Fiske Bb Cornet with Bell Over the Shoulder
Instruments made by Isaac Fiske in Worcester, Massachusetts are very well represented on this website, being one of the four most important early US makers of brass instruments. However, they are rare enough that most brass enthusiasts don't often have a chance to add them to their collections. For this reason, I'm featuring this Bb cornet with bell over the shoulder, belonging to the well known collector, Mark Elrod. It came to light in New York and was sold through an Internet auction with enthusiastic bidding. Mark already had a Fiske Bb cornet with bell over the shoulder that was made about 1855, but knew that this would be his only chance to buy one with this slightly later design. Isaac Fiske was always an innovator and constantly introducing new designs. In his catalog of 1861, he illustrates this particular design and states that for each size of instrument, such as Bb cornet, there were three "calibers" available. From my experience, I know that all his early Bb cornets had valve bores measuring .433", but rather, he was offering three bell flare sizes. I haven't seen three bell sizes for these Bb cornets, but I believe that this is the largest that he offered. The known examples of circular and orchestra model cornets by Fiske have a smaller bell that is still larger than those that were becoming popular in France and England at the time and would dominate the US market within the decade. Styles were changing and Fiske was successful with his new designs in the late 1860s and into the 1870s, but never seemed to tool up to make Perinet piston valves to compete with the trends that were dominant in his later career.
The third photo down on the left shows this cornet in its original case and the mouthpiece is also the original. These are not often found and rarely survive. The last photo to the left shows Mark Elrod's Fiske cornets with bells over the shoulder. The top two are Eb and Bb cornets from 1855 or before, next to the featured Bb cornet. Notice that the later cornet does not require a mouthpipe shank to play in Bb. By 1860, Fiske realized that these instruments were for military bands that were not going to play in other pitches as were required by players in orchestras.
There is more history on Isaac Fiske and his contemporaries in Robert Eliason's "Early American Brass Makers".