Besson Trumpet
F. Besson Paris Trumpet





































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































F. Besson
Paris, France
Bb Model 125 Trumpet
#95460 from c.1958

Length = 19.3 "
Bell = 4.68"
Bore = 0.458"
Bb pitch
Finish: raw brass

One of the "Holy Grails" of the trumpet world are the Bb trumpets made in Paris by F. Besson. The best ones are said to have been made before WWII, but there are still some good ones made just after the war as well. After many years of looking, I bought this one for what seemed a bargain price. The main issue with collectors is the controversy about when these were actually made.

Most research points to production of up to 92000 before the war. Following the war, the company must have been in terrible financial condition. This started with the financial problems of the 1930s, followed by no production during the war, and now trying to get the business going again after. Evidence from sales dates indicates that production must have been very slow after the war; a condition that probably was not changed until 1951.

In 1951, the almost bankrupt F. Besson company was purchased by a combination of Goeffrey Hawkes (of Boosey & Hawkes) and Couesnon SA. This became a subsidiary of Editions Hawkes, the Paris publishing company belonging to Goeffrey. They allocated shares at 60% EH and 40% Couesnon, with Emil Stoecklin, of Couesnon, the director. The board included a member from Besson Inc. in San Antonio Texas. (Besson shareholder minutes)

At this time, parts were then made by Couesnon with final assembly done at Editions Hawkes in Paris. It's likely that this is when the water key was added to the third slide; a Couesnon part not matching the other water key. This sale also opens up sales to the US, as the English Besson company had held the distribution rights since the 1890s sale. Some examples of F. Besson trumpets with guarantee cards from San Antonio exist (see below).

Here it is in its original, unrestored state, and thankfully looks to have never been damaged beyond a few small dings. A few minutes of maintenance, and this was playing great again.

F Besson Paris Brevete Trumpet

Besson Trumpet

Besson Trumpet Paris

Besson Trumpet

Besson Trumpet

Probably the original mouthpiece.

Besson Paris Trumpet Brevete

Besson Trumpet

F Besson Trumpet Paris

This shows the two different water keys,

Besson Trumpet

Here is the case it came with dating to the early 1950s.

Besson Trumpet Case

The tag was added by the original owner, Ted Riddle. He lived his life in Herrin, Illinios and is said to have been a good jazz trumpeter who played in many local venues.

Here's a photo of Ted from his obituary in 2021.

Ted Riddle Herrin

These schedule books came with the horn and one dates to 1965. He was playing every Saturday night and kept these lists of numbers to play.

The original warranty card shows that this was purchased in San Antonio, Texas from C. Bruno & Son. This store was started by a former employee of Bruno in New York, Milton Fink, who moved to San Antonio and started a branch store in the 1930s. He was also behind the formation of Besson Inc in October of 1950, and would have been involved in Besson imports from the start in 1951, when Hawkes/Couesnon purchased F. Besson. They moved to the 1100 Broadway address in 1950, so this trumpet would have been purchased after this. Ted Riddle was a Korean War veteran of the USAF, so my first thought was that he bought this in the early 1950s when he might have been stationed there for training.

After studying F. Besson serial numbers more and graphing out a possible production timeline, I now feel that this trumpet was made and purchased in the late 1950s. It definitely would have been made before 1963 when they switched to English B&H valves and changed to a top-mounted third slide ring. This is likely the time when they also jumped ahead to serial numbers in the 100000 range.

This shows it as the model 125, which is also the designation found in a 1958 Besson catalog from Bruno.

This is the 1100 Broadway store in modern times.

Bruno Music Store San Antonio

I decided to strip the old lacquer and hand polish this. After weighing each horn in my collection, this one wins for the lightest weight at 33.35 oz. This has a great sound but only average intonation. It also seems to have a unique taper for the mouthpiece, as other American mouthpieces end up with a much larger gap. My next project will be to experiment with valve alignment, lead pipes, and mouthpiece gap, in an attempt to get the intonation better.

Besson Paris Trumpet