Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Richard I. Schwartz
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(Elkhart, IN 1879-present)
(Worcester, MA 1887-1898)
This company began as an outgrowth of a rubber-rimmed mouthpiece developed by Charles Gerard Conn (b Phelps, NY 29 Jan 1844; d Southern California 5 Jan 1931) in 1874 to alleviate the pain of a punched lip. The mouthpiece was patented in 1875 as a "rubber cushion" brass mouthpiece and was Conn’s first product (US #160164). 1875 was also the first year that Conn silver plated a brass mouthpiece.
In 1851, his parents moved to Elkhart. Before his involvement with brass instruments, he fought in the Civil War as a soldier. In 1869, he was married and had jobs as a sewing machine salesman, heath-care product salesman, silverware engraver and plater, zinc collar-pad maker (for horses), and rubber stamp maker. Conn was twenty-seven years of age in 1871 when he started playing the cornet. He was obliged to do so as a result of an accident at the zinc collar-pad factory (Banks 1994, 1). Shortly after he commenced his study of the cornet, he toured with Haverly’s Minstrels.
In 1876, he established a partnership with Eugene Victor Jean Baptiste Dupont (1832-1881), a French instrument maker previously employed by Henry Distin. In 1877, the Conn-Dupont company expanded to a three story building, used previously as a furniture factory. Already by 1877, he employed eighty-four workers producing "Conn Wonder" instruments (Waterhouse 1993, 70). They were produced until c1910, when the Elkhart plant burned on 22 May 1910. The new line that temporarily replaced the "Wonder" instruments in c1910 was the "New Invention" line of instruments.
Dupont had experience with patents when he worked for DISTIN in England. This proved to be very profitable for Conn-Dupont. Since the firm patented two important products during their short three-year partnership. In 1878, the company patented a cornet which was able to play in the keys of Eb, C, Bb and A (Banks 1994, 13-15) and was called the "four-in-one cornet" (US #199516). It was built in the key of Eb, but had crooks to put it in the lower keys. The New Langwill Index (Waterhouse 1993, 70) lists the year of a1878 for the invention of the instrument, and Elkhart’s Brass Roots (Banks 1994, 13), 1876 for the first production year of the "four-in-one cornet." In 1878, the company also patented valves with double-through passages, the "Equa-true system" (US #222248).
In 1879, the Conn-Dupont company dissolved, and Colonel Conn became sole owner of C. G. Conn & Co. The company dissolved giving Dupont the benefit of their joint patents (Waterhouse 1993, 98). In 1883, the plant burned down and in three months C. G. Conn built a new and larger factory (Hazen and Hazen 1987, 138). By early 1884, the firm was employing 130 workers. In 1886, C. G. Conn bought the Isaac FISKE company using its facility in Worcester, Massachusetts for the manufacture of Conn instruments. The marking on these instruments is "MADE BY/ C. G. CONN/ ELKHART, IND./ AND /WORCESTER MASS." (Banks 1994, 27). These instruments are difficult to find and quite collectible. Later, Isaac FISKE praised the C. G. Conn company for its "Wonder Cornet" as "the only perfect cornet in the world" and stated that any cornet player who does not try a Conn "Wonder Cornet" for any reason whatsoever "is a fit subject to become an occupant of some asylum for the care of imbeciles" (Banks 1994, 28).
A "vocal cornet" was produced in the 1880’s, so-called because the instrument (built in C) could play from a vocal score and not have to transpose (Banks 1994, 16-17). Pocket cornets were first advertised by C. G. Conn in 1888 and are mentioned in Conn’s literature until the early 1920’s (Banks 1994, 40).
It is interesting to note that in 1888, Conn built the first saxophone in the United States when Buescher was its foreman (Waterhouse 1993, 69). The instrument was built with the collaborative efforts of clarinetist/saxophonist Edouard A. Lefèbre who, later in 1895, supervised the manufacture of C. G. Conn’s saxophones. Saxophone Soloists and their Music (Gee 1986, 16) gives the date of 1885 for this first saxophone in the United States. Buescher was already working for the Conn-Dupont company in 1877 at the age of fifteen. In 1893, the plant was rebuilt and employed 300 workers. Also in 1893, the company was represented at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Conn was also quite busy in the public eye as well. He published his own newspaper called The Elkhart Truth (1889), became elected mayor of Elkhart (1880), purchased the Washington [D.C.] Times (1895), was elected to the State Legislature (1889), and was a United States Congressman (1893-95) (Banks 1994, 2), introducing a bill in Congress to re-organize Army band instrumentation.
