Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Richard I. Schwartz

(internal links at bottom of page)



Valves and Production

Two excellent references, in this author’s opinion, concerning valve development is a book entitled Metallblasinstrumentenbau (Dullat 1989, 147-p157) and Historic Brass Society Journal (Tarr 1993, 230-234, 251-252). Information about Heinrich Stölzel (1777-1844) and Friedrich Blühmel (d a1845), perhaps not earlier accessible to an English speaking audience, is discussed in Dullat. The text is in German, however, and has not yet received an entire English translation. The information about Stölzel and Blühmel that appears below is extracted largely from the above mentioned two sources.

The earliest use of the Stölzel "Schubventil" (tubular valve) on the horn was as early as July 1814 (Tarr 1993, 230). A letter from Stölzel to Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia dated 6 December 1814 describes that he has made many attempts to resolve the impure and uneven tones of the Waldhorn. According to Stölzel, the trumpet had a choice of only thirteen tones, but with his innovation, its choice of tones was expanded to twenty-four, which were as beautiful and pure as each of the thirteen tones were. Composers would, therefore, have a greater choice of pitches for the trumpet, and also the signal horn (Dullat 1989, 147).

The next Stölzel reference appears in the Allgemeinen Musikalischen Zeitung of 3 May 1815 in which G. B. Bierny stated that a new two "lever" system was applied to the horn by Heinrich Stölzel (a horn player himself). A chromatic scale of almost three octaves could be achieved with a full-sounding, pure, and strong tone (Dullat 1989, 147). On 5 December 1815, Stölzel applied for a patent for his valves, but the Prussian agency delayed any decision for two years. In 1817, he reapplied for the patent. He would certainly have received the patent had not Königlische Oberberghauptmann Gerhardt contested his invention almost three weeks before his reapplication (Dullat 1989, 147). After Blühmel found out that Stölzel had applied for a patent, he chose also to express his interest in applying, as well. While his letter was in the office of the Handelsministerium, Graf Brühl tried to convince the Stattsminister about the virtues of Stölzel’s valves. According to Brühl, Stölzel’s valve system was one of the most important developments in instrument manufacture to happen in centuries (Dullat 1989, 147).

Between 1811 and 1812, Blühmel experimented with rotary valves and began to work with Kastenventile [box valves] in 1817-18 (Tarr 1993, 230). In 1818, Blühmel had entrusted instrument manufacturer Gabler to make a trumpet with two box valves and a trombone with three box valves for him (Tarr 1993, 230). Stölzel had actually built a two-valve chromatic horn as early as the summer of 1814. In order to avoid any confusion or possible conflict perhaps, both men jointly applied for a patent on 6 April 1818 and were granted a ten-year patent in Prussia on 12 April 1818 for tubular and box valves on horns, trumpets, and trombones (Tarr 1993, 230). Stölzel had paid Blühmel a compensatory fee of 400 Reichstalern to offset any damages that might have occurred during the previous two years. They applied under the firm of "Stölzel & Blümelsche Erfindung." The names on the application were "König. Kammer-Musicus Stölzel and Berghautboist Bluehmel" (Dullat 1989, 148). Apparently, Berghautboist was a generic term for any player in a wind band (Davis 1990, 8-9). There may have been a sketch attached to the application, but there is no extant example.

One of the earliest extant instruments with Stölzel Schubventile (tubular valves) is the two-valve bass trumpet in C made by Griessling & Schlott of Berlin, perhaps in 1826. Its inventory number is 1404 and it appears in the collection at the Musée de Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique (Tarr 1993, 230, 251).

In 1827, Stölzel had applied for a patent of an adaptation of the pre-existing box valve of 1818. It is in this reapplication that Stölzel uses the term "Röhrenventile" (tubular valves). He was denied the patent because, according to the Patent Office, the idea was not new and Röhrenventile already existed (Dullat 1989, 149). These particular Stölzel valves may actually have been very close to what we conceive as Berliner Pumpenventile and it was perhaps not Wieprecht who first invented Berliner Pumpenventile after all, but rather Stölzel (Tarr 1993, 231). Both Stölzel and Wieprecht Berliner valves were actually very popular with military bands (Tarr 1993, 231).

