Fiske Bb Cornet with "Push Rod" Action Rotary Valves

By the time that this cornet was built in the mid-1870s, Isaac Fiske had been making brass instruments of the highest quality for over 30 years.  The last patent date on the bell stamp is Sept. 23/73 which protects this particular arrangement of the valves and slides.  The cornet being held by Matthew Arbuckle in the last photo below has the design patented in April of the same year.   Fiske put at least four different valve configurations into production, using this type of action, and the very last was virtually the same as his first patent with the valves in a row at the bottom of the cornet.  By then he must have realized that the valve arrangement was much less important than good acoustical design and skilled and careful workmanship.   Fiske's own name for his pushrod actuated rotary valves was "key pistons".  This was obviously intended to modernize his rotary valve cornets by making them more like the French style perinet piston valve cornets that were becoming dominant.  Acoustically, they already were very closely based on the Courtois and Besson cornets as compared to his earlier instruments such as the circular Bb that I show elsewhere on this site.  By 1881, Fiske made piston valve cornets that looked very much like the Courtois and sold his factory to C.G. Conn in 1887 who made only piston valve cornets as far as we know.


This cornet had already been worked on before I acquired it and I've never had the time to re-mount the bell and other tubing straight and parallel.  It is, however, an excellent playing cornet and retains the original case with Bb and A shanks, mouthpiece and lyre that came with it when new.  The bore measures .468", the bell rim diameter is 4 11/16" and the overall length with mouthpiece removed is 12 1/2".


Most of the historical information here comes from Robert Eliasons' "Early American Brass Makers", which is no longer available but is in the collections of many libraries.