Cavalier Saxophones

I must admit that I had never heard of Cavalier saxophones before I looked at this 1931 catalogue from the Chicago Musical Instruments company. Given I have spent the more than 15 years now researching vintage saxophones, I found this odd. So I did some research about the brand, and it suddenly became clear to me why this brand had slipped past my radar: My research tended to focus on the pro models made by saxophone manufacturers, whereas Cavaliers saxophones were not pro-level horns.

Cavalier Band Instruments, vintage catalogue, 1931, Cavalier saxophones, Pan American, Conn, Chicago Musical Instrument Company

Cavalier saxophones were made by Pan American. According the Conn Loyalist website:

Pan American had its own “budget” brand, namely Cavalier. These were labeled along the lines of “Produced by the Pan American company”.

If you want to play degrees of separation, there would be two degrees of separation between Cavalier and Conn. However, those two degrees made a hell of a lot of difference.

Compared to their big-name Conn cousins, Cavalier saxophones were seriously watered down versions of what a saxophone could be. That said, they still did the job. And haters not withstanding, those that own or have owned them, and techs who have worked on them, seem to be of the opinion that they are good vintage saxophones.

According to SOTW member badenia, who for years has been researching the Pan American and Cavalier brands:

The three lines of Conn Ltd, Conn, pan American and Cavalier all shared design similarities in contemporary models. However, since Conn was the premium line, Pan American the moderately priced line, and Cavalier the lowest priced line, there are differences. A main difference is the Conn’s had rolled drawn tone holes, while the Pan American and Cavalier lines had straight drawn tone holes. Additionally,the Pan American’s had missing keys or MOP buttons from their Conn equivalents and Cavalier’s had missing keys from their Pan American equivalents. Also,the Conn’s stamped the Haynes tone hole patent on their instruments, while the Pan Americans after the mid 1920s went to stamping the Hardy tone hole patent. Cavalier started with the Hardy tone hole patent stamp. Later all went to patent applied for, with the Conn line first and Pan American and Cavalier following some years later..
Based on discussions I have read, I suspect in the pre-WWII models, overall quality was similar between the lines, the price differential coming from the handling of the tone holes and the differences in the keys. [Emphasis added.]

Source: SOTW thread, Cavalier Production Dates? 

1931 Cavalier saxophones that dealers could order

Cavalier Band Instruments, vintage catalogue, 1931, Cavalier saxophones, Pan American, Conn, Chicago Musical Instrument Company, 92M, alto saxophone, 96M, tenor saxophone

Because the descriptions were seriously lacking, I did some eBay research to see what I could find. Sadly what I found were mostly junky horns that had led anything but a charmed life. I didn’t find any in pristine condition. Not one was what I would call even nice…. Sad…

However, at least the photos of these junky horns allowed me to determine what features the Cavaliers saxophones did have, and how they compared to their Pan American and Conn cousins.

92M-2 Alto # 0948

Nope, there was no neck with this horn. That didn’t seem to stop people from bidding on this vintage student sax however, since it received a surprising 23 bids!

In case you’re interested, it sold in March of this year for $162.50! WTF???? Hey, I got a neck from a Bundy II alto you can buy that’s left over from my lamp project. Someone what to pay me $300 for it? :tongueincheek:  :lol:  :lol:  :lol:  :lol:

OK, back to reality… Or at least back to this Cavalier alto… Here are a few things to note:

  • If  the serial # is indication, this was a very early Cavalier saxophone.
  • The sax has no front F key.
  • It does not have a bis Bb key either.
  • It has split bell keys.
  • It has no clothes guard.
  • Nor does it have a key guard for the chromatic F# key.
  • It does have the Mercedes-style key guard for the low C key—which is a hallmark of Conn saxophones, and was carried through to the Pan American line as well.
  • The shape of the low C key is what we commonly see in both Conn and Pan American saxophones.
  • The octave lever appears to be shaped similarly to what we see in Pan American saxophones of a similar vintage. (When viewed from a similar angle.)
  • The patent number is that of Pan American saxophones.

92M-2 Alto # 9869

  • This sax does not have a front F key.
  • It does however, have a bis Bb key.
  • It has left-sided bell keys.
  • It has no clothes guard.
  • Nor does it have a key guard for the chromatic F# key.
  • It does have the Mercedes-style key guard for the low C key—which is a hallmark of Conn saxophones, and was carried through to the Pan American line as well.
  • The shape of the low C key is what we commonly see in both Conn and Pan American saxophones.
  • This sax does not have a patent # on it. Rather, it is stamped with: Pat. Appd. For, which may indicate that Pan American had its own patents for the line of Cavalier saxophones.

