INTERESTING BACH INSTRUMENTS
RARE NEW YORK BACH TRUMPET #69
(Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer)
(1) "New York Bach Stradivarius Trumpet And Cornet Bell Markings", Revision 1, September 10, 2004, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.
(2) "Bach's X Horns", July 10, 2001, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.
(3) "Interesting Bach Instruments: A One-Digit New York Trumpet", February 6, 2004, 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 largely rely on readers of the “Bachology” articles to bring such instruments to their attention. This article is about one such instrument.
Every once in a great while, the authors run across a special instrument. This article describes one of those. It is a two-digit Bb Bach trumpet, and that fact is special in its own right. There is much more to this trumpet than a low serial number, however. It also features original gold plating and elaborate engraving. Bach made some unique instruments, but this one demonstrates Bach's lofty ambition to make instruments that were beautiful as well as functional.
Figure 1: Trumpet #69
The figure below shows the serial number stamped underneath the standard Bach New York logo on the second valve casing. An ML also is stamped on the casing as well. This stamp needs a little explanation.
Figure 2: Serial Number and ML Stamp
Trumpet #69 has a bore size of 0.462 inches, which most trumpet players will recognize as being a large bore instrument. Why then is the second valve casing stamped ML?
Bach originally intended to offer three bore sizes: 0.448, 0.453 and 0.462 inches. He started out calling these bore sizes small, medium and large, respectively. It appears that very early in production, Bach decided to introduce an even larger bore size--0.468 inches. At this point, he had to decide what to call it. The authors think that Bach decided to call it large, but that meant he had to rename the 0.462-inch bore size. He renamed that one medium-large, and he continued with that convention for a couple of years or so. He stamped the second valve casings on the instruments made during this period accordingly. Trumpet #69 is one of these, a large bore trumpet stamped ML on the second valve casing. Some time later, Bach reverted to his original scheme and again began calling his 0.462-inch bore size large.
The authors estimate that Bach reverted to his original naming convention sometime in 1929. He did not actually introduce the 0.468-inch bore size until September 1929 when he made a cornet for Albert Couturier, the famous cornet soloist. At that point, he decided to call the 0.468-inch bore size extra-large. He followed that in April 1930 with his first extra-large bore Stradivarius trumpet. Either one of these two dates is a likely candidate for reverting to his original naming convention, but the authors favor the earlier one.
(For those readers who might be interested in other tidbits related to this topic, the first two medium-large bore instruments made with the 0.459-inch bore size were introduced in September 1930. They were two Stradivarius C trumpets. The next one appeared in November 1932. It was a Mercedes Bb trumpet, and a Stradivarius Bb trumpet followed almost immediately. After that, the 0.459-inch bore size became commonplace. All of these events occurred long after trumpet #69 was made.)
The shop card for trumpet #69 is shown below.
Figure 3: Shop Card
The shop card shows several interesting features. It indicates that the bell used is a T bell, the first of Bach's bell designs (Reference 1). Trumpet #69 has a T stamped on the bell confirming the information on the shop card.
Figure 4: T Bell
The shop card also indicates that trumpet #69 has a #3 mouthpipe (lead pipe). Unlike most New York Bach trumpets, trumpet #69 does not have a stamp on its mouthpiece receiver indicating its mouthpipe number. The mouthpipe cannot be confirmed without detailed measurements. Almost everything about trumpet #69 would indicate that the mouthpipe is original, however, so the authors assume that it has a #3 mouthpipe on it.
Bach thought that mouthpipe #3 was a good match to the T bell. The authors think that this was his chosen setup for all-around playing. This can be contrasted to the combination of a #2 mouthpipe and B bell, which Bach considered to be a good symphonic setup. Mouthpipe #3 is tighter than the #2 mouthpipe, i.e., the internal volume of mouthpipe #3 is smaller. The point is that Bach thought the smaller #3 mouthpipe would be a better choice for a trumpet intended for all-around use.
