BACH MERCEDES TRUMPETS AND CORNETS

“ANOTHER STRAD IN DISGUISE”

Roy Hempley

With Bill Siegfried

 

Dedication

 

            This article is dedicated to Gilbert (Gil) Mitchell.  During his career, Gil was many things: soloist, conductor, educator and soldier.  Bill Siegfried (above) was among his many students.  Gil was also a good friend of Vincent Bach who entrusted him with quite a few of his important treasures.  Later, he freely provided the author with advice and artifacts to help research Bach’s instruments.  For this article, perhaps Gil’s most valuable contribution was to draw attention to his own Bach trumpet, a Mercedes that Bach made late in his career.  This prompted a question about why anybody would think so highly of a Bach Mercedes trumpet.  For his help and inspiration, this article is dedicated to Gil—Mercedes trumpeter.

 

Preface

 

            The evolution of any of Bach’s instrument models is complicated.  In 1961 when Bach sold his company, he turned over significant archival material to the buyer, the Selmer Company.  This material provided specifications and insights into production decisions made throughout his career.  In addition, Bach provided summaries of his products.  Taken together, the information still did not convey everything Selmer needed to know.  The reason for this is easy to understand.  The Bach Corporation mainly lived in Bach’s mind, not on paper.  Looking at his archives now without being able to tap into his thoughts, it is impossible to describe all aspects of his production choices exactly right.  Close is possible; exact is not.  The reason for bringing this up is that discussing Mercedes instruments is almost the most complicated aspect of Bach production, second only to Stradivarius production.

 

            The definition of a Mercedes instrument varied widely over time.  If a person now owns one of these instruments, two questions arise.  First, is it a standard Mercedes?  Second, could it satisfy a current playing need?  Obviously, answering the second question depends on the trumpet player, but answering the first question has to be based on what Bach considered the standard to be when the instrument was made.  That can be contrasted with what happened with Stradivarius instruments.

 

            If a trumpet player today wants to buy a Stradivarius trumpet, he or she may choose from a variety of bore sizes, bells, mouthpipes and other aspects of the Stradivarius line of instruments.  Stradivariuses may be “created” online.  Many of the combinations may be tried at a Bach dealer.  For most of his career, however, Bach made most of those choices himself for all of his models.  The following illustrates choices Bach may have made available.

 

            Picking a month at random, here are the shipments to buying entities in June 1960.  In that month, Bach shipped 109 instruments to 65 different entities, meaning dealers and other recipients such as the United States Marine Corps.  By far, the biggest recipient that month was Pennino Music Company in Los Angeles, California.  Pennino got eight instruments broken down as follows.  There were three Bb Stradivarius trumpets (0.459 inch bore, #43 bell, #25 mouthpipe), two Bb Stradivarius trumpets (0.459 inch bore, #37 bell, #25 mouthpipe), one D Stradivarius trumpet (0.448 inch bore, #236 bell, #7D mouthpipe), one Bb Mercedes trumpet (0.456 inch bore, #38K bell, #7 mouthpipe) and one Bb Mercedes cornet (0.456 inch bore, #38K bell, #106 mouthpipe).  This was not a typical shipment since the average number of instruments shipped to an entity was less than two instruments.  On the other hand, players shopping at Pennino could select from the broadest array of Bach instruments shipped that month.  General observations about Bach shipments seemed more-or-less to follow this kind of pattern.

 

            Bach’s shipments imply that if a trumpet player wanted to buy a Stradivarius Bb trumpet from a dealer in 1960, the choice might be rather limited.  The choice would be between a medium-large bore (0.459 inches) trumpet with a #25 mouthpipe and either a #37 or #43 bell.  The range of choices could not be expanded easily unless the person went to the Bach factory.  There a person could choose from available stock or even tell Bach how he wanted a horn to play.  Bach might then draw on available instruments waiting to be shipped or assemble an instrument that he thought would meet the person’s objectives.  There would be little discussion about things that modern players routinely think about today.  Bach was rather insistent that he could choose trumpet components (mainly bore size, bell and mouthpipe) to meet playing objectives much better than players could.

 

            Of course there were some exceptions to these generalizations, but for the most part, Bach simply made trumpets that he thought achieved certain objectives and sold them to dealers.  He produced “standards”, but those would remain standard for only a relatively short time.  Then he would change the standard, sometimes rather dramatically, as he saw fit.  When his production history is examined, it is often difficult to tell exactly when something changed, much less what or why.

 

            Picking a Mercedes at a music store was not so cut and dried as to what was being bought, however, because so many of them were not standard even as they left the Bach factory.  Often research has to be done to tell whether or not the Mercedes might be in a standard configuration for the production period.  Typically that research has to be done using Bach’s archival data and quite often a set of measuring tools.

 

            At this point, a portion of a document from Bach’s archives will be introduced to illustrate some of the complexities of researching his Mercedes trumpets.

 

Figure 1: Bell Mandril 24 Boilerplate
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The above figure is the boiler plate from a technical drawing of Bach bell #24.  The Selmer Company received the drawing from Bach, and it remains in his archives at the Bach plant.  The boilerplate indicates that Bach combined elements of bells #12 and #14 and redesigned them into bell #24.  It is the only bell that Bach indicates was specifically designated for his Mercedes trumpets.  Codified on February 5, 1933, it was only natural to look for trumpets made with this bell and investigate them for this article.  Research of all of Bach’s records, however, shows that this particular bell was never used on any Mercedes, trumpet or cornet.  Moreover, it was never used on any other Bach model either.  Somewhere in the Bach plant the original of this bell still may be lurking unused.

 

            The above boilerplate introduces other factors that lead to unanswered questions that inevitably arise in researching Bach instruments.  Documentation is certainly thought to be helpful, but not always.  It will be demonstrated later that Bach’s #14 bell was codified in 1925.  The #12 bell, however, was not codified until 1941.  This boilerplate represents a bell that apparently was drawn up almost exactly halfway between the codification dates of its progenitors, i.e., 1933.  The only explanation for this interesting observation would have to have been provided by Bach himself.

 

            For research, some lapses in Bach’s archival data can be filled by examining instruments.  Even so, uncertainties emerge making speculation necessary, and inevitably mistakes will crop up.  Despite these caveats, the following material discusses the evolution of Bach’s Mercedes instruments, sometimes in spite of what Bach himself said.  The resulting exposition should be fairly accurate.

 

Introduction to Mercedes Trumpets (and Cornets)

 

            The quotation in the title of this article, “Another Strad In Disguise”, was written by Vincent Bach.  On January 13, 1968, Bach wrote a letter to his friend Gilbert Mitchell (USA Lt Col, Retired).  At the time, Mitchell was still a member of the United States Army Band in Washington, D. C.  Mitchell had asked Bach about a Mt Vernon Mercedes trumpet he owned.  In Bach’s reply, he described aspects of Mercedes trumpets in general.  He said that they were essentially the same as Stradivarius trumpets, but they were made in only one bore size (0.456 inches) and without the nickel trim used on Stradivarius trumpets.  Bach’s intent was to convey to Mitchell that his Mercedes trumpet was indeed a high quality instrument with playing characteristics like those of Stradivarius trumpets but priced more modestly.

