Elden Benge's Besson Trumpet
Almost everything that I know about the history of this trumpet I was told was told by Irving Bush, so I asked him to write it down for me. I highly recommend that owners of old instruments do their best to document them. As each generation passes, the accuracy of the stories connected with artifacts become less sure unless we carefully document them. I believe that this is important even with objects that have much less historical significance than this case.
Irving Bush was a highly regarded professional trumpet player, playing with many top big bands during the 1950s and joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1962. He had been a friend and colleague of Elden Benge from the time that Benge moved to Southern California.
I've included a scan of Irv's story of this trumpet on his personal stationary below, but here is what it says: September 17, 2003 To whom it may concern: The French Besson Bb trumpet, serial number 85419 is the instrument played by Elden Benge, the first trumpet with the Chicago Symphony under the direction of Frederick Stock. The instrument was disassembled in Mr Benge's trumpet studio in Chicago, Illinois. After Mr. Benge's death in 1960 in Burbank, California, the trumpet company was inherited by Donald and Ronald Benge and subsequently sold to the H.N. White (King) of Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to the sale, Mr. Lou Duda, the foreman of the Benge factory and outstanding trumpet craftsman, painstakingly reassembled the trumpet and presented it to Irving Bush. Most modern trumpets were originally copied from the French Besson and were manufactured from about 1885. Sincerely,
Irving R. Bush
This trumpet has been so heavily polished that the bell stamp needed to be engraved over to make it more legible, making it look almost as if it is a counterfeit. Close examination does show that the original stamped lettering is there. I have no way of knowing if the heavy polishing was done at the Benge shop in 1970 or previous to Mr. Benge dismantling it 30 years before.
I can see that some of the parts are not original, but not all are obvious. The braces between the bell and mouthpipe and first slide hook are definitely Benge parts. The tuning slide crook might be a replacement. The mouthpipe is an interesting case. It has a seam as seen in all original early Besson trumpets, but the same is true of Benge mouthpipes made in Chicago. Either way the mouthpipe has important history. There is at least one other Besson trumpet in existence that had belonged to Mr. Benge. We don't know how many trumpets he may have owned before making his own.
The serial number indicates that this trumpet was made before 1924. It is 19 1/2" long (18 7/8" from bell rim to bell curve) without mouthpiece, the bell diameter is 4 9/16" and the bore measures approximately .461".