C. F. Schmidt

(click on photos for larger view)

Carl Friedrich Schmidt (1852 - 1924) was born in Cologne on March 7, 1852, a son of brass instrument maker Friedrich Adolf Schmidt (1827 - 1893).  He initially learned the craft of instrument making from his father, however it was common at the time for journeyman craftsmen to travel to study under masters in various cities to learn other production methods. His Wanderjahre included Erfurt where in 1876 he was named godfather to Johannes Kirchberg (1876 - 1961). While he was in Erfurt, Schmidt probably studied horn making with Eduard Kruspe.

By 1878 C.F. Schmidt had established his own workshop in Berlin (shown at A in the map below). In 1880 Schmidt was granted a patent for an adjustable brace on brass instruments making it possible to exchange valve sets among similar instruments. In 1883 a branch workshop was opened in  Friedrichroda (B) and then in 1888 it was moved to Weimar (C) at Brennerstraße 2c. On March 28, 1896 Schmidt applied for the title Großherzoglicher-Sächsischer Hof-Musikinstrumentenmacher (Grand Ducal Saxon Court Musical Instrument Maker) which was awarded to him a month later by the Hofmarschallamt in Weimar on April 20. At that time his address was Lisztstraße 13a, Weimar. He is listed with that title in the State Manual for the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach in 1904, 1909, and 1913. According to Herbert Heyde Schmidt combined the Weimar and the Berlin workshops in about 1899. 1

Railway Map of Germany, 1910

Approximate Distances:
  • Berlin (A) - Friedrichroda (B) = 350 km
  • Friedrichroda (B) - Weimar (C) = 65 km
  • Weimar  (C) - Berlin (A) = 300 km

photo by David Rodeschini
C.F. Schmidt, Friedrichroda
 Wilh. Schwaneberg [trombone, Das Kaiser.-königl. Hof-Operntheater in Wien]

As shown above two different locations in Berlin are indicated by the engraved labels found on the bells of the horns. The earlier location (based on U.S. importer Carl Fischer's serial numbers) was in the south-western Berlin postal district served by Post Office number 19 (S.W. 19). This is described as the "old city post office I" (alte Stadtpost-Expedition I) located at Sparwaldsbrücke, Krausenstrasse, Beuthstrasse (probably near the intersection of the latter two) in the Kreuzberg section of the city. The second location was in the adjacent Schöneberg section in the western district served by "district post office" (Bestell-Postamt) W. 57 located on Bülowstrasse. Both labels indicate the previous location in Weimar and Schmidt's status as Hof-Instrumentenmacher.
In 1900 Schmidt was working on the design of his double horn model. At the same time his godson, Johannes Kirchberg happened to be working a Firma Ed. Kruspe in Erfurt. Three years earlier Kruspe was granted D.R.G.M. 84240 for a double horn having tandem change valves conjoined by a rod and two-story main valves. The D.R.G.M. protected the design for only three years making it possible for Schmidt to use the two-story valves.2 Schmidt replaced the dual change valves with a single piston operated with the player's thumb.  In the summer of 1900 while touring with the John Philip Sousa Band, Anton Horner visited the Schmidt workshop in Berlin:3
To go a little farther with the development of the double horn, I must tell you that in 1900 I was engaged to go to the Paris Exposition, and to tour Europe with Sousa's Band... So even in Berlin, my reputation had spread, and Schmidt, the horn maker, who was first in Weimar, and now had his factory in Berlin, came to talk to me. He had invented a new B valve for a double horn, but could not decide what kind of mouthpiece tube was best for his new instrument. He asked me to come to his factory to help him decide. I went to his place, and after long trials of several mouthpiece tubes, I approved of one which he used on his first instruments in F an B. His B valve was a piston, like on a cornet, which I found very awkward to operate with the thumb.
On April 1, 1916 C.F. Schmidt moved from Berlin back to Weimar as witnessed in Herr Schmidt's own hand:

Respected Mr. Wiegand!
My shop  moved from Berlin W. 57 back to Weimar on April 1, 1916, but I received your esteemed letter, and humbly inform you that I cannot mail you a catalogue.  The double horn you claim to have obtained from me is not listed in my books, in particular since I have never engraved a horn with a number. If you have any requests, please get in touch with my representative Carl Fischer at 46/54 Cooper Square in New York, since I must not send anything to you directly. However, if you have a relative or friend in Germany, they may ship an instrument to you. A double horn costs 4,000 Mark without the case.
WEIMAR, August 9, 1920                 Sincerely yours
                                                                 C. F. Schmidt

