Louis Armstrong’s Trumpet
1946, African American Museum
A numinous instrument epitomizes a jazz legend’s genius
By age 10, Armstrong mastered a tin horn purchased for a dime. He soon graduated to a cornet, belting out standards, including “Home, Sweet Home,” on the streets of New Orleans. But the boy who would become one of the founding fathers of jazz didn’t switch to his first trumpet until 1924. Soon, as biographer Laurence Bergreen reported, Armstrong—who could hit 200 high C’s in a row—was bringing down the house at the Roseland Ballroom. “Finally, I cut loose one night,” Armstrong recalled of a performance there. “All the boys just couldn’t play for watching me.” From the 1930s on, he preferred Selmer trumpets, including this one, made in France.