York Research of Dr. John. J. Swain

No website researching the history of the York Band Instrument Company would be complete without mention of the research of the late Dr. John J. Swain.  In addition to chronicling the history of the York company, Dr. Swain also assembled a catalog of each instrument that was known to exist in an extensive log that resides here.  This constantly expanding list is still maintained by his devoted successors and updated monthly for every new York instrument that is found.

Swain was born on August 12, 1950, in Yankton, South Dakota. He grew up in Tyndall, SD, and graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1972 with a BFA in Music. In 1972, Swain married his wife Gail. The same year, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army and served in Ft. Knox, KY, for two years. In 1977, he completed a MM at the University of South Dakota and then a Ph.D. in Music at Michigan State University, Lansing, MI, in 1986. Swain taught music for 27 years, starting in public schools in South Dakota, and at Olivet College, in Michigan where he served as director of bands and later as chair of the Department of Performing Arts.

During his nineteen year tenure at California State University L.A., Dr. Swain served as chair of the Department of Music and served as associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters. As chair of the University Music Administrators of California and as chair of the California Council on Music Education, he was a leader in setting agendas to examine issues in music education in California and developing programs that serve the needs of teachers and students in music education.

Swain performed as a professional musician both as a low brass specialist and as a singer. He performed with the Los Angeles Gregorian Schola, the Pasadena Pro Musica and as a freelance instrumentalist, having performed with ensembles such as the California Brass Ensemble and Rising Winds Chamber Ensemble. He was the founding conductor of the Golden State British Brass Band and has served as guest conductor of a variety of instrumental ensembles in Southern California and elsewhere. He served regularly as an adjudicator and clinician for band, orchestra and choral festivals. His published texts include The Brass Instruments: A Reference Manual. He was also a composer/arranger of works for band, brass band, orchestra and small ensembles. Swain was proud to serve as a judge for the Bravo Awards, sponsored by the Los Angeles Music Center.

 

He passed away in 2003, after a courageous battle with cancer.  The goal of this web site is to continue to share information about the York company in the spirit of Dr. Swain's important research.

 

Courtesy of Dr. Swain's original York Research internet site recreated and preserved by: 

https://www.thesax.info/jwyork/Yorkres.htm

WELCOME TO THE J.W. YORK RESEARCH SITE

 

This site is a repository of information concerning J. W. York and Sons, a manufacturer of band instruments in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1882-1971. The work on this site represents nearly 15 years of accumulated research and input from performers, collectors and others with an interest in musical instruments and York.

About 15 years ago, I began research on a dissertation cataloging the E-flat tubas in the Shrine to Music Museum at the University of South Dakota. As part of that research, I attempted to determine the dates of manufacture of each of the instruments surveyed. Serial number lists existed for most of the major manufacturers, and at least two of the manufacturers still in business could provide very accurate dates. Because no such serial number list existed for the York Band Instrument Company (known also as J. W. York and Sons) of Grand Rapids, Michigan, I created a serial number chart with a range of date possibilities based on instrument production curves surmised from the information available at that time. After more than a decade of collecting information (quite sporadically) from a variety of sources, and attempting to interpret that information in a logical fashion, I am now ready to present what should be a far more accurate representation of the production schedule of the York Company.

Welcome to the York Information Area

The content of this site is an experiment. In published documents the reader sees the final product, in which the author selects those facts and ideas from the research which are deemed most significant to the topic. In this area, however, I am presenting a significant amount of the information I have accumulated with the hope that you will read it and send comments, contributions and corrections. In this way, we will be able to strengthen the knowledge base about York and improve the accuracy of the information.

A Note on the Use of the Material

One of the basic reasons we do scholarly research is to broaden the understanding of a particular topic. Consequently, the individual researcher is usually happy to have the information they have accumulated, studied and organized, disseminated to the widest possible audience. As a result, others may take the information and use it in their own research. While this is perfectly appropriate, it should always be done with the understanding that at each step along the way, the work of the individual researcher is recognized through proper citation or through the granting of permission to use the material, where appropriate.

Please follow the guidelines and regulations appropriate to the nature of the use of the material. I would also very much appreciate being informed when my research is being cited.

Acknowledgments

Very many individuals have contributed information about their instruments and about their associations with York. I am most grateful for their help. In certain instances, I have indicated who those individuals are and how they contacted me. Generally, however, I have not listed names for those individuals who provided information about their instruments, in order to protect their privacy.

