Chicago Benge
Resource Site

Joe Lill

(updated 7/29/14)

Jon Cuthbert reports that his 7X (#956591)
has been stolen. If you run across it please
contact me and I'll forward the info to Jon.
The same has happened with Bill Bates'
#14619. Again, email me if you run across the
horns and I'll pass the info along to the owners.
_____________________________

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.
Tom Crown has been 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!
_____________________________

It is possible to order your own copy of
Elden Benge and the Chicago Benge Trumpet,
should you so desire! It runs 164 pages, and a
spiral-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 print
out your own copy, a CD with a pdf of the
document (12MB) along with the Power Point
presentation (28MB) is available for $10.00. If you
have a Paypal account, you can pay through there
(www.paypal.com), using my email address,
trptjoe@aol.com, or you can send a check to:
Joe Lill, 5736 N. Avondale, Chicago, IL 60631

Please feel free to email me with any questions!
_____________________________


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

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 3rd
earliest Benge C to come to light.
_____________________________

As promised, 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 eleven ads posted,
including some that feature, among others,
James Stamp, Ralph Marterie & Frank Anglund! Click here to see this page.
(updated 5/16/14)
_____________________________

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 personally, even
picking me up from the airport on
January 13, 2007, when I flew out. He
was tragically killed in a car crash on
the morning of April 6, 2007.
Click here to go to a page honoring him.

 


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.

 

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.

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!

One part of this project was the compilation
of spreadsheets listing Benge trumpets
and their various design characteristics.
Currently, there are 388 Chicago,
521 Burbank and 980 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 7/29/14)
Click here for a pdf of the Burbank sheet.
(last updated 7/20/14)
Click here for a pdf of LA sheet #1.
(#19999 and below)
(last updated 7/29/14)
Click here for a pdf of LA sheet #2.
(#20000 and above)
(last updated 7/20/14)

 

______________________________________________________________

Latest additions/updates to the spreadsheets:
Chicago Benges
#2565 (Jim Polivka's D); #2790 (Dave Norman); #2882 (Norman Levine, Ed Fuchs & Harry Glantz)
#2894 (Jon Nelson); #1694 & #3196 (Rob Sack); #1598 (Jim Borst); #2573 (Boyde Hood's Eb)
#2205 (Bradley Hughes); #529 (Jeff Briddle); #3241 (Steve Dillard); #3268 (Josh Landress)
#2977 (Tom Denton); #971 (Dave Norman)

Burbank Benges
#4458 (Roland "Bud" Weisser); #5162 (Steve Lothrop); #4534 (Fred Young); #4928 (Rob Sack)
#3798 (Dave Norman); #7956 (John Mohan's CG prototype!); #1705 (David Cannon)
#4589 (Bill Barrett); #7546 (Mark LaSavio); #7161 (Thom Stolar); #5387 (Larry Gerhardt)
#3679 (Kurt Kaufman)

Los Angeles Benges

#8696, #13641 & #18295 (Mark LaSavio); #9278 & #11695 (Gary McDowell); #8853 (Martin Geeding)
#38576 (Mark Crews); #13100 (Jay Bortolotto); #8890 (Wilbur & Martin Geeding's pocket)
#9799 (Kai Frode Grythe); #38913 (Jay Bortolotto); #28906 (John Brugman's piccolo)
#16996 (Robert Briggs); #12248 (Matt Hersh); #17139 (Cody Hammer); #10077 (Jack Evans)

#43244, an LA pocket trumpet, has recently turned up. It is the latest five-digit serial number
for a Los Angeles horn to date. The latest five-digit LA Bb trumpet so far is #43237. Added recently
were #213592 and #956591, a 3X and a 7X (large-plus), both with Los Angeles bells and, more
importantly, with BENGE stamped on the bottom of the 2nd valve casing. Bells can be swapped,
but USA was stamped on the bottom of the 2nd valve casing for Eastlake-made horns.
Similarly, #42647 is a CG with BENGE on the 2nd valve casing but USA on the bell.
A transition horn, in my opinion.

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!

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 #42377 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.