The "conische" (conical) valve system was actually experimented with as well (Dullat 1989, 149). In 1828, Blühmel manufactured the first conical rotary valves, but failed to secure a patent for the system (Baines 1976, 211).

The air in Stölzel’s tubular valves generally proceeds downward out of the bottom of the valves into the airway and takes very sharp bends inside the valve, a process that creates some resistance. It was perhaps this air resistance which may have gradually led to its discontinued use. Stölzel valves were used on the cornopean for quite some time, as there is a cornopean with long Stölzel valves actually still being offered in the COUESNON & Cie Catalogue of 1915. In the nineteenth century, the term "cornopean" was sometimes used interchangeably for the cornet à pistons, but today the term is primarily applied only to the earlier instrument with Stölzel’s tubular valves. The term "cornucopean" is sometimes incorrectly used for the instrument, as well.

Blühmel’s Kastenventile [box valves] were cubical in shape (Dullat 1989, 148; Baines 1976, plate XIII) and theoretically had the advantage of moving the air stream more directly through the system. Their action, however, was slower and less reliable than tubular valves, and the system was abandoned.

Rotary valves were very popular on brass instruments in the middle to late nineteenth century in Germany, Austria, Italy. They were also popular in the United States. Manufacturers such as J. HIGHAM, PAINE, FISKE, and ALLEN produced rotary valve cornets, some of which are extant today. This valve type may have been originally conceived by Stölzel and Blühmel as early as 1814 (Herbert 1991, 176), but certainly was applied to the trumpet by 1819 (Tarr 1993, 233). Both men’s individual patent applications for the rotary valve were denied in 1828. Joseph Reidel, working with Kail, did patent the idea later in 1835 with only two windways in the rotor, having applied for it on 11 September 1835 (Dullat 1989, 154). A story exists that Kail got his idea of the rotary valve in 1817 from the way in which the beer tap handle operates (Tarr 1993, 233). The rotary valve has windways in the rotor with bends somewhat at right angles, but less abrupt than the internal angles for the airstream in Stölzel valves. In 1843, Ignatz Stowasser patented an "improved" version of the rotary valve and claimed that the valves were cleaner, produced less dirty oily residue, and were more reliable than previously manufactured rotary valves (Dullat 1989, 155).

Although the piston valve cornet eventually replaced the rotary valve cornet in the United States, the most popular and easily accessible cornet type of the middle to late nineteenth century was actually the rotary valve cornet. The piston valve cornet was popular in both England and France, but Italy and Germany primarily manufactured rotary valve instruments. The reasons for these national differences can be only a matter of speculation.


The distance traveled by the operating finger for rotary valve cornets appears to be generally shorter than that of piston valve cornets. Both mechanisms were refined throughout the nineteenth century. The choice of either piston or rotary valved instruments by manufacturers in the twentieth century was more of an issue of tradition than anything else. Germans frequently manufactured rotary systems, and the French, piston valve systems. Each nationality primarily continued to manufacture its own style.

A personal observation of the author of this document is that legato is easier to play on a piston system than on a rotor one. The windway remains partially open on a piston valve system between notes, which accounts for the greater ease of producing a glissando on a piston valve cornet. Acoustical tests seem to confirm this observation (Herbert and Wallace 1997, 125).

It has been the usual conception that the Berlin Valve or "Berliner Pumpenventil" was a piston system invented by Wilhelm Wieprecht. It is true that he applied for the patent in 1833 but Stölzel had invented a similar valve in 1827; both applications were denied ( Tarr 1993, 231).Both Berliner valve types have short, fat valves. With Wieprecht valves, the wind progresses through the piston when not depressed, but takes two right angle bends in a small tube looped around the valve itself when it is depressed. With Stölzel Berliner valves, the loop of the tubing appears on the side (not the top) of the valve (Tarr 1993, 231).