 

            Bach’s letter was written several years after he sold his company and with a specific context in mind.  The story of Mercedes instruments actually is more complicated than Bach described.  The intent of this article is to trace Mercedes instruments from their introduction up to the specific Mercedes Bach addressed in his letter to Mitchell.

 

            It is not clear that Bach originally intended to name any of his instruments Mercedes.  The name was not included in his original trademark applications in the fall of 1925, his first full year of production.  When he finally applied for his Mercedes trademark in 1927, it might have seemed that choosing it could complicate trademark registration and recognition.  After all, there were three United States trademarks already registered for the Mercedes automobile before Bach applied for his trademark.  Bach appears to have understood the trademark process well enough to avoid any trademark problems by adopting a stylized Mercedes signature.  The two Mercedes trademarks (car and instruments) look nothing alike.  Moreover, using the same name is allowed under trademark law for dissimilar products.

 

            On the surface of it, Mercedes seems an odd name for Bach to choose for one of his instrument lines.  Among his five most prominent model names; Stradivarius, Apollo, Mercury, Minerva and Mercedes; three were names of Greek or Roman deities.  Mercedes and Stradivarius were not.

 

            Discounting Minerva, a short-lived line of instruments that did not appear until 1959, Apollo and Mercedes seem to have competed to be the intermediate instrument line between Stradivarius and Mercury.

 

            Bach’s earliest catalogs reveal something about the intended outcome.  In them, Bach described three instrument models: Stradivarius, Apollo and Mercury.  Each one is said to have a trademark.  That may have been Bach’s intent, but only two applications are on file at the U.S. Trademark Office, and Apollo is not one of them.

 

            The first Apollo instruments were a little odd compared to Stradivarius instruments.  Bach stopped routine manufacturing of them very early.  As time went on, he occasionally would slip a few Apollos into production.  In total, Apollo production may have amounted to about 100 instruments.  A very small number have been examined, including two of the earliest ones made.  Neither of them approached Stradivarius or even Mercedes quality.

 

            Early Mercedes were different.  As Bach said to Mitchell, Mercedes were made to high standards somewhat akin to that of Stradivarius instruments.  The most recognizable difference eventually materialized as the absence of nickel silver on most Mercedes.  In some instances, overproduced or blemished Stradivarius parts were used on them.  As a result, not all Mercedes were created equal.

 

            The name Stradivarius of course was adopted from the famous violin, but why did Bach choose Mercedes as a name for some of his instruments?  The answer to this remains elusive.  It is only natural to think the choice might have had something to do with the quality of the German automobile, but this is speculation.

 

            The two trademarks (automobile and trumpet) are shown below in their relative sizes as they appear in their respective United States trademark applications.

 

Figure 2: Mercedes Trademarks
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Research sometimes raises more questions than it answers.  For example, the earliest automobile trademarks used square letters, and two of them (the last e’s) had French pronunciation marks over them. The marks, called accent aigu and accent grave, respectively, seem to be out of place because all of the principals of the automobile company (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft) were German.  It happens that the automobile company’s biggest customer and board member had a daughter named Mercedes.  Her name used the same marks and was chosen for the automobile, but the automobile company itself did not seem to adopt them.  How and why they were used for a United States trademark as it appears above is something of a mystery that really needs no explanation.

 

            Bach’s trademark, however, was in script form, so it cannot be confused with the square-lettered version registered for the automobiles, with or without the pronunciation marks.

 

            The following are important dates for Bach’s Mercedes trademark on file with the U.S. Trademark Office.

 

·        Filing date: March 21, 1927

·        Registration date: March 27, 1928

·        First-use-in-commerce date: January 15, 1927

 

            The first-use-in-commerce date identifies approximately when Bach’s first Mercedes trumpet was made.  All of the information we know about this instrument is shown below on its shop card.

 

 

 

Figure 3: Mercedes Nr. 573 Shop Card
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Mercedes trumpet #573 was completed on January 14, 1927, the day before Bach said the Mercedes trademark was first used and two months before the application for the name was filed with the U.S. Trademark Office.  It was a large bore trumpet that used Stradivarius components available at the time of manufacture (type A valves, #1 bell and #2 mouthpipe).  (Bach assigned letters to valve designs and numbers to bell and mouthpipe mandrils.)  Its bell was made of brass routinely used at the time for Stradivarius trumpet bells.  This trumpet probably was destroyed (see note: spoiled), so it is unlikely to turn up for examination.

 

            Early in 1928, Bach followed Mercedes #573 with four additional Mercedes trumpets.  One of the four was kept on hand in the Bach plant for some time.  The others were sent to a theater, quite likely as rentals.  They too were large bore trumpets that used Stradivarius components being used at the time (type B valves, #6 bells and #6 mouthpipes).  Bach may have intended to continue using components on Mercedes that were designed for Stradivariuses

 

            By the fall of 1929, however, more serious Mercedes production began, and the instruments began to take shape.   First, the vast majority of Mercedes instruments were medium bore instruments (0.453 inches) up until 1959 when Bach began making them in a new bore size, 0.456 inches.

 

            This latter bore size was and remains odd for Bach instruments.  He eventually provided a rather extensive explanation for this choice in his 1961 instrument catalog (see extract at the end of this article).  Among a rather long explanation, he indicated that Mercedes were made in the most desirable bore size for the average player (between medium and medium-large bore sizes) and “well suited for all-around work”.  This might be a little confusing considering his reply to Mitchell because Mitchell was not an “average” player.  Mitchell clearly thought his Mercedes was an excellent trumpet.  It probably was made with a #38 bell and #7 mouthpipe, the standard Mercedes configuration at the time.

 

            Bach made 1687 Mercedes instruments between 1927 and 1961.  There were 1267 trumpets and 420 cornets.  Yearly production is shown on the following chart.

 

Figure 4: Mercedes Yearly Production
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Overall Mercedes production was spotty during the early years.  The most important thing that has not been determined is whether Mercedes trumpets made between 1931 and 1934 all were configured like Stradivarius instruments as were the early Mercedes examined for this article.

 

            Mercedes production (along with the rest of Bach production) suffered between the early and late 1930s.  This period coincides with the Great Depression.  During two World War Two years (1943-1944), Mercedes production completely stopped.  Bach began reorganizing his business immediately after the war, and a few Mercedes were made then.  Production increased toward the end of the 1940s, and continued relatively stable until he sold his company in 1961.  (The year 1961 shows a falloff in production, but the 1961 data represent only three-quarters of a production year.  Bach sold his company in the fall of that year.)

