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gsmonks
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Mission Statement
Jan 17th, 2005 at 10:07pm
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Whether you are an historian, an accomplished musician, a gifted amateur, a part-time dabbler or former player in a school band; whether you are a serious collector, a player of an old instrument or an inheritor of a family heirloom; it is hoped that this site will be of use to you, for the purpose of finding out the date of manufacture and other details about your instrument. 

A common occurrence is that of someone who owns an instrument making an attempt to learn something about that instrument- to no avail. Many companies kept poor records, or none at all. Many companies that have gone under over the years disposed of their records, lost records in fires, or else the present whereabouts of their records are unknown.

An example of this is the sale of Courtois to Emmanual Gaudet in 1911. The company records were unfortunately not part of the sale, and their whereabouts is and remains unknown.

There are two ways and means of gathering information: 

The primary method involves good old-fashioned detective work- tracking down records and information stored in private collections, museums, antiquarian book shops, private and public auctions, estate auctions, and so on. 

The main advantage to this method is the tremendous resources and expertise brought to bear on the subject. The main disadvantage is that the focus is most often entirely on the most popular and collectible examples.

The secondary method involves piecing together the puzzle by opening a forum to the general public, taking all information in, sifting through that information for content and accuracy, and in the end compiling a database. 

The main advantage to this method is that absolutely everything is given equal consideration. Trends and influences are more easily seen when the whole picture is laid out before you.

This simple act also serves to suss out a problem with the first method- one tends to become prejudiced when focusing on only a tiny part of what in reality is a very big and complex puzzle, which in turn blinds one to the big picture. 

For example, perhaps your prized example of a fine instrument was really a high quality knock-off of a cheap, poorly made, unknown instrument, that was nevertheless the true innovation behind the story. Consider, for example, the instrument identical to Sax's "saxophone" at the exhibition in Paris where Sax demonstrated his "new" instrument. That instrument's importance can not be dismissed or underestimated in the scheme of things, but to this day scholars tend to see Sax and his work to the exclusion of what otherwise was going on  in the world.

To date, and to the best of my knowledge, this type of project has never before been done, in all the long history of brasswinds. But now, for the first time, here is a place to pose your questions and to share your information. At first you may have only questions, and little information. But given time and participation, the information will accumulate and the questions will inevitably be answered. 

For example, let's assume that there was once a maker of brasswinds we will call BlattLoud, and that they were made in limited numbers around, say, 1912, and that one of their cornets, the BlattLoud BilgeWhacker has come down to you through a distant relative. Thus far, your attempts to find out anything about your odd cornet have proven fruitless. But in the forum you provide the serial number of your instrument, a description of its appearance, perhaps something of its bore-profile and/or manufacture, the location of its purchase, and so on. Let us further assume that at first it seems that no one else has ever heard of a BlattLoud BilgeWhacker.

All the while, bits and pieces of information are coming in. You check back in a month- nothing. You check back in six months - still nothing. But one day, you come across someone else's entry on a BlattLoud BilgeWhacker cornet, and the serial number is not far off from your own. Let us say that the other person has no idea of the age of the instrument, but that the music store it was purchased from is known. 

In this manner, between the two of you, you now know where these instruments were sold, and the approximate date of their manufacture. 

This process is called cross-referencing, and it is through this process that disparate pieces of a puzzle will come together. 

It is hoped that other sources will also come together and participate in this forum: present-day manufacturers, retired instrument builders, brasswind historians and experts- your participation is hoped-for and invited. 

Further- it seems an oddity, but seldom are instrument builders, retired or otherwise, found to be participants in gathering information on old instruments. If you know of people who once worked for an instrument manufacturer that has been out of business for some time, please let them know of this forum and encourage their participation. The more time goes by, the less the likelihood of their information ever coming to light.

Greg Monks
  

. . . and the meek shall inhibit the mirth . . .  GSMonks, 14:12
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OLDLOU
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employment in musical instrument plant
Reply #1 - Nov 19th, 2005 at 7:49pm
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Because I worked in the York Band Instrument factory, and later for A.J.'Bill' Johnson at his Grand Rapids Musical Instrument Exchange in my youth, a friend who was familiar with this site advised that I go to it. I hope that I can be of some small assistance in your research.

