Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pan American Sousaphones

above: a Pan American 52K Sousaphone from Conn's 1938 catalog.

The Pan American Company was formed in the early 1910's and was purchased by Conn shortly after. There is some debate as to the exact year the acquisition of Pan American happened. Pan American then became Conn's student line of instruments. They were geared towards school use. Sometime around 1955, Conn ceased production under the Pan American name and put out student instruments with the Conn label. 

above: list of Pan American Sousaphones from The Conn Loyalist (click to enlarge)

The Pan American Sousaphones bear a different model number, but each one has a corresponding Conn model. In all reality, in my opinion, the differences are minor at best. Here are the differences between the Pan American and Conn models:
Pistons - Bell Engraving - Serial Numbers - braces - 

The pistons on Pan American Sousas were NOT nickel plated like the Conns. They used raw nickel silver pistons. The braces were often decoratively different. Pictures to follow soon...

Since Pan American is supposed to be the "economy" version of C.G.Conn, you might expect there to be more differences, but there really aren't. The 52K Pan American is virtually identical to a Conn 14K. So if you see a Pan American in the future, don't turn your nose up at it. You might be surprised. 

This little article was inspired by finding an abandoned Pan American 52K hanging from the warehouse ceiling at the shop. 

Here is another image of the Pan American 52K Sousaphone pulled from the Pan American Band and Orchestra guide published in 1953.


  1. We actually have a great condition used Conn Pan American at our small shop. Here's some photos of it as well as a video of one being played:

  2. I've seen conflicting information on Pan American. Some seem to indicate that Pan American was once a company with no connection to Conn. Other sources seem to say that Pan American was started by Conn President, Carl Greenleaf, as a student line of instruments.

    1. Kenton -

      I think both may have been true but that is contingent on the time line. I think that Pan-American existed before Conn, but only briefly if so, maybe ten years. Maybe I can find some old catalogs to corroborate this info.

    2. Pan American Band Instruments Co was started by CD Greenleaf and AH Beardsley in 1917 and featured the "American First" line and the "Pan American" Line. These early instruments were "redesigned" older Conn models and for the most part were stenciled for other companies. The lines were marketed as part of Conn Ltd. In July 1919 Pan American Band Instruments was incorprated under the laws of the state of Indiana. In November of 1919 Pan American announced its factory was up and running. It did business as Pan American Band Instrument and Case Company. It ran as both a subsidiary company and a division at different times. Instruments produced by Pan American were sometimes unique and sometimes a variation of the Conn Ltd lines. In 1931 Pan American announced the Cavalier line and marketed ist as "America's Lowest Price Line" while Pan American was marketed as "The World's Finest Moderately Proced Instruments."

  3. If you can find documentation I'd love to know what it says

  4. Do you know anything about the Pan American sousaphone where the wrap splices back into itself? Is this a "compensating" system meant to improve intonation, or just cuts down on weight, or what? Here's a photo of one


    1. Arik -

      Neither - What you see there is an Eb Sousaphone. That piece is a false branch because the length of the bugle on Eb Sousas doesn't allow for a full loop like on BBb Sousas, so to keep it on your body you need a piece in there to complete the loop.

      The length of the slides are also a give away for this creature being in Eb.

      I hope you find this helpful!


  5. Ah cool, that makes sense, thanks! I knew it was an Eb, but didn't understand the tubing. Thinking about getting something for my nephew, small and lightweight is the goal. Seems like some full-wrap Eb's (unlike this one) might have a smaller circle and fit a smaller person more easily. I wish it was easy to find a good Bb (not BBb) sousaphone, a baritone really, for a little guy who wants to play a cool instrument like his uncle! This thing is 17.5 lbs. A fiberglass Conn 36K won't be small. but might be similar in weight I'd guess.