 

            Determining what Mercedes were like during different production periods unfortunately boiled down to something of a statistical analysis since quite a few of them were one-of-a-kind instruments.  Breaking production down by bore size was a place to start the analysis.  Approximately 86 percent were medium bore instruments (0.453 inches).  Another 10 percent were made late during Mt Vernon production in a special bore size (0.456 inches).  Other bore sizes account for the remaining 4 percent and are considered non-standard.  (All of the “other” bore sized trumpets were made prior to World War Two, and only 15 cornets in odd bore sizes were made after the war.)

 

            The 96 percent of the Mercedes made with the two standard bore sizes (0.453 inches and 0.456 inches) were grouped according to when they were produced and the major components used on them.  This was a rather labored and somewhat complicated process explained in more detail in the appendix to this article.  The results of the exercise are shown in the following table, but to understand the table better, the data in the appendix should be considered.

 

MERCEDES CONFIGURATION TABLE

Bore Sizes: 0.453 and 0.456 Inches

 

TRUMPETS

CORNETS

 

BELL(s)

MOUTHPIPE(s)

BELL(s)

MOUTHPIPES(s)

Pre-WW II

 

 

 

 

1929-1931

#11 & #14

#6 & #14

-

-

 

(34%)   (61%)

(50%)  (44%)

-

-

1940-1942

#31 & #37

#7

#31 & #37

#112

 

(12%)   (86%)

(99%)

(75%)    (10%)

(95%)

 

 

 

 

 

Post-WW II

 

 

 

 

1946-1953

#37 & #38

#7

#37 & #38

#112 & #106

 

(30%)     (64%)

(97%)

(13%)   (76%)

(15%)     (73%)

1954-1961

#38

#7

#38

#106

 

(96%)

(98%)

(99%)

(100%)

Criterion for including a component: 10% or greater

The numbers assigned to the components do not imply an order to their introduction

 

            The above table may introduce some confusion because Bach’s bell numbers do not necessarily reflect the order in which they were put into production.  To illustrate this, 1931 was a transition year for Mercedes as Bach began changing from the #14 bell to the #11 bell.  The first few #11 bells were installed on Stradivarius cornets.  Almost immediately, the next 20 or so #11 bells were assigned to Mercedes trumpets.  Similarly, #14 mouthpipes found on earlier Mercedes trumpets gave way to #6 mouthpipes.  This means that the basic configuration of Mercedes trumpets during the 1929-1931 period changed from medium bore trumpets with #14 bells and #14 mouthpipes to medium bore trumpets with #11 bells and #6 mouthpipes.  The mouthpipe change was good for business since #6 mouthpipes were used extensively on Stradivarius instruments too.

 

            The numbers below the bell numbers in the chart (in parentheses) are the percentages of instruments made with each bell and mouthpipe.  In the same case discussed in the previous paragraph, 34 and 61 percent used #11 bells and #14 bells, respectively.

 

            Mouthpipe choices are easier to follow.  After 1940, Mercedes trumpets used #7 mouthpipes almost exclusively.  Anything else was probably a Stradivarius part not needed or suitable for that model.  For cornets, the #112 mouthpipe gave way to #106 mouthpipes sometimes after World War Two, and the latter mouthpipes were used thereafter.

 

            While the table is enlightening within its own right, it was constructed to identify mainstream Mercedes instruments to discuss in this paper.  As the analyses evolved, it became convenient to divide Mercedes production into four major periods: two before and during World War Two and two afterwards.  For the most part, the periods correspond to the peaks shown in the year-by-year production chart.  The 1954 through 1961 period represents Mt Vernon production.  All other production was at the Bronx plant except for the last part of 1953 which was also part of Mt Vernon production.

 

            Each Mercedes bell was stamped with Bach’s trademark.  A photograph of the stamp Bach used is shown in the following photograph.  No longer used, it is one of the oldest existing Bach bell stamps.  It is still located in the Bach factory.

 

Figure 5: Mercedes Bell Stamp
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)


 

 

            The black-on-white inset is an image of the stamp rolled onto a piece of paper and scanned so that the stamp appears to be approximately the same size as Mercedes on the stamp.  (Since the stamp is round, Mercedes actually rolls out to a slightly wider size on paper.)  The images can be compared with the bell logos on the bells of trumpets featured in this article.

 

            From this point on, most of the discussion will focus on Mercedes trumpets.  No effort to gather Mercedes cornets was made.  Cornets will be discussed only when there is something specific related to them that contributes to the overall understanding of the evolution of the Mercedes model.

 

            The remaining sections of this article correspond to the table time divisions that describe major configurations changes in Mercedes instruments.

 

EARLY MERCEDES TRUMPETS: 1929-1931

 

            One of the problems with discussing early Mercedes instruments is that there are practically no documents written about them outside of Bach’s shop cards.  They were not offered in Bach’s early catalogs.  To complicate matters, this period of manufacturing had the widest spectrum of Mercedes made.  As outlined for this period in the Mercedes configuration table, mainstream Mercedes were medium bore trumpets with either #11 or #14 bells and #6 or #14 mouthpipes.

 

            Two of the 34 Mercedes trumpets made in 1929 have been located.  One of them, #1,400, is shown in the photograph below.

 

Figure 6: Mercedes Nr. 1400
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            This trumpet closely resembles a Stradivarius instrument from the same manufacturing period except that the second valve slide is perpendicular to the valve casing.  The perpendicular second valve slide was not a general trait of Mercedes trumpets.  (A few such second valve slides are found on Bb Stradivarius trumpets too.)  The finger buttons on this Mercedes are unusual, but these may not be original.

 

            The shop card for trumpet #1,400 is shown below.

 

Figure 7: Mercedes Nr. 1400 Shop Card
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Referring to the shop card, it appears that Mercedes #1,400’s mouthpipe was changed from the standard #14 mouthpipe to a #9 mouthpipe.  The mouthpipe is stamped on the trumpet appropriately.  (See below.)

 

Figure 8: Mercedes Nr. 1400 Mouthpipe Number
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The photograph of the mouthpipe number has been enlarged significantly to show the number nine stamped on it.  Looking closely at the photograph also shows that the mouthpipe was rotated slightly when it replaced the original one.  This indicates an uncharacteristic lack of care in replacing the mouthpipe on this instrument.  Yet the note on the shop card indicates that the change was made at the Bach factory rather than someplace else.

 

            Confirming that the currently installed mouthpipe is a #9 mouthpipe as indicated on the trumpet’s shop card was not easy because the mounted mouthpipe is rather short compared to a standard Bach mouthpipe from that era. Measurements of the mouthpipe openings and the mouthpiece receiver, however, lead to the conclusion that the mouthpipe on this trumpet was cut about an inch shorter than normal.  This results in a gap of over an inch in the mouthpiece receiver.  Exactly why this was done is not known.

 

            The bell can be identified as a #14 bell as defined on the shop card.  A photograph of the bell logo is shown below.

