My Contribution: I was a veteran of the Civil War from 1864-1865, a well-regarded local musician at community and organizational gatherings, and an assessor of the Eighth Ward. I lead the Excelsior Cornet Band.
My Legacy: I synthesized musical talents, political passion, and a spirit of community engagement in order to serve Harrisburg as an agent of change in the North after the Civil War. My work as a community-engaged, politically-active musician served as a precursor to the work of future generations of African American musicians, who used their work to support community change and activism.
About Me: “The Excelsior Cornet Band furnished some very fine music last evening at the display of fireworks at the corner of Third and Walnut streets.” Harrisburg Telegraph, July 5, 1871.
Full Name: Joseph Costley. Alternate last name: Castley.
Birth Date: ca. 1842-1843
Death Date: March 22, 1897. Buried in Philadelphia.
Place of Birth: Pennsylvania
Race: “Mulatto” (1870 Federal Census) and Black (1880 Federal Census)
Places of Residence: 605 South Avenue (1869-1882) and 307 Blackberry Avenue (1870-1876) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 845 Ontario Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1897).
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resident on South Avenue; assessor of ward; performed in Excelsior Cornet Band at numerous events.
Family Members: Wife: Julia Moore Costley. Daughter: Sarah C. “Sallie” Costley.
Education: Trained as a musician.
Occupations: Served in the Civil War from 1864-1865 in Company D of the 32nd Colored Troops Division. Carpenter. Musician.
Church Membership: Unknown.
Activism: Excelsior Cornet Band (director); Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, Chosen Friends Lodge.
Connections: William Howard Day, David Stevens, William R. Dorsey, William Battis, John W. Simpson, George H. Imes, and John Q. Adams.