I wish to acknowledge in particular the Shrine to Music Museum and its staff for their help in this project. Almost all of the citations from magazines and catalogs were taken from materials they had already catalogued, thus making my work considerably easier. In addition, much of the information about a great many of the instruments was gleaned from their catalog sheets. I wish to thank Dr. Andre' Larson, Director of the Shrine to Music Museum for allowing me to have access to the materials. I wish to especially thank Dr. Margaret Downie Banks, Curator of Music Instruments and Professor of Museum Science, for her work in identifying and cataloging information on York from Music Trades and many other sources and for sharing her expertise on York and a variety of related topics.

Summary of Research

Regarding J.W. York and Sons York Band Instrument Company Grand Rapids Band Instrument Company USA Line

Note: The letters/numbers in bold type at the beginning of each document listed below are used elsewhere on this site as a means of identifying the source.

 

From the York Archives:

The Shrine to Music Museum
414 East Clark Street
The University of South Dakota
Vermillion, South Dakota 57069

1. "The Two Martins," The Music Trades, Vol 24, No. 10, p. 39, 1902

  • Father and son Henry martin were employed by J.W. York and Son. Martin Sr. is 67. The Martin factory in Chicago was destroyed in the great Chicago fire. Henry Martin, Jr. is superintendent of the York factory. The latest product is the York valve trombone, which is made to resemble the slide trombone.

2. "J. W York and Sons," The Music Trades, Vol 23, No. 18, p. 41, 1902

  • Demand is taxing the capacity of the factory. Stringed instruments are newly added. York and Sons are getting out booklets.

3. "York Entertains Holton," The Music Trades, Vol. 24, No. 4, p. 38, 1902

  • Holton was a partner in the manufacturing business in Grand Rapids with York fifteen years ago. (1886)

4. "Attempt to Burn York Plant," The Music Trades, Vol. 24, No. 16, p. 25, 19025. "Latest York Catalog," The Music Trades, Vol 24, No. 18, p. 47, 1902

  • York received new proofs of a 22 page catalog, called "York's Silent Salesman." Dimensions are 10x12.5, enameled paper with 45 cuts (plates). Page 1 shows the York solo alto horn. The York valve trombone is also seen. Page 12 shows the Monster Eb Bass. Page 13 shows the York BBb bass. Page 14 shows the York BBb helicon.

6. "J. W. York and Sons to Move," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 2, July 11, 1903, p. 41

  • J.W. York will move into the Raniville building at the corner of Campau and Lyon. Will occupy 11,000 square feet on the second floor. There has been a large increase in the company's business. The present quarters are Numbers 3,5 and 7 North Ionia Street. Sixty people are now employed.

7. "York and Sons New Cornet," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 4, July 25, 1903, p. 40

  • The debut of the York "Professional" model cornet (shepherd's crook). It is fitted with a quick change device to change from Bb to A. It comes with a low pitch slide and 1st and 3rd low pitch valve slides.

8. "Secure Larger Quarters," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 8, August 22, 1903, p. 42

  • Yorks are pioneers in the band instrument manufacturing business in Grand Rapids, having started the industry 20 years ago (1883). For the first six years, the firm had small quarters on Canal Street. For the last sixteen years they have been on North Ionia. Some time ago they purchased a site for a factory on South Division Street. They were going to build in the summer of 1903, but conditions were not favorable.

9. "J. W. York and Sons Rushed," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 9, August 29, 1903, p. 41

  • The move into the new factory has been delayed because orders are so large, even with everyone working overtime. They can't keep up with production demands.

10. "The House of York in New York," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 9, November 7, 1903, p. 4

  • York is now fully established in the new factory. There is a heavy demand for the professional cornet. The "Musical Herald", York's monthly paper, has just been issued (presumably for the first time?)

11. "York Slide Trombone," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 22, November 28, 1903, p. 4312. "George W. Jackson Now with J. W. York and Sons," The Music Trades, Vol. 27, No. 18, April 30, 1904, p. 43

  • George Jackson is now employed by York. The factories are located at Numbers 2-20 Lyon Street.

13. "Heavy York Band Instrument Business," The Music Trades, Vol XXIX, No. 10, p. 50, March 11, 1905

  • York had to reoccupy the old factory on Ionia as the case and drum department.

14. "House of York Spreads Out," The Music Trades, Vol. XXX, No. 2, p. 49, July 15, 1905

  • The House of York spreads out, adding 7000 feet (to 21,000) to the factory. The factory is devoted exclusively to brass and silver-plate band instruments. "From humble beginnings 30 years ago (1875?) York now employs 100 people.

15. "Give the Boys the Credit That is Due Them," The Music Trades, Vol. XI, No. 22, p. 51, June 3, 1905

  • In number 10 of York's Musical Herald, "Frank and Charles, my two sons, have grown up in the business for 25 years and have strained to make it a success." Through the days when they were battling against business depression and money panics. . . . . . (Evidently Charles was hands on and Frank was the business end.

