John Phillip Sousa is even today a name familiar to almost everyone. The Sousa band toured the world, drew huge crowds and raked in the bucks. Sousa's principal cornetist, Herbert L. Clarke, might not have been the very first rock star, but he might have been one of the first to cook up the celebrity endorsement gravy train. This cornet is exhibit “A”.

Apparently, the marketing effort worked. Holton made thousands of these instruments and they frequently come up for sale on e-bay and many other markets. I scored my example for $20. That may seem cheap, but if this website included the 'sense-o-smell' plugin, it would seem more fair for the former owner to pay someone to take it. This thing smelled AWFUL. That was just one item on the long list of needed fixes.

The bad news: broken lead pipe, broken third valve water key, mouthpiece stuck in (broken) lead pipe, slides stuck, case worn and torn, multiple bad repairs, case REEKS!

The good news: almost all accessory pieces present, case structurally intact, valves in good shape.

My reason for purchasing this mess was as a challenging restoration with an emphasis on soldering. Nailed it. The list of soldering repairs included: tuning slide upper pipe, tuning slide spit valve drain guard, third valve slide crook, lead pipe reattach, lead pipe brace fabrication.

Like many of my horn restorations, this thing was NOT allowed into the house. It lived in the garage and overcame (literally) all competition from other stinky garage stuff: boat gas cans, last winters snow tires, porta-potty, assorted noxious cleaning fluids, glues, paints and solvents, post seasick foul weather gear.

Dealing with the instrument wasn't bad. Several scrub-a-dub sessions in the laundry room sink took care of the odor. Except for the valve buttons. Because the tops are mother of pearl, soaking in soap might damage them. I cleaned them as best as possible with various surface cleaners but even after a year, a hint of odor remains.

The case resisted all efforts. I tried carpet cleaner, baking soda, laundry sheets, pet mess cleaner, scrubbing bubbles, citrus solvent and even left it on the back deck in the sun for two weeks. Still nauseating! Finally I asked for advice from Ron at the trumpet-history website. He suggested removing and discarding all fabric liner and then painting the inside with wood stain. That worked.

As mentioned above, the horn needed many repairs. It took a week of soaking in penetrating oil to unstick the mouthpiece. I inquired about purchasing a new lead pipe but it didt'nt seem wise to spend $100 on a $20 horn. And the point was to fix it myself. That turned into reinforcing the old repair with a section of .41 magnum cartidge shell and fabricating a brace between bell and leadpipe from a section of sterling silver flat stock.

So how does this old horn play? Quit well! Its handy for evening practice when I don't want the big sound of a trumpet. I purchased a deep cup Marcinkiewicz mouthpiece with the same rim diameter as my Monette and it gives the classic rich cornet tone. Switching between the mouthpieces acts a bit like cross training and seems to build strength when back to the trumpet. And look, it even plays in tune. The Holton Clarke cornet is a keeper!


1923 Holton Clarke Cornet