Conn 38A Victor Special
Date: 1936, Owned by Christine Derksen
This is the 38A Victor Special. The "Special" is in the nickel trim. It has bottom spring valves and has a #1½ (0.459") bore, which at the time was described as a "small" bore. The main tuning slide has an expanding bore: the top tube of the main tuning slide is 0.438" and the bottom tube is 0.458". The bell size is 4 5/8". It was produced between 1935 and 1941.
Patent for this instrument was applied for on October 4, 1937, U.S. Patent number 2,146,967. Part of the patent application reads as follows: "An object of the invention is to shorten the instrument, without sacrificing any of the tone quality, by arranging the tuning slide in a complete loop, the ends of which are arranged beside each other and facing in opposite directions, instead of the U-shaped section in which the tuning slide is usually arranged, thereby adding to the length of the air column in the instrument the full width of the loop, and consequently permitting shortening the the length of the instrument somewhat for any given total length of the air column. This involves offsetting the parts of the instrument body at the base of the loop, [as explained below,] to bring them along side each other." The patent application then goes on to state the second purpose of the patent: "Another object of the invention is to speed up the adjustment of the tuning slide by utilizing and adjustment member (...) having right-and-left threaded engagement with posts mounted to extend towards across the loop from the tuning slide and from the instrument body." The upshot of all this is that as well as shortening the length of the instrument by the width of the opera glass tuning slide, turning the knob of the tuning slide will extend it twice as fast as on, for example, the 80A.
I have learned that the third slide without the finger ring to adjust the pitch of a low D and C# is slightly longer than it is on modern instruments. On modern instruments the low Eb is in tune, but the low D and C# are quite sharp. On these older cornets with the longer third slide and no finger ring the Eb is a bit flat and the D and C# are slightly sharp, but not as sharp as they are on later instruments. It was thought that the flat Eb and slightly sharp D and C# were within the abilities of the player to lip into tune.
As far as I can tell at this point, all Conn cornets built before 1958 take a short shank cornet mouthpiece as opposed to the 2¾" "Bach-style" long shank cornet mouthpiece. The long shank cornet mouthpieces won't properly fit a pre-1958 Conn cornet and won't give the proper intonation or playing characteristics of a short shank cornet mouthpiece. All of Conn's "Connstellation" cornet mouthpieces are long shank mouthpieces. The "Improved Precision" Conn mouthpieces such as the Conn 4 are long shank if there is a "ridge" halfway down the shank, and short shank if there is no ridge (in which case it is a "Precision" mouthpiece). All Conn cornet mouthpieces built before the "Improved Precision" series (ridge), such as the "Precision" series (no ridge) are short shank mouthpieces. For more information see: The short and long of cornet mouthpieces
What Conn said in 1937:
The new 38A Victor cornet was developedto meet the insistent demand for a cornet similar to the famous 80A Victor but in smaller bore. Soloists especially demanded a cornet which would make their work easier in the upper register. To make a cornet in small bore with both a good upper register and also a good lower register presented a most difficult task. But Conn engineers, after nearly two years of experimenting, have produced just such a cornet. The angle of taper in the bore of this cornet is greater than in any other Conn cornet. It widens from a small mouthpipe to an unusually large throated bell. This design gives a very flexible scale and a rich, mellow tone. The upper register is true and pure, while the lower notes are solid and full. This is unusual in a small bore cornet, for generally if the upper register is good the lower register is windy, colorless and hard to get. Although free blowing, it has proper resistance which gives the player just the "feel" he wants. Being in small bore, the stroke of the pistons is shortened, giving a short, fast action. Some of the finest cornet soloists in America helped us develop this model and their tests of the final model are enthusiastic in its praise. One of the first to purchase was the famous Ernest Williams, Ernest Williams School of Music. Key of Bb and A. Tuning wheel. Clickless Crysteel valves. Finger hook.