16. "York and Sons Eb Bass," The Music Trades, Vol. XXIX, No. 5, p. 51, February 4, 1905

  • The York "Monster" Eb bass.

17. "Heavy Demand for Band Instruments," The Music Trades, Vol XXXIII, No. 20, p. 41, May 18, 1907

  • The American manufacturers of band instruments are experiencing an era of unexampled (?) prosperity. "The growth of their business (York) has been steady and remarkable."

18. Advertisement, The Metronome, Vol. 24, No. 3, March, 1913

  • "1912 was the largest of our 30 years (1882?) of band instrument manufacturing, but 1913 will be larger." "In just a trifle over 30 years, we have built better than 57,000 of them."

19. Advertisement, The Dominant, Vol. 21, No. 3, May 1913

  • "Some 60,000 musicians own York Instruments."

20. Advertisement, The Dominant, Vol. 21, No. 6, August 1913

  • Another announcement for the Al-Tru cornet. "An instrument representing our more than 30 years experience."

21. Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 25, No. 9, June 191322. Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 25, No. 9, June 1913

  • Advertises catalog #4 - the Drum catalog.

23. Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 25, No. 12, September, 1913

  • The Al-Tr cornet is advertised. It has a unique slide stop mechanism. There is a new valve system in which the 3rd valve controls two slides--A or Bb. Top of the ad says "Made by York" and the bottom of the ad says "J.W. York and Sons."

24. Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 25, No. 12, September, 1913

  • An advertisement for the Drummer's book. Instructions are to ask for book E.

25. Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 26, No. 2, November, 191326. Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 26, No. 2, November, 1913

  • Advertising the Al-Tru cornet with a purchase price of $65

27. Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 26, No. 3, December, 1913

  • Instruments are listed to try by mail. The following instruments are listed: C, Bb and A cornets, Metropolitan trumpet, Band and Orchestra horn in F, Eb, and D, slide trombone, valve trombone, snare drum, Eb tenor--upright, euphonium, double belled euphonium, Eb bass--small size, Eb monster bass, BBb bass--small size, monster BBb bass, helicon BBb bass, saxophone.

28. Advertisement, The Dominant, Vol. 30, July, 1923

  • The company is still listed as J.W. York and Sons in this advertisement.

29. Advertisement, The Metronome, Vol. XLII, No. 16, p. 45, August 15, 1926

  • Signature is listed as the York Band Instrument Company. "Makers of good band instruments since 1882."

30. "The Instruments of the Band," Booklet published by York, 1927

  • This also shows the York Band Instrument Company as the signature. 3rd edition. Advertises a fleugel horn and a mellophone, called a Band and Orchestra horn. The engraving on the photograph of the tuba bell still appears to read J. W. York and Sons.

31. York Band Instrument Catalog, June 1, 1928

  • This is catalog #40. The engravings on bells all say Made by J.W. York and Sons, Grand Rapids, Mi. Almost all the listings note that instruments are supplied in low pitch only. Tubas in particular still have high pitch and low pitch in combination only. None of the instruments are listed by name, only by model number.

32. Advertisement, The Music Magazine, November, 1928

  • The address is shown as MU-28 Division Avenue

33. Advertisement, The Bandmaster, Vol. 3, No. 5, May, 192843. York Band Instrument Catalog, 1935

  • This catalog is almost an exact duplicate of the 1929 catalog except that all instruments in the catalog are shown as low pitch only.

45. "York Instrument Company, formed in 1882, A Leader," Grand Rapids Herald, February 9, 1937

  • "In 1882...., J. W. York, a former army musician who was playing in the Grand Rapids theaters, decided to go into business for himself. The founder was then past 40 when he set up his business on the ground floor of the building in lower Monroe Avenue, where Heyman's store now stands." By 1890 York was operating a repair plant and making a few small instruments. (cornets and trombones). New models were added until 1898 when the company was making a complete line of cup mouthpiece brass instruments. The original factory was in Ionia Avenue. Later it was moved to the Raniville Power building. In 1908, the present plant at 1600 South Division Avenue was built. For many years the company was owned solely by York and Sons. In 1913 a stock company was formed. The management in 1937 included: Karl B. Shinkman, president and treasurer; Alfred J. Johnson, vice-president; L.E. Butler, secretary. J.E. Mead, assistant treasurer.

46. "York Company Sold, Will Expand," (Grand Rapids Herald?) December 5, 1940

  • The York company was purchased by Carl Fischer. There is a plan to double production and employment. Ninety persons are now employed. "The founder, J.W. York, first located on Monroe Avenue, later Ionia Avenue." The Division Avenue plant was built in 1908. The firm was incorporated in 1906. The name was changed to York Band Instrument Company in 1926. The York family interests were sold to James and John Duffy in 1913.