Périnet valves were soon applied to the cornet, and by the late nineteenth century, they became the valve choice for American, French, and British manufacturers. The Périnet valve, developed in 1839 by Etienne François Périnet, was wider than the Stölzel valve, but not as wide as the Berliner-pumpen. Windways had gentler curves than either Stölzel or Berliner-pumpen valves, minimizing resistance.

Other valve systems were used on the cornet throughout its history. KÖHLER manufactured many cornets with Shaw disk valves (patented 1838) between 1838 and 1850. KÖHLER improved upon Shaw’s idea with his "patent lever" cornet, which was represented at the 1851 Great Exhibition (Herbert 1991, 178). Halary had already experimented with disc valves as early as 1835, so it is possible that Shaw used Halary’s concept as the basis for his own (Tarr 1993, 234). Disc valves were gradually dropped because of the inherent lack of an airtight seal in the airway.

Although not a valve system, the MacFarlane "Clapper Key" was applied on the cornet roughly between 1838 and 1850. This was a closed key controlling a hole about twelve inches from the bell. It was operated by one of the fingers of the left hand and was used to play whole-step shakes. KÖHLER and Metzler & Co. were among the firms that made cornopeans with Stölzel valves and this clapper key. Macfarlane was active as a conductor and composer, and introduced the cornopean to England in 1833, writing compositions and tutors for it. He made improvements to the cornopean, ophicleide and lower brass instruments and performed in the Duke of Devonshire’s Band (Newsome 1998, 113).

Makers used words such as "improved," "patent" or "invented by" on their cornets to entice the already interested public. John Bayley’s "Improved Acoustic Cornet" is such an example. The two separate firms of KÖHLER, in 1862 (Carse 1965, 248) and Benjamin F. Richardson, in 1861 (Waterhouse 1993, 325) made this very long instrument. It had short thick valves and a bell which protruded forward underneath the valves.

The English applied a type of Doppelrohrschubventile or Wiener Ventile [Vienna valves] to the cornet, as a cornet with Vienna-like valves constructed in London by Richard Garrett in c1850 appears in the Trumpet Museum at Bad Säckingen (Tarr [1985], 63). Garrett had patented the idea in England on 3 April 1849 (Tarr 1993, 233). Doppelrohrschubventile, roughly translated, means "double cylindrical valves which are pushed."

German makers also applied the Vienna valve to the cornet, since a side action Vienna valve cornet (with three valves) appears on an unsigned Kornett (Flügelhorn) in C of c1880 located in the Händlehaus Museum in Halle, Germany (Dullat 1989, 178) and on a Cornet in C built by C. A. Müller in c1860 in the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Hamburg (Young 1980, 213). This valve type was a patented improvement of a valve system originally conceived by Christian Friedrich Sattler (1778-1842) of Leipzig in 1821. A reference to these Vienna valves or these so-called "Doppelrohrschubventilen" [double cylindrical valves which are pushed] appeared in the Allgemeinen Musikalischen Zeitung of 6 June 1821 (Dullat 1989, 150). It discusses the original manner in which the valves operated, mentioned Sattler, but made no specific reference to any patent. Each of the two valves was originally operated by a long piston. The first valve lowered the pitch ½ step, the second valve by whole step, and both valves by a minor third. There was no third valve. When any one valve was depressed the airstream was directed into a small circular tube bent upward toward the player’s finger above that valve. When any one valve was not depressed, the airstream would pass directly through that valve, and not upwards toward the player’s finger. The springs were external. This system was revised by both Joseph Reidel and Joseph Kail (a horn virtuoso of Prague) with their so-called Vienna valves in a patent of 1823. Their improvement of the Doppelrohrschubventilen could "produce all diatonic and chromatic tones easily and clearly." The improvement unites two or three trumpets into one instrument and provides a free hand for "the reins of a horse" (Dullat 1989, 152). The new valves were easily operated, and provided clear tones also for stopped notes. In 1830, Leopold Uhlmann revised the Vienna valves even further.

