Chicago Benge
Resource Site

Joe Lill

(updated 4/27/22)

I never thought I'd see this day. On 2/28/21 I entered #3283,
an eBay Auction Chicago Benge, into my spreadsheet. It is
the 500th Chicago Benge for which I have information, which
is pretty unbelievable. On 12/11/05 I entered #2499, which
I owned at the time. My doctoral trumpet teacher/advisor,
Charles Geyer, had given me the green light to pursue the
project, so I designed a spreadsheet in order to keep track
of instruments, hoping that I could track down 100 or so
trumpets. At this point I have data on 23% of all Benges
made in Chicago (500/2130). I couldn't be more grateful
to the Benge community. I feel honored to be the person
that gets to listen to your stories, and to the stories of
these special instruments. Thank you, everyone!

I purchased this original photo taken
May 31, 1944 by Acme Newspictures, Inc.
The caption reads:

Step Aside, Bob Burns!
Chicago - The bazooka has nothing on this new
instrument, called the brocophone, one-third each
of trumpet, trombone and alto horn. Invented by
Elden Benge of Radio Station WGN in Chicago.
Jean Jones tries the instrument which cost 35 cents
and some old tubing and valves.


It is possible to order your own copy of
Elden Benge and the Chicago Benge Trumpet,
should you so desire! Updated as of March 2019,
it runs 164 pages, and a comb-bound copy will be sent
for $35.00 postpaid. You will also receive a CD containing
an updated version of the Power Point presentation from
my Benge Lecture-Recital. Should you prefer to receive
them digitally (a pdf of the document (12MB) along with
the Power Point presentation (29MB)), I can send
them through (it's very simple, really!)
for $10.00. A third option, if you'd like, is that I could
send them on a CD for $10.00. If you have a Paypal
account, you can pay through there (
using my email address,,
or you can send a check to:
Joe Lill, 5736 N. Avondale, Chicago, IL 60631

Please feel free to email me with any questions!

There were a number of design changes during
the Chicago Benge Era (1935-1953). The purpose
of these pages is to catalog the evolution of the
pre-Burbank Benge designs. I've noted the
earliest and latest serial numbers of instruments that
demonstrate these characteristics. Where pertinent,
I've also noted the earliest/latest of the large
bore sequence that started at #1500.

The January 2013 International Trumpet
Guild Journal has an installment of the
history of the trumpeters of the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra covering the years
1933-1948. The late Tom Crown was in
charge of this project and he graciously
asked me to write the article on Elden
Benge. John Hagstrom (current CSO
2nd Trumpet) wrote about Sydney Baker
and Tom covered the rest. Check it out.

I've linked a page which shows every
Chicago Benge advertisement of which I'm
aware. If you know of a Chicago ad that's
not on that page, please let me know.
There are twelve ads posted, including some
that feature, among others, James Stamp,
Ralph Marterie & Frank Anglund!
Click here to see this page.
(updated 3/11/15)

A young Elden Benge with
his Conn Victor cornet.
(Photo courtesy of Donald Benge)


Elden Benge was Principal Trumpet of
the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from
1928 to 1933; he then succeeded Edward
Llewellyn as Principal Trumpet of the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He held this
position from 1933 to 1939. During his time
in Chicago he started to experiment with the
manufacturing of his own trumpets. The
earliest trumpet known to have been sold
was #500, which was made while Benge
was living at 2634 W. Berwyn Avenue on
the northwest side of Chicago. He
subsequently moved to 2511 N. Major,
which was also in the city, but further south
and west. In 1942 he moved to
1945 W. Morse on the far north side of
Chicago. The bulk of the Chicago Benges
were made at the Morse location, where
Benge lived until moving to Burbank,
California in August 1953. Click here to
see pictures of the three locations.

Want to hear Elden Benge's own large-bore
Chicago Benge cornet (#1581)? You have
two choices: Dick Cathcart's album
"Bix 1959" or the recently-released CD
by Joe Lill's Doctors of Dixie,
"Hear the Rolling Thunder!"
To hear samples or to download tracks,
follow this link, or search for it on iTunes!