47. York Band Instrument Catalog, 1952

  • USA Line instruments are advertised. Bugles were also advertised. "York bugles have been outstanding for 50 years."

48. Packing list for a shipment to Arne B. Larson, December 12, 1953

  • This shows shipment of a receiver for a Model 160 with the serial number 186549.

50. York Band Instrument Catalog, 1957 (1960?)

  • This catalog shows anniversary model cornets and trumpets. Rotary valve tubas are also shown.

52. York Band Instrument Catalog, (1964?) Address of York from catalog cover is 1600 Division Avenue South, Grand Rapids 2, Michigan

  • This is a copy of the previous catalog, except less well done (more cheaply produced)

54. York Band Instrument Catalog and price list, June 1, 1966

  • The opening commentary "for over 75 years," is also used in earlier catalogs.

56. York Band Instrument Catalog and price list, January 1, 196757. York Band Instrument Catalog and price list, January 1, 196858. Letter to Arne B. Larson from York, August 7, 1968

  • This letter indicates that it would be far too time consuming to recreate a serial number list.

59. York Band Instrument Catalog and price list, March 1, 1970

  • This gives a brief history of York. Introduction states that Holton, Martin and Foster worked at the factory. By 1898 he had a full line of band instruments made in his own factory. States that the company has been in business for 90 years. The back of the catalog notes that it is a subsidiary of Fischer, and the address is given as 105 E. 16th Street, New York.

61. York Band Instrument Catalog, (1973?)

  • Name change to York Musical Instrument Company, Incorporated (1973) Address is 55 Marcus Drive, Melville, New York 11764

62. York Band Instrument Catalog and price list (also strings catalog), June 1, 1973

Additional Research and Correspondence

SW. Brian Frederickson. Arnold Jacobs: Song and Wind. Edited by John Taylor. Gurney, Illinois: Windsong Press, Ltd., 1996

MK Kriven, Martin. A Century of Wind Instrument Manufacturers in the United States, 1860-1960, State University of Iowa, PhD, 1961. University Microfilms International.

S1.Telephone Interview with Vern Avery, former York employee, Holland, Michigan 24 January 1984

S4. Letter from Lloyd Farrar, Silver Spring, Maryland, 21 June 1984
S7. Telephone interview with Robert Elaison, 11 January 1983

S8. Interview with Arne Larson, Shrine to Music Museum, 11 January 1983

S9. Telephone interview with Ralph Wells, former York employee, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2 February 1984

S10. Telephone interview with Gene Pilszuk, former York employee, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2 February 1984

S11. Telephone interview with Rose Thorndill (Venza), former York employee, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2 February 1984

S15. From York's Musical Journal Vol II, No. 7, December, 1885:
Advertisements for several instruments, including Higham (sold by Lyon and Healy), Challenger (sold by WW Fisher in Penn, also Besson and Courtois cornets), Boston Musical Instrument Factory 3-Star Bb cornet, and Excelsior Band Instruments by Charles Missenharter, New York.

S17. Letter from Gene Pokorny, Chicago Symphony, 25 October 1989

S19. Grand Rapids Business Directory:
Grand Rapids Band Instrument Company was a subsidiary of York and Son, Est. 1883. In 1930, the name Grand Rapids Band Instrument Company no longer appears in the directory.

S20. Letter from Glenn Bridges to the Grand Rapids Public Library (no date):
York went into the publishing business with Frank Holton of Allegan, Michigan, before going into the manufacturing business. York's granddaughter was Mrs. Lucille Reynolds of Grand Rapids. He had one great-granddaughter.

S21. Grand Rapids Press, 28 April 1894: York hired workmen from Courtois and Besson

S22. Grand Rapids Press, 19 December 1908:
York produces an average of 300 instruments per month. The market is the US and Canada. The company employs 130 people. Personnel include:

  • Alfred Johnson - expert instrument maker

  • Edward Gonrad - valve department

  • Frank Simmer - bell maker

  • William Fitzsimmons - plating James Miller - buffing and polishing

S23. Grand Rapids Press, 1/26/5: York has 85 employees

S24. Grand Rapids Press, 5 Dec. 1971:
In 1890, York joined with Tom Thomas and opened an office at Ionia and Fulton Streets to repair instruments. York employed 300 people at one time. In 1951 there were 120 workers. The business was sold to James and John Duffy (original partners) in 1913 and the name was changed to York Band Instrument Co. in 1926. Carl Fischer bought York for $300,000 in 1940 and sold it in 1970 to Tolchin Instruments, Inc. Alvin Feldman, the manager, left to manage the service department of the Chicago Music Instrument Company in Lincolnwood, Illinois.

