Friday, November 6, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr. Sousa-phone!

On this, the 161st birthday of John Philip Sousa, I thought I'd share something that I acquired recently. It's a paper flyer that came out when the 1952 movie, "Stars and Stripes Forever," was released:

It is signed by Ted Pounder, who built Conn's very first Sousaphone (and many after that!), although I have no way to verify that this is actually his signature. But some of the information on the flyer is inaccurate, or at least misleading. Most notably:

  • What is pictured here is most certainly not the "Original Sousaphone." That distinction, as I have made abundantly clear in this blog, belongs to the horn built by J. W. Pepper in 1895.
  • It's not even the "Original Sousaphone made by Conn for Sousa's Band in 1898." The style of horn seen here doesn't appear until 1903.
  • And, of course, it was not Ted Pounder "who created and made the first Sousaphone" - unless that is referring to the first Conn Sousaphone.
  • Finally, while Sousa clearly favored Conn instruments, he did at one time say something that is at least a mild recommendation of Pepper instruments.
It's also interesting to note that the Sousaphone that is played in the movie is not the one depicted on the flyer, as we can tell from the number of valves:

But the liner notes to the recent Blu-Ray edition of the movie come pretty close to getting the facts straight: "The big brass instrument that bears Sousa's name was actually conceived by . . . Sousa. In 1893 [close! 1892], he requested Philadelphia instrument maker J. W. Pepper to perfect his design and build the first Sousaphone. An 1898 version by instrument maker C. G. Conn later became Sousa's favorite." Indeed it did.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Sousa-phone!

1 comment:

  1. I'd be real curious to know where the Sousaphone from the movie is now. It's certainly a different design, in terms of the bell construction, than any of the Sousaphone I've seen. The closest looking one would be the raincatcher to bell-front (44K to 48K). The bell design is very odd.