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· Registered
Alto, C-mel, Saxie
138 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've finally crossed the line. Until this point I've justified some of my stranger horn acquisitions because they're altos (my main), they have their own unique tones, and it's nice to have a sound for every occasion. But now that I've bought a saxophone purely for its historical value and not necessarily to play, I can't really avoid calling myself a collector anymore. Granted, this alto isn't currently playable regardless, and I'm not going to attempt to make it so due to its age and because it suffered some damage in transit. Fortunately there's a tech in my area that has worked on saxes this old before, so I'm probably going to be making inquiries into getting that damage fixed in the near future.

But enough of my rambling, here's the sax! My lousy camera really doesn't do it justice, though; it's a beautiful instrument.

Musical instrument Reed instrument Brass instrument Wind instrument Woodwind instrument

Musical instrument Brass instrument Amber Human body Wood

Musical instrument Wood Amber Reed instrument Wind instrument

This is a very, VERY old Gautrot that might possibly have been made between 1863 and 1873, and is pretty near identical to the horns Adolphe Sax was making at the time. I'm not sure if the pads are original, but, barring a single brown pad with a rivet, they're all dirty white and extremely old; there's one on the upper stack that I'm almost convinced is the real deal. Physically this horn is in phenomenal condition, barring one thing...

Fluid Household hardware Amber Musical instrument Wood

The neck has been dented, with one of the posts pushed in, and the tiny neck tenon has been slightly knocked out of shape. The octave mechanism still works, but it's not as responsive as it should be, and the neck requires some very careful angling to even attach it to the horn. This damage was not on the horn when I bought it and most likely occurred when it was making the long journey across the Atlantic. (Considering WHAT IT ARRIVED IN, I'm saddened but not surprised that this happened.) I'm hoping this won't be too expensive to fix, as the horn is in pristine condition otherwise.

But that's not all! This interesting alto also had four accessories. Three of them I was expecting, the fourth...not so much.

Wood Office supplies Ammunition Writing implement Tints and shades

This ancient wooden mouthpiece may very well be original to the horn. It's consistent with Sax's design and has a HUGE chamber, probably the biggest I've ever seen on an alto piece of any age. It's got some damage due to age and probably an active playing life, so I probably won't use it much, if at all. It also had its original ligature and cap. These didn't photograph well, but the cap had an attractive engraved band around the middle.

But now for the mysterious fourth accessory. This was NOT something I had expected to come with the horn, and it's almost certainly the reason why the poor thing was damaged. Allow me to present to you what can only be called the stuff of nightmares: THE ORIGINAL GIG BAG FROM HELL.

Textile Paint Wood Art Fawn

Sleeve Wood Beige Natural material Musical instrument

I have no idea how old this bag is or whether or not it's original to the horn, but just the idea that someone once carried a beautiful old saxophone in this makes me queasy; it has ZERO PADDING WHATSOEVER and is really little more than a saxophone-shaped canvas sack with buckles to keep the horn from flying out. The sax was in this bag when I unpacked it, but the neck had slipped out of its little inside pocket during transit and had wedged itself between the horn and the side of the box. It would have been safer to wrap the instrument in foam and bubble wrap than attempt to send it in this monstrosity.

I'm debating on whether or not to go the full restoration route on this one. On the one hand, I know it's either HP or French Standard Pitch and therefore unlikely to ever play in tune with modern instruments; it's also, barring the slight neck damage, a museum-quality saxophone. On the other hand, I've always wanted to play one of the original saxophones, and, if I can't have a real Adolphe Sax product, this is literally the next best thing. Regardless of what I decide, though, I am going to get something done about that neck. It's a crime that something like that had to happen.

...And then, once I've calmed down a little, I'll figure out what I'm going to do with the bag from hell...

· Registered
2,988 Posts
You 'must' have the neck repaired. Saxes as old as this can be quirky and have their limitations but....sometimes, just strolling into the middle of the house and letting rip on a few notes just to bathe in its tonal glory and to see just how much of your house that tone will fill is an amazing experience you will never regret. Annoy the neighbours with a smile on your face :)

· Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
43,595 Posts
well, if you love it so much as you seem to do, you may as well have it restored, regardless of all the work and money that it will need.

