Conn-Selmer (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Conn-Selmer (Picture by Barbara Johnston/College of Notre Dame)

It was getting near showtime, and Charles Gerard Conn was in bother.

The intrepid younger proprietor of a small grocery retailer in Elkhart, Indiana, had already overcome his share of trials. He enlisted within the Union military as a drummer boy in Could 1861 at age 17; later, he could be an lively combatant and ascend to the rank of captain. He was captured in the course of the Battle of Petersburg in 1864, and spent the rest of the warfare as a POW within the Confederacy’s notorious Andersonville jail, regardless of two makes an attempt at escaping.

Now the 12 months was 1873, and the dilemma Conn was dealing with wasn’t life-or-death however was nonetheless vexing. He had been concerned in a barroom brawl days earlier and had a moderately painful cut up lip to indicate for it. To make issues worse, his damage made his participation in Elkhart’s “Brick Brown Band” unattainable. Conn was a cornet participant, however urgent the instrument to his lips to play was insufferable in his post-brawl state. 

With a live performance rapidly approaching, Conn selected a plan of action. He long-established a cushion for his cornet mouthpiece made out of a rubber stamp. It bought him by way of the gig and drew the curiosity of some of his pals, who requested Conn to make some for them. Phrase of the innovation unfold, and shortly Conn reconfigured a stitching machine right into a lathe to assist produce the mouthpieces to satisfy the rising demand.

Conn’s aspect hustle took off. He would finally set up C.G. Conn Ltd., the primary firm created in a protracted bullish interval of instrument manufacturing in Elkhart. Different corporations sprang up, and after a few generations, the small metropolis roughly 15 miles from Notre Dame’s campus grew to become often called the band instrument capital of the world. By the Seventies, an estimated 40 p.c of the world’s band devices have been made in Elkhart.

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