Boston Echo Cornet

This is the only known original Boston echo cornet, although below I tell the story of the recreation of one of these for Steve Ward before this was purchased by him.  This instrument was made in the early 1870s before the introduction of the larger bore Boston cornets including the Three Star and Two Star models, having the valve section design the same as in E.G. Wright piston valve cornets and continued by The Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory for a few years.  

The last photo to the left shows a Wright Bb piston valve cornet from about 1868 for comparison.  Not surprisingly, this is also from Steve Ward's collection.  Notice the ferrules joining the tubes between the valve casings.  This echo cornet is the same bore size as this Wright example as well as the earliest Boston Bb cornets: .462".  The bore of the rotary change valve is .487", the same as the earliest Three Star and all Two Star Cornets.  The bell rim diameter is slightly larger than the Wright's at 5".  The over all length is 12 5/8".  

The only contemporary illustration that we have of a Boston echo cornet is the woodcut appearing in the catalogs published in the 1880s and 1890s that clearly show the Two/Three Star cornet valve section.  That cut also indicates much more solid mountings for the echo bell.  Not only is it braced to a second slide tube
inserted into the change valve tubes, but also has an adjustable brace from the end of the mute to the curve of the main bell.  The attachment on this cornet is only the single, very short tube inserted in the change valve slide.  Wear and tear have made this situation even worse and the bell has to be supported by the back
of the left hand and little finger wrapped around the long, curved brace.  Notice, also the auxiliary slide in the second photograph.   This inserts in the change valve converting it into a semi-tone, which can be used for trills and facilitating the low F.  Judging by the wear on this slide and lack of wear on the echo bell, the owner
must not have used the latter very much.

I must also comment on the acoustics of the echo bell.  Through the middle and high register, it plays fairly well in tune and has a tone quality that most would think an authentic echo off of a geologic formation.  However, the low register is almost unplayable and sounds strangled if forced.  This is easily corrected with the insertion of a narrow tube into the end.  The length isn't very important, but the ideal seems to be about 2".  As in a Harmon "Wa-wa" muted, the tube can be fully inserted, extended or in between to good effect and varies the tone quality.  This acoustical problem could have also been solved if the "funnel" of the echo was made longer on the small end.  I don't believe that this had an inserted tube originally and I wonder how much use anybody got from this design compared with the Besson, Courtois and other echo cornets that were available by this time.  Regardless of this fact, this is a treasured antique of great historical value. 

Below is the story of recreating a Boston Echo cornet before this original example was found:

In their 1887 catalog, Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory illustrated a Bb piston valve cornet with fourth valve and echo attachment.  Nobody that I knew had ever seen one, but many collectors have told me that they would like to have one.  I don't remember whose idea it was, but Steve Ward wanted me to convert a standard Boston Three Star into an echo cornet.  I would have to make quite a few parts and modify others to accomplish this.  I named my price and he told me to go ahead.  He supplied a cornet that was restorable, but not economical to do so and not of any historical importance.  

To get the design as close as possible, I enlarged the catalog illustration to full size.  Assuming a large degree of accuracy, which seems to be true of all the engravings that Boston published, I could get some rough measurements and visual designs from this.  It would have been convenient if I had a wrecked rotary valve cornet around to supply the fourth valve, but I had to make this one all new.  It appears to be the same as the valves in the Orchestra cornet.  

I had made several echo bells before and find that they are not difficult.  From experience, I knew that the cone on the end of the echo was not going to work well acoustically, so I made it slightly longer and more flared and also with an insert in the small end, that when pulled out about 3/4" improves the response of the echo notes.  

There appears to be an attachment between the end of the echo bell and the inside of the main bell curve.  I assumed that this must be a sliding brace giving the only support for the echo other than where it leaves the change valve and allows for the necessary tuning of the assembly.  I had to re-bend the original "shepherd's crook" into the shape as illustrated and be sure to get the length just right.  The second photo to the right shows that I got the design fairly close to the original.  The original pistons were plated and refit, insuring that this is an excellent playing echo cornet.

Within a year of completing this project, Steve Ward managed to buy the real thing, shown in the last photo.  Some details are slightly different from both the catalog illustration and the replica cornet.  If you look closely, you will notice that the third valve slide crook is narrower than on a Three Star Cornet and it is otherwise of an earlier design, more like E.G. Wright's piston valve cornets and the very earliest Boston examples known.   This cornet must date from before the introduction of Three Star or Two Star cornets sometime in the 1870s.  It also lacks the sliding brace to support the echo bell, so not surprisingly it has become detached and is just laying loose under the cornet for this photo.  I would assume that later Boston  echo cornets were more like the engraving and the replica, but nobody has found one that I know of (let me know!).