Brasswind Manufacturing at Boosey & Hawkes, 1930-59
- Arnold Myers (author)
Historic Brass Society Journal
Historic Brass Society
New York, USA
The merger of Boosey & Co. operations with those of Hawkes & Son took place relatively quickly once the new company had been created in 1930. Hawkes & Son had in 1924-25 built the spacious factory at Deansbrook Road, Edgware, which could accommodate the combined manufacturing operation. The former Boosey manufacturing production was transferred from Frederick Mews, Stanhope Place, Marble Arch, to Edgware in the period 1931-32, which continued as the main Boosey & Hawkes plant until 2001. Management and sales were concentrated at the former headquarters and saleroom of Boosey & Co. at 295 Regent Street, although the Hawkes premises in Denman Street continued as repair shop for some time3. The Hawkes & Son sequences of serial numbers were discontinued, the Boosey & Co sequence for brass instruments was continued, and indeed is still being used4. Demand for existing successful models (of mouthpieces as well as instruments) from both firms continued to be satisfied for some time, a consolidated range of models, mostly based on Boosey & Co. designs, being established in the 1930s (see Appendix A).
On 1 January 1933 the remaining unfinished Hawkes & Son instruments were given Boosey & Hawkes serial numbers5. Finally, on 5 January 1943 the last nineteen items of old Hawkes & Son stock were renumbered.
A "Pricing Book 2" with entries for the period 1925-40 breaks down the production costs for standard models and special orders11. The actual hours spent making typical batches are recorded. It appears to have been kept by Arthur Blaikley. The archives also contain numerous plans and blueprints.
Arthur Blaikley, son of David James Blaikley, succeeded his father as factory manager of Boosey & Company from 1918. His interests seem to have been as much in machine tools as instruments: the plans and blueprints surviving in the B & H archives contain designs for numerous pieces of equipment for drawing and forming tubing, etc. His most notable development, in the 1930s, was the hydraulic expansion process for forming bows and other shaped tubing. His initials are last noted on a technical drawing in 1950. In this period of slack trade, many fewer new kinds of instruments were introduced than had been the case with Boosey & Co. However, a couple of innovations can be noted here.
The addition of a rotary valve to the British bass trombone to give an instrument in G + D was not new in 193212. However, from this date a line of very fine, relatively wide-bore bass trombones was produced by Boosey & Hawkes. Many of the entries in the Instrument Books designate these as “Betty model trombone” after the bass trombonist William Betty. An alternative valve tuning slide for C was provided for repertoire including a low A♭. Eighteen were made in the period to 1939 and a further twenty between 1947 and 1959.
The regular production of a B♭ trombone with transposing cylinder to F started in 1933, and the production of rotary valve F and B♭ double horns in 1935.
Kneller Hall fanfare trumpets
A prominent symbol of state occasions in Britain is the sight and sound of the long ceremonial valved trumpets with banners hanging from the bell. Boosey had been making so-called “Bach” trumpets since 1896, originally in A, later in B♭ and high E♭ or D. It appears from the Instrument Books that Aida trumpets had been more of a Hawkes and Son speciality. A set of Aida trumpets (two in B♮, two in A♭) was made in 1934. In June 1935, however, batches were made of “B♭ Aida Trumpets [=cornet length] Hawkes Patn.,” “B♭ Tenor Aida Trumpets [i.e., B♭ Trombones],” and “Bass Aida Trumpets [i.e., G Trombones].” In 1938 a soprano trumpet in E♭ was added, and in this year the term “Coronation Trumpet” (referring to the coronation of King George VI) was also used for these instruments. They were subsequently approved by the Royal Military School of Music (Kneller Hall): the Instrument Books record that the four sizes were “Approved by KH as standard model 11.10.38.” From this genetic mutation of Verdi’s stage trumpets sprang the now traditional British fanfare trumpet.
In the period up to 1959 Boosey & Hawkes made 49 E♭ soprano, 234 B♭ melody, 146 B♭ tenor, and 63 G bass fanfare trumpets. (The current production model of bass fanfare trumpet is in B♭ rather than G.)
In the 1930s the North American market presented little opportunity to Boosey & Hawkes13. Trade restrictions and dominance of firms such as Conn, H.N. White, Holton, and York allowed little penetration in the United States, and exports were mostly to Canada. It was probably for the Canadians that Boosey & Hawkes started making “bugles” in G with a single valve for D. Production started in 1938 of sopranos in 5½-ft G and baritones in 11-ft G.
