A Brief History of Conn


The company C.G. Conn, but more widely known as Conn, was named after its founder Charles Gerard Conn who lived in Elkhart, Indiana.

A bar brawl in 1873 was the unlikely starting point for Charles’s business. Suffering with a split lip, Charles developed a brass mouthpiece with a rubber rim. Proving popular, he converted an old sewing machine into a lathe and set-up a shop building these mouthpieces. In 1875, a French instrument maker began repairing instruments in Conn’s shop. After watching him work for a few days, Charles believed he could build his own instrument, making his own cornet - the first American made cornet - that same year.

Enjoying success, in 1879, Conn moved operations into larger premises and began making other instruments. In 1880, the town of Elkhart became so enamoured with Charles they elected him as their Mayor. During his second term, he was forced to resign due to a factory fire in 1883. The factory was rebuilt bigger and better and production continued. By 1893 his instruments were awarded the highest honours in the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago.

Charles loved strange and bizarre instruments. In 1907, he built an immensaphone, the largest horn in the world at 12 feet in diameter and 35 feet long. He also continued on a series of “firsts”, building the first American made saxophone and the first sousaphone, built to John Philip Sousa’s specifications.

Charles retired in 1915 and the company flourished until World War II. In 1942, the factory retooled to manufacture compasses, altimeters, and other items related to the war effort. Coming out of wartime production, however, Conn found difficulty regaining its position as the number one band instrument maker and the company was sold numerous times. Daniel Henkin, purchased the rights to make and sell various Conn musical instruments as well as the factories in Arizona and Texas. Daniel and his wife Mary formed a corporation, acquired other musical instrument manufacturers and in 1985 his companies were sold and renamed United Musical Instruments USA, Inc. (UMI). In 2000, UMI was purchased by Selmer's parent, and in 2002, UMI merged with the Selmer Company to form Conn-Selmer, Inc.

The C.G Conn brand continues to make trombones, flugel horns, French horns, Tubas and Sousaphones, all of which are distributed by the parent company Conn-Selmer Inc.