If you played in a Boston band you might play a horn like this
Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory
Right-Handed Single Horn in F


by the

Musical Instrument

Wright Single (right-handed)
Serial Number:
Date of Manufacture:
ca. 1875
3 rotary
12.45 mm.
Bell Flare:
single seam, no garland
7.2 cm.
Bell Diameter:
29.4 cm.
Base Metal:
nickel-silver (German silver)
(clck on photos for larger view)

The horn pictured above was made by the Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory following a design attributed to Elbridge G. Wright. This design features a very long slow-tapered leadpipe extending from the mouth piece around the entire circumference of the corpus to the first valve. The main tuning slide comes after the valve set and is placed on the front of the horn. The tuning slide on this example has a large loop not shown in the company's catalog drawing (see below). The subject horn is made entirely of nickel-silver throughout, in contrast with the original Wright & Co. horn shown below which contains nickel-silver ferrules, braces, and trim. Note also this horn has an additional brace from the third valve casing to the bell tail that is not shown in the catalog drawing nor found on the Wright & Co. horn.

The valve levers are mounted on the top of the rotor casings and are cantilevered over to the rotors to the opposite side. This is different from the original Wright design (see below) where linkage to the rotor is on the outside in the typical manner, however most of the other rotary valve instuments shown in the catalog have this linkage.

The bell tail and flare has a clearly visible continuous single "zipper" seam (photo at right) in contrast to contemporary European-made horns that often had a vee-gussett inserted. Unlike the original Wright design as shown below, this horn does not have a bell garland .

The spiral bell brace is upside down from Wright horn and the catalog illustration. This horn does no have a serial number which dates it to before circa 1880 when BMIM began numbering its instruments. 

One unusual feature of the horn is a water key (bottom photo). It is the only brass feature on this horn and might not have been a factory option. The key has a leaf spring instead of a spriral wire spring found on later water keys.

Overall the horn is in excellent condition having no patches and showing no other evidence of repairs. The valves remain very tight, indicating the horn has not had much use, certainly not professionally. As a result it has a full range from pedal to high C, and excellent relative intonation throughout at all volumes without "edging out." The very long leadpipe gives a beautiful tone and the wide bell throat appears to eliminate any need for a garland.

The right-handedness of the horn and nickel-sliver metal suggest this horn was intended for a military-style band popular following the Civil War.  Such organizations would,
however, more commonly prefer upright tenor or alto horns, especially when marching. According to the company's 1874 catalog, horns in brass were priced at $70, while the nickel-silver (German silver) were priced at $85.

In comparison to a left-handed high-pitched brass model of the same design, this horn has a slightly larger bell flare and throat, and cylindrical bore. This is probably intended to reduce the natural brilliance of nickel-silver. This horn  is pitched at the modern standard (A= 440).

The Boston Musical instrument Manufactory was founded in 1869 as an amalgamation of the partners and workers of Graves & Co. and E. G. Wright & Co.  (Catalogs claim the company was founded in 1841, the year Wright began operation in Boston.) From the early 1850s Wright had abandoned the double piston Vienna valve, incorporating instead the string-operated rotary valve as found on these horns, so this horn design predates the founding of Boston Musical Instruments Manufactory. Soon after the merger with Graves, however, Wright withdrew and joined Hall and Quinby.

The company offered a full range of voices of trumpets (including the well-known “Boston Three Star Trumpet”), cornets, trombones, upright horns, and tubas for military bands as well as fine orchestral horns. Instruments could be ordered in copper, brass or German silver and either left or right-handed. The two earlier horns displayed here represent both options of base metal and chirality. Serial numbers were introduced in 1880 and the newer model horn in this collection is dated to 1893 by its serial number. In the twentieth century double horns in the C.F Schmidt design with piston thumb valve were added to the catalog. c

The E.G. Wright & Co. horn shown above (left) belongs to Mark Elrod and was beautifully restored by Robb Stewart.  The illustration (above, right ) and testimonials (below) are from the 1869 Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory catalog. This model was priced at $50 for brass or $60 for German silver. It was the instrument of choice of Mr. Henry Schmitz, the first virtuoso solo horn of the N.Y. Philharmonic, and of August Hamann and Luke Murphy of Boston. Their horns were built by E. G. Wright and predated the founding of Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory.

Special thanks to Mark Elrod and Robb Stewart for the use of the photo of Mark's E.G. Wright & Co. horn, and to Robert Eliason for his assistance.

Adams, Peter H. Antique Brass Wind Instruments, Identification and Value Guide. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1998. ISBN 076430027X
Waterhouse, William, The New Langwill Index of Wind Instrument Makers and Inventors, pub.Tony Bingham, London 1993

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