Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Cedar Falls, Iowa, horn today

The Sousaphone featured in the post below, built in 1899 and identified as one of the first ten horns to come out of the Conn factory, can still be seen today - and in the same town in which it was first played! Here is the bass section of the band in Cedar Falls in 1902, showing that horn:
All photos courtesy of Mark Welty of the Cedar Falls Municipal Band
Now fast-forward 110 years. Hanging on the wall of the Iowa Band Museum in Cedar Falls today are five old Sousaphones:

The Conn four-valve "raincatcher" on the far left has a very old serial number, 62238, as well as a rather unusual, but very familiar, valve section. Here's a close up of that horn:

And here's a close-up of just the valve section, first in the photo from 1902, and then in the photo from today:

They appear identical, with the exception that the main tuning slide is longer in the photo today. Between the almost identical look, and the fact that they share Cedar Falls in common (even after all these years), it is highly likely that it is the same Sousaphone.

But add to that what is engraved on the bell:

While it is hard to make out on this photo, the word "Sousaphone" appears in large letters toward the rim of the bell, which seems to be a big deal ("That's a 'Sousaphone'? I've never seen one of those before!"). But below that is written "C. G. Conn, Elkhart, Ind. New York."

As Dr. Margaret Downie Banks of the National Music Museum, and an expert on Conn history, clarifies, "Instruments made between 1897-1902 usually bear both the Elkhart, Indiana, and New York factory designations" (online source). This further reinforces 1899 as the likely year the Sousaphone was built.

Until the original "Monster Sousaphone" of 1898 shows up somewhere (and I hope it does!), this horn in Iowa seems to be the oldest surviving Sousaphone built by Conn.

[Many thanks to Ian Church for first making me aware of this horn at the Iowa Band Musuem.]

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