The Indiana Band Instrument Co.

Yesterday morning I noticed a very unassuming, but somewhat unusual sax on eBay: It was this Indiana Band Instrument Co. tenor.

Indiana Band Instrument Co. saxophone, Martin sax, tenor sax, vintage sax

Source: shadows4u2 on

At first blush there is really nothing special about this vintage silver plated tenor sax with its gold wash bell. Bevelled tone holes were normal on Martins, and even the front F key was found on Martin saxophones from the Handcraft Phase 3 onwards. As a matter of fact, the horn very much resembles my Martin Handcraft.

However, what is of special noteworthiness is the saxophone’s engraving. Notice that there is no mention of Martin? This horn is simply engraved Indiana Band Instrument Co.

Bell Engraving, sax bell, Indiana Band Instrument Co. Martin saxophone, silver sax, vintage sax

Source: shadows4u2 on

While the Internet can be a great source of information and obscure facts, it can also be an incredible source of very inaccurate information. Case in point: The history of the Indiana Band Instrument Co., of Elkhart, Indiana.

If you were to Google the company name you would undoubtedly come across something that reads like the following paraphrase:

In 1928 Martin got controlling interest of the Indiana Band Instrument Co. (IBICo). It continued to operate as an independent company until 1942, when it Martin began using the name to produce its brand of student model horns. Some people argue that Martin’s stencil saxes were made at the IBICo’s plant as well.

Sounds good, right? Too bad that pretty much all the big name vintage sax sites have the info wrong.

The Indiana Band Instrument Co. was never an independent company at all. Music trade publications of the day state that the company was founded in 1928 by senior Martin personnel.1 This fact was confirmed by the grandson of Martin’s then-President and General Manager, F.A. Holtz. This is what Chris Holtz (the grandson) has written:

To correct a little Martin history

By 1912, the Martin sons came to the conclusion that their contentious infighting could only be solved by selling their stock and going their own ways. Frank Compton purchased the company, but stayed only eight years.

In 1920, O.P.Bassett, a newspaper publisher from Illinois who had earlier moved to Elkhart to operate a local paper there instead, bought Martin Band Instruments with several Chicago partners. His partners opened a successful retail instrument outlet in Chicago on Wabash St , while Bassett, after hiring my Grandfather, Fred Holtz as Sales Manager, ran the Martin plant.

In December 1928, in order to broaden their customer base, Mr Bassett (majority owner and G.M.) and Grandad incorporated The Indiana Band Instrument Company. Like Conn had done several years earlier with their Pan American brand, and then Buescher, with their Elkhart Band Instrument division, it allowed Martin to produce and market a line of less costly instruments to those who could not afford the premium Martin offerings.

These entities were wholly owned by their parent, but at least in the case of MBI, both Martin and Indiana lines were built on the same line by the same craftsmen. These were long before ‘student horns’ were ever conceived. Rather Martin brought older retired top-of-the-line models (with existing tooling) back to life. The Indiana horns were of excellent quality (the Indiana saxophone, for instance, was a dead ringer for the older Handcraft Standard premium horn).

During war production buildup in 1942, Martin dropped the Indiana Band Instrument logo, and subsequently , labeled the horns as “INDIANA by Martin”. MBI did keep the serial numbers on a separate ledger.

In 1961, Paul Richards, a businessman with little band instrument experience, purchased three companies (Martin, Blessing, Reynolds and their factories) to produce as many student horns as possible. With the success of ‘The Music Man’ on Broadway and the movie in the works, he had dreamed of a huge student horn boom. Sadly he was wrong and faced bankruptcy in less than two years.

Wurlitzer, a longtime Martin client) picked up the pieces and operates the Elkhart plant for several years, until the Leblanc sale. The Indiana horns were produced throughout all those years.

The serial numbers for the Indiana horns are available on website. Hope that clears up a bit and Martin and IBICO history.