96M-2 Tenor # 03917

Unfortunately the seller didn’t provide us with a pic of the serial # area of the horn, so we don’t know what the patent information on it might be. That said, the photos are of a good quality, so we can make out the following details:

  • This sax does not have a front F key.
  • It does however, have a bis Bb key.
  • This tenor has split bell keys.
  • It doesn’t have a clothes guard.
  • Nor does it have a chromatic F# key guard.
  • It does have the Mercedes-style key guard for the low C key—which is a hallmark of Conn saxophones, and was carried through to the Pan American line as well.
  • The shape of the low C key is what we commonly see in both Conn and Pan American saxophones.
  • The left pinkie cluster is similar to what we see in Pan American saxophones of a similar vintage.

Some concluding thoughts about Cavalier saxophones

My goal was and is not to regurgitate all the existing research, but to provide Cavalier, and potential Cavalier saxophone owners, with an overview, and some hints of where to check for further info, as well as pitfalls to watch for when reading stuff on the web.

Doing research for this article proved to be challenging, since there was very little information about the Cavalier brand available, and what I did find online was in some cases simply wrong. For example, one website refers to the 96M as the stencil version of Conn’s 10M horn. Huh?   :scratch:

That said, SOTW did have a fair amount of decent information as people assisted badenia in his quest for Pan American and Cavalier examples.

As badenia was collating his research, in July 2015 he offered up the following determinations based on his findings to date:

1) The saxes launched in 1931 with a serial number a kin to 001. I have a 048 serial registered.
2) Based on the Kingston trademark from Wurlitzer, around 3750 is 1935.
3) Based on the Continental Clarion Trademark around 6900 is 1937.
4) based on the 1940 catalog, around 9070 is likely 1941. The dividing line between split and left side bell keys.
5) The highest sax serial recorded is 16122.
6) The Cavalier line as a whole likely ended in 1948 as believed. There is no documentation, but advertising, serial number magnitude and a replacement clarinet model indicate this.
7) Other than trombones with a high number of 17952, all other instruments reached into the high 60000’s – low 80000’s range.
8) At the moment the above is supporting very low production volumes for the saxes.
9) The name Cavalier was used on a Pan American clarinet in 1955/56
10) The name Cavalier was used on a Conn clarinet in 1956/57.
11) Items 9 & 10 explain the trademark renewal in 1951.
12) At this point, all I need is something that confirms the saxes made it back into production post WWII.

Source: SOTW thread, Cavalier Production Dates?

If you do a search in SOTW for Cavalier, you’ll likely turn up other bits and pieces of useful info, however it is a bit of a time suck. I’ve literally spent hours pouring through 13 years of old threads looking for the one or two pieces of information that would be helpful for this article.

In summary then…

  • Cavalier saxophones were NOT Conn stencils, but rather student horns made by the Pan American, which was a subsidiary of Conn.
  • Conn were the pro-level horns; Pan American the intermediate level ones, and Cavalier the student models.
  • Prior to WWII the quality of manufacturing may not have differed much between the three lines, but what differed were the features.
  • Features stayed pretty consistent over the Cavalier saxophones’ production run. From the limited amount of research I did—compared to others who have studied Conn and their subsidiaries for years—the features that did change included: the placement of the bell keys; an addition of a bis Bb; as well as the switch from the Pan American patent number stamped on the the body tube, to a generic Pat. Appd. For.
  • Cavalier saxophones were introduced in 1931. (The year of this catalogue.) When their production stopped exactly is not yet known, but to date research has not shown that they were made post-WWII.

Please note: Additions and corrections to this article are more than welcome! Please contact me via email, or leave a comment below. Thanks!

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

Couesnon Bass Sax: It’s A Train Wreck

Couesnon bass sax, saxophone bell engraving, Couesnon logo

Source: messenbrinck on eBay.de

I love vintage and antique saxophones, and if you’re reading my articles, there’s a good chance you do too. This is especially true of bass saxophones. I am especially fond of the behemoths that make the glass and metal in a room rattle when the low notes of these vintage beauties rumble out of the bell.

That said, have you ever seen a horn that is so clearly past the point of saving, that you realize it’s time to call the funeral home and give the once vintage beauty a proper send-off?

That might be the case for this Couesnon bass sax being sold by a seller on the German eBay site. My first thought when I saw this horn was: Oh, it’s a vintage bass sax sold as a jigsaw puzzle….

Couesnon bass sax, saxophone in pieces, bass sax in pieces, sax keys, sax bits and pieces

Source: messenbrinck on eBay.de

However, once I took a closer look at all the pictures, I wondered if: a. All the pieces were included, and b. What the f!#* exactly happened to this thing. How exactly do you get bell damage like this? We know the metal isn’t paper-thin, but it sure looks that way in the photo below.

