Saturday, August 5, 2017

Band books and Sousaphone facts

As a follow up to my previous post, it turns out that the year the first Sousaphone was built is equally all over the place in general books about the history of bands in America.

For example, in 1951 Alberta Powell Graham, in Great Bands of America, wrote, "While he was with the Great Lakes Band, Sousa designed a new band instrument - a mellow-toned horn to replace the Helicon tuba with its harsh sound. This Sousaphone is in use in all large bands today" (p. 67) That would be, let's see, 1917!

Six years later (1957), in his wonderfully engaging book, Bands of America, H. W. Schwartz revealed that a number of bandmasters (Brooke and Innes) had a giant tuba constructed at one time as a spectacle for their bands, and then adds that
Even Sousa became infected with the "bigger" virus, for in 1898 he placed an order with an instrument maker to build for his band a bass tuba, large in bore and surmounted with a big bell opening upward. Sousa did not claim that his instrument was bigger than others, but it was a spectacular instrument, both in performance and in appearance, especially when held and played by the military giant Herman Conrad. In time this instrument proved its merit as a musical instrument and became known as the sousaphone (p. 183).
Schwartz, as it turns out, worked as an executive for C. G. Conn, Ltd, so he appears to be perpetuating the claim that Conn built the first Sousaphone in 1898 (although, strangely, he doesn't name Conn!). But what was built in 1898 (or early 1897) was Conn's first Sousaphone. Pepper built the original Sousaphone 2-3 years earlier - and it was called a "Sousaphone" from the start, even when Conn created his version.

But hey, Schwartz mentions Conrad, and he does so four different times in his book, and that got me excited! Conrad wasn't yet a "forgotten giant" in the late 1950s. But he is now, and I am hoping to rectify that with my upcoming article.

Finally, Richard Hansen, in his 2005 book, The American Wind Band: A Cultural History, mentions on his timeline that in 1899 "The sousaphone is developed and named for John Philip Sousa" (p. 241). Nope - not 1899, not 1898, and certainly not 1917!

Once again, it seems that over the decades no one knew, or remembered, that J. W. Pepper built the first Sousaphone in 1895. That fact had somehow gotten lost early on.

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