By Jack Carter
The word bugle in the United States is often used as a generic term for many types of horns including the instruments used by the armed services, drum and bugle corps and by various other organizations such as the Boy Scouts. Nevertheless, bugles have always been specified correctly by the armed services and the suppliers and manufacturers of these instruments as either bugles (a conical bore natural horn) or as a field trumpet (a cylindrical bore natural horn over 2/3rds of its length). A case in point is the standard so-called U.S. Regulation “G” bugle commonly used by the Boy Scouts and by drum and bugle corps before the introduction of valves or other key changing devices.
This basic horn came into being as the standard U.S. Army Cavalry trumpet in G, specification No. 325 dated May 2, 1892 (Quartermaster General’s Office, War Department) which supplanted the previous model 1879 F trumpet with C crook. These were characterized by detailed specifications with drawings and dimensions. The bugle described in the specifications was to be the basis for almost every bugle manufactured in the U.S. up to the present.
Drawing of the M1892 based on the specifications as outlined in the QM order dated May 2, 1892
Natural trumpets with tuning slides came into use in Europe over 200 years ago and a small European trumpet with tuning slide known as an Inventions-horn (trumpet) dates from around 1840. This Inventions-horn resembles the U.S. mounted Infantry trumpet insignia from the pre-Civil War (below) U.S. Army and also the similar army trumpets such as those made by Klemm & Bro. in use before and during the Civil War.
Until 1879, the War Department specified signal horns per patterns on file or with only very bare descriptions. Various types of G trumpets with and without tuning slides saw use during the American Civil War along with one type of G bugle. All of these G trumpets and the similar F trumpets were two-coil horns usually in brass with a bell garland. (A garland is an extra plate of brass that is fitted on the bell of a bugle for reinforcement.)
The instrument in greatest use during the Civil War was the large belled bugle (clairon) imported from Europe. These bugles or clairons were in the key of C or B flat (with the aid of a crook) and were imported in large quantities during the 1860s. The “regulation” Civil War bugle was a single twist (copper, with a brass garland and a brass reinforcing band 8 inches up), which we see made or imported under contract, and stamped, by Stratton & Foote, Horstmann, Klemm Bros., Draper Bros., Church, and others.
The May 1865 Quartermaster manual calls for “Trumpets – To be made of brass; when plain, viz; without crooks, to stand in F; with tuning slide and three crooks; to stand in G; they are to be 14-1/4″ high…..with crooks, 5 or 5-1/4″ wide in the middle and to weigh including crooks and without mouthpiece about 1 pound 2 ounces….the bowl(bell) about 5- or 5-1/4″ in diameter…Bugles to be made of copper and to stand in C…”
It is not known who designed the model 1892 trumpet but it seems likely that it may have been one of the manufacturers such as C.G. Conn or the Wurlitzer Company, both firms being among the first to build these horns. It is also possible that the Kretchmar Co. of Philadelphia may have influenced the model 1892 design for they were making an excellent inventions-horn type field trumpet during the 1880’s and had supplied the Army with 1879 F trumpets. The Kretchmar model 1879 F trumpet was a well-made horn that played well but had no tuning adjustment. It may be likely that the Wurlitzer Company (or their suppliers) originated this model 1892 design for it has a basic layout not unlike the F trumpets they were supplying to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps (1881-1890?s) except that the model 1892 was much slimmer and more modern in appearance and of a much brighter trumpet sound. The Marine Corps adopted the bugle in 1881 over the strenuous objections of their fifers. I now believe that is also when the Navy adopted the bugle but the Navy may have used them
Trumpets made in the 1870s and 1880s.
The Navy/Marine Corps F trumpets mentioned above play with a lovely mellow tone less bright than the sound of the G trumpet or model 1879 F trumpet.
Among other possible sources for design of the model 1892 are the J. Howard Foote Company, J.W. Pepper, and J.W. York (manufacturers) and Horstmann and Lyon & Healy (contractors). The model 1892 trumpet has been modified by various changes over the years to streamline its appearance and make it easier to manufacture.