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Presentation Cornet by Graves & Co., Boston, 1851, with Echo Attachment

NMM 5257.  Cornet by Graves & Co., Boston, 1851 NMM 5257.  Cornet by Graves & Co., Boston, 1851 NMM 5257.  Cornet by Graves & Co., Boston, 1851 NMM 5257.  Cornet by Graves & Co., Boston, 1851

NMM 5257. Cornet in E-flat (high pitch) by Graves & Co., Boston, 1851, with echo attachment. Engraved on German-silver plaque attached to bell: PRESENTED / TO / R. M. Hobbs / by the / Citizens of Saco / June 18, 1851 / Made by / Graves & Co / Boston. Brass with German silver trim. Shanks and crook to D and C. Although the echo attachment may have been added to the cornet sometime later; nevertheless, it appears to be the earliest American instrument with an echo attachment known to survive. Gift of Reuben M. Hobbs' great-grandson, William H. Worcester, Bay Village, Ohio, 1991.


Rotary Valve Views

Click on any rotary valve image below to see a larger image.

rotary valves, view 1 rotary valves, view 2 rotary valves, view 3 rotary valves, view 4 rotary valves, view 4

Valve springs

Above:  Rotary Valves and Valve Springs
Below:  Fourth Valve

Echo bell valve Echo bell valve

According to Robert E. Eliason, "The earliest surviving American instrument with an echo attachment is [this] E-flat cornet by Graves & Co., Boston, dating from 1851, in the collections of the National Music Museum, Vermillion, South Dakota. It is thought, however, that its fourth valve and echo attachment were added sometime later. Without the echo attachment, the added valve functions as a normal fourth valve, lowering the pitch of the instrument two and a half steps, the same as the combination of valves 1 and 3. The tube for this valve is shaped like a long U bent double and has a tuning slide on the lower bend of each leg. This configuration allows insertion of the echo attachment into one of the inner legs of the valve tube while retaining the use of the tuning slide on the outer legs. The echo attachment has a dummy slide or lug fitting into the other inner slide tube as well, evidently for more support. With this arrangement the echo attachment can be shorter because it uses nearly all of the fourth valve tube, and it can be tuned easily in relation to the normal instrument using the outer fourth valve slide."

Eliason observed that the fourth valve slide on this Graves cornet is identical to the fourth valve slides on at least two instruments made in D. C. Hall's Boston shop in the early 1860s. Thus, he has speculated that the Graves cornet's "fourth valve and echo could well have been added by D. C. Hall's shop in the 1860s."


Views of the Bell, Leadpipe, and Mouthpiece

Bell view Leadpipe, view 1 Leadpipe, view 2

Click on any image above to see a larger image.


Reuben Merrill Hobbs

Photograph (probably a cabinet card copy from original ambrotype) of Reuben Merrill Hobbs, to whom the instrument was presented in 1851, is signed E. S. Dunshee / Artist, and was probably taken in Fall River or New Bedford, Massachusetts, between 1857-1870. The cornet in this photograph, however, is not NMM 5257. Gift of Reuben M. Hobbs' great-grandson, William H. Worcester, Bay Village, Ohio, 1991.

Photographer Edward Sidney Dunshee (b. Bristol, Vermont, 1823-d. Philadelphia, 1907) took ambrotypes and daguerrotypes in Fall River, Massachusetts, between about 1853-1857; in New Bedford from about 1857-at least 1861, and in Boston from about 1873-1876, before moving to Philadelphia by 1880. One of his Dunshee's most notable clients was Henry David Thoreau, who sat for an ambrotype in New Bedford in 1861.

Note: The orange hue of the photo above is not original, but was applied to enhance the contrast in the original, faded image.

Click on photo above to see larger image.
Click on cornet in photo to see a close-up of the cornet.

Reuben M. Hobbs holding a different cornet Cornet in Hobbs photograph Reuben Hobbs Reuben Hobbs Reuben Hobbs