The American influence was, however, felt in the design of orchestral and dance band instruments. From 1925 the Instrument Books record the production of a model designated “Olds Trombone,” but the lack of a surviving example makes it impossible to determine the extent of American influence. The plans and blueprints in the archives contain a number of drawings of instruments, many noted as items in for repair or to be copied. Drawings survive of a Buescher Grand trombone in B♭ (1925), Olds trombones (1933, 1935), a Conn large-bore tenor trombone with rotary valve (1933), a Buescher “Bach trumpet” (1931), and Vincent Bach trumpets (1922 and 1936) and a cornet. These may have influenced the transition to wider-bore trumpets and trombones in the post-war era. The post-war re-design included mouthpieces: the archives contain detailed drawings for a range of Kosikup model mouthpieces dating from 1947 and mostly initialled “A.B.”
The relatively inexpensive Boosey & Hawkes Regent model cornets, trumpets, and trombones produced from 1932 onwards were the first step toward mass production. Other cheap instruments were branded Lafleur 14. Manufacture changed with the introduction of hydraulic expansion of tubing, pioneered in the mid 1930s for the larger bows of big instruments and extended from 1950 to the branches (straight sections of tube). Later, all tubing was blown out under pressure. Bell making then became a separate operation, and instrument manufacture for the commoner models became more a matter of instrument assembly, as it is now.
The maker most usually in charge of mass production at first was Sheridan (probably the same Sheridan who had been a Boosey & Co. apprentice in 1929 and a maker by 1939). On 14 March 1945 he was identified as the maker of a batch of 100 instruments (earlier than this, the larger batch sizes were usually multiples of twelve). On 23 October 1945, the Instruments Book entry for a further batch of 100 instruments was annotated “(Line Production),” with Sheridan again named as the maker.
The Instrument Books in the late 1940s sometimes describe batches of instruments as “mass-produced.” Batch sizes of 100 or 200 similar instruments were not uncommon. However the increase in the volume of brass instruments produced came later. In the period 1920-29 Boosey & Co. made an average of 2,923 brass instruments per year. In the period 1933-39 Boosey & Hawkes made an average of 2,723 per year: since Hawkes & Son had probably been making a similar volume of instruments before the merger, the poor market conditions are obvious. In the early post-war period 1946-54, Boosey & Hawkes made an average of 3,292 brass instruments per year; the average annual production in 1955-1959 of 22,176 shows the dramatic increase in production from the Edgware plant. To achieve this output, most of the operations were carried out by employees doing repetitive tasks. Where skills were required these were mostly drawn from the general North London engineering workforce rather than specialists who had worked their way up through a brasswind-making apprenticeship.
Trade Catalogue of Boosey & Hawkes, ca. 1935. Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments (R2677).
Of surviving instruments, the earliest stamped Boosey & Hawkes is a tenor horn formerly in the author’s collection, serial number 138521, one of a batch of six given out 19 December 1930; charged to Regent Street on 30 December 1935. This long delay in the completion is typical of this period. The most recent surviving instrument stamped Boosey & Co. is a cornet in the collection of Henry Meredith, serial number 139426, one of a batch of six given out 6 August 1931; charged to Regent Street on 31 August 1931.
The most recent surviving instruments stamped Hawkes & Son are a pair of Hawkes model Bach Trumpets belonging to the National Eisteddfod of Wales: two from a batch of six given to polisher on 19 June 1933; charged to Regent Street on 27 June 1933, three of which were given Hawkes & Son serial numbers, the other three Boosey & Hawkes numbers
A "Pricing Book 1" and a small leather-bound notebook stamped on the front cover "Ledger" which appear to have been kept by D.J. Blaikley contain similar information for 1857-83 and 1876-80 respectively
See Cecil Forsyth, Orchestration, 1st edn. (London: Macmillan, 1914), where such an instrument was reported to be used by Mr. Gutteridge.
Jean-Pierre Mathez (“Boosey & Hawkes: un renouveau spectaculaire,”Brass Bulletin 85 : 80-87) records that after the Second World War, Ralph Hawkes devoted himself to developing the American branch of Boosey & Hawkes in New York.
William Waterhouse (The New Langwill Index of Musical Wind-Instrument Makers and Inventors [London: Tony Bingham, 1993]) records that Boosey & Co. acquired the manufacturing and importing business of J.R. Lafleur & Son in 1917.