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European Makers

F. Besson, Paris and London

c1875 Besson "Modele Francais" (13943) This example came to me in above average condition and had a nice comlete outfit with nearly all the accessories present. Pictured with key of A pigtail shank.

1877 F.Besson (London) Brevetee 15,3XX

1885 F. Besson (London) Echo Cornet (35399) This is an original echo cornet outfit which was, unfortunately, missing the echo bell. Using parts from "junker" Besson cornets from the same time, plus a reproduction echo bell, I was able to fabricate the new echo attachment shown, which was silver plated to match. It's unusual to see an original clamshell hard case for an echo cornet, and even more unusual in the way that it holds the horn with the echo bell attached. Fabricating the new attachment, while still fitting the original case was a unique challenge.

1887 F. Besson (Paris) "Etoile" (34,4XX) Early French cornets had the bell on the right side of the valve cluster. This example has its origianl coffin case and all the accessories, including several key change shanks. The finish is raw brass and it is presently unrestored.

1895 F. Besson (London) Bb Compensating (55831). This unusual cornet has two extra valve slides as well as some additional "plumbing." They were usually marketed under the trademark name "Enharmonic" although this example is not labeled as such. I've just completed its restoration in my shop. Before restoration. During restoration.

1906 Besson & Co. (London) Chicago Bore "Prototype" 82,4XX

1910 F. Besson (London) Echo Bell Cornet (reproduction/conversion) An Echo Cornet has a second bell, that provides an instantaneous muted effect when you press the 4th valve down. This truly amazing instrument started life as an ordinary fixed-leadpipe Bb Besson cornet, which was converted into an "echo bell" cornet by utilizing a combination of newly-manufactured parts and cleverly scavenged vintage parts. The cornet is owned by Jules Prosser of England who did this beautiful work as a project "at University."Here are the details on how the work was accomplished. Original echo bell cornets are rare and prized by collectors. (photos by Peter Prosser)

1935 F. Besson (Paris) Concertiste 88,4XX (after repair) (before repair)

Boosey & Co., London

1880 Distin-Boosey & Co. Eb "Miniature" cornet (25482 bell, 25147 valves) I've been informed by a knowledgeable source that Boosey didn't use the term "pocket" to decribe these models, choosing to call them "miniature" instead. It is only 7.5" in length without a shank inserted. I've just finished restoring this little soprano cornet in my shop, and you can see before and after shots. before restoration

1885 Distin-Boosey Eb Compensating Cornet (29664 / 31955) Compensating valve systems result in some very unique designs. This is the first Eb I've seen with such a design. Note the offset second valve. The bottom valve covers each have a rotary water valve -- this was a patented feature invented by the same man who invented the compensating valve system for Boosey. Before Restoration

1907 Boosey & Co. "Solbron" Class A (long model) 739XX

1907 Boosey & Co. Acme Model (978XX bell, 751XX valves) Note the Christmas presentation engraving.


c1905 W. Brown & Sons Echo Bell Cornet (4320) After several years of collecting, I've finally acquired my first cornet with an echo bell attachment. As the airstream leaves the first valve, it enters a 4th piston valve which, when not depressed, allows the air to exit normally through the conventional bell. When depressed, the airsteam is diverted to a secondary bell which flares only about halfway, before tapering to a very small opening. The sound through this bell is similar to what you'd get with a metal Harmon mute, although maybe a bit quieter and with more resistence. Not too much is known about Brown, a London maker, but the construction is of very nice quality.

1900 Henri Lefevre Cornet (nickel, no serial) This cornet was the first project of University of Florida student Scott Knight, which I assisted him with. (before repairs)

A. Courtois, Paris

c1900 Antoine Courtois "Levy's Model" (20,0XX)

1875 Courtois "Levy's Model" (9985) Courtois ranked with Besson as one of the premier Frech cornet makers of the 19th century. They tended to be rather austere, usually with no ornamental engraving -- just the considerable text engraving on the bell identifying the model, maker and various awards won by the company. Yet they are beautifully constructed and still admired today as players. After examining one of these cornets, it's hard to see what improvements have been made in the last 125+ years (see "The French Connection" article elsewhere on this site).

1875 Antoine CourtoisCornet Left Side Presentation Engraving closeup crook slide Bell Engraving
From Above (Robb Stewart Collection)  Cornet in Bb, made by Antoine Courtois in Paris, about 1875. Levy's Model. This is the actual presentation cornet that was given to Matthew Arbuckle by Patrick S. Gilmore at about the time that Gilmore hired Jules Levy, or perhaps some time earlier. Unfortunately, the presentation is not dated on the instrument. Arbuckle was the most famous cornet soloist in the U.S. before Levy arrived. Since Arbuckle never performed recordings, he is not well known to modern cornetists (he died in 1883), but he was the biggest star soloist of his day. Arbuckle later gave this cornet to Jules Levy. Around the turn of the century, Levy was touring the country with Z. Albert Meredith, who later made the Meredith "Open Tone" cornets. At that time Levy gave the cornet to Meredith. In the early 1950's, he sold it, along with his entire shop, to his employee, Don Heaston. Mr. Heaston in is the man that got me into the repair business in 1976. I purchased it in the early 1990's.  All of the engraving on this cornet, which is of very high quality, was originally highlighted in gold plating. Most of this gold has worn off, but the original silver plating is in excellent condition.

