This unusual instrument might very well be the only one of its kind in existence. William Frank information is sketchy at best. The serial number puts this as an early horn made between 1915 and 1920. The Paramount Artist label represents the company's finest effort featuring modern, state of the art valves, rich silver plate, and quick pitch change slide from B flat to A.

The horn uses a cornet mouthpiece but is more like a compact trumpet, the bore appearing nearly cylindrical, unlike a true cornet. Cornets ruled the era, with pop stars like Herbert Clarke, Souza's principle cornetist, scorning every aspect of the new trumpets. But small band leaders on a budget couldn't ignore the modern trumpets big sound. I can imagine this horn in the hands of a working musician playing pit orchestra for stage or silent film. The compact size is perfect for tight quarters and the big sound a sure way to earn a larger slice of a small band's pay. And it is very cool looking!

This horn has a big dark tone and seems to really come to life when playing New Orleans style traditional jazz and especially gypsy jazz. This is a professional instrument and would be perfect for a trumpet player looking to add a unique look and sound to their palette of instrumental colors.

The horn is in amazing shape, handsome and completely playable. Slides and valves move freely. Case and mouthpiece are both original, astonishing considering this is a century old instrument. The only flaws are one replacement valve button and missing pitch slide stop. Neither issue effects playing quality.

A very interesting horn. From the serial number, I would have estimated it was made between 1914 and 1918 – which is curious given that it looks to be Frank’s version of a Conn Pan-American 28A (see attached photo). The 28A was made from 1924 to 1929 and re-appeared as the Pan-American Cavalier 90A from 1930 to 1938.

William Frank apprenticed at Holton in Chicago in the formative years of the company (the first Holton factory opened in 1907 following 4 years in a loft space – before that it was 3 guys in the back room of a used instrument store). In 1910 he began a small instrument works which went under around 1914 and was reincorporated in his name. At it’s peak, his company only had a handful of employees and used a lot of purchased parts. It really was not positioned for innovation in design. Frank died in the late 30s and the company passed to a parts supplier, Blessing, just after coming out of the WWII shut-down. If we presume the (total of about 30,000) serial numbers to restart with Wm. Frank & Co. around 1915, this lands in the 1918 ballpark, still well before the basic form appears at Conn.

As a beginner instrument, I would not inflict it upon a student. Despite quality craftsmanship, the Frank horns were not very good – as one might surmise given that this top-of-the-line is an imitation of a Pan-American, which were terrible. When the instrument adds another layer of challenges to the beginner who is struggling to develop basic skills, it leads to great frustration and often that student abandoning the pursuit. (The greatest harm caused by the Chinese junk on the market today)

It is Frank’s top of the line, so in that it would be fairly rare. Frank inadvertently wound up being the first American maker to primarily serve the student market – unfortunately for him, before that market really took off. Even so, restored I would guess it would be quite unlikely to top $150 at auction. It looks to need very little work though (if the braces are all there somewhere), and I would not make any unnecessary repairs like smoothing every tiny mark, as this is more historic than useful. You could probably EBay it for a small profit maybe if I am guessing right as to what it sold for in pieces. (If you do EBay it, please let me know as I would be bidding on it – it is unusual, just not “desirable”, and I collect oddities


William Frank

Paramount Artist