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Tortoise-shell Keyed Bugle in High B-flat by George W. Shaw,
Thompson, Connecticut, ca. 1845-1850

Note: Click on any image below to see a larger image

NMM 7070. Keyed bugle by George W. Shaw, Thompson, Connecticut, ca. 1845-1850 Top view Bottom view Side view

NMM 7070.  Keyed bugle in High B-flat by George W. Shaw, Thompson, Connecticut, ca. 1845-1850.  Tortoise-shell body with nine German-silver keys. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.

George W. Shaw of Thompson, Connecticut, was awarded a patent for the manufacture of tortoise-shell keyed bugles in August 1845. According to the patent description, this material permits the manufacture of an extremely light-weight instrument without compromising the tone quality of the bugle. Additionally, Shaw claims that "from the elasticity of the material, it is not subject to deterioration of tone from indentations. The instrument is made in 5 parts, which are welded together . . ." Shaw exhibited his tortoise-shell bugles in Philadelphia (1846 and 1848) and in New York (1853).


Detail of signature on Shaw keyed bugle

Engraved on eliptical German-silver plaque: Shaw's. Patent. / August 4th1845.

Key Mounts

Detail of keys Detail of key mount

Single-piece, single-loop tortoise-shell body; German-silver receiver ferrule and keys. Ferrule with one engraved line. Cup-shaped key heads with white stuffed pads (old, partly replaced); tortoise-shell tone-hole-rims welded to body; channel-shaped shanks over block mounts; leaf springs.

Nine keys in the following order (related to c-pitch): b1 (open, regulating screw with which the key can be rigidly closed); c-sharp2 (closed key; ring finger/right); d2 (closed key, index finger/right); lower e-flat2 (closed key, thumb/right), higher e-flat2 (closed key, middle finger/right); e2 (closed key, thumb/left); f2 (closed key, index finger/left); f-sharp2 (closed key, middle finger/left); a2 (closed key, ring or little finger/left).



Mouthpiece cup Mouthpiece rim

Accessories: German-silver mouthpiece; wooden case (below) stained black with black velvet interior, ornate brass fitting, and two keys.

Case and keyed bugle

Case, closed


Sounding length:  555 mm; internal diameter at receiver: 8.5 mm; internal diameter minimum at 23 mm: 7.8 mm; bell diameter: 80 mm.

Lit.: Robert Eliason. Keyed Bugles in the United States (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1972), pp. 20-22.

Margaret Downie Banks, "Brass Instruments from the Utley Collection Fill the Museum's Horn of Plenty this Harvest Season - Tortoise-Shell is Key Element in Rare Bugle," America's Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter, Vol. 26, No. 4 (November 1999), p. 7.

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