If you are interested in Martin’s history, you might enjoy looking through a bunch of old (many date back to the 1920s) music trade publication clippings related to the company. If so, be sure to check out Chris Holtz’s Google+ album. I just looked through the 180+ clippings this morning. There were some interesting little gems there.

Getting back to the Indiana Band Instrument Co. tenor currently for sale on eBay, it is indeed a fine-looking, but yes, rather plain tenor. That said, its appearance would indicate that it was not abused during its lifetime, and that based on its serial # (16805) the sax was produced circa 1936.

I won’t bother quoting the eBay ad since its wrong, and if you’re interested in the horn you’ll check it out anyway. You’ll definitely want to budget for an overhaul if you decide to go for this baby.

The thing is, IMHO the price is a tad on the high side. Bids are to start at $899.99. As you can imagine there are no bids on this Indiana Band Instrument Co. tenor yet. The auction for this vintage sax ends on October 3. Let’s see if someone bites by then.


1 Source: Jorns Bergenson and Head2wind in SOTW thread titled: Indiana band inst Elkhart Alto Saxophone

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

Original Catalogue Pages Of Sax-Shaped “Things”

One of the most popular sections of my website is the Sax-Shaped “Things” portion, which features everything from simple plastic children’s toys to high-tech wind controllers. The toys and instruments featured in that section of Bassic Sax span nearly a century of our instrument’s history.

I regularly get emails from the owners of vintage or antique saxophone-shaped musical instruments and toys asking about their history. Sadly, for most of these instruments and toys the history is long forgotten, and often very little is known.

A few days ago I decided to dig through some of the numerous digital versions of catalogues that were sent to me from a fellow in Europe. Low and behold I found some very interesting pages in a 1930 Jedson & Mastertone catalogue.

For your research and viewing pleasure I now offer up the following vintage sax-shaped “things”, just as they were originally listed. (Please note that the prices are in British pound sterling.)

Sax-Shaped “Things” as the were listed in a 1930 catalogue

The Weiss Fluta – A blow accordion that looks like a Hohner Organette

1930 Jedson & Mastertone catalogue, vintage catalogue, sax-shaped "things", Weiss Fluta, blow accordions

The Weiss Fluta (# 2712) looks pretty much identical to the Hohner Organette. Based on the spelling, Weiss Fluta, I’m guessing that this instrument is also from Germany.

The Jazzophon

1930 Jedson & Mastertone catalogue, vintage catalogue, sax-shaped "things", Jazzophon, kazoo

John E. Dallas & Sons Ltd.’s catalogue spelling error aside (there was no “e” at the end of Jazzophon), Calura’s saxophone-shaped kazoo must not have sold all that well. To date I have only come across one for sale on eBay.

What’s worth noting on this and the following page is that Swanee—the makers of the famous slide sax—also made a number of other instruments and toys. Unfortunately not all of them are illustrated.

The Swanee Slide Sax and a bunch more Swanee Stuff

1930 Jedson & Mastertone catalogue, vintage catalogue, sax-shaped "things", Swanee Sax, slide sax

BTW, notice the price of the Model A Swanee Sax. According to this UK Govt. website, the £2 10s 0d from 1930, would be worth £83.55 in 2005. My, how these little gems have appreciated. They regularly sell upwards of £400 on eBay.

The Saxie and The Saxette

1930 Jedson & Mastertone catalogue, vintage catalogue, sax-shaped "things", Saxette, Saxie

Although the John E. Dallas & Sons Ltd.’s catalogue lists the Saxie and the Saxette as the same instrument, to my knowledge they were always made by different companies. While the Saxie was made by the French company Couesnon, the Saxette was the brainchild of music teacher Elver Joseph Fitchhorn, who had the instrument manufactured through the Saxette Company in his native Delaware, OH.

