Out of all the aspects of Elden Benge's instrument manufacturing business, the one that remains
the most mysterious concerns the Chicago Benge mouthpiece.
Thanks to Paul Williamson, we know that Elden Benge included the option of a mouthpiece as early as 1942, as he received one along with #614. After production resumed following World War II, he
continued to include the option of purchasing a new mouthpiece to go along with the newly-made trumpet or cornet. The only other concrete date I have for a mouthpiece comes from Ralph Pillar, Jr.,
whose father received a Chicago Benge mouthpiece along with his new horn; the receipt was dated
July 8, 1946 and mentions that a mouthpiece was included.
In the course of interviewing dozens of people who knew Elden Benge during his years in Chicago
I have not found anyone who could shed any light on his mouthpiece supplier. Not a single person
has ever mentioned seeing Benge make a mouthpiece, and the general consensus is that he was
always so busy trying to keep up with the demand for his instruments that there was little time for
things like mouthpiece testing or manufacturing. Thus far I have not seen a Benge advertisement
that mentioned the option of a mouthpiece.
Once he moved to Burbank in late 1953 he was so
busy trying to get the business off the ground and find acceptable help that, as far as I know, he
himself never made mouthpieces in California.
He also had perfectly competent mouthpiece makers around him, some of whom were his close
friends. In Chicago, Frank Anglund had begun to make mouthpieces around the same time as Benge
started to make trumpets. Anglund was Benge's Chicago agent, so it would logical to assume that,
should someone need a mouthpiece, Benge would have sent the person to Anglund. My first thought
was that, perhaps, Anglund made the Benge mouthpieces, but, as you'll see from the photos below,
the designs are quite different. At the same time (the mid- to late-1930s), Benge's friend Renold
Schilke had taken over the manufacture of the Llewellyn mouthpiece. Again, as you'll see, the
design was also different from that of the Benge mouthpiece.
Special thanks go out to Dave Rogers, who graciously loaned mouthpieces from his collection for
comparison; Irving Bush, who provided a Chicago Benge cornet mouthpiece from his collection;
and Joe Summerhill, who provided the Llewellyn mouthpiece. As always, I welcome further input!
Chicago Benge Trumpet Mouthpiece (courtesy of Dave Rogers)
Frank Anglund Trumpet Mouthpiece (courtesy of Dave Rogers)
E.B. Llewellyn Personal Model Trumpet Mouthpiece
(courtesy of Joe Summerhill)
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