One of the interesting items of memorabilia
given to me by Donald Benge was the original
printing plate for an ad placed in the June
1939 issue of Down Beat magazine.
Click here to see the ad.

One part of this project was the compilation
of spreadsheets listing Benge trumpets
and their various design characteristics.
Currently, there are 518 Chicago,
786 Burbank and 1932 Los Angeles
instruments listed. I'm continuing to compile
data on Benge instruments, so submit away!

Click here for a pdf of the Chicago sheet.
(last updated 4/13/22)

Click here for a pdf of the Burbank sheet.
(last updated 4/27/22)

Click here for a pdf of LA sheet #1.
(#19999 and below)
(last updated 4/11/22)
Click here for a pdf of LA sheet #2.
(#20000 to #29999)
(last updated 4/26/22)
Click here for a pdf of LA sheet #3.
(#30000 and above)
(last updated 4/26/22)

This is, of course, a work in progress; please
contact Joe Lill if you have any comments,
corrections or additional information. If your
instrument is in the spreadsheet but has any
blank spaces, I'd be happy to fill them in!



Latest additions/updates to the spreadsheets:
Chicago Benges
#2953 (Jean); #2013 (John Laverty)#2905 (Alfred Spriester/Bart Spriester); #2105 (Dave Norman)
#1545, #1590, #2446 & #3283 (Jennifer Olivarez); #2139 (Jason Leon); #560 & #2977 (Wayne Wright)
#2836 (Dave Norman); #3130 (Bob Zelek); #2324 (Skip Warren); #2014 (Dave Detwiler); #916 (Mike Ackerman)
#1516 (Jorge Lopez/Bob Mutarelli); #2067 (Jessica Whetter/Frank Orlando); #2382 (Jim Hirakawa)

Burbank Benges
#1716 & #3362 (Mike Ackerman); #8084 (Kim Finison); #3507, #3826 & #3837 (Dave Norman)
#5828 (Charles A. Gutierrez); #4892 & 6219 (Dave Detwiler); #8292 (Mike Rosera/Tom Sather)
#7997 (Nestor Munt); #3760 (Larry Stetler); #5612 (Steve Cooper); #3974 (Dennis Johnson)
#7052 & 7847 (Robb Stewart); #7221 (Jay Bortolotto/Joe Summerhill)

Los Angeles Benges

#10002 (Warren Pender); #20436 (Lucas Liska); #9275 (Tom Lundquist); #9053 (Kelvin Chen)
#10885 (Greg Haubrich); #14082 (Sean McAnally); #21578 (Fred Griesman); #9733 (Steve Dahnert)
#14014 & #14021 (Bruce A. Martineau); #12382 & #42420 (Mark Jacobs); #9659 (Wayne Wright/Stephen Jones)
#16249 (Michael Foisy); #25216 (Jeff Myers); #12205 (Terry Connell)


Lou Duda was the Benge shop foreman from May 15, 1954 (mere months after Elden moved to Burbank)
until he retired on January 1, 1980. His fellow employees made him a pocket trumpet as a retirement present.
Instead of a serial number, they engraved NUMBER-ONE. The bell is engraved with his start date
and end date. Thanks go out to his daughter, Barbara, for sharing photos of the instrument!
Check it out on the "Other Interesting Photos" page!

If you want to follow the travels of my Benge pocket trumpet, it has its own Facebook photo album!
Go here to see where Los Angeles #12654 has been!

In 2015 Bill Karow purchased Chicago Benge #2206, which came with a tuning
slide that has a Bb/A rotor! Check it out on the "Other Interesting Photos" page!

Donald Benge became the head of the Benge Company after the death of his father in 1960.
He was very proud of the fact that I had chosen his father as the subject of my final project, and he
allowed me to interview him in person, even picking me up from the airport on January 13, 2007. He was
tragically killed in a car crash on the morning of April 6, 2007. Click here to go to a page honoring him,
which includes the short biography I wrote that was read at his memorial service on May 6, 2007.

