I know about famous composers from centuries past, and I can even think of a few people who became famous through performance in the 19th century (Jenny Lind, Franz Liszt). But were there any bands that were big before the early twentieth century?
I know there is not a clear distinction between an “orchestra” and a “band”. What I have in mind is a group that plays popular or folk music instead of “classical”, and has more or less the same members during its run. Many bands do go through changes in line-up, but few go on past all of the original members - like an orchestra does over time. Individual personalities are important in defining bands, while orchestras tend to go for continuity. Most military bands are more like orchestras in this regard. I know there might be a better definition of “band” out there, but I think you get the idea.
Lets say you went back in time to Cincinatti or Baltimore in the 1850s. Would you overhear anyone there say something like " Dude, you gotta hear 'Zachariah and the Grist Mill Boys ’ at the commons tonight, they are one righteous band out of Illinois"? Were there any bands, that were well known nationally, or ‘on tour’ in those days?
There was certainly a wealth of music publishing during those times.
How about in other countries? Did the idea of popular bands come to America from Germany or somewhere else?