This trumpet mouthpiece was found in a James Fort trash pit dating to about 1610. It may be the earliest English trumpet in America identified thus far, but there are no existing early 17th-century trumpets made in England for comparison, and Nuremberg, Germany, was the major center for production of the instrument in the 17th century. Tests at the Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia, determined this piece was cast of brass comprising four parts copper to one part zinc. It was found to be very similar in design to some later English trumpet mouthpieces and to some earlier instruments made in Nuremberg, Germany. A second trumpet mouthpiece, complete with shank, was excavated near the church.
This mouthpiece is larger than what would be used today. It is consistent with a modern alto trombone. The trumpet of the 17th century could only produce eight or nine useful notes, and the larger size of the mouthpiece allowed the player to bring notes into tune by “lipping” them up or down.
Trumpets were used in the 17th century to signal between ships and to transmit commands on the field of battle. The Jamestown colonists used trumpets to announce their arrivals at Indian villages. For instance, in 1613, Governor Thomas Dale warned the paramount chief Powhatan that if he didn’t return runaway colonists and stolen tools the English would signal the start of war by “our Drums and Trumpets.”