Although the transition from Chicago to Burbank Benges seems clear-cut, numerically, it shouldn't
be a surprise that the Burbank-to-LA transition may not have been so clean. Michael Lee's
#8384 (large bore) has a Los Angeles bell which appears original, and the number falls
between some other large bores that have Burbank bells. We'll see if more show up!

#01958 is a bit of a mystery. It is the only piccolo trumpet without a model number stamped
on the bell, and the number sequence is strange. Los Angeles is stamped on the bell,
so there's no question that it's not a Burbank. Two theories (please shoot them down!):
1) it was a special order for a special person, or, 2) the Benge Company had stopped
numbering large bores in the old sequence @#1860. That left the 1900s open for use.
Input definitely welcome!


Max Roberts checks in with Burbank #6549,
a 3X+ purchased from Steve Dillard (Horntrader).
It has an A stamped on the bottom of the receiver
and neither Steve nor Zig Kanstul has a clue as
to why that's there. This was during the Donald
Benge years, after Elden's death and before Zig
came back to the company. Brian Douglas checked
in with this recollection of a conversation he'd had
with Byron Autrey: "As I remember, Byron did not
actually stamp the horns. In fact, when he told me
about them, he seemed to convey that these horns
had been made without his knowledge, but that
someone had told him that the A stamp indicated
horns with some design element he had suggested.
Byron never identified who had told him that. So,
at least as far as my conversation with Byron goes,
the A-stamp is still a bit of a mystery."
Thoughts welcomed!

A Receiver


Post-LA Benges
As I've gathered information about instruments numbered over 10000, a few interesting
patterns have shown up, similar to what was found with the earlier Benges. It was previously
thought that there was a cutoff point around #43000 between the LA Benges and the move to
Eastlake, Ohio in 1983. However, it seems that the valve sections for some specialty horns
(piccolo, Eb, etc.) were numbered in LA, but the bells were not stamped until an order
was placed. Hence, although Bb #43046 has LA stamped on the bell, D/Eb #43xxx,
piccolo #42376 and flugel #42270 have a USA stamp on the bell. I have not yet found
a five-digit Benge USA Bb trumpet; the earliest yet is #106047.

Since December 2005 I've been receiving emails and phone calls from
people eager to share information about their beloved Benges. I am grateful to
all of you, and I look forward to the continuing evolution of this project.


Here is a linked list of featured pages, with the date of the most recent update at the end:

1. When was my Benge made? Click here and you'll be able to get an idea!
Most recent additions: #9053, #14082, #9733, #2067, #3760, #42420 & #3974. (4/13/22)

2. The "First and Last of Everything" list! Example: What is the earliest Benge C trumpet?
The most recent changes to this list are the only Bb medium bores with a 1 stamped on the ferrule,
the only flugel with a 6 stamped on the bell, the earliest LA 3X, the earliest Burbank 1X C trumpet,
the first large-bore Burbank cornet, and the earliest LA 1X so far.
More input is always welcomed! (2/28/22)

3. Click here to go to the "Questions and Theories" page. (8/16/20)

4. Thanks to Bob Johnson, there is a new photo on the "Interesting Photos" page.
His Burbank Benge #5744 has one of John Haynie's earliest "tune as you go"
pitchfinders. A different configuration than we tend to see today. (8/19/17)

5. I've built a page showing the very first brochure ever put together by Elden Benge. It dates from
1936-37, and is the only example of this I've ever seen! Special thanks to Bill Hall, who made a copy
in the 1970s, and to Tony Pons, who got me in touch with Bill. Click here to see the brochure!

6. Click here to see a scan of a letter from Elden Benge to the late Eldon Engle, dated
June 4, 1953. The letter was written in Chicago, and apologizes for the lateness in
sending Engle a trumpet, "...due to several circumstances, one of which is making
preparations for moving my trumpet shop to California around August 1st....
My shop will be located in Burbank- a suburb of Los Angeles ."

7. #500: the Sibley Benge, photos courtesy of David Sibley.

8. #522: the Grimes Benge, photos courtesy of Mark Koehl.