S25. Summary of Information from the county records

S23 February 1927: Articles of Association, James Duffy, President. Address is 1600 Division Avenue, SE 23 December 1931: Karl Shinkman is appointed agent for the company 16 February 1936: Karl B. Shinkman is Vice President, L.E. Butler is Secretary. Total stock is 15000 shares at $10 per share.

Board of Directors is:

  • James Duffy, 319 Ashburn, S.E.

  • John Duffy, 20 Gay St. S.E.

  • Karl Shinkman, 1412 Prospect, S.E.

  • Benjamin Robinson, 50 College Avenue, S.E.

  • Alfred Johnson, 341 Fuller Ave. S.E.
     

7 January 1941: Jonathon Mead is appointed Resident Agent, H. Meyers is President

21 March 1942: Pearl Vanstratt is appointed Resident Agent, Harry Meyers is President

22 July 1954: Alford Freeman is appointed Resident Agent, Alphonse Derleth is Assistant Secretary

6 December 1964: Carl Schwartz is President, David Myers is Secretary; company is registered in the State of New York.

7 September 1971: Rose Venza is appointed Agent for the company.

28 June 1972: Murray Morris is Secretary; location is changed from 1600 Division Street in Grand Rapids to 615 Griswold Street in Detroit.

S26. Telephone interview with Dr. Margaret Downie Banks, Shrine to Music Museum, undated

S28. York Catalog, hand dated 1916

S29. York Catalog, hand dated 1907

S30. Interview with Robb Stewart, Arcadia, California, March, 1995

J.W. York and Sons/York Band Instrument Company Timeline

YEAR                         COMMENTARY

1839

  • J.W. York is born in Exeter, New Hampshire (MK)

1882

  • James York formed business with brother (S4)

  • Company founded by J.W. York (S27)

  • "Makers of good band instruments since 1882." (29)

  • "In 1882...., J. W. York, a former army musician who was playing in the Grand Rapids theaters, decided to go into business for himself (45)

  • "...set up his business on the ground floor of the building in lower Monroe Avenue." (45)

1883

  • York and Son established (S19)

  • York enters a brief partnership with Smith (SW)

1884

  • Company is known as J.W. York and Company (SW)

1885

  • York began importing instruments (S7)

  • York enters a brief partnership with Holton. (SW)

  • York manufacturing a good cornet (MK)

1886

 

1887

  • Company renamed York and Son in recognition of his infant son, Charles E. (SW)

  • Holton is a partner with York (3)

1888

 

1889

 

1890

  • York joined with Tom Thomas to open an office to repair instruments (S24)

  • "By 1890 York was operating a repair plant and making a few small instruments." (45)

1891

 

1892

 

1893

 

1894

 

1895

 

1896

 

1897

  • Alfred J. "Bill" Johnson becomes company foreman (SW)

  • Bill Johnson joins the company (MK)

1898

  • Company renamed York and Sons in recognition of second son, Frank W. (SW)

  • "New models were added until 1898 when the company was making a complete line of cup mouthpiece brass instruments." (45)

1899

 

1900

  • Sons Frank and Charles joined the business (S4)

1901

 

1902

  • Henry Martin Jr. and Sr. employed by York (1)

  • Henry Martin Jr. is plant superintendent (1)

  • Valve trombone is the latest product (1)

  • Demand is taxing the capacity of the factory (2)

  • Stringed instruments are newly added to the inventory (2)

  • Booklets are being produced. (2)

  • The York "Silent Salesman)(5)

  • Attempt to burn the factory (4)

  • York bugles are first produced about this time. (47)

1903

  • Company will move into the Raniville Building at the corner of Campau and Lyon. Present quarters are on Ionia Street (6)

  • Large increase in the company's business (6)

  • 60 people are now employed (6)

  • Debut of Professional Model Cornet (7)

  • Company to secure larger quarters. Site for new factory purchased on South Division Street (8)

  • Company moves into new quarters in November (9)

  • "York's Musical Herald is issued (10)

  • There is a heavy demand for the Professional model cornet (10)

1904

  • George W. Jackson is now employed by York (12)

  • The York factories are located at #2-20 Lyon Street (12)

1905

  • York reopens the old factory on Ionia as the case and drum department (13)

  • 7000 square feet are added to the factory, which is devoted to brass and silver plated instruments (14)

  • York now employs 100 people (14)

1906

  • York firm is incorporated. (46)

1907

  • York and other manufacturers are experiencing continued growth and prosperity (17)

1908

  • York produces 300 instruments per month. There are 130 workers. (S22)

