The Scherl & Roth Years


Cleveland, Ohio

In March 1946, Foster Reynolds retired and Heinrich Roth became the new president of F.A. Reynolds Co. The official transfer of control was signed and notarized on March 28, 1946 and filed with the Secretary of State's office on April 2. In addition to their string business, Roth and Max Scherl now owned and managed three separate band instrument lines and two manufacturing businesses: F.A. Reynolds Co., Roth Band Instruments and The Regent, the latter two manufactured by Ohio Band Instrument Co. 

Up to this point, the various instrument lines had simply been known as "Reynolds", "Roth" and "Regent", and each line was managed separately. Catalogs and other materials from the late 1940s present these as "the 3 R's in music" with the Reynolds slogan, "Band Instruments of Distinction".

In marketing literature, the Reynolds line was now described as made by "F.A. Reynolds Co., a division of Scherl & Roth". Roth Band Instruments had been initially advertised as "Manufactured by Ohio Band Instrument Co." (1940) but then shifted to "Scherl & Roth Inc." (1942 ff.). The Regent instruments continued to be made under the Ohio Band label—as dealer-exclusive models, these didn't appear in public advertising. Actual Regent instruments now only included the cornet, trumpet, tenor trombone and metal clarinet models.


It was under this business framework that deluxe versions of the Roth trumpet, cornet and trombone were introduced c.1947-48 with a new feature—a nickel-silver bell flare fused to a brass bell stem.

These "Tone Tempered" bells are identical to the same metallurgical marriage that Olds introduced with their "Brilliant Bell" on the 1948/49 Studio line, launched a short time after Foster Reynolds had joined F.E. Olds in California (see below). It's yet unknown if this was coincidence, collaboration or competition between his former and current companies.

A year or two later, however, and a different approach to the instrument lines was in motion. Rather than maintain three distinct product lines, each with different levels of instruments (like the deluxe "Tone Tempered" Roth horns), Scherl & Roth began the process of consolidating their band instrument catalog under one brand, eventually to be known as Roth-Reynolds. Regent (and the Ohio Band subsidiary business) would be eliminated, Roth was repositioned as the student line (competing against the new Ambassador models from Olds) and the Reynolds line would be rebranded and diversified to address new and different segments of the market.

According to the trademark application filed with the U.S. Patent Office, the model name "Emperor" was first used on November 1, 1947. Registered in 1952, the trademark was renewed once in 1972 before being allowed to expire by the current owners. However, there is some question of timing for the actual instruments themselves. The earliest documented Emperor serial numbers are from c.1950 and catalog evidence suggests that they were introduced around the same time that the Contempora brand was applied across the Reynolds catalog, also c.1950. It's more likely that Scherl & Roth listed the "first use" date as when the "Tone Tempered" bells were introduced (on Roth instruments), as those became the characteristic feature of the new Emperor line.

Like the "Regent" line earlier, the model name "Emperor" may have been chosen to counter an attempt by Boosey & Hawkes to enter the U.S. market after World War II with their Emperor model instruments, and to protect Scherl & Roth's international import and distribution connections. 

When they do finally appear in the Reynolds catalog, the models are introduced as "the new Reynolds Emperor with 'Tone Tempered' silver bell". The "Tone Tempered Bell" is the same term used to describe the earlier Roth versions of the feature. The Roth line continued with conventional brass bells.

The industry wasn't quite done with Foster Reynolds. Just a year or two after retiring from his own company, he was approached by Maurice H. Berlin, president of Chicago Musical Instrument Company (CMI), parent company of F.E. Olds & Son. CMI wanted to produce a full line of brass instruments to target the burgeoning school band market. Berlin coaxed Reynolds out of retirement and sent him to Los Angeles with a directive to tool up the Olds factory and begin manufacturing the needed band instruments.

Foster Reynolds made an immediate impression at F.E. Olds. Among his first actions were working with Raphael Mendez on designing the Mendez artist model trumpet and creating the renowned Ambassador model trumpet, cornet and trombone (1948), the latest designs to reflect Reynolds' professional commitment to providing high-quality, dependable horns at an affordable price.

Reynolds worked at Olds until his death at the factory in 1960.