9. #524: the Bussell Benge, courtesy of Bob Bussell.

10. #526 & #1501: the Anglund Benges, photos courtesy of Ron Turner & John Baber.
Both instruments are currently owned by Wayne Wright.

11. Click here to go to a page honoring Benge student, Joe Summerhill. He was
an invaluable primary source, as he studied with, helped build trumpets with,
and yes, imbibed with Elden Benge! I had the pleasure of studying with Joe
in the 1980s, and we played many gigs together.

12. Click here to see the receipt for the Caselli trumpet (#2015).

13. Click here to see the "famous" letter from Herbert L. Clarke to Elden Benge.

14. Click here to see the receipt for the Ficek trumpet (#747).

15. A 1952 letter to Charles Gouse. The best descriptions of the two C trumpet
bells, from Elden Benge himself! Players, prices; fascinating!

16. Consumer Reports review of musical instruments (Nov. 1951)

17. For the rundown of pieces, instruments and performers from my
Benge Lecture/Recital on February 28, 2007, click here.
To see pictures of what pianist Dr. Kay Kim dubbed the recital's
"petting zoo" (the table full of instruments) click here.

18. How many Benges were made in Chicago? In Burbank?
In Anaheim (Los Angeles Benges)? Click here for my best guesses! (3/15/22)

19. The Mouthpiece Page is here! Special thanks go out to New York's
Dave Rogers, whose mania for mouthpieces is gratefully acknowledged!
Click here to see this page. (7/8/10)

20. Robb Stewart has recently posted a page showing the French Besson (#85419)
believed to have been the model for the Benge trumpet. To see the horn and
read the history, click here. Robb has also posted a page about Benge C #2459,
owned by Boyde Hood and formerly owned by Bernie Adelstein. It's the third
earliest Benge C to come to light.



Design Characteristics of Chicago Benge Trumpets


The Bell Hallmark

There were four bell designs for the Chicago Benge. In chronological order, they are:

(no staff logo)

Earliest: #500
Latest: #665

(#1) Chicago Benge #560 (courtesy Al Feldner)


Staff Logo

Earliest: #554
Latest: #554

Possibly a unique bell; this horn was originally
owned by Don Lindley, who played with the
NBC Staff Orchestra. It's conceivable that
Elden Benge may have added the staff logo
to this horn as a favor to his friend, who was
named in at least two Benge advertisements.
We'll see if any more show up along the way!

(#2) Chicago Benge #554
(courtesy Rachel Bierma)


Staff Logo

Earliest: #561
Latest: #3350

The "Staff Logo" consists of an arrangement of notes and graphics that spell out the name "E.E. Benge." First, there is a treble clef followed by a time signature of 3/2. The notes commence with two dotted half note E's (for Elden Eugene), and
then a bar line to separate the initials from the
surname. Benge is spelled out in an inventive
manner (as there is no "N" pitch):
B: a quarter note on the third line
E: an eighth note on the first line
N: the beaming of the E and G form an "N"
G: an eighth note on top of the staff
E: a whole note on the fourth space

The design is said to have been done by the daughter of one of his CSO colleagues (Frank Holz, owner #527); she was a graphic designer.


(#3) Chicago Benge #3165 (courtesy Joe Lill)

After the move to Burbank, Elden Benge stamped
the staff logo on the first 125 or so horns.
Latest Burbank with staff logo: #3478
(Large bore: #1705)
Earliest Burbank without staff logo: #3481


(no staff logo)

Earliest: #1000
Latest: #1032

A very rare bell design. It has been
speculated that the original staff die may
have been broken for a short period of time.
#1008, #1012 & #1021 have the same bell stamping. #522 also has the same hallmark,
leading me to believe that Benge replaced the
bell of #522 @1943.

(#4) Chicago Benge #1012 (courtesy Steve Ward)


The Benge Logo

There are at least four versions on the logo stamped on the bottom of the bell side of the second valve casing. The "eye" logo is the
name BENGE in the shape of an eye.
It is also known as the "Benge Bug."