 

Figure 9: Mercedes Nr. 1400 Bell Logo
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The bell number itself is hard to read.  Looking through a magnifying glass, the number stamp reads 14 H.  The only significant question is why there is an H stamped after the bell number.  Within the first 3000 instruments Bach made, there were located in one place or another about 35 different indicators of bell brass used on his instruments.  An H was not one of them.  (This does not mean that Bach used 35 different types of bell brass.  Some of the indicators referred to the same type.)

 

            It seemed logical to examine the technical drawing in Bach’s archives to try to gather more information about the #14 bell, particularly the H.  The boiler plate from that technical drawing is shown below on the left.

 

Figure 10: Nr. 14 Mandril Boilerplates (Bell, left; Mouthpipe, right)
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The only useful information that can be gleaned from this boiler plate is that bell #14 was codified on April 19, 1925, and the drawing represents an English Besson (E.B.) bell.  There is no indication as to why there is a letter H on the bell.

 

            If the letter H on the bell referred to the bell brass, it should have been a letter G as many such stampings on Bach’s early instruments did.  (A “G” is shown on the shop card.)  The meaning of the letter H remains an unsolved mystery.

 

            As for general use of the #14 bell, it was first used on a Stradivarius trumpet.  Thereafter, it was used on very few Stradivariuses.  In all, thirty four of them were used on Mercedes trumpets.

 

            As noted above, Mercedes #1,400’s mouthpipe was changed from the original #14 mouthpipe.  While the reasons for the change are not known, there are a couple of observations that might be made.  The #14 mouthpipe was used mainly on Mercedes instruments (and some on Mercury instruments).  It is an unusual mouthpipe when compared with other Bach mouthpipes.  Its opening is large (0.368 inches), and it expands a lot less than most Bach mouthpipes to 0.431 inches.  Its design was based on one used on an English Besson (see above, right, E.B.) trumpet.  Bach’s codification date of this design is unknown.

 

            Use of the #14 mouthpipe did not endure, but looking at the two boilerplates (above) together, it is almost impossible to avoid making an observation that at the early stages of Bach production, some trumpet was to have characteristics of a specific English Besson trumpet.  It is only a short leap to believe that the Mercedes trumpet may have been nominated to be that trumpet.

 

            A second early Mercedes trumpet was examined for this article.  It is trumpet #1,423.  It is shown in the following photograph.

 

Figure 11: Mercedes Nr. 1423
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Given the unfortunate exchange of mouthpipes on Mercedes #1,400, it was disappointing to find that that Mercedes #1,423 was modified too.  The mouthpipe on this Mercedes seems to have been changed, although there is no indication of that on the shop card shown below.  There has been obvious re-soldering of the bell braces, and that sometimes indicates a mouthpipe change.  While the currently installed mouthpipe’s length is standard for the production period, its opening sizes correspond approximately to those of a Bach #2 mouthpipe.  These mouthpipes would have been plentiful at the time this trumpet was made.  To sum this up, it is a good guess that this trumpet has a #2 mouthpipe on it instead of the indicated #14 mouthpipe.

 

Figure 12: Mercedes Nr. 1423 Shop Card
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Mercedes #1,423 was completed in 1929.  Presumably the bell on it is a #14 bell, but there is no 14 stamped on the bell as there is on Mercedes #1400.  There should be a bell stamp for this manufacturing period.

 

            There are few other differences between Mercedes trumpets #1,400 and #1,423.  Obviously the second valve slide on Mercedes #1,423 is pointed to the rear as might be expected for a Bach Bb trumpet.  As noted earlier, one of the “anomalies” of trumpet #1,400 is the use of non-Stradivarius-type finger buttons.  The finger buttons on trumpet #1,423 are standard Stradivarius-type buttons.  A similar Mercedes trumpet close in serial number to the above two was sold on Ebay.  It had Stradivarius-type finger buttons. Stradivarius-type finger buttons are considered normal for Mercedes trumpets.

 

            While the Mercedes trumpets made during this period may look like Stradivarius trumpets, they certainly couldn’t have the playing characteristics of a Stradivarius, particularly if the rather odd #14 mouthpipe was used.  In any case, standard Mercedes soon received #11 bells and #6 mouthpipes.

 

            None of the newer Mercedes from this period using #11 bells and #6 mouthpipes have been located.  The changes were not trivial.  Still in use today, the #6 mouthpipe was first introduced in 1927 and became a great standard for Bach trumpets.  The #11 bell was not introduced until 1931, and it ended up being used on C and well as Bb trumpets.  The changes in bell and mouthpipe would have made Mercedes trumpets seem to be more restrictive or tighter instruments compared to trumpets #1,400 and #1,423.  It might appear that Bach gave up on the idea of an instruments based on the particular English Besson trumpet as proposed earlier.

 

Pre- and Early World War Two Mercedes: 1940 - 1942

 

            None of the 1940 and 1941 Mercedes have been examined.  Three were seen on Ebay in past years.  Some additional details are available for two of them from their shop cards.

 

            For those readers who might be interested in such things, two of the three instruments offered on Ebay have serial numbers in the 5xxx range.  The other one has a serial number in the low 8xxx range.  The latter trumpet was one of 12 Mercedes made in 1940.  All of them were anomalous medium-large bore trumpets that used #37 bells and #7 mouthpipes.  These Mercedes also illustrate some rather strange serial number sequencing not uncommon for Bach around World War Two.  (See article on Bach Mercury instruments.)  His reasons for such serial number jumps are not known.

 

            The two 5xxx-range serial number Mercedes trumpets were normal medium bore instruments as might be expected.  They could be characterized as follows.  They used one-piece bells, diamond braces, one-piece third valve slides and hexagonal mouthpiece receiver tips.  They used pre-war #37 bells and #7 mouthpipes.  Finished in clear lacquer, they had rather thin bell brass (brass code 48) made by the American Brass Company.

 

            All three of these Mercedes as well as the two shown in the above section used mouthpiece receivers with hexagonal tips.  This subject may seem a rather insignificant, but consider the data shown below.

 

Figure 13: Mercedes Extracts, Bach Archives
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The above figure contains Mercedes trumpet extracts from two documents in Bach’s archives that relate to both Mercury and Mercedes trumpets and cornets.  They were written in the years leading up to World War Two.  No dates are on the documents, but reasonable estimates can be made as indicated.  Essentially, the extracts provide the configuration of Mercedes trumpets going into the war, but the bottom extract was the later of the two.  (This was judged by the price increases indicated for Mercury cornets—not shown.)  The major point to conclude from these extracts is that Mercedes were slated to have mouthpiece receivers as shown in the bottom extract and not hexagonal tipped receivers.  As will be seen below, this did not happen quickly or permanently.

 

            Other points of interest from these extracts are these.  No Mercedes were made with #10 bells and only a total of three were made with #10 mouthpipes.

 

            Two later trumpets from this period of manufacturing (1940-1942) have been located, but they may not be entirely representative of standard Mercedes.  They were made during the early part of the war.  Material constraints and the availability of products from some companies may have caused Bach to change his instrument configurations somewhat.

