from Captain John Hall on board the Congress at Palermo, Italy. It stated that he had enlisted a "Band of Music" for the Corps, and had supplied them with instruments at Corps' expense. A month later, Captain Hall again wrote Commandant Wharton from Messina, that, under the orders of Commodore Barron, he had visited Catania "for the purpose of procuring a band;" that he had "been fortunate enough to enlist fourteen good musicians." he noted that he had secured instruments at Messina; and that he had enlisted this band in accordance with orders he had received from Commandant Burrows prior to his departure. Capt Hall stated that he hoped Commandant Wharton would be "pleased with them."

Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Wharton was anything but pleased to have a second "band of music" on his hands. The last we hear of Captain Hall's "band of Italians" was on 31 July 1806 when Commandant Wharton ordered that the "Italian Band" live in "quarters within the garrison" and be "under the same regulations as the old band is and has been."

The Italian musicians were assimilated into the original Marine Band and became an integral part of the organization. Francisco Pulizzi, age 40, and Venerando Pulizzi , age 12, were among those enlisted at Catania. Later both served in the positions of fife major and drum major. Venerando served twice as leader of the band; briefly in 1816 and then later from 1818 to 1827. He left the band and was promoted to Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps in 1832 and served at Headquarters until 1852.

During Thomas Jefferson's two administrations, the Marine Band played both the official and social music in the city of Washington and it was through the patronage and interest of Jefferson that the band came to be known as "The President's Own."

The band played for James Madison when he became president on 4 March 1809 and that evening at Long's Hotel played for the first Inaugural Ball ever held in America. Under the direction of Drum Major Charles Ashworth, the band struck up Jefferson's March at the appearance of the former chief executive and Madison's March on the arrival of President and "Sweet Dolly" Madison.

During the War of 1812 with Great Britain, the Marine bandsmen helped maintain national morale in the Capital with their patriotic airs and martial strains. Some fought at the battle of Bladensburg, while others assisted in saving the Corps' early records when the British burned most of Washington in 1814.

The most elaborate event of those days was the visit of Lafayette to the United States in 1824-25. Lafayette arrived on 12 October 1824 and was greeted with the largest parade ever held in Washington. Two days later, President Monroe hosted a state dinner in his honor. Music for both occasions was furnished by the Marine Band.

The birthday of Lafayette, 6 September 1825, gave President Adams the opportunity to rise and propose the first toast at the White House, "The Twenty-Second Day of February (Washington's birthday) and the Sixth of September." As the guests stood for the toast, Venerando Pulizzi led the Marine Band in playing The Marseillaise. Lafayette responded with a toast to "The Fourth of July, the birthday of liberty in both hemispheres."

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