c1905 Courtois Arban Model Echo adaptation My success in making a repro Indian Echo Bell cornet playable (see below) made me think about trying to adapt the repro echo attachment to a vintage cornet of good quality. For this project I selected a very beat up Courtois Arban cornet which had severe denting and 3 split crooks beyond repair. In other words, I felt it would never be a good enough collectible to warrant restoration. After adapting and combining the old and new components, it was sent off for a valve refit and silver plating. To my surprise, the echo bell was in tune with the standard bell without changing the attachment slide at all. Special thanks to Mark Metzler for modifying the fourth valve top and bottom caps to more closely resemble the Courtois profile, a really nice touch.

c1955 Antoine Courtois 4,8XX

Gautrot aine

Gautrot "Marquet" c1885 The Marquet was a high quality model from this prolific French maker. Note all the additional tuning crooks to put the horn into a number of different keys. The cornet is very lightweight and very high construction quality.

c1895 Gautrot (Couesnon) Pocket Cornet (no serial) This little cornet is unmarked, but the recent discovery of a marked Gautrot Brevete pocket, identical in all respects, confirms its origins. Gautrot was acquired by Couesnon in 1883 (and continued to use the Gautrot name), so it could have been made by either. Note the J.W. Pepper (import) Pocket Cornet elsewhere on this page -- except for a a couple of insignificant details, it is also identical. The shank receiver had to be replaced on this cornet, but it was taken from a parts Gautrot cornet.

1890 Gautrot Bb/A (none)


c1890 J. Higham (presumed) Echo cornet (no serial) This rare echo cornet is totally without engraving of any kind, yet is identical to a known Higham echo cornet. The removable echo attachments are different between the two horns, however. This came directly to me from England. Before Restoration . Known Higham echo cornet (bell serial 34528) for comparison. The other possibility, which has recently come to light, is that Higham did not make this cornet but rather imported the basic horn or parts and then finished it.  If this is the case, then my example is simply another instrument made by that unknown supplier.

1865 Metzler & Co. Cirular Pocket Cornet right side   left side bell detail (Robb Stewart Collection)  Circular pocket cornet in Bb, signed "Metzler & Co., London", made about 1865. Metzler is thought to me an importer and dealer only, not a maker. This cornet was probably made in Germany or Austro-Hungary. The bell rim is oval shaped to make this cornet more compact. In England small circular cornets in C or Bb are sometimes known as "buskars bugles" because they were popular among street musicians. This one would have been convenient to carry under a coat or in a bag, among one's belongings. The mouthpipe shank, finger buttons and waterkey are not original on this instrument. The original shank was probably shorter, but with this one it plays at A=440Hz. Circular cornets are quite rare and highly prized by collectors.

1861 Sax Cornet Right Bell Detail (Robb Stewart Collection)  Cornet in Bb, made by Adolphe Sax in Paris, 1861. Sax was, of course, best know the inventor of the Saxophone family and developer of the Saxhorn family, but he made brass instruments of every description. His cornets were of outstanding quality. This is a very standard Francais model with ample proportions, which compare surprisingly well with modern cornets. Cornets by Sax are rare even in European collections, and this one is very original and complete, with Bb and A shanks and lyre. I also believe that the mouthpiece is original with the instrument. The crook connecting the tuning slide with the third valve has been shortened, presumably to bring the pitch up to the standard band pitch, which was around A=457Hz.

1934 Selmer Cornet (932) I tend to see mostly long model Selmer cornets. This seems to be an intermediate design, with some aspects of 19th century cornets, yet with a straight crook and neat art deco design elements.

1845 Wood & Ivy Cornet left side right side case, horn, accessoriesvalve & clapper key detail bell detail (Robb Stewart Collection)  Cornet in Bb signed by Wood & Ivy, London, as well as Townsend, Manchester, about 1845. Stoelzel valve cornets like this are usually known in England and the U.S. as cornopeans. This one has a "McFarlan's clapper key" and crooks for A, G, F, E and Eb. The key could be used for trills. At the time that this cornet was made, the keyed bugle was still a popular soprano brass instrument and the players must have seen an advantage to keeping one key. Early professional cornet players in England were expected to play keyed bugle and natural trumpet along with the cornet. The ability to choose from six keys in which to play would have made the job a little easier. The mouthpiece is original to this cornet.  Wood & Ivy as well as Townsend are believed to be dealers and not makers. This cornet may have been made by some other English maker, but more likely was made in Germany. The nickel trim and wide engraved bell garland were more typical of German tradition than English, although the overall design is very much English. It does make it appear a deluxe model never the less. Very early cornets, like this one are very hard to find these days, and are an important addition to a collection.

c1935 C.A. Wunderlich "Jazzophon" (no serial) One of a line of saxophone-shaped trumpets made in very small numbers during the jazz age in Germany, this Jazzophon features two bells. One is conventional, while the other incorporates a permanent wah-wah mute, trigger activated. A fourth piston valve diverts the air flow from one bell to the other, which essentially makes this an "echo trumpet" but in a much different configuration than seen on any echo cornet.

2004 Indian Echo Bell Cornet (modern reproduction, no serial) This is an inexpensive brass reproduction echo cornet as seen frequently on Ebay. I purchased this as an experiment, as a gift to my daughter, a a beginning trumpeter. As received, it was virtually unplayable. I spent nearly 3 days in my shop repairing leaks, unsoldered joints and barely-functional valves, after which it was surprisingly playable and a lot of fun. Another note: these are built to "high pitch" and will require a longer shank to play in modern (A=440 Hz) pitch. While not a "do it yourself project" for everybody, for those with above average repair skills, a great way to learn about these seldom-seen and expensive (if original vintage) cornets.

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1880 Boosey & Co.
 Eb “Miniature” cornet