Allen Sopranos with Bell Over the Shoulder
As rare as these instruments are, I have restored at least five examples. The first was for Bob Hazen (an extremely well preserved example that is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts). The next was a very rough one for Alex Pollock that came out quite nicely. The third, which is covered more thoroughly on its own page, was for Rebecca and John Bieniarz. The last two, both for Steve Ward, were the brass examples in the forth and fifth photos and got me thinking of the variations in design.
The first two photos are the same basic design as in the image in D.C. Hall's 1864 catalog (sixth image here) and I would guess that it is the most common or at least what they considered the standard design. Notice the orientation of the large curved braces. I would normally consider that brace on the second example to be "wrong", since it is opposite from the vast majority of American cornets that have this design element. But then notice that it is the same as on the catalog image. These have the main tuning slide, vertically oriented, between the third valve and bell section.
The fifth example has that same vertical tuning slide in addition to a tuning mouthpipe. The third and forth have tuning in the mouthpipe only. In another case of an Eb soprano with two tuning slides, made by E.G. Wright, I guessed that it was originally supplied with two or more tuning slides of differing length to allow for different pitches. More evidence for this idea was the removable second valve crook, unusual for Eb sopranos, but that is not seen in this example by Allen.
We will probably never know the reason for some of these design elements, but it is a lot of fun to speculate.