Saturday, December 1, 2012

The bell comes forward (1908)

On December 26, 1907, Charles G. Conn drafted a letter to the U. S. Patent Office that would bring a dramatic change to the Sousaphone, as well as to other bell-up instruments. Here's a portion of what he wrote:
The object of my invention is to construct the bells of brass wind musical instruments with curved axes and by attaching these curved bells to the bell-tubes of the instruments by means of curved sleeves, to provide a bell-front instrument having a much larger field of adjustment than heretofore.
The application was filed on February 13, 1908 (although not approved until August 17, 1909), and included the following diagram:

Image, along with entire patent info, available online here
The Feburary 1, 1908 edition of The Music Trade Review (vol. 46, no. 5, pp. 40-41) reported on this "new Wonderphone family of instruments," where "the volume of tone for the entire band can be directed toward the audience instead of being partly projected skyward or toward the ceiling as with the bell-up instruments" (p. 40). It also revealed that Conn "has been working on the development of these instruments for the past two years," and that "pirates [are] already in evidence."

Three weeks later, the journal further reported on "The Wonderful 'Wonderphone'" (MTR, February 22, 1908, vol. 46, no. 8, p. 40), and five months later, published this full page feature (MTR, July 11, 1908, vol. 47, no. 2, p. 37):

Image courtesy of The Music Trade Review online
The instrument on the left above is what we know as the Sousaphone today, but since that name was already tied to the bell-up horn that Pepper first built sometime between 1894-96, and Conn improved upon in 1898, this new bell-forward horn was dubbed "The Helicon BBb Bass Wonderphone."

That name, or something close to it (e.g. "Wonderphone Helicon") seems to have remained until 1918, when the bell-forward horn began to be referred to exclusively as "The Sousaphone Grand" (see C. G. Conn's Musical Truth, May 1918, vol. 10, no. 22).

Click here for more on the bell-front design.

No comments:

Post a Comment