Chicago Benge #500:
The Sibley Trumpet

(photos and scans courtesy of David Sibley)


Forbes Sibley graduated in January 1936 from Pontiac H.S.
in Pontiac, Michigan. His band director, the legendary Dale Harris, may have been acquainted with Elden Benge from Benge's days as Principal Trumpet of the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra. Sibley, the sole owner of Benge #500, bought the trumpet directly from the maker, most likely at the suggestion
of Mr. Harris, and received a letter from Benge in August
1936 confirming this purchase. We are most fortunate that,
in addition to the trumpet, Sibley kept the letter and its
envelope, pictured below, for his entire life. Not only is this
fortuitous from a research standpoint, but it pinpoints a
possible starting date for Benge trumpets. Oral history had
held that the first Benge trumpet sold was #525, but over the
past few years #500, #513, #520 and #522 have come to light. Donald Benge verified his father's signature on the letter,
although he was not totally convinced about the authenticity
of #500, as his father sometimes mentioned #525 as his
starting point. However, Elden Benge was not a
meticulous record keeper, as is underscored by the date of
the letter to Forbes Sibley (August 10, 1932); the postmark
on the envelope has the correct date (August 10, 1936).

In an October 7, 1951 interview with Genevieve Flavin
(Chicago Sunday Tribune), she states: "Fashioned for his personal use, the first trumpet was sent by Benge to a
musician in Michigan in 1935. The Benge trumpet made
its symphonic debut in a symphony in 1937 when one was
sold to a member of the Chicago Symphony orchestra."

Serial number-#500
Click on the letter
to see a larger picture.

This trumpet has a Benge bell (Hand-Tempered), a receiver
with a single line (consistent with other very early Benges),
and, it seems, original slides. The valve cluster looks like it
was made by Bach. Joe Summerhill, who studied with
Benge and assisted in the assembly of many late Chicagos,
thinks that the majority of the horn was made by (or for)
Bach, but that the nibs on the slides seem to be either Olds
or Vega. The number 500 is stamped on the second valve
casing, and each valve also has 500 stamped on it.
There is another number on the first and third valves:
on the first valve the 500 is stamped over the number 133.
There is no additional number on the second valve. The third valve has 343 (the final number is very faded). I welcome
input from someone who is knowledgable about Bach
clusters from the '30s. Another aspect that I wonder about are
the "nibs" attached to the tuning slides, as I've never seen
any that look quite like these. Again, any input is welcomed.


There are a couple of ways to look at the earliest Benges.
For years #525 was thought to be the starting point for
Benge trumpets, but we have not yet discerned the number
of the first "totally Benge-made" instrument. In a phone
interview on 2/14/06, Frank Kaderabek confirmed that his
#528 was made with a French Besson leadpipe and main
tuning slide, and that #527 was made with a bell from the
same French Besson trumpet. #526 was sold to Frank
Anglund, and I may be able to obtain pictures of this
trumpet along the way; it's not yet known if it is completely "Benge-made." Benge stated to Kaderabek that
#525 didn't play well. It stands to reason that Benge made prototypes, and #500 and #520 would fit that description.
The question is: how many prototypes were made? I find it
hard to believe that there were 25 prototypes, but I'm not assuming anything at this point.


1st Valve Slide-#500

Forbes Sandford Sibley received a Bachelor of Music
degree from Michigan State University in 1940 (playing
under Leonard Falcone), and then went to Eastman, where
he pursued graduate studies in music. He enlisted in the
US Army in 1942, serving in Great Britain for three years
as a cryptographer working on the decoding of the Enigma
Machine. Mr. Sibley died in September 2004 and left Benge
#500 to his children, never suspecting that he possessed an
instrument of such historical value, though he undoubtedly
would have delighted in the knowledge. The pictures were
taken by his son (except for those of the receiver, the 3rd
slide brace and the 1st valve slide, which were taken by
me); the reproduction of the letter and envelope
are courtesy of the family.

The Sibley Benge is now owned by Steve Ward.

F.S. Sibley - 1940

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