Searching for Foster Reynolds in the newspaper

I recently had the chance to subscribe to the archives of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. Their archives reach far back into the 19th century and they offer an OCR-based text search of almost all dates and pages. As you might imagine, it is a treasure trove of information related to the local businesses in and around Cleveland during the time that Reynolds operated a factory there.

In the time I had allotted, I was able to discover several items about Foster Reynolds and the F.A. Reynolds Co. that I didn’t previously know and/or could only assume. In addition, I was able to take the items learned and run some additional genealogical searches to discover additional information.

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The new ContemporaCorner.com

For various reasons, it’s been a few years since the last significant change on the site, but this update qualifies as “change” any way you look at it.  I’ve completed the initial migration of the site from static HTML pages to a database-driven site built on WordPress, a popular content management system and blogging platform, which will allow for much easier updates going forward. For now, most of the actual page content is unchanged, though there have been countless tweaks here and there and I’ve shuffled some of the pages around.

I don’t intend to turn the site into a regular “blog”, but will try to do a better job of documenting updates and changes to the site, as well as whatever new information or resources I come across.

I hope you enjoy the new site. I’ve been poking at this project a little bit at a time ever since the end of 2007 — it’s great to finally have it out in the light of day! But of course, if you run into any difficulties, please send me a note.

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New earliest Hi-Fi cornet reported

An eBay user has reported buying what appears to be a Hi-Fi model cornet with a serial number of 39243, which is ~2000 less than what I’d previously documented (41503). Based on my most recent estimates, a serial number of 39xxx would be from c.1955-56.

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Lowest Contempora serial number: 21025

A current eBay auction has what would be, for me, the earliest recorded Contempora instrument, a trumpet with a serial number of 21025. This is the second Contempora model horn with a serial number around 21xxx that I’ve noted this year.

According to trademark documents, the first usage of the Contempora brand was in 1949. Dating SN 21000 to 1949 would have a few implications: first, the design changes noted on the Reynolds/Professional models around SN 22000 may have happened after the Emperor (1947) and Contempora (1949) models were developed, or as a result of them. Second, if SN 30000 still lines up with 1952-53 (see below), then this also means an accelerated production rate, though with the addition of the Emperor and Contempora model lines, this might be expected.

As such, a revised timeline might look like this:

1946/47 — Reynolds sold to Scherl & Roth. No immediate changes to instruments. Marketing materials indicate that Reynolds is a division of Scherl & Roth.

1947 — Emperor line introduced. If estimates are correct, the initial serial numbers should be slightly under 20000. However, the lowest observed number is just under 25000.

1949 — Contempora line introduced. Serial number 21000.

1949/50 — Design changes to Reynolds cornets and trumpets (valve caps) and trombones (major redesign) — SN 22000. It is now assumed that these design changes have been previously introduced on the Emperor and Contempora lines.

1952/53 — Instruments marked “Made by Roth-Reynolds” around SN 30000.

Another implication is that the other Reynolds instruments may have switched from Reynolds to Contempora models later than 1949. For example, several low brass instruments still bear the FA Reynolds engraving with serial numbers in the mid 20000’s, or c.1951.

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Exposition French Horn

This richly engraved Reynolds Contempora Double French Horn was sold on eBay in early 2005, accompanied by the photos below and a 1989 letter of authenticity signed by Clark Newman, President of Taylor Music (Aberdeen, South Dakota). Newman had purchased the horns when Olds and Reynolds went out of business and further noted that:

Instrument engraving has become almost prohibitively expensive and these are particularly high works of art; it is difficult to estimate what it would cost to duplicate this engraving today.

The horn’s serial number of 250761 dates its production to 1970, shortly before CMI sold Reynolds’ manufacturing plant in Abilene, Texas to Conn and consolidated all Reynolds and Olds operations at the latter’s plant in Fullerton, California. Hence the reference to an “Olds French Horn” in the letter, even though the engravings clearly show a Reynolds Contempora model.

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