Monday, December 24, 2012

The largest playable Sousaphone

Image courtesy of Mark Overton at
Marking the 50th anniversary of the company, this notice appeared in a 1924 edition of C. G.Conn's Musical Truth (vol. 14,no. 36). Here is what the first two paragraphs say:
As a fitting emblem of its progress during the fifty years since its founding, C. G. Conn, Ltd., has just completed the construction of the world's largest playable Sousaphone, which is illustrated to the left. This remarkable instrument is finished completely in burnished gold, with oxidized silver and other precious metals used to bring out the details of the highly ornate engraving which entirely covers the bell, inside and out. This engraving alone required more than three solid weeks. The bell itself is 10 feet, 2 1/2 inches in circumference, and the instrument weighs nearly fifty pounds. Were this monster Sousaphone to be listed for sale the price would be in the neighborhood of $3,000.00.
This titanic instrument will be on display at the various Conn branches and agencies  throughout the country during the coming months.

This historic horn is currently part of the Greenleaf collection of instruments at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, MI. Having visited there just this past summer, I had the chance to see it hanging on the wall:


If I knew what I was encountering at that time, I would have arranged to examine this amazing instrument in more detail. But click here for a video of Ian Church, who was able to do just that, courtesy of John Beery, the curator of the Greenleaf collection, who is also featured. And just to give you an idea of how large this Monster really is, note the photo on the left, showing it in 1927 (C. G. Conn's Musical Truth, vol. 17, no. 44).

Here's a more recent photo of the Sousaphone, showing the ornate engraving on the inside of the bell, when it was displayed previously at the Elkhart County Historical Museum:

Photo found online here, at the Conn Loyalist website


  1. "The bell itself is 10 feet, 2 1/2 inches in circumference..."

    Not uncommon hyperbole in press releases of the time. Such fiction would NEVER be printed in the tabloids or on the Internet today... :-)

  2. Steve,

    10' 2.5" in circumference would be a diameter of 39" (three feet three inches). That's only 50% larger in diameter than the bell of a modern 26" (two foot two inch) sousaphone. Based on the photos above, that doesn't seem at all implausible for this beast.

    Jim McIntyre