 

            During World War Two, the United States government instituted a War Production Board.  That board tried to control critical war materials, although some sources suggest that this effort was not entirely successful.  Nevertheless, controls on copper and zinc (brass components) and the outputs of brass foundries were put in place.  Not quite satisfied with that, there appears to have been specific controls on musical instruments too.  Overall, these controls did not affect Bach production numbers as much as military enlistment of his employees.  Bach did end up producing quite a few instruments during the war, many of them under contract to the military.  Mercedes production, however, came to a complete halt during 1943 and 1944.  It might seem as if the military found no need to save money by buying less expensive models from Bach.

 

            One of these two early war trumpets, #5,779, is shown below.  The owner of this trumpet could not make it available for examination but did supply some pictures.

 

Figure 14: Mercedes Nr. 5779
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            This Mercedes has a rather unusual mouthpiece receiver.  This receiver does not conform to either of those depicted in the two extracts shown above.  Still, it may have been common for Mercedes made during World War Two.

 

            On this trumpet, the most obvious oddities are the curved portions of the valve slides.  They appear to be made of copper or some unknown alloy.  This can be seen in the photograph below.

 

Figure 15: Mercedes Nr. 5779, Tube Bends
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Since this trumpet is considered to be non-standard, it was hoped that its shop card would shed some light on it.  The shop card is shown below.

 

Figure 16: Mercedes Nr. 5779 Shop Card
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The sold date is too faint to be read easily, but it says May 7, 1942.  This was just five months after the United States formally entered World War Two.

 

            It is assumed that Mercedes #5,779 met a specific regulation referred to on the shop card as “N. S. Regulation”.  The exact meaning of this regulation is not known.  This Mercedes, however, was not a military trumpet as many of Bach’s World War Two trumpets were.  It was sold to a music company.  One of about six Mercedes instruments made at the same time, the bell brass is identified as coming from the Chase Brass Company instead of Bach’s normal supplier, the American Brass Company.

 

            To try and shed some more light on Mercedes instruments sold during the war, some written materials are included here.  The following scans were made from pages of a 1941 Bach brochure that introduced Mercedes instruments.  (The quality of the scans is poor.  They were made from a black and white copy of a color brochure.)  The first scan identifies all Bach models being offered at the time.

 

Figure 17: Bach Brochure Cover 1941
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The next scan of an inside page specifically describes the Mercedes line.  It is worthwhile noting that Mercedes is not written in script form like the trademark.  “Mercedes” actually looks more like a later automobile trademark.

 

Figure 18: Bach Brochure Mercedes Introduction 1941
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            This page is a little hard to explain since Mercedes were obviously made years before the publication of this brochure.  By the time it was published, Bach had made nearly 15 cornets and almost 100 trumpets.  Maybe the reference to the “new” Mercedes is to some specific design of these instruments.  It also appears that Bach intended to advertise these instruments for all around use.

 

            The prices shown on the following pages were effective as of July 1, 1941.  Bach increased his prices in 1942.  The updated prices were noted by the dealer and effective as of October 9, 1942.  The increase in prices quite likely reflects an increased cost of materials during the war.

 

            The following scan provides both the 1941 and 1942 costs of a Mercedes trumpet outfit.

 

Figure 19: Bach Brochure Mercedes Trumpet 1941
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The 1941 trumpet outfit cost of $135 can be compared to the $165 cost to buy a Stradivarius outfit.  This was only an 18 percent reduction.  While the two outfits probably included the same accessories, the Mercedes Gladstone case does not appear to be the same quality as the “extra-quality” Stradivarius case.  Given the wide range of choices available in the Stradivarius trumpet line, it is not clear whether a $30 reduction in cost was a significant inducement to buy a Mercedes.

 

            The following scan show comparable prices for Mercedes cornets.

 

Figure 20: Bach Brochure Mercedes Cornet 1941
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            This scan illustrates other interesting facts.  In addition to the 1941 and 1942 price comparisons of the Mercedes cornet outfit, the 1941 price of $145 can be compared to the Stradivarius price of $198.  This represents a 28 percent inducement to buy a Mercedes cornet instead of a Stradivarius cornet.  The prices also show that cornets cost more to buy than Bach trumpets in 1941 and 1942.  Cornets may be more difficult to manufacture, but Bach routinely charged the same amount for his trumpets and cornets.  This was one period of time when he did not.

 

            The brochure also introduces the Mercedes line of trombone (not shown).

 

            There is one other useful observation to be made from the brochure illustrations.  The mouthpiece receivers on both Mercedes trumpets and cornets appear to be standard hexagonal-tipped receivers just like those used on Stradivarius instruments.

 

            Looking at the photograph of Mercedes #5,779, it begs the question of whether the brochure contains a factual portrayal of Mercedes instruments in this regard or not.  Fortunately, Mercedes #5,894 was found.  A photograph of it is shown below.  The shop card for #5,894 is inexplicably missing from Bach’s records, so the only information that can be gathered from this Mercedes is from the instrument itself.

 

Figure 21: Mercedes Nr. 5894
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Mercedes #5,894 seems to be almost identical to #5,779.  Together these instruments question whether they were aberrations in Bach’s Mercedes because of war restrictions or for some other reason. The most notable features are the use of two water keys, unusual mouthpiece receivers, one-piece third valve slide and old style upper valve caps.  It does not appear that this Mercedes has any unusual alloy for the curved parts of the valve slides as does Mercedes #5,779 shown above.

 

            As representative of the unusual receivers on the two wartime Mercedes, the receiver from #5,894 is shown below.  It is identical to the receiver on Mercedes #5,779.

 

Figure 22: Mercedes Nr. 5894 Mouthpiece Receiver
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            This is obviously a rather simple receiver compared to either the hexagonal receiver or the round ferrule receiver appearing on all of the other Mercedes made before or after the war.  It is tapered, however.

 

            One other owner of an early-war Mercedes trumpet sent photographs of his instrument.  Its shop card is missing also, but the instrument’s mouthpiece receiver is identical to the others shown above.  It might be supposed that Bach used a lot of these receivers even though they are not illustrated in the two pre-war extracts in his archives or in any Bach catalogs or brochures.

 

            A comparative examination of World War Two Stradivarius trumpets (not shown) makes it clear that there were major differences between them and the early wartime Mercedes trumpets.  The Stradivariuses show no compromises made during the war, but the Mercedes do.

 

Post-World War Two Mercedes: 1946 – 1953

 

            Unlike the previous production period, no catalogs have emerged to help understand Mercedes instruments during this production period.  Instead, this section will focus on Mercedes trumpet #8,523 with some help from Stradivarius trumpet #8,203.  Trumpet #8,523 was made in 1949.  Stradivarius trumpet #8,203 was made about seven months earlier.  Both are medium bore trumpets with a #38 bell and #7 mouthpipe.  They used the same bell brass in the same thickness (code 48).

 

            A photograph of Mercedes #8,523 is shown below.