Reuben Merrill Hobbs (b. Falmouth, Maine, 1821-d. 1890) was the eldest of eleven children of Josiah Hobbs, Jr. (b. Falmouth, 20 July 1794-d. Selma, Alabama, 29 June 1876) and Miranda Merrill Hobbs (b. Maine, 26 July 1801-d. Yorkville, Illinois, 28 September 1871). His grandfather, Josiah Hobbs, Sr. (b. ca. 1759), of English ancestry, is said to have enlisted in the Continental Army in 1775, as a sixteen-year-old drummer boy. According to a Hobbs' family history, "The love of music dominated the family, and [Josiah Jr.'s] home, with each of the nine boys playing on a favorite instrument, was a gathering place for music lovers." Josiah Hobbs, Jr. and several of his sons farmed the family homestead in Falmouth until 1835, when he moved his family to New Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he ran a hotel. In 1849, the Hobbs family moved, with the younger siblings, to Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Like his younger brother, Franklin Moody Hobbs (b. Falmouth, 20 January 1829), Reuben probably received a "district-school education only, being more or less self-taught, and acquiring a good business education." The earliest known reference to Reuben is this E-flat cornet, presented to him in 1851 by the citizens of Saco, Maine, which suggests that the 30-year-old was already highly esteemed as the lead cornetist/conductor of Hobbs' Band. The ensemble was still in existence five years later, according to the March 7, 1856 issue of Saco's newspaper, The Union, which mentions in passing that Hobbs' Band played at the March 3 dedication of Saco's new City Hall. Reuben's younger brother, Franklin, probably played in the Hobbs' Band and has been documented as working in one of Saco's thriving cotton mills from about 1848 to 1857. It is likely that Reuben earned his living in the same manner, gaining the hands-on experience that would ultimately prepare him to return as a cotton mill superintendent after the Civil War.

Within a year after the City Hall dedication, Reuben left the Saco area and moved to Lawrence, where his parents and the rest of his younger siblings were living. According to the 1860 U.S. census, the thirty-nine-year-old's occupation was listed as "jeweler." However, the 1857 Lawrence City Directory records his ownership and operation of a music store at 144 Essex Street. Another younger brother, Albert M. Hobbs (b. Falmouth, 20 September 1835), is listed as a clerk at the same business address. Brother Samuel F. Hobbs (b. Falmouth, 25 November 1823) is listed in the same source, also as a "jeweler," but working down the street, at 118 Essex. Both Albert and Samuel are listed as boarders at Reuben's 13 Elm Street home in the 1857 directory, but were no longer living there by the time the 1860 census was taken. Reuben's household in 1860 included his wife, Mary E. (age 34); daughter Martha M. (age 11); son Ernest S. (age 10); son Baron S. (age 1); Martha Cobb (age 19)--a clerk; and, Catharine Cronin (age 30)--a domestic.

According to family history, both Reuben and Samuel were said to have been "pioneers in the Y.M.C.A. movement in New England [which had its U.S. roots in Boston], serving on boards and lending their talents to musical benefits for that cause." The brothers are also said to have "directed concerts and choirs" in Lawrence, where they were said to be affiliated with the Congregational Church.

Maker's signature and presentation text

Presentation Inscription
Click on image to see larger image

According to family history, Reuben's brother Samuel eventually moved to Boston, where he studied voice at the Conservatory and is said to have opened a jewelry business there in connection with a music store of his own. One could speculate that Reuben and/or Samuel were acquainted with the Boston instrument makers Graves and/or D. C. Hall, which might have lead Reuben to commission the manufacture of a fourth valve and the innovative echo attachment for his 1851 presentation cornet sometime in the early 1860s.

By 1864, Reuben had relocated his business as a "jeweler" in Lawrence to 119 Essex, and had moved his family to 33 Haverhill Street. Six years later, the 1870 U.S. census places Reuben and his family in Biddeford, Maine, where Reuben's household consisted of his wife, son Ernest S. (age 19), daughter "Mattie M." (age 21); Byron [sic] S. (age 11); Albruna F. Hubbard (age 43), Grace A. Hubbard (age 2); and Lydia M. Northridge (age 29)--a housekeeper. Reuben's occupation is listed in the census as "Superintendent, Cotton Mill," which his descendents have identifed as the famous Pepperrell Mills (the combined mill district of sister cities Saco and Biddeford was one of the largest cotton milling complexes in the U.S. at this time). Although little is known about Reuben's life after 1870, his great-grandson, William H. Worcester, says that "Reuben later owned a cotton mill in Aurora, Illinois, in about 1890," where he was apparently located at the time of his death.


Literature:  Robert E. Eliason, "Rhodolph Hall: Nineteenth-Century Keyed Bugle, Cornet, and Clarinet Soloist," Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, 29 (2003), pp. 5-71.

Robert E. Eliason, "D. C. Hall and the Quinby Brothers, Boston Music Industry Leaders: Makers of Brass Instruments with Flat, Round, Square, and Piston Valves," Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, 34 (2008), p. 92.


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