Friday, October 26, 2012

By April 1900, ten Sousaphones

In the April 1900 edition of C. G. Conn's Truth (vol. 4, no. 8, p. 29), we find the following article and photo:

Image courtesy of  Mark Overton at
Here we learn that "There are now ten Wonder Sousaphones used in America," and that "the number will be more than doubled before the political campaign opens" (I love it! That's what our presidential campaigns need today - more Sousaphones!).

The horn pictured here is one of those ten Sousaphones - although not the first or second one, as the posts below clarify. It was purchased by the Ancient Order of United Workers Military Band of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and played by B. K. Kilborne (shown with the horn), who helped establish that band, and even directed it from 1891-92.

Kilborne's letter to Conn, seen at the bottom part of the article above, and dated February 5, 1900, has him praising the instrument, saying that "it is quite as easily filled as the ordinary Eb bass and possesses a pipe organ tone of great power and brilliancy. It is a wonder and admiration of all who see it."

He then states that "We used it in the Grand Army parade at Philadelphia last September [the 5th, to be exact], and it was listed by the Press as one of the striking hits and incidents of the big parade." This tells us that the horn was built sometime in 1899, prior to September 5th.

Here's a closer and clearer look at this Sousaphone, showing Kilborne in 1902, when the band had become known as Fitzgerald's Concert Band:

Photo courtesy of Mark Welty of the Cedar Falls Municipal Band
You'll notice two things about the horn in this photo and in the earlier one above: First, the bell is being pointed a bit forward, rather than straight up, which is something we haven't yet encountered; and, second, the valve section is completely different from both versions we see of the original Conn Sousaphone, built in 1898.

Apparently, Conn was still trying out different configurations as it relates to the tubing, in order to improve the tone and intonation of his "monster four-valve Sousaphone."

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