  • "In 1908, the present plant at 1600 South Division Avenue was built." (45)

1909

 

1910

 

1911

 

1912

  • 1912 was largest volume year in the 30-year history of the company, but 1913 will be larger. (18)

1913

  • Business sold to James and John Duffy (S24)

  • Advertisement in Metronome indicating that York has produced better than 50,000 instruments in 30 years. (S26)

  • York sons Frank and Charles phase out the business (SW)

  • Bill Johnson, along with James and John Duffy formed a stockholding company (SW)

  • March 1913 "...we have builded better than 57,000 of them." (18)

  • May, 1913 "...some 60,000 musicians own York instruments." (19)

  • Announcement of the Al-Tru cornet (20)

  • "In 1913 a stock company was formed." (45)

  • York family interests were sold to James and John Duffy (46)

1914

 

1915

 

1916

 

1917

  • J.W. York retires and moves to California (SW)

1918

  • York made valve trombone in late teens (S9)

1919

 

1920

 

1921

 

1922

 

1923

 

1924

 

1925

 

1926

  • Company name changed to York Band Instrument Company (S24)

  • York family relinquishes all interest in the company (SW)

  • August: Signature is listed as York Band Instrument Company in advertisements. "Makers of good band instruments since 1882." (29)

1927

  • James Duffy is listed as president on the articles of association (S25)

  • J.W. York dies on February 9th in Los Angeles. (SW)

  • Signature on the catalogue booklet is York Band Instrument Company (30)

1928

  • York and Sons signature is used until this year. (S30)

  • Catalog #40. Almost all instruments are listed as available in low pitch only. (31)

  • Company address is shown as MU-28 Division Avenue (32)

1929

 

 

1930

 

1931

  • Karl Shinkman is appointed agent for the company (S25)

1932

 

1933

 

1934

 

1935

 

1936

  • Karl Shinkman is secretary. L.E. Butler is Secretary. (S25)

  • Total stock in the company is 15000 shares at $10 per share. (S25)

1937

  • Karl Shrinkman is president and treasurer. Alfred Johnson is vice president. L.E. Butler is secretary and J.E. Mead is assistant treasurer (45)

1938

 

1939

 

1940

  • York purchased by another company (S1)

  • York sold the assets to the company (S7)

  • Carl Fischer buys York for $300,000 (S24)

  • York sold to Carl Fischer Musical Instruments, December (SW)

  • York is in financial difficulty and is purchased by Carl Fischer (MK)

1941

  • Jonathon Mead is appointed resident agent. H. Meyers is president (S25)

1942

  • Pearl Vanstratt is appointed resident agent. Harry Meyers is president (S25)

1943

  • York manufactures munitions for the government (through the war years) (SW)

1944

 

1945

 

1946

 

1947

 

1948

 

1949

 

1950

  • Serial numbers were in the 150,000 range (S10)

1951

  • York has 120 workers (S24)

1952

  • York has 85 employees (S23)

  • USA line instruments are listed in the catalog (47)

1953

  • Alford Freeman is appointed resident agent. Alphonse Derleth is assistant secretary (S25)

1954

 

1955

 

1956

 

1957

  • Anniversary model cornets and trumpets are shown in the catalog as are rotary valve tubas. (50)

1958

 

1959

 

1960

 

1961

 

1962

 

1963

 

1964

  • York company was out of business. (S9)

  • Carl Schwartz is president. David Meyers is secretary (S25)

  • Company is registered in the State of New York (S25)

1965

 

1966

 

1967

 

1968

1969

 

1970

  • York sold to Tolchin Instruments (S24)

1971

  • Rose Venza is appointed agent (S25)

  • Tolchin Instrument Company closes the Grand Rapids factory (SW)

1972

  • Murray Morris is appointed secretary (S25)

  • Company registration is changed from Grand Rapids to 615 Griswold Street in Detroit (S25)

1973

  • York purchased by Martin Tolchin. (S12)

  • Name of the company is York Musical Instrument Company, Incorporated. Address is 55 Marcus Drive, Melville, New York. (61)

1974

 

1975

 

1976

  • Proprietary rights to the company purchased by Boosey and Hawkes. (SW)

The following benchmark instruments were used to establish provisional list.

  • 7500 at 1903: based on the presentation instrument dated 1903 with the serial number 8400

  • 28,000 at 1910: This is the approximate serial number of the oldest instrument in the research base to have the 1910 patent date.

  • 89,000 at 1927: The is the approximate serial number of the oldest instrument in the research base to still bear the J.W. York and Sons signature.

  • 91,000 at 1928: An instrument with this approximate serial number was dated through contact with the original owner.

