French Horn by E.G. Wright
This is one of only two known French horns by the great US maker E.G. Wright. This one owned is by Mark Elrod and the other, signed "Wright, Gilmore & Co" dating from 1867, is in the National Museum of American History. This horn is thought to be no later than the time of the Gilmore partnership, since Wright had stopped installing garlands on the bell rims in his later years. These are likely to be the earliest US made French horns existing (let me know).
D.C. Hall also lists French horns available in the mid-1860s, but there are no known examples. Wright made a very wide range of brass instruments, but virtually all were intended for bands and society orchestras rather than the symphony hall. There are a few instances of horns being used in military bands before 1870, but the only photographic evidence known to me shows valveless horns. There is very little known about who used these horns and whether they were ever used in major symphonic performances, but it is a reasonable speculation that Wright was trying to build brass instruments for all possible needs.
A few years later, Wright's successor, Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory placed advertisements in concert programs for the Theodore Thomas Orchestra, and claimed in their catalogs that their French horns and F trumpets were used in that orchestra as well as the Boston Symphony (after 1881). Boston's Haydn and Handel Society had been performing Classical music since 1815 and the 1860s was a time of increased interest in this music and cultural education in general. It is not surprising that Wright would have found an increasing demand for orchestral instruments in his town as well as other large American cities. There also exists a Bb trumpet made by Wright in about 1862 that may have been intended for symphonic work. Boston continued making this model French horn until at least 1910.
While this horn looks to be in pretty good condition as found (first two photos), it had been treated very roughly by both players and repairmen. I would guess that it had a long tenure in a junior high school band room. It was unplayable, mostly because of many splits in tubing seams. During restoration, I removed 10 patches and installed 16, including one that was about a foot long. Removing dents took many long hours and was made difficult by previous repairs. The existing Eb crook is obviously not original to this horn. I made an F crook tuning assembly based on the one on the Wright & Gilmore horn. It would have originally come with crooks for Eb and D as well. The valves are fairly loose, but in good enough condition that the horn seems to play quite good after restoration. I hope to get reports from good horn players as to how it compares to other better known horns from the era.
The bell rim diameter is 11", the circle of the main body is 15" and the bore measures .466". It is made of yellow brass with nickel silver trim.