INTERESTING BACH INSTRUMENTS

DE LUXE MODEL NEW YORK BACH TRUMPET #304

(Roy Hempley)

 

References:

(1)   "New York Bach Stradivarius Trumpet and Cornet Bell Markings", Revision 1, September 10, 2004, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

(2)   "Interesting Bach Instruments: A One-Digit New York Trumpet", February 6, 2004, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

(3)   “Interesting Bach Instruments: Rare New York Bach Trumpet #69, September 19, 2004, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

 

            This short article continues a theme established in References 2 and 3 by featuring an interesting and rare New York Bach Stradivarius trumpet called the De Luxe Model.  The term refers to its hand-hammered finish.

 

Special Note: Readers of the Bachology articles occasionally identify interesting instruments to the author.  Whenever an owner makes one of these instruments available for examination, the owner is given a compact disc containing a set of technical notes on the instrument and copies of pictures taken.  As a matter of policy, the names of the owners are not divulged without permission.  Occasionally, the instrument may be featured in an article.

 

            People interested in vintage Bach trumpets normally consider Bach’s Finish 4 (silver plate with gold overlay on parts of decorative engraving) and Finish 5 (gold plate over decorative engraving) to be the his most elaborate finishes.  The finish on Bach’s De Luxe Models is even more striking—so to speak.  (It may not be entirely proper to consider hand hammering a finish, but this article treats the technique as if it is.)  Not considering the finish, trumpet #304 it is a standard New York Bach Bb Stradivarius trumpet.  A photograph of the trumpet is shown below.

 

Figure 1: De Luxe Model Bach Stradivarius Trumpet #304

 

            Almost all photographs in the Bachology articles were taken under low light levels in a white box designed to reduce reflections on areas of interest.  Photographs for this article were taken outdoors so that ambient light would highlight aspects of the finish.  This was done to demonstrate the showy results of the hammering technique. 

 

 The shop card for trumpet #304 is shown below.

 

Figure 2: Shop Card #304

 

            A natural question to ask about any early Bach instrument is its manufacturing date, normally identified on its shop card as a completion date.  Unfortunately, Bach’s earliest shop cards do not identify this date.  From this shop card, all that can be determined is that the trumpet was finally sold in April 1927.

 

            Even though the completion date of trumpet #304 is unknown, its year of manufacture can be estimated.  The bell and mouthpipe were available from May 1925, but they were first used on other instruments with lower serial numbers.  Bach kept trumpet #304 for some time as his own, probably so he could show it while trying to see if there was any interest in this kind of finish for a trumpet.  It was sold, returned and sold again.  Using these things to more or less bracket its completion date, the trumpet was probably made in 1926.

 

            Bach made two trumpets with hand-hammered finishes.  Neither trumpet appears to have been specially ordered.  Bach tentatively called these trumpets De Luxe Models.  Their finish never became part of Bach production, however, so De Luxe Models were never heard from again.  None of Bach’s descriptions of his finishes from 1925 through 1927 indicate that such an option was available.

 

            Looking back, it is difficult to see why Bach even tried such a finish.  In the first place, it took extra man hours to complete.  The price of a De Luxe Model might have been higher than the price of a Stradivarius Model, which was already the highest priced trumpet in the industry.  Bach also had to consider that retaining somebody who could hand hammer trumpets in this way might not be easy.  Probably more importantly, there is the question of what affect hammering would have on the acoustical characteristics of the trumpet.  If nothing else, the brass would harden.  A more practical problem was that the process could not be controlled well enough to ensure a consistent end product.

 

            This last point might be disputed by people knowledgeable about Olds trumpets.  Olds Military Models routinely were made with hand-hammered bells, but other models could be ordered with this treatment too.  Olds even made a pocket cornet with a hand-hammered bell.

 

            Olds did not start making trumpets until 1929.  The Military Model probably entered production in the early 1930s.

 

            Olds hand-hammered bells were more elaborate than Bach’s.  An example is shown below.  The trumpet is a French Model ordered with a hand-hammered bell.  (The photograph below was provided by Robb Stewart.)

 

Figure 3: Olds French Model with Hand-hammered Bell

           

            Olds hand-hammered bells could be elaborate.  On the French Model shown above, the bell even had a decorative design engraved on the bell flare.