In 1897, a retail store was opened in New York City at 34 East Fourteenth Street and was operational into the first decade of the twentieth century. Manufactured in Elkhart, Indiana and distributed in New York City, the "New York Conn Wonder Cornet" was a highly prestigious instrument to own. These instruments had "NEW YORK WONDER/ MADE BY/ C. G. CONN/ ELKHART-IND./ AND/ NEW YORK." marked on the bell from about 1898 to 1905, when the retail store relocated (Banks 1994, 3, 34). These cornets were played by practically every major soloist on the instrument. The list included Jules Levy, Alessandro Liberati, Theodor Hoch, Herman Bellstedt, Albert Bode, Walter Rogers, Thomas Short, Knoll and Mary McNeil, William Paris Chambers, Bowen Church, Herbert Clarke, Steve Crean, Alice Raymond, Walter Smith, Tom Clarke, James Llewellyn (father of Edward), Hi Henry, Bohumir Kryl, and Emile Koenicke (C. G. Conn n.d., 10).
Jules Levy was employed by Conn to personally examine and test every new "Wonder Cornet" and none would be shipped until he approved them as "absolutely perfect in tone and tune." They were available in the following three finishes (C. G. Conn n.d., 10):
Finish #1 ($60.00) was quadruple silver plated with a burnished or sandblasted velvet finish with gold plated finger pieces (inlaid with pearl), valve caps, double water keys, ferrules, mountings, and inside of bell (burnished). Bb and A shanks, two gold plated mouthpieces (any size), Hoch mute, lyre, and piston wiper were included in a velvet and satin lined (black or brown leather) case. It was truly an exceptional instrument.
Finish #2 ($50.00) was triple silver plated with a burnished or velvet sandblasted finish with a gold plated and burnished inside of bell. The instrument also had pearl inlaid finger pieces. Bb and A shanks, two silver-plated mouthpieces (any size) and all of the other attachments for Finish #1 were included in a (black or brown leather) case.
Finish #3 ($40.00) was polished brass with an engraved bell, pearl inlaid finger pieces, two silver mouthpieces (any size), and all of the attachments for Finish #1 in a (black or brown leather) case.
There were special prices for custom instruments with gold plating or elaborate finishes. The "Wonder Cornet" could be ordered in either high pitch, low pitch, or "the new International pitch" [A=440?]. One could also order the cornet with interchangeable tuning slides for both high pitch and International pitch. The instrument was absolutely guaranteed for any defects in tone, construction, or finish, for five years (C. G. Conn n.d.,10).
Conn promoted his instruments by giving them away, as well, to many of the above mentioned artists, including sixty-two gold plated instruments to Sousa’s Band, and a gold, jewel encrusted $5,000.00 cornet to Alessandro Liberati (Waterhouse 1993, 69-70).
In 1900, C. G. Conn claimed to be the only instrument manufacturer to exclusively employ union labor. Instruments between 1906 and 1919 bore the marking "UNION LABEL/ MPBP/B&SW" or "OUR LABLE/ MPBP&/ SWU of NA/ UNITY/ MUTUAL/ ASSISTANCE/ AND EDUCATION" (Banks 1994, 3). Both markings were for the Local 355 of the "Metal Polishers, Buffers, Platers, Brass Moulders, Brass and Silver Workers International Union of North America" (Banks 1994, 3).
In 1901, the "Conn-Queror Cornet" was patented, and in 1903, it was endorsed by Bohumir Kryl. He predicted that no manufacturer, including Conn, would ever manufacture a better instrument (Banks 1994, 38).
