Early Olds Trumpets

The earliest trumpets and cornets made by F.E. Olds & Son were apparently custom built to the order of a customer. There didn’t seem to be any stock designs or models as they offered in later years. A customer could choose from three bore sizes (.453”, .460” and .468”), at least three bell and mouthpipe designs as well as engraving, finish and other options such as slide stops etc. All of these options were probably not available in the first year or two, but added soon after. This is very similar to what Vincent Bach had been doing for several years in New York, in a much smaller shop.

The first named model was either “Symphony” or “Military”, both of which seem to appear in 1933. Even as model names were adopted, Olds continued to offer un-named trumpets and cornets to order. Confusingly, there were similar options available in the named models. Some time in the late 1930s, the model name “Standard’ started to appear on the trumpets, cornets and trombones, presumably available with all the same options from the earlier years.

The silver plated Olds trumpet pictured here, serial number 396, was featured on an earlier web page and was the earliest Olds trumpet that I'd ever owned.  When I was recently able to acquire number 331, I naturally wanted to give it its own web page, but realized that the most interesting story is the comparison of the two instruments.   They are very similar, but have some interesting differences.  

These two trumpet must have been built within a year of each other, the later logged into Olds' books in the first week of 1932, production of trumpets having begun in 1928.  The over all dimensions of these two trumpets are about the same: bell rim diameter 4 9/16", length with mouthpiece removed 19 1/8" and bore measurement of .453".  The earlier is marked "M" on the second valve casing and the later "LM".  The only real difference between the two models is that the "M" is slightly smaller through the flare of the bell, giving it a noticeably bright timbre when played with the same mouthpiece.  The larger bell gives a more cornet like sound, very much as we are accustomed to in modern trumpets.  The earlier trumpet came with an early Old mouthpiece that is almost certainly original to the instrument.  The other mouthpiece pictured is from the era but found separately.  These both have A change stop rods on the main tuning slides, but no provision for mobile third slides as seen on later Olds trumpets.   Neither of these trumpets have original finish, but the silver one is clearly a more deluxe instrument with artistically done engraved decoration.  Interestingly, the earliest Olds trumpets tend to have "F.E. Olds & Son" hand engraved on the second valve casings as seen on the earlier of these.

The most noticeable cosmetic difference between these two trumpets was obviously a change in design seen in the valve caps and buttons.  With pistons removed, the difference is also in the guide mechanism. The patent granted to Olds for piston valve guide design on Sept. 1, 1931 illustrates the earlier of these two.  Once the later design was put into production, Olds continued the exact design (apparently never patenting it) until changing to a single pin/keyway design in about 1952.  The advantage of the single keyway is that the valve can not be accidentally put in backwards and it's interesting that Olds continued the two keyway design for so many years.  Perhaps they considered it superior in that the square key or pin has a much larger bearing surface on the slot in the piston's spring barrel, which would surely wear more slowly.  Other than that the construction of both of these trumpets is the very high quality that we are accustomed to in all Olds products.