Sax-shaped Harmonica

1930 Jedson & Mastertone catalogue, vintage catalogue, sax-shaped "things", sax-shaped harmonica

The information on No. 7651 was found on page 74 of the catalogue. It is as follows:

“Strauss” Sax-mouth Organ, 28 reeds, with nickelled [sic] Saxophone attachment .. .. dozen £2 4 0

I have not seen any of these Struass harmonicas for sale, but this La Traviata and this Radio harp have appeared for sale in the past few years. The story about the saxophone-shaped bells can be found on the Radio harp page.

Lots and lots of toy sax-shaped “things”

1930 Jedson & Mastertone catalogue, vintage catalogue, sax-shaped "things", sax-shaped brass toys, 4-valve toy saxophone

This four-valved, sax-shaped toy (No. 7914) is described in the page below…

1930 Jedson & Mastertone catalogue, vintage catalogue, sax-shaped "things", Simplex Saxophone, blow accordion, 8-valved toy saxophone

The valved-instruments shown in the two pages above, are perhaps those which I get the most requests for information about. I have quite a few of these on my website already (check out the Toys with Valves on this page), and many more in my photo archives that I just have to find time to write about—including the Simplex Saxophone. BTW, I’m sure the Simplex Saxophone, which is actually a blow accordion, looks like the Hohner Sax by design, and not by fluke.

Since I have not yet had a chance to create a page on the Simplex Saxophone, here are some pics of the instrument…

With regards to blow accordions, the early part of the 20th century was littered with them. Sax-shaped blow accordions seem to have been all the rage. The silvered wood 8-note version shown above (No. 2958) is very similar to this German blow accordion that appeared on eBay. The most obvious difference is in the style of the mouthpiece.

To see more of the blow accordions that I have collected images of, check out the Blow Accordion portion of Sax-Shaped “Things”.

In conclusion then…

I hope that these pages are helpful to those of you looking for a bit more information about the instruments and/or toys illustrated or listed above.

If you have any of the items listed above and would like to share images of them through my website, or even have information to share, please contact me. I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

If you’re looking for more images on sax-shaped “things”, make sure you check out my website. I’m currently working on a number of new pages for this section, and hope to have them up in the coming weeks.

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

Moonliters Performing For Culture Days

Moonliters Logo, The Moonliters Big Band,

This coming Saturday, September 27, the Moonliters Big Band will be performing in the rotunda at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School at 2 pm. Abby Senior is located at 33355 Bevan Ave. in Abbotsford.

If you’re like me and haven’t been to the school since you graduated from there, yes, this is a new school. They levelled our old one, but you can still get there the way we used to as well. You don’t have to use the Bevan Ave entrance.

This is a FREE concert being held as part of the Canada-wide Culture Days. This concert is sponsored by the Fraser Valley Regional Library, which also has its new library on site as well. Personally, I would have found it truly amusing to play in the library for an hour.

So here are the details of the Moonliters Big Band’s upcoming performance:

Place: rotunda at Abby Sr. Secondary
Address: 33355 Bevan Ave. in Abbotsford.
Time: 2 – 3 pm
Date: Saturday, September 27, 2014

I’ve been subbing with the Moonliters since January. First I was in the 2nd alto/clarinet chair. Since my clarinet chops are non-existent, I switched with the 2nd tenor player. Now I’m subbing in that seat.

As the band’s name suggests, the Moonliters Big Band performs songs from the Big Band era. In addition to performing at special events, we also hold two dances a year which are attended by the dance clubs in the area. It is at their request that the band has, in recent years, added a number of Latin tunes.

For our upcoming performance at Culture Days, the Moonliters are described like this:

Culture with a blast! Abbotsford’s Moonliters is a musical tour de force, with musicians from throughout the Fraser Valley and even Sumas, Washington! Get your ‘swing’ on and enjoy renditions from Big Bands such as the Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, as well as more recent popular tunes and music with a Latin beat.

To get an idea of what we sound like, this is a video taken at a recent dance, and put together by our piano player…

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