This is a vintage trombone built by Earl Williams in Los Angeles circa 1929. The date of manufacture is estimated by the stamp on the curved hand brace for the slide, which reads, "PNT ALPD FOR". According to Robb Stewart's written history of Earl Williams , this patent was applied for in 1928 and granted in 1930. No model number is apparent, though what we think is the serial number is very clear: 31.
This trombone looks to be made of mostly brass with nickel plated nickel silver inside slide tubes. The slide bore is about .485", and the bell diameter is 7". The entire horn was silver plated, then gold plated over that. The gold plate is fairly worn. Though most of the instrument still has a light gold/yellow tint, it now appears as more of a gold wash than a full gold plate, likely due to age. The nickel plating on the inside slide tubes is also worn, resulting in a little slide noise, though the action is good. We'd rate the slide action 8 out of 10. The connector between the slide and bell is a friction fit without a lock nut. This is only a concern if the player has much mute work, as a modern lock nut connects the components more securely. The water key is the traditional style as used on most trombones, as this horn predates the proprietary Williams style water key seen on his later instruments.
As with many early 20th century trombones, the tuning mechanism of this horn is located in the hand slide. Though this adds weight to the slide, the tuning adjustment is easy by simply turning an adjustment nut near the hand brace. This system has several benefits: the player's air stream does not come into contact with the tuning mechanism and the gap where the adjustment is made, the bell section is completely conical with a mathematically correct taper, and the weight is concentrated at the hand braces, thus increasing projection. No balance weight is included (and there may not ever have been one), so the trombone is slightly bell heavy, but not much. We may have a custom Kanstul balance weight made for a Conn 18H trombone that may fit this Williams if desired. Please ask.
In additional to its long history, the bell engraving it what sets this trombone apart. The hand engraving is absolutely stunning. It is very rare to find a fully engraved trombone bell, much less one in this fine condition. The engraving goes from within 1" of the bell rim all the way up to the bell branch joint, a distance of 19". It is a detailed floral hand engraving of the highest caliber covering this entire area. The engraved area is silver, surrounded by the gold plate on the rest of the instrument. The engraving goes most of the way around the flare, with only a small unadorned area on the back. The engraved text reads:
We took this to Robb Stewart for restoration and cleaning. He removed the slide end crook to repair several dents. He removed all bell section dents, aligned the hand slide, and gave a chemical cleaning and hand polish.
The original case can be included if you like, but it is simply beyond repair. It is an ex-case. We have placed the trombone in a brand new SKB 360 molded case, which has D-rings for a shoulder strap and a lifetime warranty. The new case has little in the way of vintage style, but it will keep the horn safe for travel.
This Wallace & Williams is a terrific player. It's well centered, has a fast response and brassy tone, and seems to be very well in tune with itself. All the partials lined up well during a cursory playing session. The slide is weightier than a modern slide due to the tuning mechanism, but the action is fast, with only a little noise. Slide action is good up to 6th position, then it drags around 7th, likely due to the wear of the nickel plating and age. I used Trombotine with some Yamaha 1021 lubricant and distilled water, and with regular playing and cleaning, it should continue to improve since its recent tune up. I usually use a Ferguson 11 mouthpiece, but that felt too wide and mellow for the Wallace. I tried a Denis Wick 12CS and that did it. With a smaller mouthpiece, this trombone is especially lively, so consider trying mouthpiece sizes that are more common to the early 20th century era, and you'll find a winner.