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Police Brass: 1915

Police Brass: 1915

New York circa 1915. "Police tuba players." Shorpy is being beamed to you this week from on the road. (So far today from two WiFi enabled McDonald's parking lots along I-95. Posts and updates may be even more erratic than usual!) 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.


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I don't think it's the same

Agreed with Gongadin about the name. Pepperphone? Never heard of it.

But, I disagree that the two souzies are the same model. Look at the tubing where the guy on the far right has his left hand. It's 90 degrees opposite that tubing from the left.

I have no proof for this, but just a guess, that Conn was already offering interchangeable bells by this time, given Sousa's dislike of the directionality, but the desire by everyone else to hear the bass line while outside. The option was offered into the 50's, IIRC, so I'd bet it had started by the time of this photo.

Sousaphones vs. Tubas

przqgl said "tubas and sousaphones have the same relationship that baritones and euphoniums, or trumpets and cornets have: tubas are largely cylindrical shaped bore, and sousaphones are largely conical shaped bore. the result is that the tuba's tone quality is weighted more towards the even harmonics, whereas the sousaphone's tone quality is more equally between even and odd harmonics."

This is just not true. Sousaphones are just tubas shaped differently. They are both conical instruments. The difference is the way that the conical tubing is shaped ina sousaphone vs. a tuba, but they both have the same amount of cylindrical tubing, which is through the valves.

The sousaphone on the left is not the same model as the one on the right. If you look closely you can see that the one on the left is much smaller than the one on the right. It appears that the one on the left is an Eb sousaphone while the one on the right is a Conn 40K 4 valve BBb sousaphone. Interestingly the valve tubing on the one on the left doesn't look like that on a Conn 28K 4 valve Eb (I am comparing to the 28K that I own) but it might just be an earlier version. The raincatcher could be original. Conn made some raincatchers with the elbow on the body, not the bell. In fact, I have a Conn catalog from the 1950s where they talked about being able to buy an upright bell for their model 20K sousaphone that would make it a raincatcher.


Upon closer inspection, the tuba on the far left is not an original "raincatcher" -- it is actually the same model sousaphone on the far right, with the forward-facing bell replaced by an Orchestral tuba bell. The clue is where the bell screws into the body; raincatcher bells actually incorporate the bend / elbow, instead of the elbow being part of the body as it is in this case. This might have been an improvised solution after the original bell was lost or damaged.

I don't believe the Raincatcher was ever called a "Pepperphone" although I had a Pepperphone once when I dropped some jalapenos on my cellular. The Raincatcher was commissioned by Sousa, who didn't like the brashness / harshness / in-your-faceness of the helicon, which was the earlier incarnation of the marching tuba. J.W. Pepper named the Raincatcher the Sousaphone as it was Sousa's design.

More esoteric Tuba info

About the bell-up sousaphone. I had heard that is was originally developed by J.W. Pepper, whose company, all these years later, is one of the biggest publishers of sheet music in the U.S. Originally called the Pepperphone, it was renamed the Sousaphone in honor of the biggest musical superstar of the day. Some cats back then also called them "raincatchers." In the main offices of the Pepper Co. in Paoli, Pa., is an original Pepperphone in a glass case.


Izquierda = left (the LEFT one is bad on a rainy day)
Just don't inhale!

Días de lluvia...

El de la izquierda, malo para los días de lluvia.
Right one, not very good for raining day.
Thanks Shorpy.

Tubas vs. sousaphones

tubas and sousaphones have the same relationship that baritones and euphoniums, or trumpets and cornets have: tubas are largely cylindrical shaped bore, and sousaphones are largely conical shaped bore. the result is that the tuba's tone quality is weighted more towards the even harmonics, whereas the sousaphone's tone quality is more equally between even and odd harmonics.

Well, if we are going for puns

Shall we comment on the Coppers' Brass?

That superfluous musician

...spoiled a perfect opportunity to slip in the term "tuba four". No point pining over it, at it wood come up eventually.


but not terribly surprising that, in contrast to almost any image I have seen of ladies on this site, that there has been no discussion of their attractiveness. Fair's fair:

Two of them have enormous noses, and they're all out of shape! (Though it's possible the gentleman on the far left has shapely calves tucked away in those boots.)

How do you fix a broken tuba?

With a tuba glue.

Don't move...

Or we'll BLAST you! (with our tubas!)

On tuba valves

Although each has a somewhat different arrangement of tubing, they are all played the same, with the same fingerings. Tubas and Sousaphones are essentially interchangeable in that regard. All but one of those has a fourth valve which gives the possibility of a more in-tune result for notes using that key than combining the 1st and 3rd valve, which would be the approximation a 3-valve instrument would have to use for the same notes.


That first instrument looks like it came straight out of Whoville.

Tubas and Sousaphones

Technically, the three instruments on the floor are tubas and the two wrapped around the musicians are Sousaphones, or "wearable tubas". I've never seen one like that on the far left. Research shows that it is called a "bell up" model (much more practical for marching.) The slightly smaller, three-key tuba in the center is probably an Eb instrument, the others would be Bb. We are fortunate (?) here in the Bull City to have the nation's only store dealing solely in tubas, Sousaphones and euphoniums.

Have a safe trip!

Have a safe trip, Dave!

[Thank you! - Dave]


Horn Guy #3 nicked HG #2's badge and stuffed it into his tuba; the 1930s version of horns apparently.

The Brass, With Brass

One of the more unusual photos I've seen here, but there might be a reason for this odd looking single-instrument combination. At around the same time, there was a popular musical ensemble called The Six Brown Brothers, who all played saxophones (bass sax through soprano), and made some hit records for Victor, Edison, and Columbia. But they usually dressed as clowns on stage, not cops.

Maybe these guys were trying for something similar? Anything could fly with the audience, in Vaudeville!

The Sousaphone

The instrument on the far left, with its upward pointing bell is the original incarnation of the Sousaphone, as Mr. Sousa preferred the quality of the indirect sound it produced.

The forward facing version, on the right, was developed later, primarily to fill the needs of bands that performed outdoors where an upward emitted sound would be mostly lost.

"Gather 'round people wherever you roam."

While the cat's away (Dave) maybe we can slide some untoward remarks into the Shorpy comments. With regard to the tuba playing cops picture, are all five of those instruments tubas? With regards to Dave, watch those trans-fats!

Police Bands

I've often wondered if policemen in these activities (police band, pipers, baseball teams, etc) were exempt from duty, or if they still walked a beat.

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