above: the author with 1926 Frank Holton BBb Sousaphone
This is a very interesting piece, and in pretty good condition for it's age. It is a standard BBb Sousaphone made by Frank Holton in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The finish is satin silver plate with a very nice gold washed bell. It has been restored at least once before, so it isn't the original silver or gold plate, but it is still gorgeous. The serial number is 90,171, which according to Horn-U-Copia.net, has this horn manufactured in 1926. Let's see how good you look when you are 85!
There are a few features that are somewhat unique to time period of Sousaphone production. These features where used in commonly by Holton and Buescher. First is a reversed bell connection. This means that the "male" side of the bell connection is on the body and the "female" or socket side of the bell connection is on the bell. Another feature common to Holton and Buescher Sousaphones was the shorter upper 1st valve circuit tubing making the lower end of the tubing longer. Pictured below is a picture of the bell coupling.
Another feature common to this era NOT used by Conn or King is the VERY long lower mouth pipe tube. This means for proper playing position and proper intonation, the neck angle has to be a very short, sharp 90 degree angle. What I used is pictured below:
I *THINK* it is original, but I am not 100% sure. The bits are not original, they are modern King bits. The reason I think that this design didn't stand the test of time is because it sticks out like a sore thumb which makes it very vulnerable. That being said, the bracing is very sturdy.
The bell flare is 26 inches, a common flare for a horn of this size. The wrap is very similar to a Conn.
Another feature that was common on Sousas and Tubas of this era was beautiful, lavish engravings. It is rare these days to get any more than a name engraved on a bell out of the factory. Below are a few pictures of the beautiful engraving that this horn wears.
Below is a picture of a Sousaphone from a 1920 brochure called, "A Trip Through The Holton Factory."
Frank Holton was a Trombonist in John Philip Sousa's band and worked for what became J.W. York and Sons before starting his own company. The Frank Holton Company was founded around 1896 in Chicago but was later moved in 1917 to Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The company was sold to G. Leblanc in 1964, and again sold to Conn-Selmer in 2004. Recently, Conn-Selmer moved production of Holton instruments from Elkhorn, Wisconsin to its Eastlake, Ohio factory. This is the same factory that currently produces Conn and King brasses.
Holton Tubas were excellent in the 1960's and the model 345 is still highly sought after by many players. Holton hasn't made Sousaphones in many decades and the low brass that still bears the Holton name is imported, but still good. Holton has commissioned stencils from both Yamaha and Weril. Holton brasses that have an "R" following the model number where manufactured by Yamaha.
Listed below are some links to some information used in this article and other useful data: