|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Its not often that a bar fight injury results in the establishment of a successful business, but that is exactly what happened to Charles G. Conn.
Charles Gerard Conn (Jan. 29, 1844 - Jan. 5, 193)
Sometime after his birth in Phelps, Ontario County, New York, Conn's family moved to Elkhart, Indiana in 1851, when he was seven. Charles learned to play the cornet while quite young.
When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to a regimental band. His enlistment expired in 1863, so he returned to Elkhart. He reenlisted in the Niles, Michigan in Company G, 1st Michigan Sharpshooters. Wounded during the Assault on Petersburg, the confederates captured him. He attempted escape twice, but was recaptured both times. At the end of the war, the Confederates released him from the Columbia, South Carolina prison camp. The Army discharged him honorably on July 28, 1865.
Return to Elkhart
After the war, he returned to Elkhart and married. He worked several businesses including a grocery and baking business, plating and engraving silverware, and manufacturing rubber stamps. He also played his beloved cornet in a local band. He also sold a health curative cream called "Konn's Kurative Kream," and invented sewing machine parts.
Bar Fight Leads to Invention
A night of drinking in an Elkhart bar led to an altercation outside. His companion took a swing at him, striking him in the mouth. The blow led to a lacerated lip and permanent disfiguration. The split lip made it difficult for him to play the cornet, thus he started to experiment with some of the materials he used in his businesses. He devised a rubber mouthpiece that conformed to his disfigured lip. He soon realized that many other people would want his invention, so he started manufacturing them in the back of his grocery store. He patented the device on February 23, 1875. Demand soon outpaced his output, so he rented an empty factory. Soon, he expanded into other musical instruments and paired up with a man named Eugene Victor Baptiste Dupont, a brass instrument maker. The two founded Conn & Dupont, which grew into a major music instrument manufacturer.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning