The Conn Wonder Improved
1Conn exhibited alto and tenor models at the 1893 World's Columbia Exhibition under the model name "Wonder" (trademarked Feburary 1, 1891), and in 1894 advertised a line of "[Wonder] Improved System" saxophones which included straight soprano, alto, [Bb] tenor, and baritone models. These instruments were available in silver plate with gold plated keys, [silver plate], nickel plate, and polished brass [full gold plate was introduced around 1907]. Only the alto and tenor models were keyed to high F, the rest of the line was limited to high E flat.
C. G. Conn, the founder and owner of the company, was elected to the United States Congress in 1892, and introduced a bill which required that every United States Army regiment have its own band, and specified the instrumentation for the musical unit. As a result, military orders for Conn instruments boomed, and in May, 1900, 150 Conn "Wonder" saxophones were delivered to the Army, and were received at the Schuylkill Arsenal by Louis Seel. In , Conn advertised a family of saxophones that included a curved soprano (which replaced the previous straight model); a C Melody; and a bass, in addition to the standard alto, tenor, and baritone models. The ad mentions an automatic octave key (actually introduced some time earlier [about 1905/1907]) and a forked E flat mechanism.2 [The keyed range on these horns was extended to altissimo F, excepting baritone and bass models. The G# trill key was added around 1913.] In an effort to increase international sales during this period, Conn offered saxophones in both Low Pitch (A=440hz), and in High Pitch (A=457hz) 3.
Note that there is a break in manufacture of these horns: there was a fire on May 22, 1910 at the Conn plant that destroyed everything. The plant was rebuilt in short order, though, and Conn produced a limited editon of horns for the rest of the year (and through the beginning of 1912, it seems) to celebrate their rebirth: the New Invention model.4
My best research indicates that Conn, Ltd. was continuing to sell the Conn Wonder Improved horns until 1917, when horns were first produced with the Haynes tonehole patent, and two years after the purchase of the company by Mr. Greenleaf. I'm also assuming that these horns have the Union label on the back of the horn (above the serial number) and have soldered tone holes. These horns, however, are engraved "C.G. Conn Ltd." instead of "C.G. Conn", a definite change from earlier models, but rolled tone holes and other features that "defined" the New Wonder weren't introduced until a little later.5
- Still a striking resemblance to the A. Sax horns, but considerably different manufacture than the Worcester models
- Split (double) octave key until about 1905 -- probably 1907.
- No pearl keys
- Straight tone holes
- NO LACQUER HORNS. Bare brass, only. If it's lacquered, it was done aftermarket.
- Horns were generally engraved just "C.G. Conn" (NOT "C.G. Conn, Ltd." That's the New Wonder model)
- Note that curved sopranos do NOT have the Mercedes-Benz-logo low C keyguard
Special, special thanks to Jenseman for contributing pics of his stunning s/n 182 alto. It's one of the earliest Conns extant.