Couesnon Saxie

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The Saxie is a sax shaped instrument with a 62 centimeter u-bend brass tube and bell and a reed mouthpiece. The inventor and patent holder of the instrument was Frederick B. Hammam of Baltimore, Maryland, the US-patent dating from June 3rd, 1924.

Saxie and Saxie engraving, coll.: Gerard Westerhof

The Couesnon company in Paris must have quickly bought the patent rights as their name is on all the now known extant Saxies. Under the reference to the US patent is written Bte SGDG, an abbreviation of Breveté Sans Garantie du Gouvernement. SGDG was a French patent system, where the government didn't accept liability.

Couesnon pricelist 1930 source: Jean-Luc Matte

It was described to the 'ever-widening circle of admirers of the saxophone' as 'the little brother of the saxophone', but easier to play. A Method for the Couesnon Saxie was published by Simson & Frey, New York 1924. The small number of Saxies shows that it was an interesting experiment but not a commercial success. The Saxie is described in detail in The Galpin Society Journal from April 1999: A Six-Finger Hole Saxophone: The Saxie. At the time the author, David Rycroft, was aware of four Saxies apart from his own, two in private collections and two in a museum. One of them is in the Edinburgh Musical Instrument Museum At least four more popped up on Ebay in recent years, the one I acquired was sold by a designer from Oakland, California, who found it years ago at an estate sale in Berkeley.

A 1938 catalog from Ernst Hess Nachf. Klingenthal (Germany) lists a Saxie with a forward facing bell to, albeit slightly different. Hess also offers a straight Saxie, but doesn't refer to Couesnon.

1938 catalog Ernst Hess Nachf. Klingenthal

The Saxie owned by Pete Thomas is branded Couesnon and also has a more forward looking bell, but a bit different from the Hess one.

The Saxie also figures in a British J.E.D.& S catalogue from 1930, called Saxette or Saxie. Nickel plated and offered in a straight soprano form as well. J.E.D.& S is John E. Dallas and Sons in London (GB). By half covering the holes chromatic scales can be produced and there's a tutor offered.

1930 J.E.D.&S catalog source: Bassic-sax

John E. Dallas (1856-1921) was trained as a banjo maker in London, opened his own workshop and also started a publishing music service. By 1905 the company name was renewed as J. E. Dallas & Sons. The business grew hugely and in 1914 they moved to a new big workshop and the Jedson brand was introduced (J.E. Dallas & SONs). During the '20s Dallas started their wholesales distribution. By 1926 they were offering a huge variety of instruments, usually imported, plus their own makes, now going beyond the banjo manufacturing including Jedson guitars, and the music publishing as always. Most of these '30s instruments were Czech and German imports, a huge percentage were coming from Schönbach (Egerland, Czechoslovakia).

Attilio Berni playing his saxie, from 7.12 till 7.30 in this video. In February 2019 he offered it for sale, the night of April 20/21st 2019 his Saxie was stolen along with a lot of other instruments.

Nice pages about the Saxie are those from Helen Kahlke and John Robert Brown



Couesnon also produced the Couesnophone, patented in France in 1924 (patent number 569294). The instrument is described in the patent as a 'saxophone jouet' (saxophone toy). This proved a little difficult for English-speaking people to pronounce, so it was commonly Anglicized as “queenophone”, but it was even more commonly known as goofus. The instrument did resemble a sax but it was actually a free reed instrument 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 was played professionally by early jazz musicians like Adrian Rollini.

Sax shaped bugle

Couesnon also made a saxophone shaped bugle. The instrument has no reeds, holes or pistons but a trumpet/bugle like mouthpiece. It stands 77 cm high and has a bell diameter of 12 cm. The shape and the tapering is very much that of a saxophone body.

Coueson sax shaped bugle coll.: Frans Mich, Neerpelt, Belgium

The pineapple below the Couesnon & Cie engraving says 27, which according to some sources stands for the year of production, 1927. That would make sense.