Friday, October 23, 2015

A truly historic photograph (1896)

The whole story will have to wait for my follow-up article for the ITEA Journal (due to be published early next year), but this truly historic photograph was found recently at the archives of the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers in Salt Lake City:

Photo courtesy of the ISDUP, and used with permission
What can be seen here, albeit at a considerable distance, is the Sousa Band in concert at the Tabernacle on March 7, 1896. There is no question about the date, as it is written on the back of the photo, and it squares with Sousa's itinerary for that year. Plus, the huge flag on the Tabernacle ceiling was only there from January 1896 until the summer of 1897.

From the Deseret Evening News, February 24, 1896, p. 11 (courtesy of the Library of Congress)
And I said this photograph is truly historic because it is now the earliest known image of Sousa and his band in concert! Here's a closer view of the band itself:

But look carefully. While movement in the band caused many of the members to be out of focus (Sousa himself is fully a blur), we can make out some of the instruments and their players. Most importantly, look right above the first chair clarinet. What we can barely see is a man with a mustache playing not a tuba (there is one of those to his left, and it is much smaller) but a Sousaphone. This would almost certainly have to be the horn built by J. W. Pepper the previous year (Conn's first Sousaphone wasn't introduced to the world until January 1898).

This is now proof that Pepper's historic horn - the very first Sousaphone ever built - was indeed "Used Daily in Sousa's Peerless Concert Band," just as Pepper had claimed. Prior to this photo being discovered a few months ago, I had been unable to find any evidence that this new instrument had been played under Sousa's baton. And there were a few clues that seemed to confirm the idea that it was perhaps never played in public at that time.

But that all changes now with this image - the one and only time (for now) that we see the original Sousaphone in action with Sousa's band!

Again, I'll share more of the story in my upcoming follow-up article in the ITEA Journal.

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