C.G. Conn HistoryC.G. Conn, the oldest continuous manufacturer of band instruments in America, literally gave birth to the U.S. band instrument manufacturing industry. Today, C.G. Conn encompasses some of the greatest names in musical instruments - C.G. Conn, King and Benge brass instruments, Artley and Armstrong woodwinds and Scherl & Roth strings. Always committed to serving the needs of students, music educators, amateurs, and professionals, C.G. Conn's storied history reflects a dedication for innovation and quest for the ultimate in design and craftsmanship - an industry leader in musical performance.
One Saturday night in 1873, Civil War veteran Charles Gerard Conn got involved in a brawl that resulted in a split lip. Not good news for a man who played cornet with the Elkhart, Indiana "Brick Brown Band." In order to get around this problem, Colonel Conn set out to perfect a special rubber-cushioned mouthpiece so he could continue playing. The new mouthpiece, which he later patented, caught the eye of other musicians. He made a few for his friends, but soon there was such a demand for his mouthpieces that he rigged up a lathe from an old sewing machine and began turning them out as fast as possible.
In 1875, a French musical instrument maker named Dupont stopped by the shop and asked if he might use Conn's bench to repair some horns. After watching him work for several days, Conn decided that he, too, could make a horn. In that same year, in a closet-size shop only 20 feet square, Col. Conn produced the first American-built cornet.
By 1879 the shop moved into larger quarters, and Conn began adding instruments to his line. In 1888, Colonel Conn brought 15 European instrument craftsmen to the United States and gave them the space, the tools and the incentive to make the finest instruments their skills would allow. Their expertise, teamed with the Colonel's ingenuity and ambition, soon produced instruments so exceptional that they were accorded highest honors in the 1893 World's Columbia Exposition in Chicago.
Twice the Conn plant burned to the ground. Twice it was rebuilt, bigger and better than before. Famous bandmasters and musicians visited the plant and personally endorsed "Conn Wonder Instruments." John Phillip Sousa, Patrick Gilmore, Herbert Clarke, Arthur Pryor, A. Liberati and others were frequent visitors.
Vaudeville was at its peak, and the theaters and music halls of Elkhart saw a steady procession of the finest bands and musicians of the day. All played the Colonel's instruments. Conn instruments - ornate and often jeweled - became world famous as Sousa and others toured Europe playing before kings, queens and czars.
The Colonel also loved strange and bizarre instruments. In 1907 he built an Immensaphone, the largest horn in the world. It measured 12 feet in diameter and 35 feet long. The Conn factory also built the world's largest drum, a slide tuba to make noises like a ship's warning whistle, tenor tubas for the jackass role in Strauss' Don Juan, and a saxophone for one-armed musician Al Miller.
Since the first American cornet in 1875, C.G. Conn continued producing "firsts" throughout its distinguished history: the first American saxophone, first double-bell euphonium, first sousaphone (built to the great Sousa's specifications), and a long list of many others.
In 1915, Colonel Conn sold the C.G. Conn Company to C.D. Greenleaf. Greenleaf, almost clairvoyantly, realized a need for the advancement of instrumental music in the schools. His foresight and energy continued to add to Conn's innovations. He was responsible for founding the first national school for band directors, first and only center for the study of musical acoustics, first successful short action valves, first all-electronic organ and first fiberglass sousaphones, among other legendary advancements.
During World War II the Conn factory was completely converted to manufacture precision instruments for defense. Conn received four Army-Navy "E" Awards - the first given in the band instrument industry. During the Korean War part of the facilities was converted to defense production, and Conn achieved another record in precision manufacturing.
Many of today's most preferred instruments owe their original success to Conn's innovation. C.G. Conn French horns, for example, have been the horn of choice for the Hollywood film industry for most of the 20th Century. C.G. Conn Symphony Series trombones have a legendary place in the classical trombone world. Today's best trumpet players are discovering the break-through performance with Vintage One trumpets. These innovative designs, enhanced by superior craftsmanship and technological breakthroughs, have provided today's musicians with the superior instrument performance.
Building on the proven designs of the past, C.G. Conn continues to meet the demands of today's best musicians. As well, amateur and student musicians can enjoy the very best in instrument technology and performance with brass instruments and saxophones from C.G. Conn.