Engravers for these instruments were highly respected artists. They are discussed at length in Elkhart’s Brass Roots ( Banks 1994, 8 –12). James H. "Jake" Gardner was Conn’s first master engraver. He was responsible for many important instruments, e.g., Patrick Gilmore’s ornately engraved cornet of 1886 and Gardner’s own trombone of 1888. For his engraved instruments, Gardner would either sign his name or just place his initials "JHG" or just "G" on the instrument. Occasionally, he would not sign an instrument, but his personal style can be recognized by the trained eye. Two of his students stand out from the crowd, Charles Stenberg (1865-1957) and his brother Julius (1868-1954). They were perhaps unrivaled in their careful and elaborate engravings of the C. G. Conn instruments. Charles was an engraver from 1882 to1886, and also 1890 to the end of his life. Julius worked continuously for sixty-seven years for Conn beginning in 1890.
Extensive archives for the Conn company exists at the Shrine to Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. Historical information about the Conn company in this document, appearing orginally in Elkhart's Brass Roots (Banks 1994), was the result of sixteen years of extensive research by Dr. Margaret Downie Banks. For more information about the company consult Dr. Banks' Conn History Web Site at http://www.usd.edu/~mbanks/CONTENT.html
The main references for this entry were Elkhart’s Brass Roots: An Exhibition to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of C. G. Conn’s Birth and the 120th Anniversary of the Conn Company (Banks 1994), The New Langwill Index (Waterhouse 1993), and C. G. Conn’s Truth [December 1899] (C. G. Conn n.d.). Other references are listed throughout the entry.
(Also inspect Gordon Cherry’s site http://www.missouri.edu/~cceric/sn/conn.html )
The site also has serial numbers for Bach, Besson, Holton, King and Olds.
The following is from Allied Catalogue No. 7-94: (Allied n.d., 230)
1894 27500; 1906 94000
1895 29000; 1908 106000
1896 34000; 1910 116000
1897 40000; 1912 126000
1898 46700; 1914 132400
1899 52000; 1916 142000
1900 58000; 1918 155000
1902 71000; 1920 169500
This firm has had a long distinguished history and it is the intention of the writer of this document to provide the historical background necessary to understand the place from which today’s company came. Briefly, the company began in 1827 with GUICHARD, in c1845 it became GAUTROT AÎNÉ, and finally in 1883, we see COUESNON.
(Paris 1827 – p1845)
August G. Guichard established this company which produced brass instruments by hand and provided many cheaper instruments to the public. In 1836, the company produced a cornet in Bb which had a key that changed the pitch of the instrument to C (Niall O’Loughlin, "Guichard, A. G.," in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments). In 1835, Pierre Louis Gautrot (Guichard’s brother in law) was employed at the company. In 1836, the company patented an ophicleide with three piston valves (Fr #4936), and in 1838, a clavicor. In 1845, Guichard and thirty-three other manufacturers were involved in the Sax litigation (see page 9 in this document) , and A. G. Guichard was one of five persons who signed the letter of complaint. The company was represented at the Paris Exhibitions of 1839 and 1844. The Guichard name was used for many years on instruments (even into the COUESNON era), e.g., at the Paris Expositions of 1849, 1851, and 1855 (Waterhouse 1993, 129-130, 151).
References are listed throughout the entry.
Company markings on cornets include: (Tarr , 56)
Pierre Louis Gautrot (b Mirecourt; d 1882) became proprietor of GUICHARD in 1845. He had been already working for Guichard as his associate beginning in 1835. Gautrot was involved in the 1845 litigation against Adolphe Sax (see page 9 in this document). By 1846, the company of over 200 employees claimed to be the most important manufacturer of musical instruments in Europe. In 1847, the firm employed 208 workers (over 40% of the brass instrument workforce in Paris). In the same year, the company patented improvements to the horn, trumpet, and brass valves (FR #5877). He was "the first European manufacturer to use mass production techniques for instruments" (Niall O’Loughlin, "Gautrot, P. L.," in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments).