  • 109,000 at ca. 1933: An instrument with this approximate serial number was dated through contact with the original owner.

  • 112,000 at ca. 1937: An instrument with this approximate serial number was dated through contact with the original owner.

  • 120,000 at ca. 1929: An instrument with this approximate serial number was dated through contact with the original owner.

  • 180,000 at ca. 1953: This is based on an invoice for a part for an instrument with this approximate serial number.

Fluctuations in the production numbers were based on the following:

  • The numbers for 1890-1903 are completely conjectural. They are based on what seems to be a logical expansion of production in the last decade of the 19th century.

  • Beginning at 1908 the production figure of 3600 is based on the newspaper article which gives the monthly production figures (300 instruments per month)

  • The drop in production for 1915-16 is based on similar drops among the other manufacturers as a result of World War I.

  • The slow decline in the late 1920's and early 1930's is based on similar fluctuations among other manufacturers. This includes a sizable drop during the years of the Great Depression and a steady growth in the latter half of the 1930's.

  • Few of the manufacturers produced instruments during the last 2-3 years of World War II.

  • All of the manufacturers exhibit a dramatic growth in production immediately following World War II.

Notes Relating to the Establishment of a Provisional Serial Number List

Anomalies:

Obviously, some adjustments were made to the production numbers in order for them to jibe with the serial numbers of the benchmark instruments. In some cases, it was not possible to create a matrix which satisfied both areas. It is also certain that some of the information provided on the benchmark instruments, while generally quite close, may be off by a year or two.

What was thought would be one of the most important statements about production actually turned out to be one of the single most problematic facts--the 1913 advertisement which touted a total production of 60,000 instruments to that date. In the final analysis, this number simply didn't jibe with either the production figures as presented in earlier articles or the benchmark instruments. Two possible explanations seem plausible.

It was common practice among the instrument manufacturers to produce instruments which were sold to retailers without a signature. The retailers would then stencil their trademark on the instrument and sell it as their own. It is possible that York did not provide a serial number for instruments which were to be sold in this manner, and this would account for at least part of the disparity.

A second possible explanation is that York produced many instruments either without serial numbers or with a different serial number sequence. Drums, for example, are not likely to have had numbers, and it is possible that the stringed instruments sold under the York name had their own sequence. The Grand Rapids Band Instrument Company, a subsidiary of York, evidently had its own serial number sequence since the details of the GRBI instruments are not consistent with those of York from the same time period. This could also account, at least in part, for the differences. Finally, it is possible that York did not begin to put serial numbers on any instruments until quite late in the 19th century.

Of the two explanations, the first is least likely, in that at least one of the sources, an individual who worked at the York plant for many years, indicated that the serial numbers were stamped on the valves and the valve assemblies were made at a different time in a different part of the plant. If in fact the serial number was stamped on the second valve during the valve manufacturing process and not during the final assembly, then the first explanation seems least likely, in as much as the valve makers would have little idea about which instruments were to receive York signatures and which were to be sent out unstencilled.

As was stated before, the numbers provided for the early years are completely conjectural, based only on what seems to be logical increases in production up to the time of the first verifiable instrument. It is curious, however, that a company with the capacity to produce 3600 instruments per year by 1908 would have such low production figures in the previous decade. The most likely explanation is compatible with the explanation for the inconsistency between the serial numbers of instruments and York's advertised claim to have made 60,000 instruments in thirty years. That is, York did not begin to put serial numbers on their instruments until the last two or three years of the 19th century. If this was the case, then serial numbers would not start until about 1898, and the yearly production figures would be compatible with those estimated for the early years of the 20th century.

Given the foregoing information, here is presented the revised serial number list for York. While I am confident that the suggested list presented here is more accurate that the original document which appeared in my dissertation some 12 years ago, (and which has since been reproduced in a number of other documents) I would caution that it is still far from a definitive list. As with my original document, I would suggest that a buffer of two years on either side of the target date would be a better way to date an instrument. A five year spread will be a much more accurate.

Bibliography

Interviews

Telephone Interview with Vern Avery, Holland, Michigan 24 January 1984

Telephone Interview with Robert Elaison, 11 January 1983

Interview with Arne Larson, 11 January 1983

Telephone Interview with Ralph Wells, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2 February 1984

Telephone Interview with Gene Pilszuk, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2 February 1984

Telephone Interview with Rose Thorndill (Venza), 2 February 1984

Interview with Robb Stewart - March, 1995

 

