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Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian
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"here's the story from the University of South Dakota's Conn Archive: The Metal Polishers, Brass Workers and Platers Union of Elkhart was organized in 1901. Five years later, in 1906, a little more than a year after the company's incorporation (December 13, 1904), the C. G. Conn Company, as it was now called, became the first industry of its kind to open its doors exclusively to the use of union labor. A new union was established: Local No. 335 of the Metal Polishers, Buffers, Platers, Brass Moulders, Brass and Silver Workers International Union of North America. Instruments manufactured between 1906 and 1916 bear a union label."

There is still a Metal Polishers Union but it is now made up of architectural finishing workers.
 

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Fan Of Pan Am
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423 Posts
Here's some updates to the history of Elkhart's unionization:

My source is the union newsletters titled "Our Journal

The local 335 was established by EB Meyers on October 20, 1906. The Union label sans factory numbers was copyrighted in 1903.

The contracts with Conn & Buescher were announced in December 1906 with effective date of January 1 1907. The contract authorized the use of the Union Label. The Conn contract is 2 years and the Buescher contract is 1 year

Also, in December 1906, the union published excerpts from a Conn booklet dated Nov 15, 1906 announcing the CG Conn Factory as the first of its kind to open the doors to union labor.

While not published, the Martin contract may have been signed also in December 1906 as it is mentioned in Nov 1907, that contract ends consistent with Buescher's as they both expire in December 1907.

Based on instruments registered, the Union labels for all three companies are stamped off and on into 1915. In 1916 Union is calling all three companies unfair along with others.

As a side light, EB Meyers in 1906 indicated the Col Conn was not receptive to the Union at first and said in the course of relating his experience, "I found that Mr. Conn had the reputation of being an a vowed enemy of organized labor..." Continuing he states, "all the employers were opposed to union labor." Additionally, he sought the help of the Musicians Union by contacting Owen Miller and having him contact Col Conn "an acquaintance of his."

I have not found the origin of Factory 34 yet, but based on the above and instrument from Conn, Buescher or Martin stamped with the union label cannot have been produced before 1907.

So far the earliest Conn brass I have found is in the 96,000's and the earliest saxes or woodwinds is well into the 14,000's. For Buescher, it's in the 22,000's for saxes and 6900's for brass. In terms of Martin it's in the 8000's for brass and I have not seen a sax yet.
 

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Hmm, makes me wonder if today's sax factories use unionized workers. Also kinda makes me want to buy a vintage Conn. Uh-oh, not again . . . .
 

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Fan Of Pan Am
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423 Posts
Going through my files, including the Music Trade Review and some other Union journals show:

Included in the Nov 3, 1906 trade article with the announcement of Conn signing with the union, is a mention that several years earlier he locked out the union organizers. However, going back and searching I am not able to find the specific date or year the lockout happened.

Also similar to the situation mentioned previously of the musicians union being involved in "encouraging" Conn to unionize with the metal workers, the printers union in 1907 cites the return of Conn advertising by musicians union members as causing Conn to sign with them. In fact that local also did not form in Elkhart until Conn signed, which is similar to the metal workers.

In Dec 1906 Conn did start advertising his union contract and continued the same ads through 1908.

So to me it looks like CG Conn was not really supportive of unionizing his businesses until coerced by the union(s) representing his customer base. After which he became an ardent supporter.

As an update to the serial numbers mentioned above, I have found Conn woodwind union labels as low as 10,200 now.

I also found an article in the "Our Journal" publication of the metal workers regarding a letter in January of 1907 to them complaining of Martin not have the Union Label on their instruments yet.
 

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Fan Of Pan Am
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423 Posts
Hi Bruce,

Yes, I have noticed that shield outline around the serial numbers. It is similar, but I am not sure without the Union's copyrighted letters and words within, it would be considered a Union Label.

Continuing on the CG Conn union stance:
I found the incident about the lockout in the Music Trade Review for January 1900. It seems Conn was installing new machinery and this caused union activity. By mid February all was resolved.

Also I was able to glean as a state and federal representative in the 1890's, CG Conn was supportive of union organization. Although I have yet to identify any specific action, i.e. legislation, he seems to have made supportive comments to the trade.

But as to his business he states, "I am in favor of labor organizations, that have for their object the maintenance of wages, the prevention of unjust and arbitrary treatment of wage earners by employers,and the payment of sick and death benefits to members. But I am unalterably opposed to labor organizations which assist in building up trusts and industrial combinations. But a labor union organized for the declared purpose of coercing me does not and cannot meet my approval."
 

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Fan Of Pan Am
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423 Posts
Just found an interesting tidbit in the Southbend News-Times from Feb 26, 1916. This is several months after CD Greenleaf etal took over Conn and 12 days after Conn Ltd and 4 other band Elkhart instrument manufacturers were stuck by the union over "closed shop."

This is what was reported as coming from the union strikers said as part of the article, "The strikers demand that the manufacturers observe the closed shop, as they claim that the manufacturers compelled the brass workers five years ago to organize and support a brass workers' union. Now, assert the strikers, the manufacturers are asking them to violate one of the primary principles of the union which they were forced to join."

What is additionally interesting in the quote is the 5 year remark. That's 1911, not 1906?

Interesting twists in the story of unionization of the band instrument industry. Almost time for another thread?
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Technician
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21,436 Posts
I know the union was still going in Elkhart in the 1980s but probably gone by now. You ,ay want to look around for articles from the local paper called "the Elkhart Truth".
 

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Forum Contributor 2012, SOTW Saxophone Whisperer,
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3,335 Posts
18 away from yours......
Brown Artifact Font Wood Art


Story as this was given to me from a friend. It survived (kinda) a house fire. Before that he used that horn on several recordings, he never said which, but I got to think that they were big ones as he is pretty well known and has played in some pretty big bands.
 

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Forum Contributor 2012, SOTW Saxophone Whisperer,
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3,335 Posts
nope - lots wrong with it, was given to me for parts. The keys were soft from the heat, and the body is now fully engraved as that was my practice horn when I was going through an engraving phase. It's now a wall hanger caucus body. Strictly ascetic.
 
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