Carl Geyer (1880-1973)
Carl Geyer hand-built horns in his Chicago shop. His distinctive horns, along with his repair service, made his shop the place to go for all instrument service. John Barrows remarked, "His horns embody the skill and inventiveness acquired over the years, the uncompromising integrity of workmanship, and above all, the element of concern and love that delineate the true creative genius."
Geyer was born in Germany in 1880 and became an apprentice instrument maker at age 15 in Markneukirchen, a town famous for its musical instrument industry. Geyer was an avid and award-winning bicyclist in Germany.
While working in a music store in 1903, he saw an advertisement in a Leipzig newspaper that Richard Wunderlich was seeking a horn maker because musicians in Chicago were forced to send their instruments to Germany for repairs. Geyer immigrated to the US and arrived in Chicago in 1904. He worked for Wunderlich until Wunderlich retired during World War I.
In 1920 Geyer opened his own workshop to help meet the great demand for American-made horns. His Chicago shop was widely known for both his distinctive horns and his repair service. In 1955, at age 75, he sold the business but continued working for the new owner until he was 90.
During this time, Geyer produced some of the finest horns in the world. His design was, and still is, copied by many makers and helped set one of the standards for modern horn crafting. With the Geyer wrap , the B-flat/F rotor is located after the three main valve rotors. The distinguishing feature of this design is that the B-flat change valve is aligned in the same plane as the primary valves, creating a much smoother transition between the two sides of the instrument.
One of the unique aspects of Geyer's genius was his ability to custom design a horn for the specific individual for whom he was building it. Geyer would appraise the individual's physical size and playing requirements, and then adjust the tapers, bell size, and metal thickness of the instrument to optimize the instrument to the players needs. He also designed and made many excellent mouthpieces for performers.
To quote Geyer, "I've made over 1400 horns. Each horn took between three or four weeks to make. I worked with brass and made the tubings just like a tailor would go out and get a bolt of cloth, then make a suit out of it." He never completed more than one instrument on a day, so he numbered his horns with the month, day, and year of completion.
Geyer was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 1971.