Earliest: #513
Latest: #583

#560 (Al Feldner)


The "eye" logo
Latest: #667

The "eye" logo
Latest: #1075


Earliest: #1208 (large bore #1501)
Latest: #3350 (large bore #1682)

#607 (Dave Norman)

#728 (Ryan Zoghlin)

#2008 (Russ DiGate)


The Serial Numbers

About those mysterious serial numbers:
think of them as three seperate numbering
sequences. The first, from #500 until
about #1075; is a nice, logical system.
Then, in 1946 Benge started making large
bores for the first time. He started a new
sequence with #1500, and that carried into
the Burbank years, with the transition from
Chicago to Burbank happening between
#1682 (a Chicago) and #1705 (a Burbank).
When Benge started the 1500 series, he
simultaneously started to number the
non-large bores at #2000. Thus, for example,
#1705 was made years later than #2008.
Other than #1208, a special-made trumpet,
there are no 1100s, 1200s, 1300s or 1400s.


Earliest: #500
(large bore #1515)

Latest: #1032
(also cornet #1050)
(large bore #1515)

#728 (Ryan Zoghlin)


Earliest: #1034
(large bore #1501)

(large bore #1682)

#2008 (Russ DiGate)

The Braces on the Third Slide

#500 had a Besson-style brace on the
third slide that has not been found on any
other Benge. There were subsequently
four designs used after that.
In chronological order, they are:

a single small brace

Beginning with #513, the third slide
had a single brace, located near the valve
section. On these horns the first slide could
have one or two small braces.
Earliest: #513
Latest: #534

a rod brace

In this version, Benge put what can be
best described as a rod between the
tubes of the third valve slide. Benge also
put the same sort of brace on many first
valve tubes, but this was not consistently
done. Click here to see an example.
Earliest: #546
Latest: #897

(#1) Chicago Benge #534 (David Stangarone)

(#2) Chicago Benge #560 (Steve Ward)

two small braces

This is a standard form of brace, as many
other manufacturers use similar braces.
There is no brace between the tubes of the
first slide. This shot also shows the rings
at the end of the slide tubes; see #4 for the
later variant.
Earliest: #899 (large bore #1501)
Latest: #2529 (large bore #1581)

(#3) Chicago Benge #1519 (Steve Ward)

the "Benge" brace

Similar in heft to the original rod brace, it's a
flat piece of metal with BENGE stamped on it.
It is reminscent of the French Besson brace.
This design continued through the Los Angeles era and beyond, going at least as far as
#178668. Again, there is no brace between
the tubes of the first slide. Also, there are no
rings at the end of the slide tubes.
Earliest: #2532 (large bore #1588)
Latest: #3350 (large bore #1682)
(#1208 & #2472 also have this design)

(#4) Chicago Benge #3165 (Joe Lill)

The Rings (Beads) on the Tubes

On the end of most every leadpipe
(except for reverse leadpipes), of any
brand, there is a ring (also known as
a bead). Although the earliest horns do
not have them, for many years (and on
all cornets, as far as I can tell) Elden
Benge also put rings on the ends of
the slide tubes. The examples on the
right are third valve slides, both with
and without the rings. #1208 seems
to have been put together later on
especially for Frank Lisanti; it does
not have rings. Strangely enough,
#526 has a ring on the 2nd slide!

#2334 (Burt Tobias)
Earliest: #554
(large bore #1501)
Latest: #2417
(large bore #1537)

#3165 (Joe Lill)
Earliest: #2429
(large bore #1543)
Latest: #3350
(large bore #1682)

The Receiver
Benge used three different designs for his receivers (the part in which the mouthpiece
is inserted). Here are the designs:

(#1) a single engraved line
This is also the design that appears
on the receivers of Burbank Benges
after #3539. The latest Burbank with
double lines (to date) is #3520.

(#2) double rings
All Chicago Benge cornets and, interestingly, even early Burbank
cornets seem to have this feature, with
#7166 being the earliest Benge cornet
to have a single ring. The latest Burbank
with rings (so far) is cornet #4354.

