Monday, July 24, 2017

Help in Identifying Stencil Instruments and Mouthpieces

When doing research for this blog, I often come across information and miss-information about instruments and musical accessories.  Most of it has to do with the items "provenance" or history.  Stories are made up, often based on fanciful claims, that make the prospective purchaser or the item's owner feel proud to own a particular item.  Verifying the accuracy of a claim is much more difficult than simply repeating the story.  And learning the facts can often ruin a long accepted exotic history.

Still, for some people, facts are facts.  With that in mind, I'm going to explain one source for checking the accuracy of some claims made for stenciled instruments and accessories.  I came across this source while researching another blog.  In the back of each annual publication called The Purchaser's Guide to the Music Industries is a table that lists trade names and trademarks of the subscribers to the magazine Music Trades.  It is a magazine for wholesalers and manufacturers of musical instruments and accessories.  Sort of a business-to-business publication not intended for the purchasing public.  Since it began publication in 1897, it is a wealth of information on who's who and what's what.

As an example, I'll start with a Jean Cartier bass clarinet

Internet lore will provide a few different answers as to the provenance of this instrument. Some have seen Jean Cartier saxophones, which because of their unique style, are rightfully attributed as a stencil of a Dolnet. From that information, others have asserted that a Jean Cartier clarinet would also be a Dolnet instrument. Unfortunately, it appears that Dolnet only fabricated saxophones.So what does the The Purchaser's Guide to the Music Industries (PGMI) tell us about Jean Cartier instruments? First, you have to get a hold of a volume from the approximate manufacture date of your instrument. It doesn't have to be the exact date, as I have learned that the publication often carried information that was years, or even decades, out of date. The University of California library system has the best collection I've found, but access might be difficult (requesting a photocopy of the volume's last 20 pages would be enough).

For Jean Cartier, I'm going to look in my 1964 copy. In the back of the publication, it has two lists. First is an alphabetical listing of the trade name or trademark with a reference number. If you follow that reference number to a second list, it provides the name of the Music Trades subscriber who claims ownership of that trademark. For "Cartier, Jean," we are referred to subscriber number #140.

Some listings treat the trade name as though it were the name of an actual person, as is the case here.

When we check the second list, i.e., the list of actual businesses, we learn that #140 refers to Maxwell Meyers, Inc., a music wholesaler based in San Antonio, Texas.

The 1964 listing does not indicate that Maxwell Meyers had Jean Cartier oboes and saxophones, although those instruments are shown in other issues.

My 1975 edition of the PGMI does not show Maxwell Meyer still offering Jean Cartier instruments. In 1975, the Jean Cartier trademark was then claimed by Targ & Dinner, Inc., a large music wholesaler with warehouses in San Antonio and around the country. Targ & Dinner also took over the trade name of Martin Busine from Maxwell Meyer during this period. I don't know how "house brands" and trademarks are sold from one wholesaler to another, but a little research will show that these trademarks were both used on a variety of stencil instruments from various manufacturers over the years.

Instrument cases often had labels like these, but the cases were certainly sourced in the U.S. Why pay shipping and duty when there were many instrument case manufacturers in the U.S.? In fact, a surprising number of the listings in the PGMI are for manufacturers of musical instrument cases.

This doesn't answer the ultimate question, i.e., who actually made my particular Jean Cartier bass clarinet or my Martin Busine bass clarinet? It could be the same (probably French) manufacturer. I say "probably" French because there is nothing illegal (in fact, it was common) about putting "Paris, France" on an item manufactured in Elkhart, Indiana. We now know from the PGMI that these trade names were even traded between music wholesalers. Mssrs. Cartier and Busine were probably not two men fabricating instruments in their tiny Paris workshops.
The PGMI listings are also interesting in that it shows the trade names that I had chased down in the past through much more complex research than simply looking at a list. For instance, Revere (instruments and mouthpieces) is simply listed as a Sorkin Music Co. trade name. Much easier than my prior research.

And the PGMI shows that hundreds of "French woodwind manufacturers" are simply trade names. René Dumont (St. Louis Music Supply Co.), René Duval (Bugeleisen & Jacobson, NY), René Lamott (Spratt Woodwind, Connecticut), René Lorenz (Newark Musical Merchandise, NJ), Renné (Hershman Musical Inst. Co., NY), Paul René (Maurice Lipsky Music Co., NY), Paul Dupré (Hershman Musical Inst. Co., NY), Paul Gérard (Chiassarini & Co, NY), Pierre Dumont (Coast Wholesale Music Co, San Francisco). It's possible to go on and on.

Above is a René Duval mouthpiece on a fairly common blank, probably made by American Hard Rubber. These were the first blanks used by Arnold Brilhart and the shank shape became associated with the Brilhart line and was continued on his later mouthpieces. Other Rene Duval pieces were based on Babbitt and Riffault blanks. Wholesalers of both instruments and accessories would simply shop the best source and were not wedded to a particular manufacturer or design.

The PGMI is not, of course, restricted to woodwinds. All musical instruments and accessories, including amplification, are included. For instance, if you have a "King of the Cowboys" Roy Rogers Riders harmonica, you can look up the trade name and see that it was claimed by Harmonic Reed Corporation in Philadelphia.

The publication may have its limitations in that a listing might not be accurate, either because of the passage of time or because the subscriber inflated the claims in the listing. But it can be very informative in deflating some of the wilder claims made about vintage items.
Again, it doesn't necessarily provide the answer as to which company actually manufactured the item that was stenciled for the wholesaler. Also, wholesale businesses may have traded and even infringed on each other's trademarks occasionally. The PGMI shows that H&A Selmer owned the trademark for "Resonite." G. Leblanc Corp. owned the trademark for "Reso-tone." A lawsuit was filed and a federal court held that Leblanc was not infringing Selmer's trademark. What is interesting is that, in the early volumes of the PGMI, Rico Products (run by Roy J. Maier) claimed a trademark in the name "Diamond Resonite." That may indicate that there was some co-operation in the production of the Diamond Resonite mouthpiece with Selmer. There is evidence of Selmer working closely with Rico as, for instance, H&A Selmer claimed the trademark "Roy J. Maier" for reeds.

Here is an example of how the PGMI can be used. I bought a nice little Revelle Paris mouthpiece on the internet. It has a pea-shooter chamber and looks and plays like a Selmer Airflow. I think that it is a Riffault mouthpiece, based on other research. But some might claim that it was crafted at Le Studio Revellé, a little known fabricator of rare artisan mouthpieces. I can look up Revelle as a trademark and see that it was held by Pacific Music Supply, a wholesaler in Los Angeles. Pacific Music Supply had its Revelle trade name stenciled on a full line of musical instruments. So the idea that there was a little Revelle company, making flutes in Italy, drums in Japan, and saxophone mouthpieces in France isn't likely. (I still think that it's a Riffault.)

It is possible to contact me confidentially with information in the comment section below.  Simply include your email.  That way, if you choose, we can converse without your comment or email being made public.

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