Until 1924 the company continued as C.F. Schmidt Musikinstrumentenfabrikant (Musical Instrument Manufacturer) in Weimar at Johann-Sebaatian-Bach-Straße 2. In about 1923 or 1924 Johannes Kirchberg became the owner (probably on the death of C.F. Schmidt, on March 5, 1924) and from 1926 it became listed under the name C.F. Schmidt Musikinstrumenten-Fabrik (Musical Instruments Factory) at Erfurter Straße 74 (now 56, see photos below) a short distance from the previous address. The company's name appears for the first time in the address books with the addition of "Co." in 1929. In the 1930s it is estimated that the company employed about 27 workers, some of them working at home. The workshop is found in the Weimar address books until 1941/1942, however during and after World War 2 it became more difficult to obtain material for new instruments. It persisted as a repair shop until the death of the last owner Johannes Kirchberg in 1961(see below).
Above left, the instrument label after the move to Weimar in 1919, with the reminder that the workshop was formerly in Berlin. At right, a later label where the Berlin years are now forgotten. Carl Fischer had been the sole authorized importer of C.F. Schmidt instruments into the U.S. and Canada since before the turn of the century. It is believed that Fischer was responsible for adding serial numbers which is useful for establishing a chronology. The phrase "Made in Germany" became required in 1930 as part of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff act and is also helpful in establishing the approximate date of manufacture. As noted in the above text, some instruments were marked "C.F. Schmidt & Co."between about 1924 and 1929, however that appears to be somewhat inconsistent.

C.F. Schmidt title for price list  (ca. 1926), courtesy of Marco Rippert (click to see full price list)

Carl Friedrich Schmidt specialized in the construction of horns. His double horn model dating from ca. 1899 and characterized by its bell profile and the Périnet F/B change valve, was widely used until the 1940s. He supplied instruments to various regiments and the orchestras of the court theaters in Weimar, Mannheim, Braunschweig, Dessau, Altenburg, Kassel, Coburg and Pest, as well as the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Later his instruments were exported as far away as Moscow, Amsterdam and Chicago, and for many years the Carl Fischer Company in New York became the "sole importer" of C.F. Schmidt instruments for the United States and Canada.It has since been built by other makers including SW Lewis, Karl Hill / Kortesmaki, George McCracken, and Yamaha Corporation  model 863.

C.F. Schmidt horns in this collection include the following:

Weimar,  Erfurter Straße 56  (formerly Nr.74) as it appears in 2014. It was built in 1903 and was the house of Rudolph Böhme with a workshop in the garden (below). From the early 1920s by the workshop was rented by C.F. Schmidt and used for making brass instruments. Operations continued here until the death of the last proprietor Johannes Kirchberg in 1961.

(Photos by Marco Rippert, April 3, 2014)
Johannes Kirchberg  (1876 - 1961) was the last owner of C.F. Schmidt, Co. He was born on May 3, 1876 in Erfurt and was the godson of C.F. Schmidt with whom he later studied in Weimar from 1890 to 1893. After that he went to Köln for two years (1894 - 1896) working with Schmidt's younger brother L.A. Schmidt.4 Registration records show that he was in Braunschweig until December 2, 1899 when he moved back to his hometown, Erfurt, where he was employed by Firma Ed. Kruspe. He worked for Kruspe until August 14, 1900 when he returned to Weimar to work for C.F. Schmidt.  His daughter, Anna Kirchberg (Bott), was born on October 19 1904 in Berlin where he had moved with Schmidt. In 1919 he and Schmidt moved the workshop from Berlin to Weimar where he became proprietor upon Schmidt's death in 1924.  Meister Kirchberg was interviewed for ca. 1957 for a local newspaper (see below). He died on January 21, 1961 in Weimar. 
From the District of Weimar
" You never stop learning"
A visit to the master brass instrument maker Johannes Kirchberg

Last Monday at the opening of the week of crafts in Erfurt Guild Hall 12 craftsmen of our district were appointed to past masters. Among them was also the brass instrument maker Johannes Kirchberg from Weimar.

We visited Meister Kirchberg in his workshop, which is completely hidden within the garden. He works here all alone, surrounded only by a variety of tools whose meaning you can not always guess. On the walls are parts of trumpets, trombones and horns. Initially veteran Kirchberg was quite closed. He does not like a lot of words, but then he slowly became more talkative, and so we learned a lot.

The now 81-year-old began to learn the instrument building trade in 1890 from CF Schmidt in Weimar. After four years he had completed his apprenticeship - "it is the statutory apprenticeship", the old master added, looking at me over his spectacles with his calm, intelligent eyes, "for  learning is practically never finished in this life, and certainly not in our profession."

He then went on tour to Cologne, staying there for three years, before returning to Weimar and then moving with his master to Berlin. In 1916 he would have to also swap like so many others, hammer and file with rifle and bayonet. After the war he returned to Weimar together with C. F. Schmidt, after whose death in 1924 he took over the business.

