Wednesday, June 21, 2017

An early three-valve Conn Monster

I dropped in on Dillon Music this afternoon to chat with Steve Dillon and to check out a vintage Conn Sousaphone that they have on consignment. Matt Walters, the world-class tuba technician at Dillon, graciously let me spend some quality time with this enormous old beast:

The first thing I noticed about this horn was how much bigger the bell and bell throat appeared in comparison to the original Sousaphone built by J. W. Pepper. And then I picked it up - yikes! I asked Matt if we could weigh it, and the scale put it right at 33 pounds - the exact weight of Conn's first Sousaphone (which had four valves), according to one newspaper report from 1901.

The serial number - 91790 - suggests that this Monster was built in 1905, or perhaps 1906 - about three years after Conn first created and started selling a three-valve Sousaphone. But this one seems larger than the standard model (compare where my head is in relation to the bell vs. what can be seen in the ad from 1902 in the link above).

Here are more photos of this great old Sousaphone. If it had a model number, I'm not sure what it would have been at this early stage. There was nothing on the horn itself that suggested anything.

The bell diameter is 24 inches; the bell throat is 7 1/8 inches; and the bore is .773 inches. And as I mentioned earlier, the weight is a shoulder-crushing 33 pounds - which is what Conrad had to deal with during his time with the Sousa Band. I can't imagine shouldering a horn of that size and weight for an entire concert!

Sadly, and quite surprisingly, this particular Sousaphone didn't sound all that great. I was expecting a much clearer and deeper sound, but it felt stuffy, and not nearly as boomy as my 1927 Pan American 64K Sousaphone (= Conn 14K), which is considerably smaller and lighter.

But it would be fun to learn where this old Conn raincatcher has been over the past 112 years!

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