(In that case I would certainly go for as much as possible contemporary pads, white with no resonators, if possible, it would be a real shame to equip this horn with plastic or metal resonators which weren't contemporary at all with this saxophone)

After all of that it will become a conversation piece. You may want to do videos and playing as other gentleman whom own other Gautrot did here (therefore rare but not exceptionally rare)

Here an extract of the conference pronounced in March 1999 with the museum from La Villette in Paris :
(picts and original at)

Pierre Louis Gautrot (Mirecourt 1882) became proprietor of GUICHARD in 1845.
He had been already working for Guichard as his associate beginning in 1835.
Gautrot was involved in the 1845 litigation against Adolphe Sax.
By 1846, the company of over 200 employees claimed to be the most important manufacturer of musical instruments in Europe.
In 1847, the firm employed 208 workers (over 40% of the brass instrument workforce in Paris).
In the same year the company patented improvements to the horn, trumpet, and brass valves.
He was the first European manufacturer to use mass production techniques for instruments
Gautrot took advantage of the industrial revolution and added steam power to his plant in 1849.
By 1850, he had depots in London and by 1856 also in Madrid, Naples, and New York.
In 1855, Gautrot had a plant in Château-Thierry as well, employed over 300 workers in Paris, and was producing 20,000 band and stringed instruments annually.
The company had a band consisting of thirty-six workers in 1857 (many companies had such bands in the 19th) by then had a workshop producing string instruments in Mirecourt and one producing woodwind instruments in La Couture Boussey.
Producing extremely desirable instruments, the company exported 70% of its instruments in 1860.
In 1862, Gautrot was employing 700 workers and by 1867, four plants were producing approximately 47,000 musical instruments a year (24,000 of them valved brass instruments)!
In 1864, the company patented the "système equitonique" (compensating valve system) in France and a year later in England.
It used valves with dual windways to act as a compensating system for intonation.
After litigation involving Adolphe Sax from 1856 to 1859 for alleged violation of Sax's patents, Gautrot was ordered to pay 500,000 francs in damages, and also ordered to mark his instruments with Sax' name.
Gautrot ignored the order and Sax appealed his case in the courts until 1867.
The final outcome was not specified.
In 1870, the company employed over 600 workers in Paris and Château-Thierry.
In 1881, Gautrot bought Triebert .
In 1882, Amédée August COUESNON became the director of the firm and owner in 1883.
Among the many expositions at which Gautrot was represented were the Paris Expositions in 1844, 1845, 1849, 1855, 1863, 1867, 1878, Toulouse in 1845, and London in 1851, 1855, 1862, and 1882.
Early in the 19th century, great changes in the method of manufacturing musical instruments took place in France.
Several concepts of the Industrial Revolution (which had its roots in England) were incorporated into the manufacturing process.
One major change took brass instrument manufacture out of the atelier into the factory, thus allowing for mass production and lower prices.
Gautrot was one of the principals using this new-found technique.

Guichard - as predecessor.
Auguste G.Guichard founded a musical instrument manufacturing company bearing his name in 1827.
He also established a factory at Château-Thierry (Aisne), thus moving from a "cottage" to a "factory" industry devoted to the manufacture of brass musical instruments.
Pierre-Louis Gautrot joined the firm in 1835.
In 1845, the name of the company was changed from Guichard to Gautrot indicating at least a change in management.
At the time of change of name, the two artisans were brothers-in-law.