(#3) double engraved lines
When Benge started the sequence
of specific numbering for large
bore trumpets (#1500-#1700 or so)
he used the double line version of
the receiver. He continued to use
the double rings for the 2000-series
trumpets until #2090 or so. I would
guess that he used up the remaining
double-ring receivers before
switching to the double lines.
This design carried into the
Burbank period.

The earliest/latest numbers used on
the right refer to M and ML trumpets.

#546 (Ryan Zoghlin)
Earliest: #500
Latest: #546

Many other early Benges
have single-line receivers;
it is not known how many
are replacements.


#2429 (Mike Lill)
Earliest: #2090
(also #1068 & 1208!)
Latest: #3345

All large bore Chicago
trumpets have this
type of receiver.

Latest Burbank with
double lines: #3520
Earliest Burbank with
single line: #3481

#560 (Steve Ward)
Earliest: #554
Latest: #2062

(#2606 also has rings;
it is not known whether
it was the original
receiver or a

All known Chicago
cornets have this
type of receiver.

An example:

Cornet #2711
(Ryan Zoghlin)


The Bell Flange

Also known as a "diamond flange." The
large brace (flange) between the leadpipe
and the bell came in two basic sizes: the early
version was 3/4" from top to bottom; later, he
made them larger: 1 1/8" from top to bottom.
The larger brace is similar to the French
Besson design.The heights of the Burbank
braces tended to be between the two
Chicago sizes; the standard height was 7/8",
with heights ranging from @5/8" to 1".

#2334 (Burt Tobias)
Earliest: #520
(large bore #1501)
Latest: #2614
(large bore #1653)

1 1/8"
#3165 (Joe Lill)
Earliest: #2201
(also #807 & 947!)
(large bore #1599)
Latest: #3338
(large bore #1694)

The Finger Hook

Once Elden Benge was capable
of making the entire horns himself,
somewhere between #534 and
#546, Chicago Benges had one
of two styles of finger hooks.

The older style had a 90 degree
turn upward at the end, and
is just larger than a semi-circle.

The newer style has a gentler
upward turn and doesn't quite
make a full semi-circle.


Old Style Finger Hook
#610 (Ryan Zoghlin)

(large bore #1515)
Latest: #2285
(large bore #1515)
(*cornet #1581 also
has this hook)

New Style Finger Hook
#3165 (Joe Lill)

(large bore #1519)

This style continued through
the rest of the Chicago era.

The Inner Slide Tubes

Although the very earliest trumpets were
made with brass inner slide tubes, Benge
soon started making the tubes out of nickel.
At some point he switched back to brass
and, as far as I can tell, never again used
nickel. All trumpets in the large bore
sequence (#1500 and on) have brass
inner slides. My theory is that World
War II affected the availability of nickel
in some way, but that's just speculation.

Earliest: (brass) #500
Latest: (brass) #546

Earliest: (nickel) #554
Latest: (nickel) #1036 (also #2437)

Earliest: (brass) #1052
(also #954!)
Latest: (brass) #3321

Valve slide comparison
Top: (brass tubes) #2499 (Michael Lill)
Bottom: (nickel tubes) #610 (Ryan Zoghlin)

For another interesting aspect, look at the
ferrules (the ring that joins the two pieces).
Earlier Chicagos have more rounded ferrules,
as can be seen in the above photo.

For more photos, check out the "Interesting Pictures" page!

Wish list?
(in no particular order)

Where are the 1100's, 1200's, 1300's and 1400's?
They don't exist, with one notable exception: #1208, a Bb trumpet given to
Frank Lisanti by Elden Benge. Schilke saw the trumpet and told Frank's son
Paul that it looked like a "put-together" horn; made out of some parts that
were laying around. It's possible that there was some significance to the
number, but there's no way of knowing it at this point. Frank was a student
of Benge's in Chicago, and he also worked on some horns and did some
bookkeeping for the company (see the Caselli receipt for Lisanti's signature).

For further discussion of these topics, go to the "Questions & Theories" page!