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Frank Instruments

Frank Serials


Chicago, IL



William Frank (b. 1876 Allentown, PA - 1932 Chicago) worked for Holton and in 1910 established his own business in Chicago. At one time, he had a workforce of 32. He used American Prep, Biltmore, Barrington, and Belmore as tradenames. American Prep was his student line. The National Band Instrument Company was founded at the beginning of the 20th century by Frank. It only lasted for a few short years before changing the name to William Frank and Company. Frank played French horn in the Chicago Symphony from 1904 till his death in 1932.

Frank used a variety of model names including National, New Era, Junior, Paramount Artist, Classic, Biltmore, American Prep, Excelsior, Artist, Americana, Belmore, Tempertone, Barrington, and Paramount.

Some Lyon & Healy horns are made by Bohland & Fuchs and others are made by Frank. The Frank horns have WIDE stamped on the valves, Frank came up with a wide valve spring box design which Bach later used Possibly Blessing made Franks (and Bach) valve assemblies. They are all .660 in diameter. Bach, Couturier, Jay, Frank and Holton appear to have some shared parts such as pull knobs, braces, water keys, bottom valve caps and 3rd slide rings. He may have also provided horns to Boston Musical Inst Co, after Boston ceased manufacturing their own in the 1920s.

  • 1892-1900 William Phillip Frank (1876-1932) is in Williamsport, PA and working for the Henry Distin Co. (DAMD)
  • 1901 William is living in Toronto with wife Pearl and brother Jesse Good Frank (1886-1977) (census)
  • 1902 William Frank, musician, in Chicago directory
  • 1910 William Frank, vice-president, Frank Holton & Co., home at #2638 Gladys, musical instrument superintendent; Jesse Frank, foreman in instrument factory (census)
  • 1911 William Frank Co., #542 S. Dearborn, h. #122 E. 56th
  • 1918 Jesse is working for William Frank Co. located at #227West Austen Ave. in Chicago (draft)
  • 1919 moved to #2033 Clybourne Ave. (dir)
  • 1923 William Frank Co., #2033 Clybourne Ave., Chicago,William Frank pres, Arthur Davis sec, Jesse Frank tres,musical instruments (dir)
  • 1930 William and Jesse are listed as band instrument makers; William’s son Wilbur Melvin Frank (1907-2002) is a musical instrument machinist (census)
  • 1932 William Frank dies
  • 1934 start of ‘American Prep’ line of student instruments
  • 1940 Jesse is listed as an executive of a band instrument factory; Wilbur Frank is vice-president of the company (census)
  • 1942 William Frank Co., #2033 Clybourne Ave.
  • 1945 Barrington plant opens
  • 1956 company is dissolved and equipment is sold to Schilke

Frank incorporated as the ‘National Band Inst. Co.’ in July, 1915 then changed to William Frank Co. in December.

Despite many references found to William being a horn player for the CSO, that person is actually Wilhelm Frank (1869- 1936), born in Germany, who came to the US in 1901.

Tale of the three Franks

#1: William J. Frank, instrument maker, born 1876 in Allentown, PA to Morris & Anna, probably worked for instrument maker Henry Distin in Williamsport from 1892-1900, married first wife Pearl in Williamsport; 1901 in Toronto with Pearl and his brother Jesse (born 1886); 1902 possible musician in Chicago at either #211 W. Adams or #467 Lincoln; 1907 son Wilbur born; 1909 son Stanley born; 1910 vp of the Frank Holton Co. making band instruments and living at #2725 Gladys Ave.; 1911 listed as both a musician and owner of William Frank Co. making band instruments at #542 S. Dearborn, home now at #122 E. 56th; 1912 son Stanley dies, home at #434 Belden Ave.; 1920 now living at #933 Cornelia with brother Jesse & his wife Edith, William is now single; 1921 marries 2nd wife Helen; 1930 now at #1406 Warner, son Wilbur is a machinist working at the instrument factory; 1932 William dies August 29th

#2: William (Wilhelm) F. Frank, born in Hamburg, Germany in 1869; 1901 immigration to US; 1902 listed as musician at either #211 Adams or #467 Lincoln; 1907 naturalized; 1910 orchestra musician, home at #2532 Lincoln, widowed with son Edmond J. born 1896 and daughter Tina S. born 1900; 1911 same address; 1920 listed as orchestra musician, home at #2508 Orchard, wife Arendine, daughter Jentina; 1930 at #2245 Eastwood, orchestra musician, wife Arendina born 1879 in Holland, married in 1919 to William; dies May 11, 1936 in Wisconsin

#3: William H. Frank born 1888 in Illinois; 1923 William F. H. Frank, musician, #3355 Wilson; 1930 at #11 E. Chestnut, Chicago, orchestra conductor, wife Eva is a theatre musician, no children at home; 1940 at #1510 N. Frontier Ave, tavern musician, wife Eva not employed #1 is the instrument maker, #2 is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra French Horn player, #3 is an unknown musician.

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