 

Figure 23: Mercedes Nr. 8523
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            As of now, this appears to be one of the first Mercedes in a configuration that became very popular and thus deserving being truly identified as a uniquely standard Mercedes.  Its shop card is shown below.

 

Figure 24: Mercedes Nr. 8523 Shop Card
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Over 530 Mercedes were made with a bell mandril identified by the letter “K” or 38K.  (Not all of them were made during this production period.)  While the meaning of this bell designation is not known with certainty, it is believed to represent a bell blank provided by another company and then pressed on the #38 mandril at the Bach plant.  The source of the bell brass was the normal supplier for Bach, i.e., the American Brass Company.

 

            Even as Bach tried several different types of plating for his Stradivarius valves in the late 1940s; he stuck with nickel silver plating for his Mercedes valves.

 

            If its shop card heading did not indicate that trumpet #8,523 is a Mercedes, the only other thing that would differentiate it as something other than a Stradivarius would be the bell mandril identifier “K”.  To help identify what makes a Mercedes a Mercedes is determined by direct comparison to a Stradivarius made about the same time.  That is done in the following photograph.  Stradivarius #8,203 is shown on the bottom.

 

Figure 25: Mercedes Nr. 8523 (top) and Stradivarius Nr. 8203
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The most obvious difference is an almost complete absence of nickel silver trim on the Mercedes.  Beyond that are other differences:  the style of the mouthpiece receiver, the absence of a third valve stop rod, and the all brass valve casings and finger ring.  Not visible in the photograph are the brass braces used throughout on the Mercedes.  Retained for this specific Mercedes are Stradivarius-type valve stems.  These would soon give way to all brass valve stems as well.  This will be illustrated further along in this article.

 

            There is a major difference between the third valve slides.  A close up of the Mercedes slide is shown below.

 

Figure 26: Mercedes Nr. 8523 Third Valve Slide
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The photograph below also compares the third valve slide to the two-piece third valve slide on the Stradivarius trumpet.

 

Figure 27: Mercedes Nr. 8523 Third Valve Slide vs Stradivarius
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            This comparison provides an appreciation of the little things it takes to reduce cost on a production line.

 

Figure 28: Mercedes Nr. 8523 Bell Logo
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The bell logo of Mercedes trumpet #8,523 is shown above.  The Mercedes logo can be compared to the bell stamp shown near the first part of this article.

 

Figure 29: Mercedes Nr. 8523 Mouthpipe Receiver
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The rather unique rounded ferrule mouthpiece receiver is shown above.  The overall length is the same length as a Stradivarius receiver made during this period.  It is one of the receivers illustrated in the bottom pre-World War Two extract shown earlier in this article.

 

            For some time, speculation held that all Mercedes were made with two-piece bells particularly if the bell had a K identifier associated with it.  The bell of Mercedes trumpet #8,523 is shown below.

 

Figure 30: Mercedes Nr. 8523 Bell Seam
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The bell has been rotated so the Mercedes logo is at 12:00 o’clock, and the seam can be seen at approximately 6:30 o’clock.  This trumpet obviously has a one-piece bell.

 

            It is apparent that this particular trumpet did not have “standard” valve stems on it.  One of its valves is shown below compared to one from Mercedes #9,747 made seven months later.

 

Figure 31: Mercedes Nr. 8523 Piston (left) vs Mercedes Nr. 9747
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            It is notable that the later valve stem is made of brass, its base is thinner, and it is longer than the stem of trumpet #8,253 (left).  The brass stems became standard for Mercedes.

 

Mt Vernon Mercedes: 1954-1961

 

            Portions of a Mt Vernon brochure are shown below.  They can be directly compared to the War 1941/2 brochure shown previously.

 

Figure 32: Bach Brochure Cover Mt Vernon 1954
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

 

 

Figure 33: Bach Brochure Mercedes Introduction Mt Vernon 1954
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

 

Figure 34: Bach Brochure Mercedes Trumpet Mt Vernon 1954
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

Figure 35: Bach Brochure Mercedes Cornet Mt Vernon 1954
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The price list that goes with this brochure has been lost.  Another price list from about a year later (July 18, 1955) cites $250 for both trumpet and cornet.  Again the case for the Mercedes is of lesser quality than the Stradivarius Gladstone case.  Since the price of Stradivarius trumpets and cornets was $350, the reduction represents a 29 percent inducement to buy a Mercedes.

 

            It is interesting to note that in this catalog Bach refers to the Mercedes as “the long awaited addition to the distinguished family of Bach brasses.”  This quote is almost exactly the same as one used in his 1941 brochure.  It might appear that Bach himself is to blame for some of the confusion surrounding his Mercedes line at least with regard to when the line was introduced.

 

            As Bach was preparing to sell his company, he produced a massive instrument catalog in 1961. This catalog may have been the best and most comprehensive catalog he ever produced.  It seems that almost everything he tried to sell was included.  Some scans of the pages regarding Mercedes instruments are shown below.

 

Figure 36: Bach Catalog Mercedes Trumpet Mt Vernon 1961
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

Figure 37: Bach Catalog Mercedes Cornet Mt Vernon 1961
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Comparing prices again, it cost $280 to buy a Mercedes in 1961 compared to $390 for Stradivarius instruments.  The price inducement to buy a Mercedes is retained at 28 percent.  This seems to have remained more-or-less constant for Mt Vernon production, but it was significantly greater than that of the early World War Two Mercedes.

 

            In this catalog, the rounded ferrule mouthpiece receiver was shown replaced by a return to the hexagonal tipped receiver.  It also formally introduces a different bore size, 0.456 inches.  The first Mercedes made in this bore size actually was completed on Jun 22, 1959.  The last one under Bach’s ownership was made approximately July 28, 1961.  In effect, this catalog simply documents what Bach had already done.

 

            Mt Vernon production started in 1953.  Manufacturing plant transitions are hardly one-day-here and then one-day-there events.  More to the point, instrument configurations are unlikely to change just on the day a new plant opens.  Said another way, Bach had begun to produce instruments configured like Mt Vernon instruments before he moved his plant from the Bronx.  It is not exactly clear how to divide instruments by configuration when they span both plants.  After 1954, however, all Mercedes instruments were made in single configurations with #38 bells.  The trumpets and cornets were equally consistent with #7 and #106 mouthpipes, respectively.  (See configuration table near the beginning of this article.)

 

            The bore sizes of the instruments changed at Mt Vernon, however.  Starting in 1959, Bach began using the new 0.456 inch bore size.  There is no clear explanation for this change since this clearly would have increased production costs despite Bach’s explanation in his catalog of why Mercedes cost less to produce.

 

            An instrument in the unique 0.456 inch bore size is used to illustrate Mt Vernon production.  It is like the one owned by Gil Mitchell and mentioned in Bach’s 1968 letter to him.  Bach’s 1961 catalog featured it.  Finally, made near the end of Bach’s ownership, Mercedes made in this bore size was what he intended for the future of this line of instruments.

