CG Conn

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CG Conn (instrument maker) is a brand of the Conn-Selmer, Inc. concern , which goes back to the former US manufacturer of brass instruments of this name. In particular, the trombones of Conn counted for much of the 20th century along with the instruments of the main competitors King and Bach 's most popular mass-produced world trombones of American design.


The founder

Charles Gerard Conn , born January 29, 1844, moved his family to Three Rivers , Michigan as a child in 1850 and to Elkhart , Indiana the following year . Little is known about his youth, but he probably learned to play the cornet at an early age .

When the American Civil War broke out, Conn joined the Northern Army on May 18, 1861, at the age of 17 without his parents' consent . He was appointed private in B Company of the 15th Infantry Regiment of Indiana State on June 14, 1862 and was transferred to a regimental band. After his service he returned to Elkhart, but on December 12, 1863 he reported to the G Company of the 1st Michigan Sniper Regiment in Niles, Michigan.

At the age of 19 he was promoted to captain on August 8, 1863. In the second battle of Petersburg on July 30, 1864, Conn was wounded and spent the remainder of the war in captivity despite two attempts to escape. On July 28, 1865, he was honorably discharged.

In 1884, Conn organized the Indiana Legion's first artillery regiment and became its first colonel . In 1926 Colonel Conn was awarded the Medal of Honor.

CG Conn died in Los Angeles on January 5, 1931, shortly before his 87th birthday.

Charles Gerard Conn

First steps towards independence

After the war, Conn first set up a general store with a bakery in Elkhart and played cornet in the local brass band. He only got into instrument making as a result of a lip injury. There are three different versions of this anecdote in circulation; Most likely, after visiting the saloon together, there was a fight with Del Crampton. The injury caused him great pain while playing his instrument, so that he feared he would have to give up the cornet.

Next to his general store, Conn made stamps and silver-plated cutlery. One day he thought of padding his cornet mouthpiece with a rubber ring. This idea met with a great response in the brass band, so that he suspected a need for his invention and considered serial production of the new type of mouthpiece. To do this, he wanted to provide the edge with a groove in order to achieve a more permanent bond of the rubber. In 1874 he built a simple lathe from a discarded sewing machine and started production. (Conn and Crampton were reconciled again, and as a politician Conn was later one of the staunch advocates of abstinence ). In 1875 Conn acquired the patent for his rubber rim mouthpiece.

The company Conn & Dupont Instrumentenmanufaktur

The French-born instrument maker Eugene Victor Baptiste Dupont arrived at Elkhart train station in mid-January 1876. He had been hired by Conn to oversee their newly opened brass instrument workshop. Dupont had 30 years of experience working, repairing and developing these instruments in France and England, mainly with Henry Distin and their successor Distin & Co., who had been Adolphe Sax 's agents for the sale of his instruments since 1846 were in England. Dupont hoped that his move to the United States would fulfill his dream of bringing the wind instruments he had built on the market and earning a lot from them. After a trial period of 7 months, Conn and Dupont entered into a registered partnership on July 22, 1876. Dupont had been secretary of the General Council of the International Working Men's Association in France .

In order to meet the increasing demand of their fast-growing business, the partners decided in April 1877 to buy an empty factory building on Elkhart Avenue and East Jackson Street. This move enabled them to “employ fifty of the best artisans on the market”. Some of these skilled workers were brought from Europe at great expense and received high salaries. Two years later Conn sent Dupont to Paris and London to buy another twenty suitable workers. Surprisingly, in April 1880, Dupont suddenly abandoned Conn's partnership when there was dissatisfaction and quarrels among the workers at the factory. Dupont died of tuberculosis the following year.

Advertisement for the "Wunder Solo Cornett", the "4-in-1" by CG Conn

In the 4-year partnership of Conn-Dupont and with the help of trained skilled workers from Europe, the roots for the construction of brass instruments were laid in Elkhart. As a result of the collaboration with Dupont, a new type of cornet was developed. The so-called "Wonder Cornet" with which four different basic tunings were possible and which was patented on June 15, 1886. The so-called “Wonder cornet” was a four-in-one instrument that could be tuned to Eb, C, Bb, and A thanks to additional vocal arcs.

The first factory went up in flames on Conn's 39th birthday, January 29, 1883, so he built a new building on the same site. In 1887 Conn took over the factory from Isaac Fiske in Worcester , Massachusetts when he retired. Fiske was considered the best brass instrument maker of his time. Conn continued the operation as a subsidiary. At that time, the focus of his product range was still on the “Wonder cornet”, but in 1885 Conn began to import clarinets and flutes from France.

