INTERESTING BACH INSTRUMENTS

A ONE-DIGIT NEW YORK TRUMPET

(Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer)

 

References:

(1)   "New York Bach Stradivarius Trumpet And Cornet Bell Markings", February 19, 2001, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

(2)   "Bach's X Horns", July 10, 2001, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

 

            The authors continually search for interesting Bach trumpets and cornets that will add to the general body of knowledge about Vincent Bach’s instruments.  They frequently rely on readers of the “Bachology” articles to bring such instruments to their attention.  This article is about one such instrument.

 

Special Note: Whenever an owner makes an interesting instrument available for examination, one of the authors, Roy Hempley, provides the owner with a compact disc containing an assessment of the instrument and copies of all pictures taken.  Most of the notes that follow were provided to the owner of the trumpet featured in this article.  As a matter of policy, the authors do not divulge the names of owners who wish to remain anonymous.

 

            The authors are often asked about the instrument with the lowest serial number that they know of.  This article answers that question, at least up until this point in time.  That instrument is a New York Bach trumpet with serial number 9.

 

The possible pool of one-digit Bach trumpets is a little smaller than at first might be supposed.  Trumpets numbered one and four were given new serial numbers, probably after modification.  The shop card related to trumpet number eight is missing, so the authors cannot verify that the trumpet was ever completed for sale.  It may no longer exist.  Discounting these three instruments only leaves six possibilities in the one-digit category: instruments numbered two, three, five, six, seven and nine.  All of these instruments are trumpets.

 

            In this context, it was a pleasant surprise when the owner of trumpet #9 contacted one of the authors about his trumpet.  After some discussion, that author visited with the owner and was allowed to take pictures of it.  A few of those pictures are shown here along with assessments of the originality of some of the components of the instrument.

 

            The owner of trumpet #9 had an interesting story to tell relating to another one-digit trumpet.  His father bought trumpet #9 for him.  At that time, his father had the option of buying New York Bach trumpet #6 as well.  His father chose trumpet #9, but the authors are hoping that trumpet #6 also will turn up again one day.

 

             

 

TRUMPET #9

 

Trumpet #9 was refurbished in the past, probably more than once.  Several modifications are apparent.  They will be noted in the following material along with a general discussion of the trumpet.

 

A picture of trumpet #9 is shown below.

 

Figure 1: New York Bach Trumpet #9
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            In looking at trumpet #9, it is hard to tell whether it was made in the 1920s or later.  Bach made many changes to his instruments that affected their playing characteristics.  From a cosmetic point of view, however, all of his trumpets, going as far back as trumpet #9, show very similar classic, unadorned lines.  That is, they all look a lot alike from the outside.  They may look much like modern instruments, but they are quite different.

 

The serial number stamped on trumpet #9 is shown in the figure below.  Buffing severely eroded the Bach logo, but the serial number remains sharp enough to be read easily.

 

Figure 2: Serial Number 9
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

The shop card for trumpet #9 is shown below.

 

Figure 3: Trumpet #9 Shop Card
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

This shop card is sparse, even by the standards of Bach's earliest cards.  There is no indication of which bell or mouthpipe might have been used.  The trumpet was originally silver-plated.  This obviously was changed to lacquer.  Faint and hard to read, the shop card has the word "Hold" just to the upper left of the name “Yantz” along with some unintelligible, faint words in the background that probably indicate that the trumpet was not sold immediately.  Yantz was the original owner of the trumpet.  He was from Easton, Pennsylvania.

            Despite the absence of a bell indicator on the shop card, the bell was confirmed to be a "B" bell (see figure below).

 

Figure 4: Bell B
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The upper part of the bell logo is severely eroded from buffing as well.  The "Vincent Bach" signature portion is too faint to read at all, although the remainder of the logo is readable.  The letter "B" is located just at the bottom of the position where Vincent Bach's signature appeared.  The letter "B" is very small.

 

This overall stamping configuration, which was unknown before the examination of trumpet #9, is very rare.  It was altered slightly within the next few instruments made.  This is explained in a little more detail below.

 

The trumpet with the next lowest serial number that has been examined is trumpet #14.  (That trumpet had its serial number changed and became trumpet #714X.  Doug Lehrer, one of the authors, owns that trumpet.)  The bell identifier on trumpet #14 is located between the words "Corporation" and "New York" instead of below Bach’s signature as shown in Figure 4.  This means that by the time trumpet #14 was built Bach had changed the location of his lettered bell identifiers (either a "B" or a "T").  All later instruments with lettered bell identifiers that have been examined were stamped the same as trumpet #14.  Moreover, on these later instruments, the size of the letter identifier was increased.

 

For more information on stamping arrangements and examples of them, see References 1 and 2.

 

            Since there is no model name stamped on the bell of trumpet #9, a question naturally arises as to just what model the trumpet might be.  None of the instruments made during this early time period (late 1924 or very early 1925) had model names stamped on them as they were manufactured before Bach's trademark names were filed with the U. S. Trademark Office.  Bach did not stamp model names on his bells until his trademarks were filed.

 

            Even without a model name on either the shop card or the bell, it is possible to say with some certainty that trumpet #9 was intended to be a top-of-the-line trumpet.  In other words, had Bach's trademarks been awarded by the time it was manufactured, trumpet #9 would have been a Stradivarius Model.  This is explained below.