 

            One of these instruments, Mercedes #20,687 is shown below.  It has all of the Mercedes characteristics previously discussed in this article.

 

Figure 38: Mercedes Nr. 20687
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The shop card for Mercedes #20,687 is shown below.

 

Figure 39: Mercedes Nr. 20687 Shop Card
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            A characteristic two-piece bell seam is evident in the following photograph of the bell logo.

 

Figure 40: Mercedes Nr. 20687 Bell Logo and Seam
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Mercedes valves can be contrasted with Stradivarius valves as shown in the following photograph.

 

Figure 41: Mercedes Nr. 20687 Valve Components (right) and Stradivarius Valve Components
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

             A Mercedes valve (right) is nickel plated and compared to a Monel plated Stradivarius valve.  More brass also is used on Mercedes valves (see valve stems).  (This also was seen in the valve comparison earlier in this article.)

 

            Finally, Mercedes #20,687 can be visually compared to a Stradivarius made just three months later.  (See photograph below.)  There is no doubt that the Stradivarius of the day was a more attractive instrument.  Of course both instruments were made at a time before silver plating became commonplace.

 

Figure 42: Mercedes Nr. 206887 (top) and Stradivarius
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The two trumpets have different bells, mouthpipes and bore sizes.  There are two other differences.  One is their weights.  The Stradivarius is a scant ½ ounce heavier than the Mercedes.  That means that the overall density of these two instruments is almost the same.  This might be expected since the densities of nickel silver, brass and Monel are all quite similar, but there are some extra parts in the Stradivarius third valve slide.  Perhaps more importantly, the Stradivarius slides (outside diameter of the slide casings minus the bore size) are slightly thicker than the Mercedes slides.  The question is whether the Stradivarius, being slightly heavier with a one-piece bell, should play significantly different that the Mercedes trumpet if the same components (bell and mouthpipe) had been used on the Mercedes.  It is rather easy to speculate that the difference between the two trumpets with matched components would be dominated by the characteristics of the player/instrument combination.  Said another way, Gil Mitchell might well have preferred his Mercedes to a Stradivarius with similar components had the opportunity to compare them arisen.  Just another “Strad in disguise”.

 

Acknowledgements

 

            Bill Siegfried provided many of the trumpets examined for discussed in this article.  He also provided special insights he’s gained in playing them.  Finding these instruments is not easy.  It takes time, effort, money and continued interest.  His contributions were invaluable.

 

            David McCabe over the years has maintained contact with the author.  He takes an interest in vintage Bach instruments and willingly provides them for examination.

 

           Chris Kase provided pictures of one of his several Bach Mercedes trumpets, #5779. It is shown in Figures 14 and 15. He also provided a copy of a rare Bach Brochure published in 1941. Extracts are shown in Figures 17 through 20. Chris Kase is a Bach artist and jazz trumpet player teaching and playing in Spain. His Web site can be found at http://www.chriskase.com.

 

            Tedd Waggoner is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Conn-Selmer, Inc.  More importantly, he also holds the keys to Vincent Bach’s archives for the company.  Tedd is also the most knowledgeable person about vintage Bach instruments within the company.  He graciously provides his insights and makes sure that relevant company proprietary information is not inadvertently disclosed.

 

            Conn-Selmer, Inc. owns Vincent Bach’s archives.  Through quite a few years, the company has allowed the author access to these archives.  Without them, this article could not be written.  Evidence of why access is needed for this kind of article is evident throughout the article.

 

            Many unnamed contributors are mentioned in this article, some of them going to significant trouble to help with the research.  The author cannot thank them enough.

 

            There are also a few unwitting contributors.  They would be the Ebay sellers who often post enough information to help.


BACH MERCEDES TRUMPETS AND CORNETS

“A STRAD BY ANOTHER NAME”

APPENDIX

 

            The main part of this paper discusses mainstream Mercedes trumpets and cornets, i.e., those Mercedes that can be specifically defined by bore size and specific components.  Most Mercedes were medium bore instruments (0.453 inches), so generally defining them that way means choosing specific bells and mouthpipes that may or may not be found on Stradivarius instruments.  Most of the later Mercedes had one other defining characteristic.  Their valve sections and tubing were essentially the same as those found on corresponding Stradivarius instruments except that the materials used were quite often different.

 

            To help understand the situation better, an in-depth analysis of Mercedes data was done.  The underlying data was reduced to classify what could be defined as “mainstream or standard Mercedes”.  This appendix contains several charts and other information assembled during that analysis. 

 

            Numbers always appear to be precise, but in this analysis they should not be interpreted that way.  The data came from review of Bach’s shop cards.  Most of the shop cards have information about the configuration of the instruments (bore size, bell, mouthpipe) as well as additional information about when the instrument was made and/or sold.  Bach’s shop cards were used for internal production control, so there was no need to insure completeness beyond that needed by Bach himself.  As a result, there are instances where the cards are hard to interpret.  To make matters more difficult, a small number of cards are missing.  Finally, there is always a possibility that errors were made in examining the cards.  Even with these problems, the data in this appendix is considered to be reasonably accurate because a lot of time was spent on producing and reviewing them.

 

DATA

 

            Bach made 1267 Mercedes trumpets and 420 Mercedes cornets[i].  Annual production of these instruments is shown in the following chart.

 

Appendix 1: Mercedes Production
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            While Mercedes production began in 1927 and quite a few were made before World War Two, particularly in 1941, it is rather obvious that sustained production did not emerge until after the war.

 

            The preponderance of Mercedes production was medium bore instruments (0.453 inches).  The two charts below illustrate this.

 

Appendix 2: Mercedes Trumpet Bore Sizes
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

Appendix 3: Mercedes Cornet Bore Sizes
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Mercedes trumpets were made in five different bore sizes.  Cornets were made in four bore sizes.  Bach made mainstream Mercedes instruments in 0.453-inch bore size until 1959 when he began changing to 0.456 inches.  There were 166 trumpets made in the larger bore size, but only a total of ten cornets were made in that bore size before he sold his company.

 

            The reason for the change is unknown.  Changing bore sizes at this late stage of Bach’s ownership appears to be an illogical thing to do since the change complicated production.  Even with this late change, however, it is no stretch to classify Mercedes instruments as medium bore instruments.

 

            The next topics to discuss are bells and mouthpipes.  Mercedes mouthpipes are easier to classify than Mercedes bells since far fewer kinds were used.  They will be discussed first.

 

Appendix 4: Mercedes Trumpet Mouthpipes
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

Appendix 5: Mercedes Cornet Mouthpipes
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            In the earliest years, the favored Stradivarius mouthpipe at the time of production generally was used on Mercedes instruments.  After the #7 mouthpipe was introduced on Mercedes trumpets in 1940, it was used almost exclusively thereafter.

 

            For all practical purposes, only two cornet mouthpipes were used (#112 and #106), and these were commonly used on Stradivarius cornets too.

