Contrary to popular belief, the sousaphone was not initially developed as a marching instrument, as the professional band Sousa started after leaving the Marine Corp (for which he wanted this new instrument) marched only once in its existence. Rather, Sousa wanted a concert instrument that would be easier to hold and play, while retaining a full, rich sound. The bell-up design, also known as a “raincatcher,” remained the standard for several decades, and a version with a forward-facing bell did not debut until the mid-1920s.
To commemorate the birthday of world-renowned bandleader and composer John Philip Sousa on Nov. 6, 1854, a new Web site dedicated to the composer of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” is now available from the Library of Congress. This presentation provides access to many music manuscripts from the John Philip Sousa Collection, which is housed in the Library’s Music Division. Also online are more than 450 pieces of printed music and historic recordings of the Sousa Band, a selection of photographs and the manuscript of "Pipetown Sandy," Sousa’s semiautobiographical novel of a boy’s adventures in Civil War-era Washington, D.C. The Web site is part of the “Library of Congress Presents: Music, Theater and Dance” project, an initiative of the Music Division enabling visitors to experience the diversity of American performing arts through the Library's collections of scores, sheet music, audio recordings, films, photographs, maps and other materials.