Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hey! Did I play that Sousaphone?

The Sousaphone mentioned in the post below may very well be the one I played this past summer up at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, MI - the experience that sparked my interest in Sousaphone history in the first place:

Photo taken by John Beery, curator of the Greenleaf Collection at Interlochen
For years, that vintage "Monster" has been accompanied by a framed info sheet that claims that it is "The Original Sousaphone," built in 1898:

Photo taken by author
We now know that this claim is incorrect (see various posts below), but it was believed to be true from the moment that Sousaphone came to Interlochen. Here is one news clipping telling of its arrival:

Image courtesy of John Beery
However, as I noted in an earlier post, this horn - or one that looks just like it - has been viewed as Conn's first Sousaphone since at least 1949, according to this page from the March-April edition of The Instrumentalist from that year (vol. 3, no. 4, p. 38):

Image found by the author in the USC library
I have a hard time understanding how Ted Pounder, the very craftsman who built the first Sousaphone to  come out of the Conn factory back in 1898, managed to get his history wrong. For there is no evidence that I have come across to suggest that this particular version of Conn's "Monster" was created any earlier than 1903. And at the very least, we know that it is not the original "Monster" that we see Herman Conrad playing in photos from 1898-1901 (again, refer to various posts below).

So what about that old Sousaphone I played up at Interlochen this summer? Is it perhaps the one we see in action in Sousa's Band in 1903 in the post below? The serial number is 88983, which places it around 1905, according to educated guess at the Conn Loyalist website, so who knows!

What we can say for sure is that it is a very old horn, which Interlochen should be proud to possess, and I am honored to have played (and for what it's worth, it sounded really good!).

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