Couesnophone

A Goofus By Any Other Name…

The Couesnophone, by the French manufacturer Couesnon, is known by a number of nicknames. While it is sometimes referred to as a queenophone, it is most commonly called a Goofus.

Couesnon was a French conglomerate of small musical instrument manufacturers. The company was established in 1882 when Amedee Auguste Couesnon, the son in law of sarrusophone proprietor P.L. Gautrot (one of Adolphe Sax’s rivals), became the director of Gautrot-Durand and company. ¹

Couesnon’s Goofy Patent

Couesnophone, patent diagram, 1924

Illustration from the French patent belonging to Couesnon (1924)

Source: en.wikipedia.org 

Couesnon was issued a patent for the Goofus in 1924. According to Wikipedia, Patent 569294 was issued for an instrument that was described as a saxophone jouet, which is French for toy saxophone. However, unlike a sax that can only play one note at a time, the Goofus was built to play multiple notes simultaneously. It accomplishes this because it is what is called a free reed instrument—which actually makes the Goofus more closely related to a harmonica than a saxophone.

Harmonica player, teacher, technician and historian Pat Missin has a page on the couesnophone on his website. This is how he describes the way the Goofus works:

The instrument did resemble a sax, an instrument very much in vogue at the time, but it was actually a free reed instrument much like the harmonicor, with the reeds being selected by piston-like keys arranged in a similar manner to the keys of a piano – one row of keys giving a C major scale, the other row arranged in alternate groups of two and three to give the sharps and flats. It could be played whilst held in a position similar to a sax, but it also came with a long rubber tube that allowed the player to place it on a horizontal surface and play it like a keyboard whilst blowing it through the tube.

This photo of a couesnophone shows what it can look like.

Couesnophone, brass, saxophone-shaped, free reed instrument, 2 colums of push buttons

Source: oldmusicalinstruments.com

Unfortunately the one that came up for sale on eBay in November ’09 didn’t quite look like that. It was very much in need of a restoration. Nonetheless, it sold for the tidy sum of $510.00.

Source: eBay.com

Yes Virginia, There Really Is A Famous Goofus Player

The Goofus was popular for a little while in the early days of jazz. The instrument’s most notable player was bass saxophonist Adrian Rollini. Rollini was featured on the couesnophone in a band signed to Okeh Records called The Goofus Five.

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¹ Couesnon History from The Vintage Saxophone Gallery.

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