On December 10th, band leader Bill Hall received a phone call from a fellow Civil War band enthusiast in Iowa asking if the 1st Nebraska had received enough donations in the recent Washington County Gives campaign to purchase a desired period alto horn. Bill sadly replied “No, we didn’t.” To which the friend asked if the band would like to receive a donation of a circa 1870 Ernst Seltmann top-action, rotary valved, upright bell alto horn that was not in current use. Well, Bill was more than elated, especially because December 10 is his birthday!
Ernst Seltmann immigrated to the United States in 1857, from Neukirchen, Germany. He settled in Philadelphia and began producing brass instruments by 1860, where he stayed in business until his death in 1883. Most of Seltmann’s upright bell horns follow the same pattern as the above alto.
The donated alto horn has a beautiful singing tone and is very agile, accurately making large skips. The instrument has been lovingly restored and is in excellent condition. Bill put the horn to immediate use in the band’s Dec. 22nd performance at The Durham Museum.
Below is a detail photo of the alto horn’s string action rotary valve mechanism. The top action levers are easily visible, and when depressed turn the valve by way of the string’s winding movement.
The shape of Seltmann’s maker’s mark stamped into the instrument’s bell indicates an approximate year of manufacture of around 1870.
The 1st Nebraska Volunteers Brass Band now owns 4 period cornets, and a period alto horn, tenor horn, and baritone horn. In addition the band has a turn of the 20th century E-flat tuba, and a Civil War reproduction rope-tensioned snare drum. The band is 5 instruments short of a complete collection of period instrumentation.
Soon we’ll begin posting our 2019 performance schedule that will include participating in the 150th anniverary celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in Council Bluffs, Iowa in July.
Contact us if you’d like to have the band perform in your community.