BTW, Bill Johnson was the plant superintendant and principal stockholder in the group that bought out the York family from their business, when they decided to retire.

  I doubt that there is anything about York, or Holton in his early days in the music business, or the Martin family that Bill didn't know. Holton was in partnership with York in Allegan, Mi., in the music publishing business. The Martins worked as instrument makers for York  soon after arriving from Germany, prior to going into their own instrument making business. Another maker of instruments came to work for, or with,( I never understood which), Mr. York, was E.A. Couturier. The story as it was told to me by Bill Johnson is that Couturier left Holton's employ because Holton would not build trumpets and cornets to Couturier's design and patent. They only used a portion of his intent with the New Proportion Couturier cornet. He came to York, who built to Couturier's design totally, naming their version the Couturier Wizard cornet by York. I have seen and played one of these last. A very fine cornet.
  
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Peter
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Re: Mission Statement
Reply #2 - Dec 9th, 2005 at 6:44am
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Though this might not be the best board to post this plea, I hope I will be forgiven. If anyone has important original documents related to the musical instrument industry either in the form of trade catalogs, company records, diaries, family papers, or other papers (ephemera) please don't toss the material. If you have such material and you are concerned that your family won't understand what to do with it if you die, put something in writing telling them what do with the papers. Donations to the Library of Congress, Music Division, The National Music Museum, The Smithsonian Institution, and many other museums and libraries too numerous to mention will gladly accept your papers and give you a tax write off. I've heard simply too many stories about families tossing out grand dadís old junky letters and papers only to find that they were important. Local historical societies and universities are another place where papers are often donated. While both will probably accept the material, please consider donations to an institution that will care for the material; make the material accessible; preserve the material; and most importantly CATALOG the stuff so researchers will know what's where. Few historical societies have such resources, sadly.

Having said all that, understand that even though the information may be valuable, you won't get rich selling it. So, consider donations as a way of preserving a family member's legacy. If sufficient questions arise regarding this issue, maybe we will need to start a new discussion.

Peter
  
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gsmonks
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Re: Mission Statement
Reply #3 - Aug 13th, 2006 at 6:55pm
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Shades of the 1911 sale of Courtois to Emmanual Gaudet! No one knows what became of the original records, which is a great shame.
  

. . . and the meek shall inhibit the mirth . . .  GSMonks, 14:12
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Sprocc
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Trumpets, trombones and
tubas . . . oh my!

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Re: Mission Statement
Reply #4 - Feb 21st, 2009 at 8:32am
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Congratulations for this wonderful web-site work!

Regards from Spain
  
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Bluesman
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Trumpets, trombones and
tubas . . . oh my!

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Re: Mission Statement
Reply #5 - Sep 5th, 2009 at 8:24pm
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Great site with tons of info! Thanks!
  
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Silversorcerer
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Trumpets, trombones and
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Re: Mission Statement
Reply #6 - Oct 23rd, 2010 at 6:54pm
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Great reference resource that I have made much good use of!† Glad to see the post of my friend Oldlou. Oldlou is a national treasure to American horn players.† I hope he writes a book about his experiences in the American horn making trade. It is fascinating to trace the paths of the early makers.

And now finally I am able to contribute something here in information concerning an obscure American horn maker, Herman Schindler, of Milwaukee. I should soon have in hand a fine silver plated trombone engraved H. Schindler, maker, Milwaukee, Wisconsin from around 1900.† Not so much information is available about Schindler, but I have found some period documentation of the nature of his store and the general business it did in a book about turn of the century Milwaukee businesses.†

So I have started a thread for him in the "S" makers section and will add information and photos after the trombone arrives.† I have several other older American horns and photos of them, so I will be getting these into the database as well, but all of those other horns are by the more prolific makers of the early 20th century.

This is a wonderful resource and information collecting effort. Thank you for getting the mission started. Smiley
  
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