Gautrot took advantage of the industrial revolution and added steam power to his plant in 1849. By 1850, he had depots in London, and by 1856, also in Madrid, Naples, and New York. In 1855, Gautrot had a plant in Château-Thierry, as well, and employed over 300 workers in Paris, and was producing 20,000 band and stringed instruments annually. The company had a band consisting of thirty-six workers in 1857 (many companies had such bands in the nineteenth century) and by then had a workshop producing string instruments in Mirecourt, and one producing woodwind instruments in La Couture. Producing extremely desirable instruments, the company exported 70% of its instruments in 1860. In 1862, Gautrot was employing 700 workers and by 1867, four plants were producing approximately 47,000 musical instruments a year (24,000 of them valved brass instruments)! In 1864, the company patented the "système equitonique" (compensating valve system) in France and a year later in England. It used valves with dual windways to act as a compensating system for intonation (Niall O’Loughlin, "Gautrot, P. L.," in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments).
After litigation involving Adolphe Sax from 1856 to 1859 for alleged violation of Sax’s patents, Gautrot was ordered to pay 500,000 francs in damages, and also ordered to mark his instruments with Sax’ name. Gautrot ignored the order and Sax appealed his case in the courts until 1867. The final outcome was not specified in The New Langwill Index (Waterhouse 1993, 129).
In 1870, the company employed over 600 workers in Paris and Château-Thierry. In 1881, Gautrot bought Triebert . In 1882, Amédée August COUESNON became the director of the firm and owner in 1883.
Among the many expositions at which Gautrot was represented were the Paris Expositions in 1844, 1845, 1849, 1855, 1863, 1867, 1878 ; Toulouse in 1845; and London in 1851, 1855, 1862, and 1882 (Waterhouse 1993, 130).
References for the above were The New Langwill Index (Waterhouse 1993)and Niall O'Loughlin, "Gautrot, P. L.," in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Other references are listed throughout the entry.
Company markings on brass instruments include: (Waterhouse 1993, 130)
1) G with an anchor and A in an oval
BREVETÉ S. G. D. G. (in an oval)
Company markings on cornets include:
Gautrot Modell (on the instrument’s bell) (Myers and Parks 1994, 29)
Serial numbers: (Myers et al. 1992, 53)
817 1844 (or soon after)
(Paris 1882 - present)
In 1882, Amédée August Couesnon (1850-1951) bought GAUTROT AÎNÉ after having worked for them for one year. Located at rue d’Angoulême 94 throughout the nineteenth century, the company had grown to such a degree that it claimed to be "the most important manufacturer of musical instruments in the world" (Waterhouse 1993, 72). In 1896, the plant at Château Thierry employed 200 workers. By 1911, the firm employed over 1,000 workers at its 8 factories, being the largest manufacturer of musical instruments in the world. By 1914, Château Thierry was producing approximately 50,000 musical instruments a year. By 1925, the firm claimed to have already made two million musical instruments in its history. The company still today produces a complete line of brass instruments, student and professional, at their Château Thierry factory. The company was represented at the expositions of Amsterdam in 1883, Hanoi in 1887, Paris in 1889 and 1900, and Calais in 1896 (Waterhouse 1993, 72-73).
Names of companies bought by the firm included Lecomte; Massin & Thibouville; Isidor Lot; Feuillet; L. François, Maitre & Cie. (Association Générale des Ouvriers); Léon Bernadel; and Gourier & Bernez (Edward H. Tarr, "Couesnon," in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments).
References for the above entry were The New Langwill Index (Waterhouse 1993) and Edward H. Tarr, "Couesnon," in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments.
Company markings on cornets include:
EXPOSITION UNIVERSELLE DE PARIS [in scroll]
1889 [in medallion]
(anchor enclosed in a circle with G and A
on either side of the anchor)
COUESNON & C ie
94 RUE D’ANGOULÊME
(Number enclosed in a circle)
EXPOSITION UNVERSELLE DE PARIS [in scroll] For instruments after 1900!
1900 [in medallion]
MEMBER DU JURY
COUESNON & C ie
94 RUE D’ANGOULÊME
(Number enclosed in a circle)
The number enclosed in the circle, also called a grenade, at the bottom of the marking indicates the year the instrument was made (Waterhouse 1993, 73). For example, if the number 99 is enclosed in the circle, the instrument was made in 1899, and if a 13 is enclosed in the circle, the instrument was made in 1913.
