Fiske Schreiber Pattern Cornet

The fifth photo on the right shows an image and description from Isaac Fiske’s 1861 catalog of instruments that he was making at the time. This was the only source showing that Fiske had made this model cornet and none were known to exist until this example was advertised on the internet recently (2018). Mark Jones of Buffalo, NY knew immediately how important it was and purchased it. He next contacted his friend, Mark Elrod, knowing that he would want it and they arranged to have it sent straight to my shop for restoration.

Louis Schreiber was a well known cornet soloist from Germany that emigrated to the US in about 1856. He is best known for manufacturing his own design instruments starting in about 1868. Several examples of these are seen elsewhere on this site. It is interesting to note that the proportions and layout of this cornet are very similar to the German band trumpets in use at the same time. It hadn’t been many years before that the eastern bands had replaced the Bb flugelhorns with these relatively wide bell trumpets in the same key. Schreiber’s later Bb cornets were also of very similar proportions, but very different shapes. After his factory failed to continue in business, Schreiber became the US distributor of Besson instruments made in London.

The sixth photo shows the condition that this cornet was in. It was quite a challenging restoration, due not only to the severity of the damage, but numerous previous repairs that had to be dealt with. It also showed signs of much wear, indicating that it must have been somebody’s favorite instrument.

This cornet is 17 3/8” long, the bell rim diameter is 4 3/4” and the bore measures .442”. The mouthpiece pictured is a replica of an original by Fiske in Mark Elrod’s collection. The forth valve adds a half step, extending the range and allowing it to be played in A. The catalog mentions that it came with crooks to G. The extant tuning crook lowers it to Ab, but the G crook was certainly the same design with a wider loop.

This interesting side action lever mechanism was also offered on Fiske’s Eb cornets and is similar to the fourth valve levers on bass instruments with bells over the shoulder. I suspect that the use on this model cornet precedes the more familiar side action levers that he continued offering into the 1880s.

One of the most interesting facts regarding this design is that there have been a number of similar instruments known for decades before this “original” surfaced. The most common of these are three valve versions offered by John Stratton, NY until at least 1880, in both Bb and high Eb and only retain the basic shape with tilted rotary valves and similar valve action with round touch pieces. Another three valve Bb cornet that copies more of Fiske’s design features is by Moennig, also of New York City. This is in the collection of Tom Meacham.

There are also two cornets existing that more closely copying the Fiske Schreiber cornet by Christian Stark in New York City. One of these that I owned for a time is shown in the last photo.

The closest “copy” of the Fiske Schreiber Pattern cornets is shown in the last photo, from the collection of Steve Ward. It is so close that one might easily think that it was made by Fiske to be “stenciled” by the seller, Kaiser and Kohler, Cincinnati. Presenting this information always brings as many questions as answers and this is a good case for that point. The partnership of Kaiser & Kohler began in 1859 and both Franz G Kohler and William Kaiser had been in the business for several years before that date. We have to entertain the idea that the Kaiser & Kohler cornet could have been made before the Fiske version. It is the only version that didn’t copy the round lever touch pieces. Also, Louis Schreiber would have had familiarity in language with the Cincinnati makers even if from different German countries.