 

            (Much of the above information on Olds trumpet can be found on Alan Rouse’s Web site called Olds Central.  http://rouses.net/trumpet/olds.htm)

 

            In contrast, the bell logo of trumpet #304 is shown below.  The treatment is standard Bach treatment, i.e., the hand-hammered bell was simply part of the background for the logo.

 

Figure 4: Trumpet #304 Bell Logo

 

            The Faciebat Anno year is not stamped on trumpet #304.  Bach normally stamped the last two digits of the year when the trumpet was sold.  Since this trumpet was kept for some time, the bell was not stamped immediately.  It is somewhat unusual that it was not stamped upon its eventual sale.  More importantly, the bell number (#4) is not stamped on the bell either.  (See Reference 1 for an example of a bell with complete Faciebat Anno bell stampings.)

 

            The figure below shows the serial number of trumpet #304 stamped underneath the standard Bach New York logo on the second valve casing.  An M also is stamped on the casing as well.  These are standard Bach stampings for the period.

 

Figure 5: Trumpet #304 Serial Number

 

            It is interesting to note that the ferrule (sleeve) attaching the bell to the first valve casing is also hammered.  Also shown is some wear on the silver plating on the bell.  Hand hammered portions of the trumpet might be expected to experience some wear on high spots.

 

            The following are various photographs that illustrate aspects of the decorative finish of trumpet #304.   The fist one shows the trumpet from a top oblique angle.

 

Figure 6: Trumpet #304 Full Bell Hammering

 

            Closer details of the hammering technique are shown in the following photographs.  The base of the lyre holder was not hammered.  It is just decorative.

 

Figure 7: Trumpet #304 Detail--Left

 

  Further detail is shown in the following photograph.

Figure 8: Trumpet #304 Detail--Right

 

            Of some interest, even the knuckles of the trumpet are hand hammered as are the bell braces.  The braces are the large braces typically found on early Bach trumpets.  There is a question of when the hammering of the bell and braces was done because the braces needed to be soldered to a smooth surface.

 

            Finally, a photograph showing the effect of hammering the bell is shown below.  The luminosity of the bell under a light source is striking.  It would sparkle on stage.

 

Figure 9: Trumpet #304 Detail—Bell Luminosity

 

ORIGINALITY

 

            There are a few unusual aspects of trumpet #304.  First, there is no mouthpipe number on the mouthpiece receiver.  The shop card identifies a #4 mouthpipe, and the two openings of the mouthpipe on trumpet #304 are consistent with those of a #4 mouthpipe.  Moreover, the mouthpiece receiver itself is 2 ¾ inches long.  It is the same size as those found on other trumpets made in 1926.  The opening of the mouthpiece receiver is also the correct size.  The entire mouthpipe assembly (mouthpiece receiver, mouthpipe and upper tuning slide receiver) are almost certainly original despite having no number stamped on the receiver.

 

            The valve pistons on trumpet #304 are the correct diameter, and the valve and tuning slide inside diameters measure 0.453 inches as expected.

 

            Aside from its finish, the most unusual thing found on trumpet #304 is the position of the bell logo stamp.  Normally, the logo is centered on the plane formed by the bell bend.  Logo stamps are found to be off center slightly on some early Bach bells, but the logo on trumpet #304 is further misplaced than most.

 

            All in all, trumpet #304 appears to have all its original parts except that one stop rod nut is missing.

 

            Despite having original parts, trumpet #304 cannot be considered in original condition.  It was expertly refurbished by Dillon Music in Woodbridge New Jersey.  Among other things, some minor soldering was required in two or three instances where the ridges between hand-hammered indentions showed small splits.  Additionally, some tubing had to be straightened.  Even though the trumpet looked to be something of a mess when it was found, its restoration turned out well.

 

UNIQUENESS

 

            As mentioned previously, Bach made only two hand-hammered trumpets.  Trumpet #304 was silver plated at the factory.  The other one probably was made in raw brass because Bach instruments were not lacquered at the time these trumpets were made.  The bell of the second one may look somewhat similar to that of an Olds Military Trumpet.  The two Bach trumpets are extremely rare instruments.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

Very helpful information on Olds trumpets was provided by Alan Rouse, Dale Olson and Robb Stewart.  The restoration work on trumpet #304 was done by Dillon Music (http://www.dillonmusic.com/).  In addition, support was provided by Conn-Selmer, Inc. of Elkhart, Indiana, in particular, Mr. Tedd Waggoner, Director of Bach Operations.

 

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