Circa 1949 US-Marked Tenor Trombone with
Bore: .495”-.510” (12.6 mm-12.95 mm), .515" (13.1 mm) attachment
Bell: 8½” (216 mm)
At first examination, this dimensions and general layout clearly mark
part of the R-20/A-20/V-20 lineage. From there, things are less clear.
Its serial number (39,xxx) dates it from around 1949 - roughly
contemporaneous with this catalog
(which includes the R-20 Recording Symphony Bass and the A-15
Ambassador tenor, but not the A-20 Ambassador Bass). It does share many
features with the A-20, but
- The bell is red brass (A-20 bells are yellow brass).
- The brace between the cork barrels has a circular
A-20's I've seen have all had "flat oval" braces (similar to the bell
brace on this horn) between the cork barrels.
- The A-20's I've seen have all had braces between each leg
of their f-attachment; this horn has no braces down the center gap.
- The oldest A-20 I've been able to document has a much
higher serial number (over 100,000).
bell engraving is worn to the point where it is not really readable in
the photographs. Exmaining it in person, I can make out:
F. E. OLDS & SON
So it was obviously built under some sort of U. S. Government contract,
probably for military band use.
Unfortunately, it's been subjected to quite a few repairs, making it
to tell if any parts have been replaced. At the very least, the inner
slide tubes do not match; the lower tube is duo-octagonal while the upper tube
is not. By a stroke of good fortune, photos of what appears to be the
same model horn (including the "U. S." marking) were recently posted to
the Trombone Forum, giving me a basis for comparison. Based on that
comparison, I'm reasonably certain that, with the exception of the
inner slide tubes, the absence of a finger-ring under the mouthpiece
receiver, and possibly some internal valve parts, this horn is
Now, on to the big question: "What is it?" Well, we know
Reynolds built horns for the U. S. mililtary while he was running his
own company, so it stands to reason that he would go after that market
again once he started working at Olds. My theory (and it's just a
theory) is that there was some interest in the R-20, but it wasn't
entirely suitable. Maybe it was too expensive, maybe it wasn't quite
the sound they wanted, maybe they wanted a little different
configuration in the f-attachment (I tend to think it was a cost
issue). At any rate, this new design was developed and sold to the
government. A few years later, when Olds needed a student-grade
trombone with an f-attachment, they revisited this design, made a few
changes, and the A-20 was born.