Friday, November 27, 2015

Pepper's full-page announcement

Almost exactly a year ago, the great folks at the J. W. Pepper company graciously allowed me to look through their archives to see what I might be able to find that was relevant to the first Sousaphone. And while we didn't find what I was most interested in - copies of the most important editions of Pepper's Musical Times and Band Journal (I had to search elsewhere for those), we did come across a tattered edition of Portraits of Great Artists.

This beautifully produced volume was apparently attached to the 1904 catalogue and contains 52 pages of photographs and brief testimonials of great musicians who favored Pepper instruments. But one entire page (47, although there are no numbers on the pages) introduces a new instrument to the world (noted in an earlier post, before I was aware of its context). Here's that page:
NOTE: This page is actually missing from the bound document. What remains is a copy of the page, while the original seems to have been lost, or perhaps was taken, back in the early 1990s.
Because this is the only known full-page announcement for Pepper's new horn, it is important to try to determine the date that it was originally created - and 1904 seems highly unlikely, as this would have been at least 8 years after the original Sousaphone was first played in public (see this post).

As it turns out, there are both internal and external clues that confirm that much of the content of Portraits of Great Artists appeared originally in the mid-1890s.

Internal clues

First of all, page 2 lists "Prominent Members and Former Members of Sousa's Peerless Concert Band who Use and Endorse the J. W. Pepper Premier - Own Make - Band Instruments" (lower right-hand column, but check out that monster helicon on the left - and note that the image of Sousa is exactly what we see engraved on the bell of Pepper's Sousaphone!):

The last ten names appear to be the “Former Members,” as their years with the band are listed. In analyzing these dates, comparing them with information from Paul Bierley’s The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa, we can confirm that they are correct, and two of them are listed as having served for “Season 1895” – the latest date mentioned. The names above these ten musicians are presumably the current “Prominent Members” – one of which, Raffayolo, ended his time in 1895, and three of which, DeBleye, Grosskurth, and Wunderlich, joined the band in 1895. Everything in this list of names points to 1895.

Second, there are 14 other members of Sousa’s band in the publication that aren’t on the list on page 2. Of these, 4 appear to be former members, as they have dates listed that are prior to 1895. And the remaining 10, which have no dates listed for them, were all active in Sousa’s band in 1895.

Third, page 15 shows a handwritten testimony by Luciano Conterno in the middle, and it is dated “29/6/95” – suggesting that his comments were originally published shortly after that date (June 29, 1895):

Fourth, page 28 has A. A. Finnie in the middle, and below his name it says, “Trombone Soloist, Sousa’s Concert Band, Season 1896”:  

Interestingly, he appears on the list on page 2 as a former player with the Sousa Band from Season 1895. Bierley isn’t sure if Finnie served for at least one tour for both of those years, but speculates that he might have done so. For our purposes, the date here suggests that the publication either came out after 1896, or Finnie had just signed on as a soloist with Sousa for the upcoming 1896 season, and Pepper is posting that news. I’m thinking the latter might be the case, due to the external evidence below.

Finally, page 7 lists Solo Cornetist Walter D. Pryor (upper right) as playing in Pryor’s Military Band (not to be confused with the band that Arthur Pryor led after he left the Sousa Band):

Walter joined the Sousa Band for short periods in 1897 and 1898, but he is not listed as a former player of that band, suggesting that this testimony originally appeared prior to that time.

External evidence

First, the Sousaphone is mentioned briefly on page 24 of J. W. Pepper’s Musical Times and Band Journal, vol. 13, no. 155, which is from either late 1895 or early 1896 (see this post). It would appear that this new instrument had just been made and was getting some public attention while the Sousa Band was in St. Louis in October 1895. It would seem strange to publish the full-page announcement for the first time in the Portraits of Great Artists in 1904 – almost a decade later! This page almost certainly appeared around late 1895, when Pepper built the Sousaphone. But just where it appeared is unknown at present.

Second, the only other reference to “The Sousaphone” from that time period that I am aware of is on the cover of J. W. Pepper’s Musical Times and Band Journal, vol. 14, no. 159, which was published in April 1896 (see Herman Conrad in the upper left below). Again, the full-page announcement for his new instrument almost certainly appeared prior to that time.

Courtesy of Barry Owen Furrer
     Third, the Musical Times and Band Journal, vol. 12, no. 142, which came out in 1894, contains four pages also titled “Portraits of Great Artists,” and many of the images and testimonies found there match what we find in the current volume. Here's the first of those four pages:

      So we know that Pepper was pulling some of the content from much earlier publications.
      Finally, Pepper's Sousaphone was long gone by 1904. The horn that was featured in Sousa's band from 1898 onward was the one built by C. G. Conn. Pepper's full-page announcement declares that his horn was "Used Daily in Sousa's Peerless Concert Band," but the only year that we can confirm this statement is 1896. The page must have been initially published around that time.

      It seems clear enough that the important page about “The Sousaphone” first appeared somewhere else back in late 1895 or early 1896. But at present, the only extant copy of this page is found in this edition of Portraits of Great Artists, which came out with the 1904 catalogue – and this is the only copy of this publication of which I am aware.

And just to be clear, there is good support for this publication coming out in 1904, as a number of the images and testimonies are seen for the first time in editions of the Musical Times and Band Journal from 1901-03.

Before closing out this rather long post, it should be noted that Conrad shows up prominently in the middle of page 5 (see below) - although, curiously, he is not explicitly listed as playing - or recommending - Pepper's Sousaphone, like he is on the full-page announcement toward the end of the publication. But then again, Conrad was no longer with Sousa's Band in 1904 - and neither was Pepper's Sousaphone, as noted above!

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