Re: Arnold Jacobs' York Tuba

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Posted by Brian Frederiksen on October 20, 1999 at 20:38:23:

In Reply to: Arnold Jacobs' York Tuba posted by Matt on October 20, 1999 at 15:06:24:

To understand why there was no further production, let's set the clock back to the early 1930's. The U.S. was in the depression and money was tight. York was producing mostly student line instruments and most were low pitch, used in bands. The tubas they produced were primarily BB flat or E flat with very few in CC. J.W. York had been producing instruments for around 50 years and the company was sold to a group including the tuba's designer, Bill Johnson.

Now that the scene is set, the company receives an order from Phillip Donatelli, the tuba player of Stokowski's famed Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the premier orchestras of the time. This is quite an order but when the horn is made, it is rejected not because of the instrument's quality but because of the player's large belly! It is sold to a college student for $175, $5 a week, a large amount of money in a depression.

At that time, others were playing smaller instruments (Bell, Helleberg & Sons, Donatelli) and this was considered the standard. Since the horn was not being played in the Philadelphia Orchestra, the York company undoubtedly thought the project was a failure and even sold the backup horn. They did continue a relationship with that college student during the 30's and even ran in their ads that their instrument was played by Arnold Jacobs, tubist of the Indianapolis Orchestra. The rest is history.

Bad decision? In retrospect, yes - who would know that in the 1990's this model tuba would be hot stuff. There are other great business blunders of more importance because someone had a product that they didn't realize the potential.

There is a story about IBM approaching a software developer around 1980 for an operating system for their upcoming PC. This company did not take IBM seriously, kept them in a waiting room for 3 hours before telling them to get lost. IBM went to a small company that did their BASIC compiler - Microsoft! The rest is history - now that's a major business blunder!

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