Terminology for these instruments has always been vague. In Ethnomusicology, "tuba" could technically mean any straight trumpet. While the common definition of the Tuba is simply a large bass horn, a scholar could correctly call it a lip-vibrated cup mouthpiece multi-valved conical bored aerophone of the lower register!
The first instrument called a Tuba was the ancient Roman Tuba (meaning tube), produced around 500 BC, which was used as a military signal trumpet. It was usually of bronze, about four feet long, and played with a detachable bone mouthpiece. A replica (c.1960?) hangs above our front door. To a certain extent, all cup mouthpiece horns in use today are related to this common ancestor. Through the ages, this simple tube was reshaped, remodeled, and renamed hundreds of times before arriving at the shape and function of Tubas as we know them today. The modern style tuba came about in Prussia and Germany in the early nineteenth century. It was preceded by other bass horns called the ophicleide and the serpent, so named because of its snakelike shape. Styles still in use include the sousaphone, the helicon, the bell-front "recording" tuba, and the "Wagner" tuba designed for the Ring of Nibelung operas in 1876. Today they are also made in just about every key.
The Tuba Museum began when William (a.k.a. Tuba Charlie) started leaving his horns to play with visiting musicians. After enough of them started gathering dust, he figured "hey, I ought to start a museum". A tuba player since 1959, he first took up the sousaphone in the Ferndale (Michigan) School District at age nine. Will's father, Raymond White, also a Ferndale graduate, played in the Navy Sea Bee Band and can be seen in the 1937 photo of the Coolidge Elementary School band.
Many of the horns on display are in playing condition, including the only known example of a double E flat Helicon Tuba inscribed "The Majestic Monster". Made in Austria circa 1915, the Monster's triple loop tubing is nineteen feet long, weighs over 40 pounds, and has a huge 28" diameter bell. Imported by the Malecki Co. of Chicago, it was played for many years in the Iron Mountain, Michigan, Community Band.
Steam-rollered Tuba in Cement adjoining our patio - a memorial to all the tubas that have served but not survived School Band.