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Trophy Products

An article by
Gary Nelson

Trophy Products, Cleveland OH 
and inventor Joe Thompson, Covington OH

I'm currently documenting the history of Grossman Music and Trophy Products, and the life of Joe Thompson, for a book on Rogers Drums, covering 1938 to 1968, due out early next year.

While researching the life of Josephus Brown Thompson, I was able to find the majority of his 43 inventions, and I've compiled these in a list of his patents (see list below).

I hope this brief sharing of information and pictures will help in locating actual examples of these pieces of instrument history, as well as bring smiles to the faces of those who want to learn about them and remember playing them in their youth.
Trophy Products began in the 1940s and continues to this day. The company was originally run by Max Berger and his son Joseph, and it's now operated by third-generation relative Richard Berger. Some of the plastic musical inventions patented by Joseph Thompson/Trophy Products are still available. I walked into an older music store in Red Bank, NJ, last week and found Hum-a-zoos, slide whistles, and Dixie fifes on the counter. The meeting of two men from different towns in Ohio made this possible in the late 1930s.

Henry Grossman was in the musical instrument business-both wholesale and manufacturing-for most of his life. In the 1920s he went into business as Grossman Bros. Music with his brother Julius. They produced thick books called Counter Catalogs, updated every few years, to offer and distribute all things musical worldwide. Grossman Music was and currently is operated out of the downtown Cleveland, OH, area. When Mr. Grossman started offering Joe Thompson's mouthpiece puller to the public (see photos below), it was the start of a relationship that led to various plastic instruments (trumpets, horns, whistles, and kazoos) throughout the 1940s. To be able to bring the gift of music to both children and adults in times of war became a great service to the world.

Restrictions during World War II required that metal used in anything not intended for the war effort-such as musical instruments-be an amount less than 10 percent.

The relationship of Mr. Thompson and Mr. Grossman continued through the 1950s and 1960s, as Grossman bought the Rogers drum company in the early '50s. Mr. Thompson was from Covington, OH, and that's where the drum factory was built. In the early days of the factory, Trophy products were assembled in a room next to the Rogers office. The plastic instrument Mr. Thompson is most known for is the Flutophone, which became the standard for every elementary band class eager to embark on a music education. That was in the 1940s; later in the '60s, he went with the times to revamp the early learning instrument and designed the Cambridge recorder.

The first and most complex plastic instrument was a full-size plastic trumpet. Mr. Thompson had the gift for making things in a fun and practical way to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. The Spike Jones-endorsed Sax-o-fun was a small saxophone-shaped kazoo. The Sousa-fun was kazoo that resembled a small tuba. The riveted Blasto whistle is modeled after U.S. Army and Navy issue pea green whistles-built to last. The Hezzie slide whistle is simple fun for any age. Some of these musical inventions were used in professional pit orchestras to achieve the sound that only a Trophy product can produce. The art of encouraging the gift of music through simple, played musical inventions. Simply hum or blow.

The first batches of 1940s Rocket whistles, Hum-a-zoos, Flutophones, Sax-o-funs, and Skylark whistles I've found are in that swirly, multicolored plastic of the times. Some Grossman text refers to them as variegated colors. The later 1950s examples are solid in color. The Dixie and Piper fifes also varied in colors over the years. The main solid colors found are red, and bright yellow for the older Trophy Products. On most of the instruments, the mouthpiece color contrasts that of the body. 

I have been able to find multiple examples of these pieces, and I'm always looking for more swirly rocket whistles and the full-size plastic trumpets (partial or complete). I'm also looking for other Trophy product Bos'n whistles and Skylark whistles; they are very small (1-2") and difficult to locate. Please see the pictures provided. I do not have the cardboard-boxed Super Circus Band Set, Magic Flute (in yellow), or Jet Siren horn ... yet. Please e-mail me if you have any of these in any condition. Thank you!

I hope you have enjoyed this display and brief history.

Gary Nelson
fltgrycleav@yahoo.com

Blasto whistles

Dixie and Piper fifes

flutophone and cambridge recorder

HumaZoo

JT HG

mouthpiece puller2

mouthpiece puller1

plastic full size trumpet

 

Rocket whistle

 

Skylark and Bosn whistles

 

Josephus Thompson Patents List

 
 

Slide whistles

Sousafun and Saxofun

 

TrophyProducts/toy horn

Trophy Products advertisements

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