Distin Eb Cornet

By the 1890s Eb cornets were losing favor as the soprano voice in US bands and were no longer considered a solo or leader's instrument.  Previously, American bands arrangements required two (or more to ease the burden) of them for the soprano part.  More and more bands were following the lead of Patrick Gilmore's Band and then the great Sousa Band that were utilizing clarinets, flutes and even piccolos for those parts.  All the US makers continued to offer high quality Eb cornets to this shrinking market and existing instruments from this era are somewhat rare.

Judging by the serial number, this cornet was made in the first few months of production in the new Distin factory in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1891.  This was the fulfillment of plans to build a large modern factory that Henry Distin made in the 1870s in London.  Judging by the number of brass instruments of all sizes from this factory extant, it was a very productive shop, probably producing almost 2000 instruments a year.  In the US, only Conn was producing larger numbers.  Distin had been offering European imports for the last several years in Philadelphia but seems to have discontinued this practice after the move.  Selling less expensive imports was a very profitable business for many other US businesses, so I can only guess that this decision was made with the idea that the lower quality products would erode the prestige of the better instruments that he was producing himself.  Hecontinued offering the same wide range of models that were built in Philadelphia including this which he called "No. 1 Eb Soprano for Leaders" and stated that he invented the model in 1862.  This example was somewhat of a deluxe version, with engraving on all the larger parts, burnished silver plating and gold plated trim and was priced at $70. Distin's cornets were priced about $5 more than the highly regarded Boston cornets and $10 more than the best selling Conn instruments. In spite of the quantity of engraving it is of an even lower skill level than that on my New York Distin cornet.  It is very well preserved in all respects and is an excellent player.  It retains its original mouthpipe shank, bit and Gold plated Levy model mouthpiece.  The overall length with mouthpiece removed is 12 1/2", the bell rim diameter is 4 3/4" and the bore measures .445".