 

            Two features readily distinguish early Stradivarius instruments from other models.  First, only Stradivarius instruments were made in large bore sizes (0.462 inch).  Second, the mouthpiece receivers on the lesser models (Apollo, Mercury) were different from those on Stradivarius instruments; i.e. they were not hexagonal at the mouthpiece end.  The second feature cannot be used to judge trumpet #9 since the mouthpiece receiver was replaced (see discussion below).  Trumpet #9 was measured throughout to be a large bore instrument, however, and that fact is sufficient to determine that it is a top-of-the-line instrument.

 

            Bach's early instrument catalogs indicate that his trumpet bells were 4 1/2 inches in diameter.  The bell on trumpet #9 meets that specification.  This is one way to distinguish early bells from later, more modern, 4 7/8-inch bells that Bach eventually adopted.

 

As mentioned earlier, there is nothing on the shop card to identify the original mouthpipe on trumpet #9.  Normally, there is a number stamped on one of the hexagonal facets of the mouthpiece receiver, and it is usually the facet facing to the left-hand side of the trumpet as it is held for playing.  In this case, there is no number present (see figure below).

 

Figure 5: Mouthpipe Unidentified
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

The mouthpipe is one of the critical aspects of trumpet design.  It is part the mouthpipe assembly, which also includes the mouthpiece receiver and upper tuning-slide receiver.  All three components of the assembly normally are changed together.

 

The authors are almost certain that the mouthpipe on trumpet #9 was changed.  Whether this is true or not, the mouthpipe has not been identified.  The authors hoped to get some clues about the originality of the mouthpipe by examining other aspects of the entire assembly.  Nothing conclusive emerged.

 

The authors can tell that the mouthpipe assembly was removed from the trumpet at some point in time.  One of the apexes on the mouthpiece receiver points directly to the left, whereas a facet normally faces to the left.  This mouthpiece receiver was installed in the wrong position, an indication that it was not installed at the Bach factory.

 

The mouthpiece receiver of trumpet #9 is not original.  It has no number stamped on it, but, more importantly, it was measured to be 2 ¼ inches long.  This is a shorter length than receivers from Bach’s earliest production period, which were approximately 2 5/8 inches long and, in some cases, even longer than that.

 

The third component of the mouthpipe assembly, the upper tuning-slide receiver, has to fit the tuning slide.  The tuning slide on trumpet #9 is original.  The thickness of the brass in Bach’s earliest tuning slides is very thin, and that prevents them from being matched with later tuning-slide receivers.  Retaining the original receiver assured a good fit to the tuning slide, and the authors believe that this is what was done.

 

            With a new mouthpiece receiver on one end of the mouthpipe assembly and the original tuning-slide receiver on the other, it is not easy to judge whether the original mouthpipe was retained or not.  Using the correct shims to fit them to the original tuning-slide receiver, many of Bach’s early mouthpipes could have been used.  The authors judge that the mouthpipe was changed along with the mouthpiece receiver.  This is based on the assertion that it is uncommon to change only a mouthpiece receiver.  There is more judgmental evidence to be found in the playing characteristics of the trumpet.  (See notes near the end of this article.)

 

            A picture of the valve spring casing of valve #1 is shown below.  Similar to all of the valves, this valve spring casing is stamped with the serial number of the trumpet.

 

Figure 6: Valve Spring Casing
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

The valve diameters of trumpet #9 were measured to be 0.663 inches.  This is the design diameter of Bach's earliest valves.  Although not indicated on the shop card, the valves used are almost certainly Type A valves, Bach's first valve design.  The valve ports are large, measuring approximately 0.462 inches in diameter.  This is consistent with other large bore instruments of the period.  The valves have been re-plated.

 

            The upper valve caps have been replaced (see figure below).  The valve caps are typical of those on Bach trumpets from the mid-1930s onward.  They do not have serial numbers stamped on them as would be expected had they been original caps.

 

 

Figure 7: Upper Valve Caps
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

 

Two of the three valve slide nibs have been replaced.  The more interesting replacement is shown in the figure below.

 

Figure 8: First Valve Slide Nib
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            This nib and the nib on the third valve slide have been replaced.  This one is hexagonal, as might be expected, but a close inspection revealed that it is taller and narrower than nibs from Bach's earliest instruments are.  It is also taller and narrower than the original nib on the second valve slide.  Cosmetically, however, it was a good choice for a replacement nib.

 

            The author that examined trumpet #9 had an opportunity to play on it for a few moments.  It plays freely, but the intonation is questionable.  This might be the result of the mouthpipe being changed to one not quite compatible with the trumpet's other components, as discussed earlier in this article.  The author has experience playing on another early large bore Bach trumpet with a “B” bell and a #3 mouthpipe.  Trumpet #9's intonation is not quite up the standards of that instrument.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

The authors wish to acknowledge all of the readers of the “Bachology” articles who provided help in researching Bach’s vintage instruments.  In this case, the owner of trumpet #9 is owed special thanks.  In addition, this paper was written through significant support from Conn-Selmer, Inc. of Elkhart, Indiana.  Access to their data is essential to understanding older New York Bach trumpets.  Mr. Tedd Waggoner, Conn-Selmer’s Vincent Bach Brass Products Manager, is extremely knowledgeable about Vincent Bach’s New York operations and contributed greatly to the material.

 

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