The very first saxophone to be built in the USA was made by Ferdinand "Gus" Buescher , who was a foreman at Conn in Elkhart, in 1889 for EA Lefebre , a virtuoso saxophonist who was a well-known soloist with the bands of Patrick Gilmore and John Philip Sousa occurred. Conn's instruments have been promoted by several leading bandmasters including Sousa. In 1898 Conn developed the first commercially successful sousaphone at the suggestion of Sousa , the bell of which was still pointing upwards ("the rain-catcher") .

Operations in Worcester were gradually closed until 1898. From 1897 to 1902 Conn ran a shop in New York , where he sold a wide range of products under the 'Wonder' label. These included wood and brass instruments made by Conn as well as percussion instruments , violins , mandolins and portable harmonies . In addition, numerous American and imported guitars , banjos and zithers were in the program. In 1905 Conn had grown to become the world's largest manufacturer of musical instruments. The product range at that time comprised all common wind instruments , string instruments , percussion instruments, a portable organ and horns for gramophones .

The second factory also burned down on May 22, 1910, with an estimated loss of between $ 100,000 and $ 500,000. Conn was on his way back from California at the time . On arrival he witnessed a public demonstration of sympathy by the residents of Elkhart and announced his intention to build a third factory. The new operation at the intersection of East Beardsley Avenue and Conn Avenue was completed on December 12, 1910.

As a result, Conn acquired, among other things, several non-industry companies such as newspaper publishers and went into politics.

The Greenleaf era

In 1915, all of the holdings "Colonel" Conns were bought up by a group of investors around Carl Dimond Greenleaf . Conn had met Greenleaf in Washington and had invested in its Ohio flour mills. Greenleaf consolidated its new holdings under the name CGConn Ltd. and kept the Conn name as a trademark for the musical instruments.

As a result, Conn's marriage broke up. "The Colonel" spent the rest of his life in his Los Angeles home . His second marriage to a much younger woman produced a son twelve years before Conn's death. In 1931 the once wealthy and influential Conn died completely impoverished; his funeral had to be covered by donations from the staff of the instrument factory.

Carl Greenleaf ran the Conn company from 1915 to 1949. The astute businessman showed a flair for trends in the music industry. It did not escape him that traditional small-town brass bands were becoming increasingly rare and large touring bands like Sousa's were going out of fashion. To ensure the survival of the industry, he launched a series of initiatives at schools and colleges . In this way he managed to forge close relationships between the music industry and music educators . With the help of educators like Joseph Maddy and TP Giddings , brass music was popularized in schools. Greenleaf organized the first national competition for brass bands in 1923 and made a decisive contribution to the foundation of the National Music Camp in Interlochen . In 1928 he founded the Conn National School of Music to train school musicians. Thanks to his foresight, the music industry flourished. Without a doubt, the United States and other countries owe the musical culture in their educational institutions in large part to Carl D. Greenleaf.

In terms of business, Greenleaf focused on expansion, modernized the plant and switched sales from mail order to retail . By 1917, the workforce on the assembly line had grown to 550 employees who, thanks to a new hydraulic expansion process introduced by Greenleaf, were producing around 2500 instruments a month. Around 1919 Conn first introduced saxophones with drawn and flanged tone holes based on the patent from WS Haynes from 1914, thanks to which tone hole rings no longer had to be soldered on.

In the 1920s , Conn produced a full line of saxophones. There was intense competition in this market. The most important competitors were other large saxophone manufacturers of the time such as Buescher and Martin . In the late twenties Conn tried by introducing a mezzo soprano saxophone in F and the ' Conn-o-sax ', a mix of saxophone and English horn to capture a higher market share, but flopped these instruments and were soon discontinued.

The CONN Design Laboratory

In 1928 Conn founded an experimental laboratory that was unique in the industry . Its director was Greenleaf's son Leland Burleigh Greenleaf and Allen Loomis work in this department; Hugh Loney; Paul Hardy; Russell Kerr; and Edward Gulick; The legendary Santy Runyon also took advice from Conn on the appearance of the instruments. Loomis was known for his innovative, often bizarre, designs, many of which were unsuitable for production. In 1934 Gulick developed the first short- stroke cylinder valves. In 1936, the ' Stroboconn ' was the first electronic tuner with a visual display. The ' Vocabell ' from 1932 was a rimless bell for sound optimization. In 1934 the Conn laboratory developed the ' Coprion ' horn, a seamless copper funnel that was electroplated directly onto a steel mold.