Gautrot - as maker-inventor.
The company names of Gautrot were altered several times during his 39 years as an entrepeneur-maker-inventor allowing for various degrees of influence.
Evidently he could work alone or in "tandem."
One early invention (1847) by Gautrot involved what was called an "omnitonic" horn which added 12 crooks and quickchange valves to the natural horn.
This idea was consolidated into a 3-valve "omnitonic" (1854), and further developed into what may be called a predecessor of the modern double horn (1858).
In 1855, the company added woodwind and string instruments to its line of products.
The sarrusophone dates from 1856 when it was patented as a double-reed instrument, though it existed earlier.
A mouthpiece with a single beating reed for this instrument was patented by Sax in 1866!
Gautrot absorbed or became allied with several other musical instrument makers as time passed.
He added Tulou flutes in 1857.
Jean-Louis Tulou (1786-1865) was not only a flute-maker, but served as a professor of flute at the Conservatoire in Paris (1829-1856) and was in all probability the last well-known flutist to be against the Boehm flute.
The company name became Gautrot aine et cie. in 1870.
Though I cannot pinpoint when "et cie. " was not part of the company name, several references do exist.
Also, Gautrot Marquet (ca. 1863) and Gautrot, durand et cie. (ca. 1878) were two affiliations noted in passing.
During the existence of Gautrot aîne et a cie (1870-1883), one purchase was made which amazed me.
Frédéric Triébert Fils (1813-1878) died and left his company, including a factory in Paris, to Mme. C. Dehais who immediately sold it to Felix Paris who later sold it to Gautrot (1881).
This is the Triébert company where François Lorée worked / supervised before starting his own (extant) company.
In 1883, Gautrot added the name of Couesnon to his company name, making it Couesnon, Gautrot et cie.
Amédée Couesnon was Gautrot's son-in law at the time.
Couesnon had an extremely long life, being born in 1850, and dying in 1951.

Couesnon - as successor.
The name of Gautrot was deleted from the company name in 1888, thereby ending the influence of Gautrot.
The changes in Couesnon et cie. until its demise well into the, twentieth century (1967) are beyond the scope of this study.
Adolphe Sax, born Antoine-Joseph, produced the first saxophone in about 1843: a C bass in the shape of an ophicleide.
These "prototype" saxophones made in this curved style are vanishingly rare (there may be only four left, worldwide).
The soprano, alto and tenor were traditionally shaped and were produced slightly later.
The bari and bass didn't change to their "normal" shape until around 1846 -- the original patent date for Sax's horns and when saxophones started to be mass produced.
In 1866, Sax's patent expired (renewed in 1881) and there was a kind of "free-for-all" in the saxophone world.
The first real "challenge" to the saxophone, the sarrusophone appeared around this time.
The inventor of which, Gautrot, was sued many times by Antoine-Joseph because of the similarities (especially in fingering) between the two instruments.
Sax lost some of these legal battles and won others.
Antoine-Joseph died in 1894 and his son, Adolphe-Edward, took over the company (although some evidence suggests he took over in 1885).
He produced a few horns and then sold the company to Selmer around 1928.
Selmer produced horns with the Adolphe Sax label and style until (probably) 1935 and are known as very good playing horns, having similar playing characteristics to the Super models.
Antoine-Joseph's horns are beautiful works of art that cry out to be played, but they are extremely limited: the keyed range is only up to high Eb, there is no Bb bis key, there is no fork F#, there may not be a side C, the G# is not articulated and there aren't rollers on the RH C and Eb or the LH G#, C#, B cluster keys.
The baritone and bass also had interestingly placed vents for the low B key placed so you could easily knock your right hand into it when playing.

Finally, just to make things more interesting, Antoine-Joseph's horns featured up to four octave keys (though most had two), no Bb and even some of Adolphe-Edwards horns only go down to low B.
I can say that even though these horns have limitations in keywork, they sound wonderful: clean, tight and airy reflecting the horn's roots in Antoine-Joseph's bass clarinet experiments.
It's a sound that went away completely after about 1940 and the original Buescher Aristocrats.
There are a couple of interesting things about the Sax horn that I've found:
- There were altos produced in F
- There may have been straight altos and low A altos
- Gold plated horns were generally produced for "trade shows" (Paris Expositions)
- Feb. 1, 1859 marks the date that pitch was standardized at A=435hz in France
- Horns produced before this were essentially "custom made" to match the pitch that your ensemble used!

· Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian
7,147 Posts
Fascinating history. I knew Gautrot made the first sarrusophones (named for Sarrus, an army bandmaster). But I didn't know that these double-reed instruments infringed on Sax's patents!

· Registered
Alto, C-mel, Saxie
138 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
@milandro Thanks for the info! Yes, I've made up my mind to start budgeting for restoration. I know it will cost more than an overhaul, but I'm hoping that since the sax is in such great shape (minus the neck damage) it might not be too scary. I'm not sure how long it will take for me to get that much money together -- I'm paying for college courses out of pocket and might be renting an apartment soon -- but I would rather wait and have a professional take care of it than risk possible further harm by tinkering with it myself. Is there a source for rivet/reso-free white pads out there? I've seen them on restored Adolphe Sax instruments, but I think they might have been custom made.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the mouthpiece, though. It still has life in it, but I'm hesitant to use it due to its age and condition. When the time comes I might just take measurements and have a more-durable duplicate made.

I AM, however, going to keep the bag from hell. Not sure what I'm going to use it for (though I know what I'm NOT going to use it for), but it's too interesting to just get rid of. If it were any less of an antique I'd probably convert it into a tote bag.

· Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
43,595 Posts
Hello Saxie24, my pleasure.

I understand that you want to spend good money in restoring this horn , but even when it will be done, its use ( see videos above), will be very limited. Are you sure you want to do that? To what purpose playing or just displaying? They are rare but not unique what is precisely the goal that you seek to achieve? Rember this isn't and will never be as valuable as an Adolphe Sax, even if it is very close to identical ( may or may not be).

Unless you are a player heavily involved in playing with original instruments original music of the period, perhaps you want to postpone the restoration to after you finish the studies? Maybe you will have more cash to spend? Who knows, maybe you can come across something which requires a less than such an heavy a restoration ( the neck will show some signs of repair and you may need to replate the horn)

About the pads. The original white pads used in these were without any revets and white, similar to Bass clarinet and Bassoon white pads, some people still have the old ones in stock (some time ago there was someone selling them ).


Alternatively there are several brands making riveted white pads ( Selmer used them in their 130th anniversary alto).

I am not sure the mouthpiece is as old as the horn. Are you sure it is wood? I have seen this type of mouthpiece with a metal ring very often (both in wood and ebonite). Provided the mouthpiece is not warped I don't see why after ordinary cleaning , you shouldn't play it. It will probably be extremely closed anyway.

rare they are but not unique ( this is Couesnon but you can read how Couesnon was the director of the factory)


· Registered
Alto, C-mel, Saxie
138 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This restoration would definitely be at some point in the future; it will be at least five years before I finish my degree (I'm a less than part-time student), and I reason that if I start saving bits and pieces now I might have enough by then.

I know its use will be limited, but I have a serious soft spot for antique instruments. I recently brought a 130+ year old bassoon back to life (all it needed was new pads and a good oiling, miraculously); I know it loses out to modern bassoons in projection and ergonomics, but it has a nice sound, is fun to play, and was so clearly loved by its previous owner that I would have felt guilty if I didn't do something to make it playable again. This horn is a similar case, but even more so since the saxophone is my main instrument. Maybe it won't be as versatile or ergonomically friendly as some of my newer horns, but it has that sense of history that makes me want to pick it up and play it. I certainly like the sound of the other Gautrots I've heard so far.

Thanks for the pad recommendation! Granted, it will be some time before I can act on it, but at least I'll have some idea of what to look for when the day arrives.

The mouthpiece has a polished surface, but it's definitely wood; there's a damaged spot on the top that looks like someone took a bite out of it, making the grain clearly visible. It reminds me a lot of the wood that was used to make flageolets.

I'm still puzzling over the engraving on this horn. It doesn't match the standard Gautrot saxophone engravings; it just says:
Gautrot Marquet
brevete sg dg Paris

That's one of the reasons I think this might have been made as early as 1863, but an exact date is impossible with no serial number.
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