The shop card indicates that the brass used for the bell is "yellow K". While the exact meaning of this is unknown, it may mean standard yellow brass (70% copper, 30% zinc) or some brass alloy close to that mixture. The "yellow K" notation has been found on several early shop cards.
No dates are given on the shop card, so the completion date for trumpet #69 cannot be pinpointed. Work on it probably started in 1925, but it may not have been completed until 1926 or even later. Known completion dates for other trumpets that have early serial numbers span portions of 1925 and 1926. None of those is known to have an ML stamp, however. That came later, so it is possible th;at trumpet #69 was not finally completed and sold until 1927.
In addition to identifying the T bell, the bell stamping arrangement (Figure 4) shows some other interesting features. First, the arrangement is Bach's earliest (Reference 1). As expected, it does not identify the model of the trumpet. Additionally, the top part of the stamping, i.e., Vincent Bach Corporation, is double stamped. Double stamping is commonly found on early Bach instruments.
Even without the model name stamped on its bell, trumpet #69 is known to be a Stradivarius Model. In 1925/6, the only Bb trumpets made with the 0.462-inch bore size were Stradivarius Models. The entire set of valve slides on trumpet #69 measure 0.462 inches, thus confirming the model.
The valve diameters of trumpet #69 were measured to be 0.664, 0.667 and 0.667 inches for valves numbered 1, 2 and 3, respectively. The latter two are larger-than-normal valves for the period. It is possible that the second and third valves of trumpet #69 were bored out and re-plated at some point thus accounting for their large diameter. Trumpet #69 has Bach's type A valves, his first valve design from 1924. The design diameter of type A valves was 0.663 inch.
Trumpet #69 is gold plated and has a highly engraved bell.
Figure 5: Full Bell Engraving
The engraving is not the same as the engraving on other engraved Bach instruments that have been examined. It is thought to be original because internal elements of the pattern are similar to those of later engravings. The authors think that trumpet #69 is the first engraved instrument Bach sold.
Figure 6: Engraving Detail
The engraving is elegant and features gold plating with subtle silver highlights. A close examination leads to the conclusion that its highlights are caused by light reflecting from the engraving strokes, which cut through the gold plating and into the silver plating underneath. There is no evidence of a masking technique being used. This means that this finish cannot easily be touched up or restored.
The engraving detail photograph also shows the results of different engraving techniques. Straight line cuts radiate from the center of the flower petals and cut though the gold plating allowing the underlying silver plating to show though.
Borders are created using a wiggle engraving technique. In places, a narrow tool was used, and gold plating was removed as the tool was moved forward. This allowed the underlying silver plating to show through the gold similar to the line cuts noted above. Most of the wiggle cuts in the above photograph are of this variety.
In other places, a wider tool was used but not pressed down as hard, and gold plating remains between the two sides of the wiggle lines. The set of bell stamps is outlined with this technique (see below).
Figure 7: Bell Stamping Border
Since the gold plating on trumpet #69 is light in tone, some of the effects noted above are subtle. The closer the engraving is observed, as with a strong magnifying glass, the more elegant the engraving appears. This is a sign of first-class engraving.
Trumpet #69 appears to be in near original condition. The most obvious deviation is a patch on the mouthpipe. The current owner added the patch to cover a crack. It is located in a difficult spot, but it is well done. In addition, the mother-of-pearl in the third finger button is not original, and the small ring that held the original in place is missing.
Figure 8: Mouthpiece Patch
There were only ninety-nine one- and two-digit instruments made by Bach to begin with. Some of those were cornets and Apollo, Aida and rotary valve trumpets. Quite a few Stradivarius instruments were converted into X Horns (Reference 2). Consequently, there are not too many Bach Stradivarius trumpets remaining in this group. Adding to this, the authors think that trumpet #69 is the only engraved instrument in the set. Finally, the authors also think that it was the only Bach ever to have such elegant original engraving. It is truly a rare Bach trumpet.
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 #69 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 Marketing Manager of Brass Winds, is extremely knowledgeable about Vincent Bach’s New York operations and contributed greatly to the material.
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