The moderately priced Emperor trumpet, cornet and tenor trombone models acted as intermediate "step up" horns for advanced students and community band players, positioned above the student-level Roth (and later, Medalist) models. The nickel-silver bell flare remained a design element of Emperor models until the early 1970s, when instruments produced at the Olds plant in Fullerton had a nickel plate finish over the entire instrument and were similar, if not identical, to the Olds "Special" line of instruments.


Following the introduction of the Emperor / "Tone Tempered" line, Scherl & Roth launched "Contempora" in 1949 as a new artist model line. Contempora created a new platform that allowed the company to both secure new artist endorsements and continue to expand "Reynolds" as a brand platform.

Most original F.A. Reynolds instruments were simply renamed as Contempora models—bass trombones, French horns, background brass, baritones and low brass. However, F.A. Reynolds trumpets, cornets and tenor trombones were rebranded as the "Professional" line and new designs were introduced for the Contempora models. These new instruments featured larger bore sizes and golden bronze-alloy bells with nickel-silver tone rings, as well as other distinctive features such as Monel valve pistons and tuning slide triggers for improved intonation control. The new models were designed, produced and tested in collaboration with musicians from the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.

According to the trademark application filed with the U.S. Patent Office, the name "Contempora" and original stylized script were first used on May 5, 1949 and designated for "cornets, trumpets, trombones, altos, baritones, basses, french horns, clarinets, oboes, piccolos, flutes, bassoons [and] euphoniums." Registered in 1951, the trademark registration was renewed once in 1971 before being allowed to expire by the current owners.

The Reynolds Contempora Double Horn, Pottag Model, became the first Reynolds instrument to be stamped with the name of someone other than Foster Reynolds. In the earliest Reynolds catalogs and brochures with the Pottag name, Max Pottag is described as "America's foremost exponent of the French Horn, Northwestern School of Music, Chicago Symphony Orchestra (retired)." Max Pottag retired from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1947; he taught at the Northwestern School of Music until 1952—it seems safe to date his initial involvement with Reynolds to at least between these dates. While Pottag endorsed the Reynolds Double Horn from the beginning and had designed Pottag-model mouthpieces for Reynolds, adding the actual "Pottag Model" mark to the horns appears to have been simultaneous with the shift to the "Contempora" model name, so c.1949-50.


Cleveland, Ohio

The core instrument lineup for the 1950s was now set: Contempora—Professional—Emperor—Roth. Operations of the Ohio Band Instrument Co. and production of The Regent line was discontinued with the exception of The Regent Silver Clarinet, which was probably retained to compete against H.N. White’s SilverTone clarinet model. The Roth trumpet, cornet and trombone that had been manufactured by Ohio Band were folded under the Reynolds name and became the student line in the consolidated catalog, emphasizing professional value and ease of playing. 


There was a reunion of sorts for Foster Reynolds and Max Scherl in October 1951 as they and Maurice Berlin, president of Chicago Musical Instrument Co. (owner of F.E. Olds), were among guests invited to a preview of the Higbee Music Center on the 11th floor of the Higbee Building in Cleveland. While in Cleveland, Foster Reynolds invited a former employee, Don Agard, to join him in California at the Olds plant. Agard headed west in 1952 and eventually became the plant manager after Foster Reynolds' death in 1960.

By c.1953, Scherl & Roth had begun marketing all of the band instruments under the name "Roth-Reynolds Instrument Company", the final step in integrating the Reynolds, Roth and Regent divisions. All instruments are now engraved "Made by Roth-Reynolds" instead of "Made by F.A. Reynolds". When Scherl & Roth filed the "Reynolds" trademark application in 1960, they were initially denied until they clarified that "Roth-Reynolds" was a marketing label and that the actual business entity remained F.A. Reynolds Co.


Max Scherl retired, leaving Heinrich Roth as president and sole owner of Scherl & Roth, the F.A. Reynolds Company and the Ernst Heinrich Roth Company. Roth had been vice president of Reynolds from 1936-1946 and president after Foster Reynolds retired.