Couesnon bass sax, saxophone bell, bell lip, saxophone bell damage

Source: messenbrinck on eBay.de

Since the seller is in Germany, and is aiming his sale at a German audience, he wrote his ad copy in German. This is what he said about this Couesnon bass sax:

Baßsaxophon der Firma Couesnon mit getrennten Oktavklappen, Seriennummer 16859, wohl aus den zwanziger Jahren.

Dieses Instrument ist sehr selten, ich habe keine Spur eines zweiten gefunden. Derzeit ist das Instrument zerlegt wie auf den Bildern zu sehen. Alle Teile sind vorhanden (bis auf eine Strebe des Klappenkäfigs tief C), der Korpus wurde Material schonend sandgestrahlt.

Um das Instrument wieder spielbar zu machen ist sehr viel Arbeit nötig. Der Schallbecher ist abgelötet und hat unter der „Krempe“ Risse, die man mit dem Untersetzen von Flicken mit Weichlot wieder schließen kann, zudem wurden an der Stelle, wo die Verbindungsstrebe zum Korpus sitzt, zahlreiche Risse mit Hartlot (also nicht optimal) repariert (einige sind noch offen), das Resultat ist eine bucklige Oberfläche an dieser Stelle. Der restliche Korpus hat zahlreiche Beulen, am oberen Ende ist ein Tonloch besonders stark betroffen, zwei Tonlochkamine sind lose, nach dem Ausbeulen müssen die Tonlochkamine aber ohnehin alle wieder richtig aufgelötet werden.

Die Mechanik wurde nur partiell gereinigt, viele Böckchen wurden abgelötet da Achsen und Schrauben anders nicht zu lösen waren. Alle Achsen und Schrauben sind rostig und sollten durch solche aus Edelstahl ersetzt werden. Natürlich muß das Instrument nach Abschluß der Blecharbeiten noch überholt (gepolstert) werden.

Plan B wäre das Instrument als dekorativen Blickfang zu nutzen, das wiederum ließe sich wesentlich einfacher bewerkstelligen.

Zum Instrument gibt es keinen Koffer, ich werde es aber sorgfältig mit sehr viel Blasenfolie verpackt versenden.

Dies ist ein Privatverkauf, keine Rücknahme und keine Gewährleistung.

Helen Translate says:

Bass saxophone made by Couesnon. With dual octave keys; serial # 16859; likely from the 1920s.

This instrument is very uncommon. I have found no trace of a second one. At present the instrument is disassembled, as can be seen in the pictures. All parts are present (except for one brace for the low C key guard). The body was carefully sandblasted to save the metal.

In order to make the instrument playable again, a lot of work is required. The bell has been unsoldered. It has tears under the lip, which could be repaired by applying patches with soft solder. Furthermore, at the spot on the bell where the support brace to the body is located, numerous tears were repaired with hard solder (not optimal). The result is a bumpy surface. The rest of the body has numerous dents. At the upper end one tone hole is especially effected. Two tone holes are detached. After all the dents have been removed, all the tone holes will have to be resoldered.

The mechanics were only partially cleaned. Many posts were unsoldered, otherwise the work on the axles and screws could not be done. All axles and screws are rusty, and should be replaced with some made out of stainless steel. Naturally after the bodywork is complete, the instrument needs an overhaul (re-padding).

Plan B: this instrument could be used as decoration. This could be done much easier.

This instrument has no case. I will however, send it carefully with a lot of bubble wrap.

This is a private sale. No returns. No warranty.

Oh where to start… :lol:

On second thought, I think the text speaks for itself. :mrgreen:

If you really want this Couesnon bass sax, I hope you live in Germany, or have someone there who can take delivery for you. Sorry to all you disappointed potential buyers out there… Maybe next time.

If you do live in Germany, and you really want this Couesnon bass sax for your wall, garden, or maybe to restore (in that case, please send me the after pictures), then you have until May 17 to get your bids in. At the time of writing the price was at €3.33, with 3 bidders. (BTW, xe.com calculates the current bid price to be $3.76 US.) Let’s see where it ends up! This is a no reserve auction, so it should sell.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

Pan American Saxophones From 1931

Pan American saxophones, vintage catalogue, 1931, Chicago Musical Instrument Co.

As promised, this is the second instalment of the saxophone pages from the 1931 catalogue from the Chicago Musical Instrument Co. While the first article included all the Martin saxophones, this one features the Pan American saxophones for sale in 1931.