Correspondence

Letter from Lloyd Farrar, Silver Spring, Maryland, 21 June 1984

Letter from Fred Hertlein, Honolulu, Hawaii, 30 April 1993

Letter from James R. Huff, Vero Beach, Florida, 22 October 1989

Letter from Kenneth Pick, 8 August 1989

Letter from Gene Pokorny, 25 October 1989

Letter from Glenn Bridges to the Grand Rapids Public Library

Letter to Arne B. Larson from York, August 7, 1968

Packing list for a shipment to Arne B. Larson, December 12, 1953

 

Books and Periodicals

Frederiksen, Brian. Arnold Jacobs: Song and Wind, edited by John Taylor. Gurnee, Illinois: Windsong Press, Ltd., 1996

From York's Musical Journal Vol II, No. 7, December, 1885

Grand Rapids Business Directory

Grand Rapids Press, 28 April 1894

Grand Rapids Press, 19 December 1908

Grand Rapids Press, 1/26/52

Grand Rapids Press, 5 Dec. 1971

Kriven, Martin. A Century of Wind Instrument Manufacturers in the United States, 1860-1960, State University of Iowa, PhD, 1961. University Microfilms International.

"The Two Martins," The Music Trades, Vol 24, No. 10, p. 39

"J. W York and Sons," The Music Trades, Vol 23, No. 18, p. 41

"York Entertains Holton," The Music Trades, Vol. 24, No. 4, p. 38

"Attempt to Burn York Plant," The Music Trades, Vol. 24, No. 16, p. 25

"Latest York Catalog," The Music Trades, Vol 24, No. 18, p. 47

"York and Sons New Cornet," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 4, July 25, 1903, p. 40

"Secure Larger Quarters," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 8, August 22, 1903, p. 42

"J. W. York and Sons Rushed," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 9, August 29, 1903, p. 41

"The House of York in New York," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 9, November 7, 1903, p. 47

"York Slide Trombone," The Music Trades, Vol. 26, No. 22, November 28, 1903, p. 43

"George W. Jackson Now with J. W. York and Sons," The Music Trades, Vol. 27, No. 18, April 30, 1904, p. 43

"Heavy York Band Instrument Business," The Music Trades, Vol XXIX, No. 10, p. 50, March 11, 1905

"House of York Spreads Out," The Music Trades, Vol. XXX, No. 2, p. 49, July 15, 1905

"Give the Boys the Credit That is Due Them," The Music Trades, Vol. XI, No. 22, p. 51, June 3, 1905

"York and Sons Eb Bass," The Music Trades, Vol. XXIX, No. 5, p. 51, February 4, 1905

"Heavy Demand for Band Instruments," The Music Trades, Vol XXXIII, No. 20, p. 41, May 18, 1907

Advertisement, The Metronome, Vol. 24, No. 3, March, 1913

Advertisement, The Dominant, Vol. 21, No. 3, May 1913

Advertisement, The Dominant, Vol. 21, No. 6, August 1913

Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 25, No. 9, June 1913

Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 25, No. 9, June 1913

Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 25, No. 12, September, 1913

Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 25, No. 12, September, 1913

Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 26, No. 2, November, 1913

Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 26, No. 2, November, 1913

Advertisement, The Musical Enterprise, Vol. 26, No. 3, December, 1913

Advertisement, The Dominant, Vol. 30, July, 1923

Advertisement, The Metronome, Vol. XLII, No. 16, p. 45, August 15, 1926

Advertisement, The Music Magazine, November, 1928

Advertisement, The Bandmaster, Vol. 3, No. 5, May, 1928

"York Instrument Company, formed in 1882, A Leader," Grand Rapids Herald, February 9, 1937

"York Company Sold, Will Expand," (Grand Rapids Herald?) December 5, 1940

 

Catalogs

York Catalog hand dated 1907

York Catalog hand dated 1916

York Catalog hand dated September 4, 1928.

"The Instruments of the Band," Booklet published by York, 1927

York Band Instrument Catalog, June 1, 1928

York Band Instrument Catalog, 1935

York Band Instrument Catalog, 1952

York Band Instrument Catalog, 1957 (1960?)

York Band Instrument Catalog, (1964?)York Band Instrument Catalog and price list, June 1, 1966

York Band Instrument Catalog and price list, January 1, 1968

York Band Instrument Catalog and price list, March 1, 1970

York Band Instrument Catalog, (1973?)

York Band Instrument Catalog and price list (also strings catalog), June 1, 1973

 

Return to Table of Contents

York Band
Serial Numbers
courtesy of
Horn-u-copia.net

York instrument serial numbers are still being researched, as no complete record of instrumental serial numbers from the Grand Rapids factory has ever been found.

 

Pre-1940 instruments are genuinely made in the Grand Rapids factory.  After 1940, the origin of an instrument may be in question as York was sold to Carl Fisher, which outsourced the making of York instruments to other companies.  A detailed record of found instruments exists here.

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