If you played in the Scottdale. Pennsylvania Band you might have used this 
F. Besson
Cor d'Harmonie

Label :

  [logo FB ]
PARIS 1900
LIÈGE 1905
65 Cor à 3 pistons fixes
Serial Number [on valves]:
Date of Manufacture:
fa (also mi♮,  mi♭, ré were provided)
3 Périnet pistons
1.14 cm
Bell Flare:
 v-gusset with  garland
5.5 cm.
Bell Diameter:
27.9 cm.
Base Metal:
silver plated
(click on photos for larger view)

The horn shown above is a single cor d'harmonie made in Paris by F. Besson probably sometime between 1905 and 1910. It is shown with it's F crook and original music holder in place. It was found in western Pennsylvania, US and may have been used in the Grand Army Band of Scottdale, Pa. (see below).

Label on the F crook
The elaborate beautiful engraving as seen in the label at the right and on the bell shown below, is a delightful feature of this horn. "Systeme Prototype" on the ribbon refers to the system of mandrels invented in 1858 which, it is said, assured exact duplication of instruments and marked the birth of modert brass instrument manufacture. The address at 96 rue Angoulème dates from 1889 to about 1940.  
The firm of Besson was founded by Gustave Auguste Besson (1820-1874)  in Paris in 1838 (according to Constant Pierre) or 1837 (according to later advertising). Besson was the son of an army colonel, and at the age of ten was apprenticed to E.M.J. Dujariez, a maker of military brass instuments.  In 1845 Besson was a signatory of a letter to the War Ministry protesting the adoption of brass instruments by Adolphe Sax. (see related paragraph "Musical Politics in France" concerning the Gautrot omnitonic horn). From 1846 onwards he took an active part in anti-Sax litigation. In 1854 Besson brass instruments that were allegedly made in violation of Sax patents wers seized. In 1858,  in order to escape damages incurred from litigation by Sax, Besson transferred his assets to his wife and fled to London, leaving her as proprietor in Paris initially doing business as "Mme F. (Florentine?) Besson, Londres et Paris" (see also the London Besson horn in this collection). 

By 1873 there were factories in both London and Paris, with "depôts" in Brussels, Charleroi, Madrid, Barcelona, etc. Upon the death of G. A. Besson in 1874 his widow and daughters, Cécile and Marthe successors as "Mme veuve Besson." After the death of her mother, Marthe, who had been trained as a maker by her father, became the successor. From 1878, she had been responsible for all patents taken out by the firm. In 1880 she married the civil servant Aldolphe Fontaine and changed the name of the firm to "Fontaine-Besson." The following year the workforce in Paris was reported to be sixty-two. Since Fontaine hated commerce and musical instrument making, Marthe took responsibility for both the Paris and the London branches. In the early 1890s Fontaine's violent behavior caused her to withdraw to London and sue for divorce. By 1894 the workforce was reported to be 145, and the firm had by then produced about 50,000 instruments. That year, Fontaine's provocative conduct induced  the 90 workers and five office staff in Paris to strike in protest and a six-week lockout ensued.  

The horn bears the serial number 75412 on the valve set. Production records which can be used to establish the date of manufacture are available for London Besson, however none have been found for F. Besson, Paris.

Above, the elegantly engraved valve caps.

Below, the original Besson music holder.

The horn shown above was accompanied by a coarse-screened lithographic copy of  a photo of the Grand Army Band Scottdale, Pa. (below). The caption on the photo is "Scottdale Band at Connellsville, Pa. Aug. 13. 1914." There is only one "French" horn player standing sixth from the left in the photo and shown in detail at the right. It is indeed unusual for a rural band from this period to include a crooked horn of this type, preferring instead to employ mellophones, saxhorns, or alto or tenor horns such as that of the player next to the horn player (seventh from the left in the photo). 

Efforts to confirm that the above horn is in fact the same one as shown in the photo have been inconclusive. By adjusting the perspective, the outline of the horn can be superimposed closely on the photo but the player's left hand appears to be well below the valves.

The horn was received in a "King" French horn hard case by H.N. White, Co. Cleveland Ohio estimated to date from the 1950s. Pinned inside the case was a pennant from Scottdale, Pa, further supporting the horn's provenance. 

Scottdale Band at Connellsville, Pa. Aug. 13. 1914.



Waterhouse, William, The New Langwill Index of Wind Instrument Makers and Inventors, pub.Tony Bingham, London 1993

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