The mid-1950s saw Reynolds' collaboration with professional musicians reach new heights. Following on the Pottag Model Double Horn from the late 1940s, Reynolds created signature models of the Contempora trumpet and cornet with Leonard Smith, a new version of the double horn with James Chambers (NYPO), and a double-valve bass trombone with Kauko Kahila (Boston Symphony), Allen Ostrander (NYPO) and Louis Counihan (Metropolitan Opera).

Leonard B. Smith was one of the great band directors of the 20th century (notably the "Belle Isle" band in Detroit and Blossom Festival Concert Band during summer music festivals in Cleveland), direct inheritor of the John Philip Sousa tradition and a legendary cornet player and clinician.  He endorsed the Contempora trumpet and cornet in early 1956 and signature models were released later that year. It is likely that the Leonard Smith models were a response to the Olds Mendez models that F.E. Olds (led by Foster Reynolds) and virtuoso artist Rafael Mendez had collaborated on for release in 1952.

In the mid-1950s, Roth-Reynolds approached James Chambers (New York Philharmonic, 1946-1969) with a similiar idea for collaboration as Max Pottag had provided Reynolds a decade earlier. As a Conn 8D player, Chambers was familiar with the layout of the Reynolds horn but wanted to incorporate some of the playing characteristics and physical construction that he was used to from his Conn horn. After two years of design and development, Chambers endorsed the Reynolds Double Horn, Chambers Model in 1958. However, he only played the Reynolds horn for three seasons before a contract dispute with Richards/RMC prompted Chambers to return to his Conn horn, ending the short-lived collaboration and endorsement.

The "Stereophonic" Story

The Contempora "Stereophonic" double-valve bass trombone was launched in fall 1958. Designed in collaboration with Kauko Kahila, Allen Ostrander and Louis Counihan, the "Stereophonic" was one of the first widely available bass trombones with two rotor valves permanently attached to the horn. The design provided players with a fast and simple way of lowering the overall pitch of the trombone to E and enabled them to play technical passages such as the low B glissando in Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra”.


Perhaps as a result of their work creating the Chambers Double Horn, Reynolds introduced a solid nickel-silver trumpet, cornet and tenor trombone as a new Argenta model line. Sharing many characteristics of the large-bore Contempora designs, the Argenta instruments were, and still are, some of very few band instruments, other than French horns, made completely of solid nickel silver.

Reynolds also introduced the inexpensive "Hi-Fi" model line as an intermediate set of large-bore, brass-bell trumpets, cornets and trombones -- a bit of a cross between the large-bore (but bronze-bell) Contempora line and the brass-bell (but medium-bore) Professional instruments, but sold at the same price as the Emperor line of instruments, which they were generally styled after. The cornet model had been introduced c.1955, followed by the trumpet and trombone in 1959. The "Hi-Fi" name itself is an abbreviation of "high fidelity", meaning the reproduction of sound with little or no distortion. Known serial numbers range from ~39000-62000 and, like many Reynolds models, the "Hi-Fi" models did not survive Richards/RMC ownership and/or the manufacturing move from Cleveland to Abilene after CMI purchased F.A. Reynolds Co. in 1964.


Operations at Roth-Reynolds entered the 1960s with a robust product catalog. However, the youngest and sole remainder of the original three partners, Heinrich Roth was nearing his own '60s and still managing Roth-Reynolds, Scherl & Roth and the Ernst Heinrich Roth Company. It's unknown when conversations with Paul Richards began and who initiated contact, but ultimately Roth would divest the Reynolds division to Richards in 1961, while remaining general manager himself. It's yet unknown what factors—age, finances, health—may have prompted the sale, but certainly the factory and the workforce were aging and would have required reinvestment to continue. The sudden death of Foster A. Reynolds in July cannot be underestimated as well.

In the midst of a pending acquisition, sales to major universities were notable. Advertising from 1960 highlights the purchase of eight Contempora Recording Basses by Purdue University (though the transaction actually occurred in late 1957) and TubeNet member ronr notes that the University of Minnesota purchased 12 Reynolds Contempora brass sousaphones in late 1960 to march in the inauguration parade for President John F. Kennedy (January 1961).

The First Decade
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The purpose of this website is to preserve the history of the F. A. Reynolds Company and the distinctive qualities of its brass instruments. Contempora Corner and are not related or associated in any way to the former or current F.A. Reynolds Company.

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