Alto Trombone in 19th Century Trade Catalogs

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I recently made a little trip to University of California-Santa Barbara to have a look at their trade catalog holdings. Their Romaine Trade Catalog Collection, which includes more that 40,000 items, is one of the largest such collections in the country. What I was particularly interested in searching was their collection of historical music catalogs (especially those from the 19th century) to see whether any included alto trombone. Below are several of the references I found and have included in the Alto Trombone History Timeline, in addition to the catalog references that were already featured in the timeline. To see scans of alto trombone images from many of the sources, see the Alto Trombone History Timeline.

These new catalog references that I have added, combined with the ones already included in the timeline, amount to 22 examples from 19th century England, France, Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and the US. I have only included examples in which pitch is clearly indicated for the alto trombone. What they suggest is 1) the mid-late 19th century alto trombone was an instrument primarily pitched in E-flat or F*, and 2) the alto trombone was common enough in the mid-late 19th century to at least warrant inclusion in numerous commercial catalogs.

*For additional evidence of the alto trombone as an instrument primarily pitched in the E-flat orbit, see Extant Altos and Alto in Treatises. See also this noteworthy recently-published letter by Johannes Brahms from the year 1859, wherein Brahms advocates very strongly for a “genuine little alto trombone.”

 

THE CATALOG REFERENCES

1857—England: Henry Distin’s instrument catalog shows offerings of slide alto trombone and valve alto trombone in both E-flat and F (Myers, Horn Function 250).

1878—Paris, France: A catalog from Jérome Thibouville-Lamy, French instrument manufacturer and distributor, offers alto valve trombones in F and E-flat (Thibouville 1878, p. 130).

c. 1860—New York: John F. Stratton offers two different models of “E-flat Alto Trombone” in his musical instrument catalog, one under the heading of “J. Latour Paris, France,” and another under the heading of “Stratton’s ‘Concerto’ Band Instruments” (University of California, Santa Barbara Romaine Collection).

c. 1860—New York: In a catalog labeled “Appendix to our Musical Merchandise Catalogue,” John F. Stratton offers an “E-flat Alto Trombone” under the category of “Stratton ‘Concerto’ Trombones.” Pictured is an engraving of a valve alto trombone that is shorter than the B-flat tenor pictured (University of California, Santa Barbara Romaine Collection).

1878—Chicago, Illinois: Lyon & Healy, an instrument distributor and manufacturer, includes an alto valve trombone, specifically labeled an E-flat instrument, in its commercial catalog (Lyon & Healy 1878, p. 23).

1880—New York: The catalog for Busch & Dodworth’s “Band Instrument” holdings indicates that the manufacturer offers a valve alto trombone pitched in E-flat (Busch & Dodworth 13).

1880—Chicago, Illinois: Lyon & Healy, an instrument distributor and manufacturer, includes 2 alto valve trombone models in its catalog. Both are labeled as E-flat instruments (Lyon & Healy 1880, 33).

1884—Boston, Massachusetts: John C. Haynes & Co. publishes its Illustrated Catalogue of Musical Instruments. Included among the trombone holdings is an alto trombone, specified as an E-flat instrument (see below image; public domain) (Haynes 1884, p. 43).

c. 1885—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: A catalog of the Henry Distin Manufacturing Co. labeled A Complete Line of Highest Grade Band Instruments & Cornets offers an E-flat Alto Valve Trombone. The tenor instrument, in contrast, is listed as being in B-flat (Distin, Complete Line) (University of California Santa Barbara Romaine Trade Catalog Collection).

1885—London, England: A price list for London manufacturer Silvani & Smith lists slide alto trombones in E-flat and F. Also offered are B-flat tenor (both slide and valve) and G bass (both slide and valve) (University of California Santa Barbara Romaine Trade Catalog Collection).

1886—New York: An “Illustrated Catalogue” for C. Bruno & Son offers three different E-flat alto valve trombones (“Style A,” “Style B,” and “Style C”), as well as a slide alto trombone in E-flat (Bruno 17, 31, 52-53).

1887—Paris, France: A catalog from manufacturer Jérome Thibouville-Lamy targeting “American patrons” includes 3 different valve alto trombones, all pitched in the key of E-flat (one each under the categories of “Good Ordinary Quality,” “First Quality,” and “Superior Quality”) (University of California Santa Barbara Romaine Trade Catalog Collection).

1888—Paris, France: François Sudre offers valve alto trombone in his instrument catalogue. The catalogue specifies that the instrument is pitched in e-flat (see below image; public domain) (Sudre, July 1888, p. 3).

1894—Chicago, Illinois: The catalog for Lyon & Healy, an instrument distributor and manufacturer, advertises numerous valve alto trombones, all specified as E-flat instruments. Several bear a resemblance to valve alto trombones offered by other US distributors during the same time period, such as Montgomery Ward and Sears & Roebuck (Lyon & Healy 1894, 35, 39, 43, 50). In addition, the catalogue offers a slide alto trombone in E-flat (Lyon & Healy 1894, 53).

1895—Chicago, Illinois: The popular and widely-distributed Montgomery Ward mail order catalog includes offerings of 2 different types of valve alto trombones, the first under the subheading of “German Piston Valves” and the other under the subheading of “Improved French Piston Instruments.” Both alto trombones are listed as E-flat instruments (Montgomery Ward 249).

1895—Wildstein, Bohemia (Czech Republic): Hermann Trapp’s musical instrument catalog, 12th edition, offers alto trombones in both F and E-flat (University of California Santa Barbara Romaine Trade Catalog Collection).

1897—Boston, Massachussetts: The John C. Haynes Catalog offers an E-flat alto valve trombone under the label “Hileron.” Under the label “Special,” their least expensive brand, they also offer an E-flat alto valve trombone (University of California Santa Barbara Romaine Trade Catalog Collection).

1897—Königgrätz, Czech Republic: The trade catalog for V.F. Cerveny & Söhne includes an alto trombone pitched in E-flat (University of California Santa Barbara Romaine Trade Catalog Collection).

1897—Chicago, Illinois: The popular and widely-distributed Sears & Roebuck catalogue includes offerings of 3 different types of alto trombone: one slide alto (according to the catalogue description, an instrument “by the leading French manufacturer”) and two valve altos (one of them “furnished with German silver mouthpiece, German piston valves, water key and music rack,” the other a very compact instrument with “French Light Action silver piston valves” and “German silver mouthpiece”). All three are advertised as instruments in the key of E-flat (Sears 1897, 530).

1899—Leipzig, Germany: A catalog of brass instruments for the firm of Julius Heinrich Zimmermann shows a fairly diverse offering of trombones, including alto (in E-flat), tenor, and bass trombones in both valve and slide models (Moeck 106).

1899—Tilburg, Netherlands: Musical instrument manufacturer M.J.H. Kessels offers alto trombones in E-flat and F, both slide and valve, in his catalog (Kessels 1899, 23).

Late 1800s—Providence, Rhode Island: Music dealer Georg W. Bailey’s Catalogue of Musical Merchandise offers a Stratton alto trombone, labeled “‘Concerto’ E-flat Alto Trombone,” with options for “Brass,” “Nickel Plated,” and “Triple Silver Plated” (University of California, Santa Barbara Romaine Collection).

Comments

  1. I recently found a brass Baritone marked J LATOUR MAKER PARIS. It is in pretty good shape with only a few small dents. I know your research was on a trombone, but in your list of catalogs, there is a mention of J LATOUR instruments in an 1860 catalog. Could my baritone be from that period of time?

    • That’s outside my area of expertise. It’s possible, but I can’t give you much beyond that. Sorry.

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