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Tapping the roots of ‘Taps’

Historical Society hosts talk on Butterfield’s bugle call, local ties

Daniel Butterfield is known for creating the classic bugle song “Taps,” but some people might be surprised to know his local tie to Union College. Those ties and other aspects of his life were discussed at a recent Schenectady  Historical Society presentation by Frank Taormina.

Daniel Butterfield is known for creating the classic bugle song “Taps,” but some people might be surprised to know his local tie to Union College. Those ties and other aspects of his life were discussed at a recent Schenectady Historical Society presentation by Frank Taormina.

— Most people would recognize the famed military bugle call “Taps,” but Schenectady County’s connection to the song isn’t as well known as the tune.

The Schenectady County Historical Society hosted a presentation by Frank Taormina, SCHS board member and Union College alum, about the origins of “Taps” and the man credited for creating the tune, Daniel Butterfield, on Saturday, March 10. Audience members filled the room and listened to Butterfield’s life and events leading up to “Taps” and events following it.

Taormina, former assistant superintendent for Niskayuna Central School District, said he delved into Butterfield’s life after being asked to give a presentation for Union College Academy for Lifelong Learning.

“I just did some reading on him and tried to find out as much as I could going to the archives at Union College and looking at a variety of other places,” Taormina said.

Butterfield graduated from Union in 1849 and was a member of the Sigma Phi Society, which is credited as the second oldest Greek fraternity in the country.

Also, he later became President of Union’s Alumni Association and invited famous people, such as Frederick Seward and Andrew Carnegie, to give talks in Schenectady on a variety of subjects. In the 1890s, around when General Electric was being founded, one of the talks focused on electric energy.

Taormina said Carnegie also had local connections, because Student Center building at Union used to be called Carnegie Hall due to his donations to help fund construction.

Former treasure of Union Alexander Holland also married Butterfield’s sister, Sophia, Taormina said. Holland later left his job at Union to become the financial manager for American Express.

Butterfield’s connection to “Taps” was started by his passion for bugle calls. He even had his own bugle calls made for his troops. “Taps” was played at night before soldiers went to sleep that everything is secure and is also played during military funerals.

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