Q: I heard a story that Sousa was really an immigrant named John Philipso but because his steamer trunk was labeled "John Philipso, U.S.A.", he changed his name to SOUSA. Is this true?
A: Not true. There are several versions still floating around, all based on rumors that he added the U-S-A to his last name out of sheer patriotism. This is, however, false. Sousa's father was the immigrant, and Sousa (or Souza, or De Sousa) is a well-known Portuguese family name. The story was started by the Sousa Band's manager as a publicity stunt during one of the band's European tours, and it still endures nearly 80 years after Sousa's death.
  • Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Comments (6)

  • Linda C.

    Linda C.

    11 July 2012 at 20:02 |
    There is a regular feature called "100 Years Ago" in the Susquehanna County (PA) Independent, and it is a reprint of small town's gossip news each week. Here is the news from Nicholson, PA for the week of July 11, 1912:

    One of the editors of the Democrat was in Nicholson to attend a shoot of the gun club there and met John Phillip Sousa, also attending the shoot. He learned that the great bandmaster's name was originally John Phillip So, but an admirer, realizing that his surname was a decidedly unpretentious affair, and seeing an opportunity for a most significant suffix (Mr. Sousa being director of the U.S. Military Band), proposed adding the initials U.S.A. and John Phillip So then became John Phillip So-u-sa."

    Maybe Sousa was so amused by the publicity stunt that he himself was promoting it too??!
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