According to the company, it began in 1789 (http://www.courtois-paris.com/panneauhisto.html ) and was located in the eighteenth century on rue Mazarine. At the Paris Exhibition in 1889, one of their trumpets (dated 1797) was displayed (Waterhouse 1993, 73). After the death of the founder, the firm split into the following two main companies:
I) Courtois neveu aîné
This company was begun by Courtois neveu aîné (Courtois’ oldest nephew) (d Paris 1841). In 1838, the company patented a slide cornet and a "piston curviligne" (FR # 5594). In 1838 as well, the company developed a cornet that could obtain six different transpositions (Niall O’Loughlin, "Courtois," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians). In 1841, Courtois’ three sons (Auguste, Eugène, and Louis) became proprietors of the firm and by 1847, Auguste succeeded them as the sole owner of the company. Story has it that Auguste used his wife’s dowry to buy the business (Waterhouse 1993, 73). In 1851, a new valve was patented (Fr #11293); in 1856, the company received another patent for more improvements to brass instruments (FR #28592); and in 1856, the company invented what was known as "pistons obliques." The famous Alexandre Le Forestier worked for the company before he worked for J. HIGHAM (from 1871 and 1882) and then J. W. PEPPER (from 1888 to 1895) as foreman.
The company was represented at the Paris Exhibitions in 1839 and 1855, and in London in 1851. The company was also involved in the 1845 litigation against Adolphe Sax. In 1862, "Augte. Courtois aîné" was registered as a trademark by Auguste and by 1867, Louis had received employment with Adolphe Sax.
II) Courtois frères
This company was formed by six brothers of the Courtois family, and in 1844, Denis Antoine Courtois became proprietor. The company was involved in the Sax litigation of 1845 (see page 9 of this document).
Antoine Courtois, [Sr.]
One of the sons of the founder, Antoine Courtois (1770-1855) created what is known today as Antoine Courtois, Paris in [c1803]. He had a shop on the Rue du Caire and created many instruments for the players of the Paris Opera Orchestra and the French Army, his main customer.
[Denis] Antoine Courtois, [Jr.]
(Paris and Ambrois 1844- present)
(check the website http://www.courtois-paris.com/panneauhisto.html)
Son of Antoine Courtois, Denis Antoine Courtois (b c1800; d 1880), was almost immediately involved in the litigation against Adolphe Sax in 1845 (see page 9 in this document). Courtois was subsequently licensed to make Sax model instruments beginning in 1855. In the same year, the company built a "Koenighorn" under the personal supervision of Koenig. Leaving no descendant after his death, Antoine was succeeded by Auguste Mille (1838-c1898) from 1880 to 1898. Mille was succeeded by Delfaux from 1898 to c1915. Mille had been first employed by Courtois in 1856 and became foreman in 1878, two years before Denis Antoine Courtois’ death. Courtois developed a "Cornet-Arban" in 1883 using Arban's name. Evidence, however, indicates that cornets with the "Arban" model appearence (with the leadpipe going through the upper and lower branches of the third valve slide) existed as early as c 1872 and Arban may in fact not have been involved in the development of the model (Eldredge 1999). In 1881, the company had twenty-five employees. In 1886, the company built a "quadruple cornet à pistons" based upon a patent by Alexander Scuri. The company then was run by E. Delfaux after Mille’s death.
Courtois cornets were among the most expensive in the market. They ranged "from 9 to 70, 80, and even 100 guineas in price, according to whether of brass or silver, and plain or chased…a large percentage of [all the brass solo-instrumentalists in London] would be found to play on instruments of the Courtois make… an English solo-player, no matter how poor, will pride himself on possessing a really good one" (Rose , 173). As evidence of the excellence of the Courtois instrument, many manufacturers made "Courtois Model" cornets.