Let’s just do a bit of a re-cap of what Pan American was and wasn’t, before taking a look at what the company offered up in the saxophone department.

  • Pan American was NOT a stencil horn. Rather, Pan American saxophones were a second line produced by a subsidiary of Conn. The Conn Loyalist website describes the company like this:

The Pan American band instrument company was a subsidiary of Conn. It was started in the early 1920’s and produced more affordable instruments than the regular Conn line, geared towards students. Around 1955 Conn started producing student instruments under the Conn brand name and Pan American disappeared.

Source: The Pan American Section of the Conn Loyalist

  • According to Kurt, the fellow who has been doing an immense amount of research into the Pan American brand:

Pan American had their own patents, trademarks, catalogs, models and dealer structure.

Source: Woodwind Forum

  • The patent numbers on Conn and Pan American saxophones is different. These patent numbers are usually stamped just above the serial number. If you are interested in comparing the patents, the Conn patent was: Dec. 8, 1914, 1119954, while the Pan American one was: Sept 14, 1915, 1153489.

Bb curved and straight soprano, as well as tenor Pan American saxophones

Notice that the tenor has the Mercedes-style key guard on the low C key that we commonly associate with Conn.

Pan American saxophones, vintage catalogue, 1931, Chicago Musical Instrument Co., soprano sax, curved soprano, straight soprano, tenor saxophone, 66M, 62M, 68M

Eb alto and C melody Pan American saxophones

Notice how they describe the alto. “It is…the equal of many higher priced [altos in its price class].”

Although easily dismissed as pure advertising hype, I happen to have seen and played one of these babies that was in very fine shape. I can attest to the fact that this particular Pan American alto was just as well made as many pro horns of the day. If you would like to see photos of the horn in question, you can find them in my Pan American gallery. (You’ll see that the alto I played has a Mercedes-style key guard on its low C key.)

Speaking on Mercedes-style key guards, you also notice that feature being shown on the 50M—the C melody.

Pan American saxophones, vintage catalogue, 1931, Chicago Musical Instrument Co., alto sax, C melody saxophone, 64M, 50M

Eb baritone and Bb bass Pan American saxophones

Now we get to the big boys of the Pan American series. Too bad that they managed to get the descriptions of the horns under the wrong instruments. :evil:

Pan American saxophones, vintage catalogue, 1931, Chicago Musical Instrument Co., baritone saxophone, bari sax, bass sax, 54M, 56M

If you compare the prices of the bare brass Pan American baritone saxophone at $162.00, to that of the Martin Handcraft in the same catalogue at $150.00, you have to ask yourself: Why the price difference? If Martin was a pro-level horn, and Pan American ostensibly a student model, why did the Pan American cost more?

I would simply answer this question like this: Pan American was not a cheaply-made student instrument like we are used to seeing today. Although the horns might not have had all the features of Conn’s pro models—for example they lacked rolled tone holes, and their left pinkie clusters were different—but at their core they were still built like Conn saxophones, and had many of that brand name’s features.

There is a great testament to the quality of the Pan American bass saxophone, on sax tech’s Stephan Howard’s website. There he reviewed one he had in the shop. (Although he wrongly called it a stencil horn. In his defence, maybe it’s a British thing.) ;)   The bass that Stephan played happened to be the 56M-2, in silver plate with a gold bell that originally would have sold for $275.00 in 1931.

My personal thoughts on Pan American saxophones

I am not going to enter into a debate about the quality of the Pan American build, and whether they measure up to the standard of a “pro level” horn. I happen to own a 62M curvy that I bought about 15 years ago from Gayle at vintagesax.com . Those of you who know Gayle and/or her rep know that she only deals in the finest of vintage horns.

My 62M is a great horn, and I would challenge it against any, and I do mean any, curved soprano built over the last 75 years or so. I just had it restored a little over a year ago, and this baby is in very fine condition. It also happens to sing like you wouldn’t believe. It has a couple of notes that need to be adjusted for, but then I’m not a soprano player, so I have to work really hard to get a decent sound and intonation on all sopranos: including new ones.

I am not alone in my assessment of the high quality of Pan American saxophones. You don’t have to look hard in the online sax world to find techs who think highly enough about this brand that they play and collect Pan American saxophones themselves.

That said, over time the Pan American saxophones started to look less like Conn’s first line of instruments, and definitely took on more of a student horn look, until eventually in 1956 their production was discontinued altogether. In their place Conn introduced the Director Series of horns.

I hope you enjoyed this collection of vintage catalogue pages on Pan American saxophones. The last of the series will be a few pages on Pan American’s own budget brand, Cavalier. (Now there was a true student horn.) That article will be coming up in the next couple of days.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!