 

            Mercedes bells are far more difficult to discuss.  Bach bells are defined by their shapes.  From that standpoint, there were six major Mercedes trumpet bell shapes as noted in the chart immediately below.  There were, however, three versions of the #37 bell and four versions of the #38 bell.  (This will be discussed in more detail below.)  The miscellaneous category contained several more bell shapes of little importance in defining Mercedes instruments.  With the exception of 1955, few bells that should be classified as miscellaneous were made.

 

Appendix 6: Mercedes Trumpet Bells
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

 

Appendix 7: Mercedes Cornet Bells
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The same observations regarding Mercedes cornet bells can be made.  The list of major cornet bells is surprisingly similar to the list of Mercedes trumpet bells.

 

            There is no lack of data regarding Mercedes bells, but determining exactly what the data represents has not been possible.  Consider an example from the trumpet bell chart.  It shows four versions of the #38 bell—#38, #38G, #38K and #38M.  No completely clear explanation for the four designations has been found.  Various hypotheses have been explored without finding a consistent explanation.

 

            From the 1950s onward, the #38 bell became the standard for all Mercedes trumpets, so it is worthwhile discussing what it known and not known about this bell because almost 72 percent of all Mercedes use some version of it.

 

            The first known technical drawing showing dimensions of the #38 bell was dated May 1937.   The first recorded use on a trumpet was on a Stradivarius trumpet in 1943, but that was the only recorded installation that year.  After World War Two, the bell was installed with some regularity on medium bore Stradivarius trumpets, but it was not until 1950 that its use became commonplace on Mercedes trumpets.

 

            Even thinking about the plain #38 bell is a little complicated.  The data describing this bell in the 1937 technical drawing are not identical to some summary data describing it when Bach sold his company in 1961.  While the differences are not great, there are some differences.  (Interestingly, the same kinds of differences arise for many Bach bells.)

 

            Since the plain #38 bell apparently was installed on 657 Mercedes instruments (trumpets and cornets), it seems somewhat important to note that there were some differences in at least some of them even though there is no way to identify those differences.  In the end, it cannot be assumed that all of the plain #38 bells including those installed on Stradivarius instruments were identical.

 

            As for the variations of the #38 bell, they will be discussed alphabetically.  First, there were 12 Mercedes instruments made with #38G bells.  None of them have been located, so it is not yet known whether they had special identifiers stamped on them or not.  The bell brass for these 12 trumpets is identified as German brass.  This designation as German brass, while not conclusive, would reasonably lead to an assumption that the brass was imported.  (Even if the brass may have been imported, the finished bells almost certainly were not.)

 

            The fact that the records note that the brass was German does not by itself mean conclusively that the brass was imported.  It is known that Bach assayed brass; including examples of German brass, and it would have been reasonable for him to buy similar alloys from American sources and identify the American version as “German” brass.  (As a matter of fact, there are two instances of “G” bell brass noted as having been made in one of the Bach plants.)

 

            All things considered, it is likely that the twelve Mercedes instruments were made with imported German brass, but this has not been proven yet.  All such bells have been simply classified as #38 bells when looking at standard Mercedes configurations in the resulting classification chart below.

 

            There were 533 Mercedes instruments with their bells designated as 38K or simply “K”.  At first it appeared that the letter K identified two-piece bells since one of the trumpets in fact has a two-piece bell.  In at least one written document, Bach said that his Mercedes were made with two-piece bells.  Even though it at first appeared that all bells identified somehow with a “K” were two-piece bells, others identified in this way were found with a one-piece bell.  So far, no consistent explanation for the letter K designating this large number of #38 bells has been found.  All of these bells are included in the chart below as #38 bells.

 

            Eight Mercedes instruments were made with bells identified as #38M bells.  Additionally, there were three made with #38 Martin bells, three with M bells and two with bells identified only by the abbreviation “Mar”.  It is assumed that all of these 16 instruments have the same bell, but there is no evidence showing what these indicators refer to.  Could these bells have been made by Martin?  If so, exactly how would Bach have managed the mandrils since he needed the #38 mandril in the plant to make bells for his Stradivarius instruments too?  This answer is not likely.  Could the brass have come from the instrument company named Martin or some other company by that name?  That is not the answer either since all of these bells were made by brass produced by the American Brass company.  These 16 bells have been all aggregated in the data as #38M bells.  Since there is simply no conclusive way to differentiate these bells from any other #38 bells used on Mercedes instruments, they too are included in the total as #38 bells.

 

            Some mention should be made regarding bell brass alloy.  Generally speaking, less expensive alloys were used on Mercedes instruments unless for some reason there was excess bell brass available and needed to meet production quotas.  No attempt has been made to distinguish the specific alloys found in Mercedes bells.

 

            At this point, it is desirable to consolidate the above data and attempt to define major Mercedes instrument configurations.  As noted above, only the bell shape was considered in the final tally.

 

STANDARD MERCEDES CONFIGURATIONS

 

            With some effort, categorizing and analyzing mainstream Mercedes trumpets and cornets leads to some useful definitions for them.  This means that Mercedes generally did not result from hodgepodge mixing of left over Stradivarius parts as some seem to think.  Most Mercedes instruments had their own configurations.

 

            The next chart, repeated in the main part of this article, defines the major configurations of Mercedes instruments at various periods of time.  Minor configurations are omitted, and that accounts for why the percentages do not add up to one hundred.  The table includes only two bore sizes.

 

MERCEDES CONFIGURATION TABLE

Bore Sizes: 0.453 and 0.456 Inches

 

 

TRUMPETS

CORNETS

 

BELL(s)

MOUTHPIPE(s)

BELL(s)

MOUTHPIPES(s)

Pre-WW II

 

 

 

 

1929-1931

#11 & #14

#6 & #14

-

-

 

(34%)   (61%)

(50%)  (44%)

-

-

1940-1942

#31 & #37

#7

#31 & #37

#112

 

(12%)   (86%)

(99%)

(75%)    (10%)

(95%)

 

 

 

 

 

Post-WW II

 

 

 

 

1946-1953

#37 & #38

#7

#37 & #38

#112 & #106

 

(30%)     (64%)

(97%)

(13%)   (76%)

(15%)     (73%)

1954-1961

#38

#7

#38

#106

 

(96%)

(98%)

(99%)

(100%)

Criterion for including a component: 10% or greater

The numbers assigned to the components do not imply an order to their introduction

 

            It is useful to consider an example to help read the entire chart.  During the 1940 through 1942 production period, 12 percent of Mercedes trumpet bells were #31 bells and 86 percent were #37 bells.  The other two percent of the bells were some other kind.  The mouthpipes were almost entirely #7 mouthpipes with only one percent some other kind of mouthpipe.

 

 

 

 



[i] In 1954, Bach made two Mercury instruments (one trumpet and one cornet) that were converted to Mercedes instruments by substituting Mercedes bells.  These two are not counted in the total.