The trumpets, trombones and horns went into all the world. Letters of thanks from the Soviet Union, Holland, Hungary, Austria, America, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Finland and from all parts of Germany prove sufficiently the quality of these instruments. Shortly before the end of the Second World War Meister Kirchberg still received a large order from Greece, however he was unable to fulfill it.

Following the defeat of Hitler's fascism it initially looked quite bleak - no material - nothing. But slowly could also meister Kirchberg again return to making instruments, and soon there were again the first foreign orders. By this time he was sending large shipments to Greece, America, and for the Soviet Army Ensemble. At present he is working on a contract to Finland. The next series will go to Greece and Cuba (Central America).

Master Kirchberg was appointed as such not only because of its good craftsmanship to the old masters, but also because he strengthens our Republic with his own hands, and lifts her reputation in the world.

Johannes Kirchberg
Photos courtesy of  Ludwig Bott and Marco Rippert

C.F. Schmidt billhead (1928), courtesy of Lou Denaro

Very special thanks to Marco Rippert for sharing his research on the Schmidt family of brass instrument makers and for obtaining the information on Johannes Kirchberg from Meister Kirchberg's grandsons, Ludwig and Peter Bott.  Additional research is being conducted in Weimar by Mr. Hartmut Boetcher who has very graciously scanned the ca. 1926 pricelist. Special thanks also to Prof. David Rodeschini for use of his photo of his Schmidt trombone from Friedrichroda.

Very special thanks to Lou Denaro and Doug Thomas for providing the image of the valuable August 9, 1920 letter by C.F. Schmidt and to Lou's good friend and colleague, Sigrun Kahl, for the translation from the German script. Thanks also to Lou for providing additional material on C.F. Schmidt, Co. including the company 1928 masthead and Mr. Kirchberg's signature.

1.  According to Herbert Heyde (1987, p.74) the shop in Berlin remained open even after the move to Weimar: "1888 verlegte C.F. Schmidt, der Hofinstrumentenmacher des Großherzogs von Weimar war und seit 1900 in der Geschichte des Doppelhorns eine Rolle spielt, sein Zweiggeschäft von Friedrichroda nach Weimar und vereinigte es wohl schließlich 1899 mit seinem Hauptgeschäft in Berlin, das dort wenigstens schon seit 1880 bestanden hatte."  [In 1888 C. F. Schmidt, who was the court instrument maker of the Grand Duke of Weimar, and who since 1900 played a role in the development of the double horn, transferred his branch business from Friedrichroda to Weimar and probably in 1899 finally united it with his principal place of business in Berlin where it existed since at least 1880.] That the workshop in Friedrichroda was a branch (Zweiggeschäft) of the Berlin shop suggests that Schmidt simultaneously managed two workshops some 300 km apart for about twenty years. Heyde might be mistaken on the year, however, since according to registration records Johannes Kirchberg, who had been working for Kruspe in Erfurt, moved to Weimar on August 14, 1900 presumably to work for Schmidt. Berlin was the capitol of Prussia in the province of Brandenburg, while Friedrichroda was in the Thuringian duchy Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Weimar was in the the Thuringian Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.

2. D.R.G.M. stands for Deutsches Reichsgebrauchsmuster, a registration created in 1891 for the purpose of protecting for three years the design or function of an item throughout all of the German states. D.R.G.M. registered products were protected either for their way of intended use or design, but this did not include patent protection.

3. The Sousa Band was in Berlin for nine days from July 28 through August 5, 1900, performing two concerts per day at the Royal Opera House and Kroll's Gardens, before going on to other cities in Germany and the Netherlands. The band returned to the U.S. on September 7, however Horner says that he remained in Europe after the tour and later went back to Germany for visits. His visit with Schmidt in Berlin was about a week before Johannes Kirchberg moved from Erfurt to Weimar.

4. Leopold August Schmidt (185? - 1921) flourished in Köln from 1893, when he took over the brass instrument workshop founded by his father, Friedrich Adolf Schmidt, Sr. In 1902 he invented a brass instrument mouthpiece with a screw rim which he exhibited in Düsseldorf that same year. From 1904 to 1922 the trumpet maker Josef Monke worked for him, after which Monke established his own shop in Köln. Upon the death of L.A. Schmidt in  1921 his widow, Helene, became proprietor until 1938 when the inventory was purchased by Gebr. Alexander.

Bierley, Paul Edmund. The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 2006

Heyde, Herbert. Das Ventilblasinstrument, Seine Entwicklun im deutschsprachigen Raum von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1987. ISBN 3765102253

Horner, Anton. "A Letter from Anton Horner" (submitted by Mason Jones), The Horn Call, v.XXIII, no.2, p.91ff, International Horn Society, April, 1993

Waterhouse, William, The New Langwill Index of Wind Instrument Makers and Inventors, pub.Tony Bingham, London 1993

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