Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Publishing my findings - so far

A lot has happened since I last posted here, and I felt it was time to get you up-to-speed on everything I've learned about the early history of the Sousaphone since we last "talked."

First of all, about a year ago now, at the encouragement of a friend, I reached out to Ben Pierce, the editor of the ITEA Journal to see if he might be interested in an article on this topic, and he was! That launched me into much more serious research (portions of which I will post on later), and resulted in the following article, published this past May (and showing just the first page):


Here's how I summed up my findings:
For years, confusion and even controversy swirled around the early history of the Sousaphone. But no longer. We can now say with confidence that Pepper, who received the idea from Sousa in 1892, built the first Sousaphone in 1895. But for some reason it quickly faded away, attracting very little public attention. The idea was then picked up by or delivered to Conn, whereby he was able to produce, in early 1898, the first Sousaphone that appears in use by Sousa's band. This horn went through a few modifications in its early years, and remained the sole Sousaphone in Sousa's bass section until 1915, when we see a second Sousaphone added for the first time. Then, from 1921 onward, the entire section consisted exclusively of Sousaphones.
One of the most important pieces of evidence for the Pepper horn being the first was mentioned in a previous post, but here is the actual scan of Pepper's Musical Times and Band Journal, vol. 13, no. 155, which came out in late 1895 or perhaps early 1896 and was graciously shared with me by collector and musician Don Johnson. First, the cover (and yes, this is the original color of the first and last pages!):


And now - drumroll, please! - here's what we find on page 24:


So the horn clearly existed in October 1895. But you'll note that it was the photographs of the Sousaphone that were "a great attraction," making me wonder if the horn was actually being played at that time in Sousa's band. And this, along with other clues, led me to speculate that perhaps Pepper's historic instrument was never featured under Sousa's baton. There was simply no evidence that it was - no mention in newspaper articles, as far as I could find, and no photographs showing the Pepper Sousaphone in action. That is, until now. There will need to be a follow up article!


Additional support for the first Sousaphone being built in 1895:

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