Parisian artist Linda McCluskey (formerly of Chelmsford) came upon the trumpet on the left in a music museum in Seborga, Italy (MAP). At first glance, the information on the card doesn’t correlate with historical documentation covering the brisk advancements and innovations in brass instrument technologies developed during the early to mid-nineteenth century.
The card in the photo at right states that in 1820, Nathan Adams made an orchestral trumpet with double piston valves and several tuning crooks.
First, at the time this instrument was reportedly made, Lowell was still East Chelmsford and for the most part farmland. Lowell wasn’t incorporated as a town until 1826, so the oddly shaped trumpet couldn’t have been made in 1820 in “Lowell, Massachusetts.”
Second, the trumpets depicted in the photos above are strikingly similar. Both are double piston “Vienna valve” instruments with tuning crooks.
Third, Leopold Uhlmann of Vienna received a “patent” on the “Vienna valve” in 1830, but this particular valve was invented (also in Vienna) in about 1822 by a man named J. F Riedl. The tuning crooks were designed for orchestral instruments. They’re rare and have profound historical significance.
If you’re a serious student of the history of brass instruments, you can understand the dilemma. The card claims the instrument was made by an American in 1820 … two years before it was supposedly invented by a Viennese instrument maker!
As the industrial revolution went global at the turn of the nineteenth century, there was a frenzy of activity that advanced the technological development of brass instruments. These remarkable improvements made it possible to seamlessly run the scale over several octaves without loss of tonal quality. Nathan Adams was right in the middle of this action.
Adams is best known in brass instrument circles for his introduction of the “rotary valve,” possibly in 1824. It’s becoming more apparent in my research that Nathan Adams created a stir among musical instrument makers (and players) in Europe. He was well traveled and held in high regard in the various circles frequented by the musical elite. But his contributions have yet to be fully acknowledged.
I believe Nathan Adams was involved with the innovations which led to the invention of the “Vienna valve” trumpet. After all he was a machinist and had the capability to recreate, modify, or improve any brass instrument placed in his hands. He was considered a mechanical genius by his peers, colleagues … and especially, his friends. And his contributions to brass instrument development is widely accepted.
More to follow …
ORIGINAL Post July 9, 2015 … REVISED August 14, 2015, 4:26pm
by George DeLuca
Contributors to this post: Linda McCluskey, Paul Early, Mike, and Robb Stewart!
Rosenberg, Chaim M., The Life and Times of Francis Cabot Lowell, 1775-1817, Lexington Books, copyright 2011
Eliason, Robert, “Early American Valves for American Instruments,” The Galpin Society Journal, Vol 23, p86-96, copyright 1970
Stewart, Robb, “1840s Trumpet in F by Leopold Uhlmann,” http://www.robbstewart.com
Photos courtesy of Linda McCluskey and Robb Stewart