In 1908, Marguerite, Delfaux’ sister, succeeded him as proprietor and quickly formed a business alliance with Legay. In 1917, Emmanuel Gaudet (1860-1933) bought the company and hired P. Deslaurier as director, offering him free shares in the business. At the time, lathes were operated by long drive belts connected to a central platform mechanism. An interesting story is that a clairvoyant was living on the floor above the plant and one day she pleaded with Gaudet to stop the engines, because the vibrations were ruining her readings of coffee grinds and she was losing clients.
In 1933, Gaudet died and was replaced by Deslaurier as proprietor. The economic depression had its impact on the company, as it had some serious financial problems during this period. Paul Gaudet (Emmanuel’s son) bought Deslaurier’s shares in the company to be owner. The company closed during WWII as Paul Gaudet was drafted into service. Valuable metals and historical instruments were stolen from the company during this time. In Stalag XXB in Gotehafen (Danzig), Paul formed and directed a prisoner of war orchestra which was supplied with Courtois instruments thanks to the Red Cross. In 1944, the orchestra was disbanded by the Nazis because the orchestra refused to play for a Radio Danzig performance entitled "Prisoner’s Quarter-Hour." Paul was liberated from the camp in 1944 and was finally free to do business again.
In 1956, the factory in Ambrois was opened and still is in use today. Jacques Gaudet, Paul’s son, succeeded his father in 1980 and continues to run the company under the financial group of Triumph-Adler AG. The United States distributor of Courtois today is Leblanc, located in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
In the nineteenth century, the company was represented at the London Expositions in 1851 and 1862; at the Paris Expositions in 1855, 1867, 1878, and 1889; and Moscow in 1872 (Waterhouse 1993, 74).
References for the above were the website http://www.courtois-paris.com/panneauhisto.html, The New Langwill Index (Waterhouse 1993), Talks with Bandsmen (Rose ), and Correspondence (Eldredge 1999). Other references are listed throughout all Courtois entries.
Company markings on cornets include: (Eldredge 1999)
Different markings appear on Courtois instruments, but many contain the following information:
FACTEUR DE CONSERVATOIRE IMPERIAL [NATIONAL beginning in 1873]
88, RUE DES MARAIS ST. MARTIN
MILLE S r
FACTEUR DU CONSERVATOIRE NATIONAL
88, RUE DES MARAIS ST. MARTIN
[ANTOINE COURTOIS & MILLE appears on the first line beginning in 1881]
Serial numbers: (Eldredge 1999)
Serial numbers appear under the third valve cap:
DATE APPROXIMATE SERIAL NUMBER
Three smaller and temporary Courtois related manufacturers:
(Waterhouse 1993, 73)
Eugène Courtois, Jr. Courtois frère Courtois & Derette
(Paris 1849-1850) ( Paris 1836) (Paris )
A statement should be made here in reference to one of the smaller manufacturers of cornets, but one whose cornets apparently were some of the finest on the market in the late nineteenth century. According to Talks with Bandsmen (Rose , 189-198), this company rivaled Courtois in terms of quality and was called W. Brown & Sons of Kennington. Begun in 1851 by William Brown (1817-1893), the company experimented curving the windways such that they enabled the upper and lower tubes entering each piston to be the same diameter without increasing the length of the valve itself. After William’s death the company was continued by his son C. William Brown (b1835) and his two other brothers (b1866, b1871). Neither a major company in terms of production, nor one which would enter instruments into contests, their reputation grew as a result of the quality of their instruments. They produced cornets, trumpets, and posthorns (pitched in A for orchestra use and could be pulled out to Ab for band use). Their cornets were similar to the medium bore Courtois cornet. They believed that solid brass was a better material for instruments than silver, since it was more malleable for construction and produced a better tone than silver. Some interesting ideas of the company were: 1) coat the valves with paraffin and not ordinary oil [which was much cruder than the oil of today], 2) never plate the interior of a cornet beyond the bend of the bell, 3) force a wet sponge through the instrument to temporarily clean it out once every three months, 4) they did not cast water keys, but hammered them out of hard brass, 5) every cornet player should possess a twenty-seven inch post horn in A! The references for the above information about W. Brown & Sons were Talks with Bandsmen (Rose , 189-198) and The New Langwill Index (Waterhouse 1993, 46-47).
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