In 1862, George Robert Samson patented the "Finger Slide" valve, a system which was improved by C. A. Goodison and sold by Rudall Rose Carte & Co. as the "Prize Medal Valve" system (Waterhouse 1993, 343). The windway was a direct extension out of the bottom of the valve casing, and the valve itself extended into the windway. This was expensive to produce, difficult to maintain, and was gradually discontinued (Herbert 1991, 178).

The "Echo Cornet" was also a popular type of instrument in the nineteenth century. When the instrument was played without employing the "echo," the airstream followed its usual path out the bell of the horn. When a valve (piston or rotary) was operated by the thumb of the left hand (the other fingers of the left hand are used to hold the instrument), the airstream was directed into a cone shaped box (with a small hole in it) creating a muted sound. It could be used to produce echoed phrases or perhaps even used to practice in unsympathetic surroundings. It may have been used as well in a novelty situation (or by a rather creative performer) to produce a quickly pulsating echo by quickly utilizing the valve in rapid succession. Another type of "Echo Cornet" was produced by CONN at the turn of the century. An example of the instrument (also called "Echo Horn") appears in the musical instrument collection in The Shrine to Music Museum (instrument # 248) (Banks 1988, 59). It has two bells, one which is significantly smaller than the other. The volume of air flowing through the smaller bell would automatically reduce the volume of the instrument. It is operated by an additional piston valve with a finger of the left hand. See Theodor Hoch below for more information.

The most intriguing cornet found by the author of this document was undoubtedly the "Multi-Bell Cornet" produced by Adolphe Sax in c1852. This instrument was produced by Sax at the time of his first bankruptcy, and at a time when he was experimenting with brass instruments with six valves (Waterhouse 1993, 348). His woodwind instruments were banned by the Republican government in 1848, so this was a time of great experimentation for Adolphe Sax. Made of brass, it had seven upright bells, each one connected to and operated by each of the seven valves. Each set of three valves was to be operated by each hand. It had a long non-threaded bolt holding what appears to be two separate sections together. Pictured in The Look of Music (Young 1980, 31), it is a most remarkable looking cornet! It was obviously very cumbersome and heavy, but according to the caption next to the photo, it works.

The Industrial Revolution had a direct effect on the production of cornets in the nineteenth century. Newer, cleaner, and more economical means of extracting metals from ore, a newer understanding of oils and lubricants, newly developed electroplating and soldering processes led to more inexpensive good quality brass instruments. Steam, electric, and hydraulic power were used by instrument manufacturers, resulting in a more consistent product (Herbert and Wallace 1997, 115-120).

The cornet became such a popular instrument that even Wieprecht replaced the keyed bugle with the cornet in his Prussian military band in 1833. By c1880, the Bb cornet had become the premiere soprano brass instrument throughout continental Europe. Prior to its popularity, however, the Eb cornet assumed the predominant role. Both Bb and Eb cornets were used in military and civilian brass bands, but had also occupied a special place in theatre orchestras. In Germany and Austria, the Bb cornet faced some competition by the new valved Flügelhorn, but in England, France, and Belgium it drove the keyed bugle into retirement and even seriously threatened the trumpet’s position in concert and opera orchestras. By mid-nineteenth century, a variety of shapes and sizes were available for the cornet, and a multitude of manufacturers produced many instruments.

Brass instruments became very popular as a result of a common belief that performing them was good for the health. Bands, in general, were a popular means of musical expression, providing music and entertainment for community functions, promoting good community relations, and raising cultural awareness. They were good for cooperative relationships, not only among the performers themselves, but also between them and the audience (Olson 1997, 2-3).

Back to Home Page:  The Cornet Compendium- The History and Development of the Nineteenth-Century Cornet

On to next page: Early History 3

To Bibliography: Bibliography