Civil War Era Brass Modified
As old brass instruments would become out of fashion, they might have been tossed aside or handed down to younger or less affluent musicians. Occasionally, they also might have been rebuilt into a more usable form. Most often when I see this, it is very badly done, like the Eisenbrandt cornet featured on this site and I've seem many others. Typically, an angled mouthpipe is added to an instrument with bell over the shoulder to direct the bell upwards and the bell shortened by the same length. They might not be of enough historical or monetary interest to restore, but might lend a part or two to a more worthy restoration. In the case of the two instruments pictured here, the work was done fairly well and even if not up to the standards of the original maker, they tell an interesting bit of history. I can only guess that this was done in the shop of a good maker, but perhaps by a less skilled worker. Both of these Allen cornets belong to legendary collector, Mark Elrod and in both cases, the stories behind the designs were not at first obvious. In the first case, I was suspicious when I first saw photos of the instrument. It has Allen's name shield with the address: 18 Harvard Pl, where this shop existed from 1857 through 1860. Most of Allen's bell front Eb sopranos have the tuning in the mouthpipe as seen in Steve Ward's copper example. By finding the faint traces of the outlines of the braces in the previous form, I was able to determine that this had originally had the bell over the shoulder exactly like Bob Hazen's Allen from the same address (now in Boston's MFA) in the third photo down. After first studying a photograph of the next example, 4th and 6th photos on the right, I told Mark that it has Allen's valves, but I have never seen a Bb by Allen with a wide Saxhorn style bell in this configuration. D.C. Hall's 1864 catalog shows a Bb orchestra cornet in this configuration, but clearly with the cornet style bell. I've also seen several Hall & Quinby long model Bb cornets with the wide bell that were made after 1865, so this instrument wasn't too surprising, although it is mostly seen on sopranos in Eb. It has no signature and a few details such as the Bb mouthpipe shank and the two braces that attached the valve section to the bell appear to be in the style used by Henry Lehnert. My theory at that point was that this instrument was built by Lehnert in the first years that he had his own shop in Boston in about 1865 and using valves purchased from Allen's valve maker. Known instruments by Lehnert with short action valves have a variation of Allen's design very similar to those introduced by Richardson in the 1850s. Once in my hands and while disassembling it for restoration, I searched all surfaces for traces of previous bracing. The only one I found was a long leaf shape on the first valve slide tube that had obviously joined to the main bell tube below as seen on the third slide of the Hazen soprano above. I can only guess that this was left off to avoid interfering with the main tuning slide, although it would have been wise to brace it there. The finger hook was pushed into the bell slightly, but I wasn't planning on removing it until I had the thought that perhaps I would find the remnants of a maker's engraving under it. If there had been a shield, it had been discarded. To my surprise, I could actually see the traces left by the underside of the lettering of Allen's shield. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to document this sufficiently, but I played with cleaning the solder with polishing compound and then oxidizing what was left. The last photo shows it as clearly as with the naked eye. I juxtaposed this with a photo of the same shield from another instrument, for comparison. So now my theory on the origin of this instrument is that it was made up of two different instruments (although it is possible that they are from the same instrument), both with bells over the shoulder and both from the Allen shop. The valve section is from an instrument in Bb and the bell from one in Eb. The mouthpiece is an Allen Bb and fits the mouthpipe shank perfectly and the shank appears to have only been used in this instrument. This work could still have been done by Henry Lehnert, but we will likely never know for sure.