Holton French Horns

While better known today for their famous Farkas French horn line and trumpets/cornets, the Holton company was originally founded by trombone player Frank Holton at the turn of the 20th century. Holton produced a range of brass instruments first in Chicago, and then in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where instrument production remained until recently consolidating with a Conn-Selmer facility in Eastlake, Ohio in 2011. Mr. Holton’s involvement ended when he retired in the 1940s and 20 years later the company sold to woodwind maker Leblanc, and most recently in 2004 to the Conn-Selmer division of Steinway Musical Instruments (makers of the Conn 8D).

Holton’s modern-day French horn line was developed in collaboration with then principal horn of the Chicago Symphony, Philip Farkas, between 1956 and 1958. Inspired by the Kruspe horn layout, the Farkas models introduced a level of high range security and focus that has earned the horn a strong reputation among student and college players. Holton’s large throat horns, especially the H179, remain widely popular today.

The first Farkas model, the yellow brass Model 77, was a medium throated horn produced between 1958 and 1964. Starting in 1964, the Holton company discontinued the Model 77 and developed  four new models all of which are still being made today. All based on the Farkas layout, they vary in size and metal.

Farkas models

H-177: A nickel silver horn with a medium sized throat

H-178: A yellow brass horn with a medium sized throat (read review)

H-179: Holton’s most popular model, a nickel silver horn with a large throat (read review)

H-180: A yellow brass horn with a large throat (read review)

After 1964, a bronze bell Farkas was introduced:

H181: A yellow brass horn with a large throat and bronze bell (read review)

As the popularity of these Farkas models grew, Holton continued to introduce new Farkas-style variations with the greatest activity in the early 1990s when collaborations with Barry Tuckwell and Ethel Merker introduced new features and some higher price points.

Merker Matic models

H175: A Farkas-inspired nickel silver horn with a medium bell, with some design updates including a redesigned .306 taper and some extra bells and whistles including an adjustable thumb hook and heavy valve caps.

H176: Similar to the H175 but with a bronze bell

H189: Nickel silver, larger bell.

Tuckwell model

H105: Bronze bell and branch with nickel silver body, this horn comes with two lead pipes and a redesigned taper to allow greater flexibility in switching between orchestral and chamber basic.

Next, read about Yamaha and Conn horns.