In the 1920s, Conn acquired the Elkhart Band Instrument Company (1923-1927), the drum manufacturer Leedy Company (1927-1955), 49.9 percent of the shares of H. & A. Selmer (1923-1927), and two of his Subsidiaries, the Continental Music Company and the Pan American Music Company . Despite the global economic crisis that began in 1929, Conn took over several other companies that year and the following, such as the drum kit manufacturer Ludwig and Ludwig and the accordion manufacturers Carl Fischer and Soprani . Between 1940 and 1950 the Haddorff Piano Company belonged to Conn, from 1941 to 1942 the Straube Piano Company .

Because of the Second World War , Conn interrupted the production of musical instruments for civil purposes from 1942 to 1946 and manufactured components for the government. As a result of the resulting loss of sales and the delayed return to civilian production in 1946, Conn lost his former leading position as a wind instrument manufacturer. However, the research department under Director Earle Kent continued to be resourceful. She designed the electronic Connsonata organ in 1946 , brought out the Connstellation series of brass instruments in the mid-1950s , and developed the first Sousaphone with a weight-saving GRP body in 1960 . In this phase Conn separated from several subsidiaries, including Leedy and Ludwig Drums (1949-1955) and the New Berlin Instrument Company (1954-61), in New Berlin , New York , the Conn clarinets, - oboes and - bassoons made would have.

Carl Greenleaf had already retired in 1949, but sat on the board until his death in 1959. His son "Lee" Greenleaf, mentioned above, who had come to Conn as an assistant engineer in 1928, succeeded him. From 1953 he headed the finance department, rose to deputy chairman of the board in 1955, was chairman of the board from 1958 to 1969 and chairman of the supervisory board from 1967 to 1969. Under his aegis, Conn took over the flute manufacturer Artley in 1959 and the Janssen Piano Company and the string instrument manufacturer Scherl & Roth in 1964 .

In 1957, Conn produced a short commercial for school bands called Mr. B Natural , a prime example of the kitsch of the economic boom .

1969 to the present

In 1969, CG Conn Ltd. bought by Crowell-Collier MacMillan . In this phase, Conn's reputation was again badly damaged, as the new company management was neither familiar with the music industry nor with musicians as customers. Those responsible in sales were also characterized by a lack of specialist knowledge at the time.

In 1971, drastic measures became unavoidable as a result of high production costs and pressure from competitors and unions. Therefore, the administration was moved to Oak Brook , Illinois . A year later, the Conn Organ Division moved to Carol Stream , Illinois. In the same year, woodwind instrument production went to Nogales , Arizona in the former factory of the Best Manufacturing Company , a manufacturer of entry-level saxophones that Conn had taken over in the 1960s . The Conn Guitar Division and the production of all entry-level brass instruments were outsourced to Japan .

In 1980 her former advertising manager Daniel Henkin took over the company. Henkin was the first to sell the organ department under the name Conn Keyboards to Kimball . In 1981 he took over the flute manufacturer WT Armstrong and in 1985 his long-term competitor King Instruments from Eastlake (Ohio) .

In 1986 the Swedish conglomerate Skâne Gripen , which until then had mainly invested in offshore oil production , decided to diversify its holdings. Conn took over and incorporated it into the newly founded United Musical Instrument (UMI). This closed the Conn Brasswind factory in Abilene , Texas and relocated part of the brass instrument production to Eastlake in the former factory of King . The production in Mexico was completely stopped in 1987, the production of Artley flutes and piccolos went back to Elkhart, while the clarinets, saxophones and smaller brass instruments now came from Nogales.

In 2003 Conn merged with Selmer to form Conn-Selmer, Inc. Since Vincent Bach had been part of Selmer since 1961 , the three former competitors Conn , King and Bach are now all under the same roof - and sell partly identical products under their respective brands , at least in the lower price segments.


  • New Grove Music Dictionary ("Conn")
  • McMakin, Dean "Musical Instrument Manufacturing in Elkhart, Indiana" (unpublished manuscript, 1987, available in the Elkhart Public Library)
  • The Elkhart Truth, Tuesday 6 January 1931, obituary notice from CG Conn, and the following articles dated 7, 8, 9, 14 and 15 January
  • Elkhart city directories (available in the Elkhart Public Library)
  1. European Contributions to Elkhart's Brass Roots: The Conn & Dupont Partnership (1876-1880) by Margaret Downie Banks.
  2. ^ Rotary Valve Cornet made by Isaac Fiske in the Metmuseum, New York
  3. jazzLike Vintage Sax ( Memento of the original from December 24, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. Who is Santy Runyon? ( Memento of the original from July 9, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. The Manufacturing History of CG Conn by Steve Goodson in “The Saxophone Journal” May / June 2011
  6. ^ Instruments made by CG Conn and Selmer

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