Features

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: #9278, #11695, #8853, #38576, #8890, #30810 & #10077. (7/29/14)

2. The "First of Everything" list! Example: What is the earliest Benge C trumpet?
The most recent changes to this list are the latest five-digit LA Benge so far, the earliest LA 4X stamped
on the bell, the latest LA 6Z so far, the earliest Benge flugelhorn to come to light, the earliest LA pocket,
the earliest LA 1C (one of only two so far), and some new entries for the earliest bells stamped
with a 2 and a 3. More input is always welcomed! (6/21/14)

3. Click here to go to the "Questions and Theories" page. (3/31/14)

4. Thanks to Merle Jenkins, there is a new photo on the "Interesting Photos" page.
His Burbank Benge #3740 has a star stamped on the bell tube!
Since Elden Benge didn't want to mark his new models in any way (a decision I never
quite understood), I'm wondering if he put these stars on the earliest 5X models...
Does anyone else have a star stamped on their horn? (5/30/11)

5. 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 ."

6. #500: the Sibley Benge, photos courtesy of David Sibley.

7. #522: the Grimes Benge, photos courtesy of Mark Koehl.

8. #524: the Bussell Benge, courtesy of Bob Bussell.

9. #526 & #1501: the Anglund Benges, photos courtesy of Ron Turner & John Baber.

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

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

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

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

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

15. 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.

16. How many Benges were made in Chicago? In Burbank?
In Anaheim (Los Angeles Benges)? Click here for my best guesses!

17. 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)

 
______________________________________________________________

 

Design Characteristics of Chicago Benge Trumpets


 

The Bell Hallmark

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

(#1)
(no staff logo)
HAND-TEMPERED
BELL
MADE BY
ELDEN
BENGE
CHICAGO
ILL.

Earliest: #500
Latest: #665

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

 

(#2)
Staff Logo
HAND-TEMPERED
BELL
MADE BY
ELDEN
BENGE
CHICAGO
ILL.

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)
______________________________________

 

(#3)
Staff Logo
Resno-Tempered
Bell
CUSTOM BUILT
BY
E•BENGE
CHICAGO
ILLINOIS

Earliest: #579
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
______________________________________

 


(#4)
(no staff logo)
Resno-Tempered
Bell
CUSTOM BUILT
BY
E•BENGE
CHICAGO
ILLINOIS

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."

(#1)
ELDEN
BENGE

Earliest: #513
Latest: #583





(#1)
#560 (Al Feldner)







 


(#2)
The "eye" logo
CHICAGO
Earliest:
#592
Latest: #667



(#3)
The "eye" logo
(no CHICAGO)
Earliest:
#681
Latest: #1075



(#4)
BENGE

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



(#2)
#622 (Steve Dillard)


(#3)
#728 (Ryan Zoghlin)


(#4)
#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.


(#1)
Horizontal

Earliest: #500
(large bore #1515)

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




#728 (Ryan Zoghlin)


(#2)
Vertical

Earliest: #1034
(large bore #1501)

Latest:
#3350
(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:

(#1)
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

(#2)
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)
_____________________________________
 

(#3)
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)
_____________________________________
 

(#4)
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 at least four different designs
for his receivers (the part in which the
mouthpiece is inserted). Other than #520,
which seems to have a plain receiver,
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.


(#1)
#546 (Ryan Zoghlin)
Earliest: #500
Latest: #546

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

__________


(#3)
#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


(#2)
#560 (Steve Ward)
Earliest: #554
Latest: #2062

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


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".


3/4"
#2334 (Burt Tobias)
Earliest: #520
(large bore #1501)
Latest: #2614
(large bore #1581)

1 1/8"
#3165 (Joe Lill)
Earliest: #2201
(also #807 & 947!)
(large bore #1599)
Latest: #3338
(large bore #1630)
 
______________________________________________________________
 


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)

Earliest:
#546
(large bore #1515)
Latest: #2285
(large bore #1515)
(*cornet #1581 also
has this hook)

New Style Finger Hook
#3165 (Joe Lill)

Earliest:
#2319
(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.


(1)
Earliest: (brass) #500
Latest: (brass) #546

(2)
Earliest: (nickel) #554
Latest: (nickel) #1036

(3)
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)

1) Tracking down every Benge numbered below #45000 in order
to better discern the changes in design characteristics. This now
includes all Burbank, Los Angeles and early Eastlake Benges.

2) Corresponding with people who knew Elden Benge,
as an expansion of the biography contained in the paper is desired.

3) Nailing down the serial number sequence for the large bore trumpets.
I'm getting closer to knowing where the switch from large-bore
Chicagos and large-bore Burbanks occurred, as it's between
#1694 and #1705. As Jim Donaldson has noted on his website
(www.dallasmusic.org/gearhead/Bengedata.html), Benge started numbering
large bores at #1500. This sequence continued into the Burbank era, ending
somewhere in the 1900s, as duplication would result once he hit #2000.

4) 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!