Restoration of an Important American Tuba: Graves & Co. at E.G. Wright

The signature on this Eb tuba is extremely rare: "Made by Graves & Co. at E.G. Wright's Manufactory Boston".   This was made during a time that principals of Graves & Co. were sharing quarters and presumably tooling and employees with E.G. Wright.  The design of this instrument is very much like tubas by Wright and a bit different from others known by Graves from the time.  I suspect that the shop was a little crowded, but they must have gotten on well.  Members of the Graves family shared a shop with E.G. Wright from 1856 through 1859 and again after 1862 and ultimately, in 1869 the two companies merged forming Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory.  It is thought that this tuba was built in the earlier period or even before, while Graves and Co. may have been struggling to get established in Boston.   Interestingly, this tuba is the same basic design as known tubas by E.G. Wright made during the 1850s through the 1860s and distinctly different than two existing tubas signed by Graves and Co. that were also believed to have been made during the 1850s.

Restoration of a large instrument in this condition is a very expensive job, but this very rare tuba was an easy call.  It must have been played for many years, suffering damage and numerous repairs.  Solid German silver instruments such as this are more prone to cracking than brass both from deterioration and damage.  It had several ancient patches covering cracked tubing and even more splits needing patching.  You can see in the fifth photo to the right, that the bell had been cut short to remove a severely cracked section and attached with a crudely made ferrule.   The arrows point to the original position of the large brace flange and that on the shortened bell.  There is no practical way to re-attach a piece to the bell end, so I had to make a large ferrule which would look like the original an fit the bell stem and bell end. The balance of this job was straightforward, involving careful dent removal after disassembly and reassembling to look as it did originally.   The valves are a bit worn, but good mechanical condition with all the original mechanism.  The owner of this tuba, Mark Elrod, was rewarded with a good playing tuba of great historical significance.