F. E. Olds Trombone Est. 1919 (custom?)

Post Reply
mcktbone
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:13 am

F. E. Olds Trombone Est. 1919 (custom?)

Post by mcktbone » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:28 pm

I recently purchased a F. E. Olds trombone with the serial number 1223. The engraving reads "Made for John H. Bear by F. E. Olds". The case also has a custom metal plate that reads John H. Bear, Lancaster, PA. There is a bear engraved on the upper bell. Through research, I have found that Olds started using the bear as trademark sometime in the mid 1920's. Referencing the serial number, this horn should have been made around 1919. I am trying to find information on John H. Bear. I'm also interested to learn if the Bear last name had anything to do with the origins of the trademark. I have attached a few pictures.
Attachments
IMG_0446.JPG
Bear engraving
IMG_0446.JPG (1.46 MiB) Viewed 562 times
IMG_0444.JPG
Bell engraving
IMG_0444.JPG (2.03 MiB) Viewed 562 times
IMG_0438.JPG
Olds trombone
IMG_0438.JPG (2.2 MiB) Viewed 562 times
User avatar
BGuttman
Posts: 558
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:19 am
Location: Cow Hampshire

Re: F. E. Olds Trombone Est. 1919 (custom?)

Post by BGuttman » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:37 pm

JohnL (our resident Olds expert) has some old catalogs where they use the slogan "it's the Bear" and I don't think they are referring to a particular musician; especially one as little known or remembered as this one.

I have one of these as well. Mine appears to have a chrome plated bell (too blue to be silver). It's an 8" bell, which I understand was unusual for this period. It's a great playing horn, but I can't use it for jazz because it tends to fall apart when doing mute changes or plunger work. I guess there was a reason the bell nut became standard.

I hope you can find out more about Mr. Bear. The engraving is unusual. Normally just says "Made by F.E. Olds" or "Made by F.E. Olds and son".
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
walldaja
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:51 pm

Re: F. E. Olds Trombone Est. 1919 (custom?)

Post by walldaja » Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:14 pm

Wow, I learned how to play on an Olds like that in 1964. I even had a chance to meet the man who played it back in the day. Being an extremely ignorant teen I didn't realize what an opportunity I could have had to sit at his feet and let him describe his life, I don't even remember his name. He had cut the rim of the mpc down flat and I played that until 67 or 68 when I traded it for an English Besson 10-10. In 69 I sold the Besson to my best friend in high school never planning to play again. I was really ignorant. This is the first time I've even seen the old bear playing a bone Olds. Thanks for the memory, wish I knew more about my horn and its master.
Doug Elliott
Posts: 197
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:12 pm

Re: F. E. Olds Trombone Est. 1919 (custom?)

Post by Doug Elliott » Wed Aug 01, 2018 9:51 pm

It's also possible the "John H Bear" engraving was an inside joke about the bear logo. I can easily imagine the engraver amusing himself that day.

If I worked there it would definitely have happened....

However, a quick search found 2 listings for "John H Bear" (father and son) in southern Pennsylvania, an hour from Lancaster. Could have been the grandfather.
User avatar
JohnL
Posts: 172
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 9:01 am
Contact:

Re: F. E. Olds Trombone Est. 1919 (custom?)

Post by JohnL » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:48 am

The bear appears in the 1927 Olds catalog, but not in the one from 1925...

The serial number lists for Olds in that era are reconstructions, but sometime around 1920 or so seems about right for a serial number in the 1200's. One clue is that it's "F. E. Olds", not "F. E. Olds and Son". Based on the old city directories, that name change took place sometime between 1920 and 1923.

As I understand it, the reference to "It's a Bear" was kind of a bit of 1920's slang.

My theory? Olds built that horn for Mr. Bear, but the trombone-playing bear wasn't immediately adopted as a trademark. A few years later, when Olds was introducing their new Self-Balancing model, they decided to adopt the catchphrase "It's a Bear" and someone remembered the little bear and dusted him off.

When I met Jean Olds Wright (Reg's daughter and Frank's granddaughter) a few years back, she had a brass plaque (roughly 5'x7') with a band of bears engraved on it. She didn't know much about its origins, unfortunately.
Doug Elliott
Posts: 197
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:12 pm

Re: F. E. Olds Trombone Est. 1919 (custom?)

Post by Doug Elliott » Thu Aug 02, 2018 12:33 pm

Maybe the joke went the other way... The bear engraving was for Mr. Bear's horn and somebody decided to keep using it. ???
User avatar
JohnL
Posts: 172
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 9:01 am
Contact:

Re: F. E. Olds Trombone Est. 1919 (custom?)

Post by JohnL » Thu Aug 02, 2018 1:38 pm

Doug Elliott wrote:
Thu Aug 02, 2018 12:33 pm
Maybe the joke went the other way... The bear engraving was for Mr. Bear's horn and somebody decided to keep using it. ???
That's pretty much what I said, but I think there was some time between that building of the horn for John H. Bear and the adoption of the bear as a trademark.

I've always had the idea that the bear was designed by Marion Vale Olds, Reg's wife. She was the art editor of the campus humor magazine at the University of Southern California in 1921-1922, and was apparently pretty well known in SoCal art circles later on for her paintings.
Post Reply

Return to “Instruments”