Graves & Co. Bb Cornet

This is the only Graves Bb cornet with the bell over the shoulder known (please let me know if you know of another) and that's just part of the story.  The photo below of the tarnished bell is as I purchased it and is the only part of the cornet that is original.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to own even a portion of a Graves instrument.  Once I had it, I let Mark Elrod, Bob Eliason and other experts in the field know and I asked them if they had heard of another.  They hadn't and that made it more fun to own such a rarity.  The next thought is to reproduce all the missing parts.   

I had already been thinking of making a circular cornet for myself that was more accurate than those that I make to order for customers.  I knew that it would be an extremely time consuming project but had no deadline.  I decided that while I was making the valve assemblies for that project, I may as well make an extra set that I could use to complete this cornet in the future.  Once I had the valves made, I decided that this cornet would be more important to finish first.  

Since there was no complete cornet like this in any known collections, it is surprising that we know of at least three original photographs from the 1850s of musicians holding this exact model including one from the famous Colt Armory Band.  The copy of an original photo shown here was provided by Tom Meacham.  These photographs are clear enough for me to get the proportions and details very accurate.   I also had information from five or six original Graves cornets that I had worked on in the past.  

When the Eb cornet pictured below, from the collection of Nick DeCarlis, came in for some minor repairs, that gave me the opportunity to make even more precise and detailed measurements and drawings than I had in the past.  A very similar Eb cornet is part of a set delivered to the Samuel Colt's Armory Band early in 1856, which now is part of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts collection.  The Bb cornets from that set aren't know to exist today, but there is an original photograph of one of Colt's musicians holding one reproduced in Garofalo and Elrod's book on Civil War era instruments and bands.  

The ninth photo is an ambrotype taken in the 1850s of a musician holding a Fiske circular Bb cornet and a Graves 4 valve Bb bass that would have been very much like those made for the Colt Armory Band.  Notice that the form is with the bell over the shoulder, but the "L" shaped mouthpipe in place is for playing the instrument with the bell upright.  An even earlier Graves Bb bass, made in 1851, is shown in the last photo, that has both original mouthpipes extant: one for playing over the shoulder and the other, upright.

My cornet was made for the Lawrence Brass Band.  Lawrence, Massachusetts was a 9 year old mill town 25 miles north of Boston, when the band was formed in 1849.

All of these Graves cornets mentioned so far have detachable bell sections and originally had alternate bells as pictured with the Eb soprano.  The altos, tenors and basses had circular (pigtail) crooks for playing over the shoulder and "L" shaped mouthpipes that allowed the bell to be upright, as was typical in most larger brass instruments.  A band fully equipped with these could participate in military tactics or parade during the day and with a quick switch of the bells or mouthpipes, they could perform for a formal dance the same evening.  

The very narrow shape of the bell flare on this cornet is unique among American Bb cornets that I know of from the 1850s.  More typical would be a Saxhorn style bell as seen in my New Orleans instrument, a large cornet bell descended from early English cornopeans as seen in my Fiske circular cornet or a Courtois cornet style bell as seen on the Graves circular, D.C. Hall and Boston cornets.  

This cornet is 24 1/4" long, the bell rim diameter is 4 15/16" and the bore measures .438".  The bore of the original valve section would likely have been somewhere between .425" and .435".   The mouthpiece is from the period by Allen & Co. in Boston.