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Chester E. Whiting collection

 Collection 0333-SCPA
The Chester E. Whiting collection contains material relating to Whiting's career with the U.S. Army, including his role in creating and leading the U.S. Army Field Band. Materials in it date from 1919 to 2015, but the bulk dates are 1946-1960. The collection has a varied provenance, which is reflected in its arrangement and description. The first box of material is from Frank Whiting, Jr., Chester’s nephew. Frank Whiting, Sr. was a member of the Americal Division Band and the Army Field Band. These materials were collected by that branch of the family. They include photographs, pages of Frank’s scrapbook, band publicity materials, and information specific to Chester. The second box contains material collected by Susan Whiting, Chester’s daughter. It includes pages from her mother Helen’s scrapbook, as well as publicity photos, recordings, letters, and personal photos. Most of the remaining materials were gathered from various sources by Richard W. Taylor in preparation for articles about Whiting and the Field Band (also included in the collection). They include books, programs, promotional material, photographs, and copies of material pulled from collections at the National Archives. Additional materials of unknown provenance include two swords and a hat presumably used for parades and high-profile performances. The collection is strongest at documenting Whiting’s career with various Army bands, including the Field Band. There is especially useful photographic evidence conveying the life of a military musician during and after WWII. Although there is very little about Whiting’s activities as a School Board Member in this collection, much of that activity is documented in the Ruth S. Wolf Papers and Prince George’s County Council of Parent-Teachers’ Associations records held in UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives.


  • 1919-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1945-1960

Condition Description

Excellent condition. Some photographic items are fragile and slightly faded.


1.75 Linear Feet (Mixed materials, photographs, slides, and paper. Document Whiting's career in the U.S. Army Field Band. )

5 Items (1 flag, 1 sword, 1 walking stick, 1 musical score, 1 fez)

Biographical / Historical

Chester E. Whiting (1901-1985) was a soldier, conductor, and public servant. He is best-known as the founder of the U.S. Army Field Band, where he served as conductor for fourteen years, between 1946 and 1960. Under his leadership, the U.S. Army Field Band became the organization now nicknamed "The Million Dollar Band." Although based out of Fort Meade, the Field Band had an active role in post-war musical diplomacy, traveling throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. That period coincided with Whiting’s participation in the American Bandmasters Association; he was elected to membership in 1948 and subsequently served on the Board of Directors (1955, 1965), as Vice-President (1963), and as President (1964). As a young professional Whiting was a band director and administrator in Malden, Massachusetts and a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, serving as the director of the 110th Cavalry Band between 1924 and 1940. After World War II began, the 110th was redesignated the 180th Field Artillery Band, and Whiting went on active duty. Over the course of the next several years, Whiting became director of the newly-formed Americal Division Band. Upon the conclusion of the war, Whiting was awarded the Bronze star and became one of the founding members of the 1st Combat Infantry Band, which eventually became the Army Field Band ("The Million Dollar Band"). After retirement from the U.S. military, Whiting returned to teaching and administration, eventually serving on the Prince George's County School Board from 1967 to 1980. During those years, the post-war government economy boomed, and P.G. County became less rural and more suburban with an explosion of African-American residents. Court ordered school desegregation began in 1973, and, although he had formerly voted against it, Whiting ushered in the new system, continuing to serve for seven more years.


The materials are arranged in five series. Series one consists of material collected by Frank B. Whiting, Chester's brother, and George Whiting, Chester's nephew. Frank Whiting played in all the bands Chester Whiting led between 1923 and 1960. These files were given to Richard Taylor and he donated them to Special Collections in Performing Arts. Similarly, series two is the Susan Thompson Whiting (Robinson) and consists of material collected by Chester Whiting's daugher, Susan, and wife, Helen. Series three contains papers and phographs gathered by Richard Taylor in preparation for two articles about Chester Whiting. Series four contains media presentations of the U.S. Army Field Band collected by Richard Taylor Series five consists of several personal items that once belonged to Whiting. These were given to Taylor by Susan Whiting Robinson and then donated to the archive in 2018.

Custodial History

Richard Taylor donated these materials in 2018. He had been collecting them as part of his work documenting the history of the U.S. Army Field Band. As indicated by the series titles, many items came from Susan Thompson Whiting Robinson, Chester Whiting's daughter, other material was given to Taylor by George Whiting, Chester Whiting's nephew, and had been originally collected by Frank Whiting, Chester's brother. Additional material relates to Taylor's own research and publications about Chester Whiting and his career.

Related Materials

Material related to Whiting's career as a band director are also found in the following collections:

Kenneth Slater papers, 11.37.7. Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library.

American Bandmasters Association official records, 2.1.28. Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library.

Material related to Whiting's tenture on the Prince George's County School Board can be found in these collections:

Prince George's County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (PGCCPTA) records, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Prince George's County Board of Education, 1955-1976. Ruth S. Wolf papers, 1. Special Collections and University Archives. Accessed May 22, 2019.

Condition Description

Excellent condition. Some photographic items are fragile and slightly faded.
Chester E. Whiting collection finding aid
Christina Taylor Gibson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States