In April 2015, a Saxie-like instrument appeared on eBay. At first blush it could easily be mistaken for the French-made instruments by Couesnon. However, a bit of a deeper dive into these types of sax shaped “things”—and the Saxie in particular—soon shows us the origins of this particular Saxie-like instrument is not necessarily so straight forward.
On the Saxie page in this section of Bassic Sax, there is a lot of information about the original, French instrument sold by Couesnon. Note the direction of the bell shown on this Couesnon-branded Saxie. Now take a look at the original 1924, patent drawing filed for this instrument by American, Frederick B. Hammann. The bell on the patented instrument points forward, while the Couesnon Saxie points upward.
Interestingly enough, the seller of this particular Saxie-like instrument also owned a Couesnon Saxie that was included in these photos for comparison. However, if you compare the angle of the much-shorter bell on the Couesnon-made horn, it too points forward, rather than upward, like on the other Couesnon-made Saxies I had seen before. The fact that Couesnon made Saxies with bells in two different directions, tells us that the company’s design of their instrument changed at least once during its production run.
Here are the photos of the Saxie-like instrument that appeared for sale in April 2015.
Other manufacturers of Saxie-like instruments
No Couesnon or Saxie name
In 1939, a catalogue page from Germany’s musical instrument manufacturing company, and distributor, Hess, illustrated the following Saxie-like instrument:
It says nothing about these instruments being made by Couesnon, nor is the name Saxie used. Its particulars are noted as follows:
- 2 complete octaves
- Nickel-plated brass
- 6 open tone holes with 1 key, and 1 octave key (so 2 keys in total)
- available in 2 versions:
Saxie name used interchangeably with Saxette
Now compare this to the following catalogue for Jedson from 1930-31. Jedson was the brand name of John E. Dallas & Sons—a London-based manufacturer and wholesale distributor of musical instruments. Again the Couesnon brand name is not used. To confuse things further, the names Saxie and Saxette are implied to refer to the same instruments.
Like in the Hess catalogue above, the Saxie is mentioned as being available in both straight and curved models, although in the Jedson catalogue the description is more complete. It notes the Saxette or Saxie can play in 4 keys, and that by only ½ covering holes, a chromatic scale can be produced.
Jedson’s use of the names Saxie and Saxette interchangeably is rather confusing, since in fact the name Saxette actually refers to a patented instrument that is not the same at all. The Saxette was invented by a music teacher by the name of Elver Joseph Fitchhorn, from Delaware, Ohio. There is a page in this section of Bassic Sax dealing specifically with Fitchhorn’s patented Saxette.
Note that the Fitchhorn’s Saxette does not have any keys.
What does all this mean? I am going to speculate wildly for a minute.
At this point I suspect that other manufacturers, besides Couesnon, produced Saxie-like instruments to cash in on the saxophone’s popularity at the time. Money is money, and saxophones have always been expensive compared to other instruments.
The Great Depression slowed sales the world over, so musical instrument manufacturers everywhere looked for cheap(er) items to sell. Given the saxophone’s popularity at the time, these Saxie-like instruments were an ideal way to try and sell more stuff, because let’s face it, that is what our world’s economy is built on: selling stuff.
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