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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Historical Markers > Find a Marker > C.G. Conn Company C.G. Conn Company

C.G. Conn CompanyC.G. Conn Company

Location: NW corner of Jackson Blvd. and Elkhart Avenue, Elkhart. (Elkhart County, Indiana)

Installed: 2006 Indiana Historical Bureau, Elkhart County Historical Society, The Truth, Elkhart Historic and Cultural Preservation Commission, and Ray and Susan Enfield.

ID# : 20.2006.1

Text

Side one:

Charles Gerard Conn began the musical instrument industry in Elkhart; city has been called the Band Industry Capital of the World. By 1874 producing rubber mouthpiece; was granted patent 1875; began producing musical instruments 1875. Factory here until 1910. C.G. Conn Company incorporated 1904. Conn sold business to Carl D. Greenleaf 1915.

Side two:

Innovations by C.G. Conn, Ltd. under Greenleaf included promoting school band programs and one of first musical instrument research labs. Other instrument companies came to Elkhart, employing many skilled workers. By 1970s, about 40% of worldwide band instruments made in Elkhart. Conn Ltd. sold 1969; Conn-Selmer, Inc. continues name in Elkhart.

Keywords

Arts and Culture, Business, Industry, and Labor, Music, Education

Annotated Text

Side one:

Charles Gerard Conn(1) began the musical instrument industry in Elkhart; city has been called the Band Industry Capital of the World.(2) By 1874 producing rubber mouthpiece; was granted patent 1875;(3) began producing musical instruments 1875.(4) Factory here until 1910.(5) C.G. Conn Company incorporated 1904.(6) Conn sold business to Carl D. Greenleaf 1915.(7)

Side two:

Innovations by C.G. Conn, Ltd. under Greenleaf included promoting school band programs(8) and one of first musical instrument research labs.(9) Other instrument companies came to Elkhart, employing many skilled workers.(10) By 1970s, about 40% of worldwide band instruments made in Elkhart.(11) Conn Ltd. sold 1969;(12) Conn-Selmer, Inc. continues name in Elkhart.(13)

Notes

(1) Conn was born in 1844 and died in 1931. He was a Civil War veteran, Mayor of Elkhart, Indiana State Legislator, U.S. Congressman, merchant, inventor, manufacturer, editor, and musician. He is buried in Grace Lawn Cemetery in Elkhart. U.S. Census, Schedule 1, Concord Township, City of Elkhart, enumerated July 5, 1860, microfilm, series M653, roll 256, p. 130 (B00415); Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly (Indianapolis, 1980) Vol. 1, p. 75 (B00419); Justin E. Walsh, The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1816-1978 (Indianapolis, 1987), 267-68 (B00420).

For more information about Conn and his role in the development of Elkhart's music industry, see Margaret Downie Banks, Elkhart's Brass Roots (Vermillion, SD, 1994) (B00417); Martha Pickerell, Michiana Memories, reprinted from the South Bend Tribune, September 1, 1974, p. 105-107(B00428); Dean McMakin, "Historical Sketches of Companies and Individuals Manufacturing Wind Instruments in Elkhart, Indiana." ([Elkhart, Ind.], 1988) (B00418).

(2) Brian Howey, "Noteworthy!: Indiana's Musical Instrument Industry Has the Greatest Employment in the US, " Indiana Business, February 1990, 8-10 (B00429); Banks, Elkhart's Brass Roots, v (B00417); McMakin, "Historical Sketches, " 2, 4 (B00418).

(3) Elkhart Review, October 15, 1874, p. 3 (B00634); "From the Tuesday Evening Review, " Elkhart Review, November 5, 1874, p. 3 (B00635); "Local Brevities, " Elkhart Review, March 17, 1875, p. 3 (B00636); "Col. C.G. Conn, 86, Is Dead; Body Will Be Brought to Elkhart, " Elkhart Truth, January 6, 1931 (B00637); Walsh, Centennial History, 268 (B00420); Martha Pickerell, Michiana Memories, reprinted from the South Bend Tribune, September 1, 1974, p. 105 (B00428).

Conn's idea for the rubber mouthpiece originated from a busted lip that prevented him from using a brass mouthpiece. There are several different stories regarding the source of the busted lip. Several sources contend that Del Crampton, a bass drum player, hit Conn in the mouth outside a tavern during or after a parade. See, for example, Pickerell, Michiana, 105 (B00428); Obituary, Goshen Daily Democrat, January 6, 1931 (B00427); and McMakin, "Historical Sketches, " 1 (B00418). Others noted that Conn received a busted lip during a fight with a farm hand on a horse, who was disrupting a parade. See Indianapolis News, February 1, 1902 (B00425); Charles H. Fieldhouse, For Land Sakes, 73 Years in Real Estate (Elkhart, Ind., 1957), 126 (B00422). Margaret Downie Banks argues that during the time in which Conn was playing the cornet for the Haverly Minstrels, he accosted someone, who then punched Conn in the mouth. Banks, 1 (B00417).

(4) Conn initially worked out of small shop at 22 Jackson Street (above Kibbe's drug store), then moved to upper floor of a woolen mill in 1875. Elkhart Review, February 4, 1875, p. 3 (B00638); Anne (Lant) Wenger, Images of America: Elkhart, Indiana (Chicago, 2004), 83 (B00423); Fieldhouse, For Lands Sakes, 127 (B00422).

See Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1885 (New York, 1885)(B00426) for Elkhart, Indiana.

(5) Virtually all of the 17-acre factory was demolished in 1979. Tom Stephenson, "Elkhart's Image as Musical Industry Capital Is still in Good Hands, " The Elkhart Truth, December 1, 1979 (B00631); Banks, Elkhart's Brass, 7 (B00417).

(6) Articles of Incorporation of C.G. Conn Company, 58-B-2, Box 3, Indiana State Archives (B00633).

(7) "Great Conn Factory Is Involved in Big Deal, " Elkhart Truth, August 2, 1915 (B00639); Banks, Elkhart's Brass Roots, 3 (B00417).

Tom Stephenson, "A Five-generation 'Band Biz' Family Toots Its Own Horn, " Elkhart Truth, December 15, 1979 (B00631), carries a series of circa 1910-1915 postcard photographs of the interior office and shops of the new factory.

(8) Banks, Elkhart's Brass Roots, 5(B00417); McMakin, "Historical Sketches, " 3 (B00418).

(9) Banks, Elkhart's Brass Roots, 5 (B00417).

(10) McMakin, "Historical Sketches, " 3;(B00418) Pickrell, Michiana, 107 (B00428) .

(11) Howey, "Noteworthy!" 10 (B00429).

(12) Banks, Elkhart's Brass Roots, 6-7 (B00417).

Company was sold to Crowell-Collier MacMillan in April 1969. Corporate headquarters was moved out of Elkhart to Oak Brook, Ill. Stephenson, Elkhart Truth, December 1, 1979 (B00631).

(13) Conn-Selmer, Inc. Web site: http//:www.conn-selmer.com (accessed January 28, 2005 and October 17, 2005) (B00038); International Directory of Company Histories (Detroit, 2003), 55: 111-14 (B00632).