Slide Trumpet in F by John Kohler
When this very rare English slide trumpet came up for sale in an Internet auction, there was a lot of interest, guaranteeing that a high price would result. The winner, Scott Clements, a collector of rare brass instruments, entrusted it to me for some repairs and reproduction of the missing parts. It retains its original crooks for Eb and C as well as the exceedingly rare original mouthpiece. Even when original mouthpieces are preserved with an instrument this old, they are often badly damaged or worse, modified. This one is in excellent, original condition.
The parts needed to complete the kit were the shank for F (curved so that the slide clears the player's cheek), three tuning bits and the crooks for E natural and D. Having had a very similar Köhler trumpet in the shop years ago and having made a replica of it aided this process. The "clock springs" inside the barrels shown in the second photo were present, but broken. Fortunately, there are suppliers of parts for clock restoration and I was able to get springs of very similar dimensions that I could modify to work in this application. Notice that the original gut strings were also present, but broken. The replacements were made from nylon strings to avoid the complications involved with gut. There are two spring barrels and strings so that if a string broke during a performance, the second string, which can be seen sticking out of the barrel case, can be pulled and inserted in a notch in the finger push bar. The trim on this instrument appears to be Sterling silver, but with no hallmarks, it is almost certainly Sheffield plate, which is a thick layer of silver on a base of copper, brass or nickel silver. In this case, there is no obvious base metal to be seen on the edges of the parts making me think that it must be nickel silver base metal. The decoration of the ball and garland is hand chased and engraved and that of the long silver ferrules is stamped or more likely rolled.
The Köhler family of brass instrument makers is well known. John Augustus Köhler, the third John Köhler in the family to make brass instruments, was the maker of this trumpet. He learned the trade from his mother, Elizabeth Köhler and Thomas Perceval, who worked with the firm until John Augustus was old enough to take over. The two elder family members had died before his birth. Both of these men were born in Hesse (present day Germany), the elder came to England as a mercenary and became a bandmaster, then learned brass instrument making.
The address dates this instrument between 1834 and 1863, but based on the number "90" engraved on the spring case, it is believed to have been made in the early 1840s. Comparing this trumpet to a very similar one (number 183) in the Utley collection of the National Music Museum, it is longer and pitched at about A=435Hz. The younger instrument is shorter in overall length and tube length and is pitched more than a half tone higher. The overall length of this instrument without attachments is 23". The bell diameter is 4 3/8" and the bore is .441". The engraving: "T. Harper's Improved" indicates an endorsement by Thomas Harper, the leading trumpet soloist in London for many years. Lance Whitehead and Arnold Myers have published a list of known instruments by Köhler on the Internet and an excellent history: “The Kohler Family of Brasswind Instrument Makers” in the Historic Brass Society Journal, which is the source of the historical information presented here.