Slide Trumpet in F by William Harris
This very interesting English slide trumpet was sent to me for restoration by Vince DiMartino. Vince has always specialized in historical performance and is a virtuoso performer of cornet and trumpet and continues to add instruments to his collection, so when this trumpet was offered for sale he didn't hesitate much. If I understand the story, it had belonged to Gorby's Music, an institution in South Charleston, West Virginia, for many decades. It was brought to the Antiques Roadshow for appraisal in 2014 by a Gorby family member and then offered for sale. Typical of this sort of situation, no history is known before that and the instrument is missing the original crooks, bit and mouthpiece. It was already known that this is an early 19th century conversion of a mid-18th century natural trumpet. William Bull Harris, who's career extended from the 1720s until 1755, was the son of the very famous trumpet maker John Harris, who, in turn, was the son-in-law of the even more famous trumpet maker to the royal court, William Bull. The original instrument may have been pitched in F, which was the most common pitch for English orchestral trumpets, it could also have been shortened from a lower pitch at the time of the modification. The overall length is just over 23" and the bell diameter is about 4 1/2". The bell and other original tubing are of a very high copper containing brass, appearing almost pure copper. This is also the case in a number of trumpets by the elder Harris and Bull (more than 80% copper). The original trim pieces are of high silver content, although not hallmarked as Sterling silver would have required and they are worn enough, without any base metal showing through, so I can conclude that they are not silver filled either. I have little knowledge of the requirements of hallmarking and can't make a conclusion on this silver. I would welcome better information on this matter. The silver parts are all decorated with chasing, as is the signature: "Wm Harris / Maker". There may have been engraving in the central cartouche that was later removed. The older instruments were signed by engraving the name around the inside of the garland following the style of the earlier Nuremberg trumpets. Much more information on natural and slide trumpets in the first two volumes of "Trumpets and other High Brass" by Sabine Klaus. Two other English slide trumpets are featured on my "Restoration" pages, including a Kohler similar to this instrument.
I made the replacement crooks and bit from yellow brass, the same as the 19th century additions were made of. The crooks lower the pitch to E, Eb and D and the two larger crooks can be combined for C. The last two photos show the extent of the damage that this trumpet has endured and the disassembly necessary to accomplish the repairs. Aside from the areas covered by two ancient silver patches, the original metal is quite sound. Those patches were re-used after the dents were removed. The spring return mechanism was in good condition aside from one broken spring and the actuating tube had previously been wrenched and almost broken through. For the latter, I just tacked it together with silver solder, although I suspect that it will need more attention in future years, assuming that this trumpet is played.
There are a few unanswered questions that this trumpet asks, mostly regarding the bell. There would have been two small holes punched though the garland and bell flare for a brass wire to pass through and hold it against the adjacent curved tube. On the garland, there is a silver patch that is silver soldered in place that covers jagged holes in the original metal. One possibility is that the brass parts were all made new in the 19th century on which the 18th century silver parts were mounted. The flare of the bell shows no evidence of the original holes, except that the outer flare is a separate piece of metal that is very neatly brazed to the smaller part of the flare. This gives it an appearance very similar to a modern two piece bell in which the flare is spun roughly to shape, brazed to the stem, flattened and then spun to final shape. I have no way of knowing if this bell was originally made this way (probably not spun) in the 18th century, but the evidence indicates that the flare was likely a part of the 19th century modification/repair of this old trumpet. In the first three photos, you can see that the flare is a different alloy, appearing more red than the red brass bell. My guess is that the original outer flare was so badly damaged that it was cut away and a new piece brazed into place. This is so neatly done that whether done by the original maker or by the craftsman accomplishing the repair, it makes me wonder why this sort of two piece bell wasn't seen in normal production until close to 1900. Additionally, while examining the silver garland, the triangles arranged close to the rim all the way around are not a chased design motif, but are actually overlapping tabs where the rim was joined to the garland by silver soldering. From the start, I thought that this was odd, but seen in the light of the other modernization features, it is possible that this is another. In the early 18th century, both English and German trumpet makers installed the garlands by simply crimping the metal over the bell edge and then soldering on a reinforcement rim. By the late 18th century, English makers started installing what we now call Saxon rims, where the garland has a rim formed at the outer edge, which is a recess in which a reinforcement wire is placed. Then the edge is crimped over the bell edge, trapping the wire. It is possible that this trumpet originally had the former and was modified with the latter. It is also possible that it was made that way when new. I have not had enough experience with these early trumpets to know which is more likely. In addition to these observations, the bore of this trumpet lends more evidence towards drawing conclusions for its history. The bore measurement is different through the red brass tubing than the bras slide tubes. The latter are about .450", while the former and presumably older tubing measures under .440".
The discussion above got a bit convoluted, but seems to point to a conclusion that the red brass tubing and bell along with the decorated silver parts are all part of the original 18th century orchestral trumpet by William Harris. The exception is the outer bell flare that was skillfully replaced at the time that the instrument was rebuilt as a slide trumpet, early in the 19th century. It's unfortunate that the craftsman that did this work did not sign any of the new parts, so that we might know who it was that was skilled enough to accomplish this. The finished instrument is a very good player and a good choice for historical trumpet performances.