Ebonite head with very oval embouchureBox and Union Label

C. G. Conn Boehm System Wonder Metal Flute
Serial # 10210; Elkhart; 1906; silver plated unibody with standard and ebonite headjoints, gold wash mechanism; R1 G and B-C trills; knuckle rest and (replacement) palm crutch; union label; min sl 587mm/573mm; 409g/450g (normal/ebonite head)

C. G. Conn & Co. was founded in 1879.  The company grew over the next several decades, becoming the first industry of its kind to be exclusively union labor in 1906; but it really exploded in size in 1915 when bought out by C. D. Greenleaf, a flour mill operator.  Serial number records (only approximate, having been reconstructed following factory fires) indicate this flute was made in 1905, but the union label (see image at right -- "OUR LABEL / MPB / PIU / FACTORY 34") was first used in 1906 -- so I'm dating this puppy to 1906.

Conn R4 key cluster

Most early Conn "Wonder Metal Flutes" use adjustment screws within the hinge arm as above.  Notice the configuration of the low C adjustment screw as well. And the unibody construction allows overlapping keywork, but you can't adjust placement of the R4 key cluster (and you just might rub the side of your pinky raw on the post below the D key).
R1 shake keysR1 shakes and back connector
Neither of these R1 trills does what you expect.  The upper one duplicates the L3 key for fast G-A or G#-A trills.  The lower one is a B-C trill. And look, Ma, lots more adjustment screws on the back connector, too!
Palm crutch receiver, knuckle restPalm crutch on a later Conn flute
Above on the left is the ebonite and mother-of-pearl LH knuckle rest and the receiver for the missing palm crutch.  To the right is an intact palm crutch on a similar flute.

The very resistant oval embouchure of the heavy ebonite head gives the flute a dark but not particularly wooden timbre, with a very sweet upper register. This combination of ebonite head and metal body was called the "Howe Model" on earlier Conn flutes, made according to the specifications of Charles T. Howe, flute professor of Columbus, Ohio.  He pronounced the combination produced "a richer quality of tone, especially in the lower register." The more rectangular and freer blowing embouchure of the .011" metal head sounds positively tinny in comparison, but is actually about what you expect from a modern student headjoint.  Often these flutes were provided with a metal tube headjoint and ebonite lip plate. Ebonite continued in use through the middle 1920s.

David Charrier found this flute in a flea market in the Philadelphia area.  When you pick this up to play, you can can have tons of fun AND be confident that the 8th grader up the street isn't playing a flute exactly like yours.

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Thanks to David Charrier for assisting with provenance as well as finding and overhauling this beast!
Images © J. W. Sallenger