Saxophone Patents

June 22, 1846 -- Adolphe Sax is granted a patent for the Saxophone family. See patent description.

August 1, 1860 -- Sax is granted a patent extension set to expire on May 11, 1866. The bill was signed by Napolean III.

August 10, 1866 -- Millereau and Company receives a patent for several improvements. They cite better finger positions which make the saxophone easier to play, and a system of rods which make the instrument less noisy. The instruments described has two separate octave keys and an alternate low C# key.

March 1, 1868 -- Gautrot received a patent for improvements which concerned interior bore dimensions, placement of tone holes, a newly designed screw-in pad, and a modified key placement system.

December 9, 1875 -- Pierre Goumas and Company adopted the Boehm system clarinet fingerings to the left-hand saxophone mechanism adopting an extra LH thumb key which made it possible to play C2 - C#2 in the same manner that the clarinetist plays f-f#.

September 20, 1878 -- Goumas added to his original patent, revising the C#2 connecting mechanism.

September 13, 1879 -- Goumas again changes the mechanism for C#2. This patent describes two LH thumb keys which closed two holes simultaneously. I believe this describes the mechanism seen on many soprano saxophones for the same notes.

January 12, 1880 -- Goumas receives his last patent for the C#2 mechanism. This patent describes a RH side key which is used to play the C#. The key was in the position of today's side C key.

January 16, 1881 -- Adolphe Sax receives a patent for improvements to the saxophones adding the following features:

1. Additional lower tubing allowing the written low Bb and A to be played. These are the concert pitches Db and C and give the saxophone family the same lower range as the string family.
2. Additional high keys to extend the range to G3 for the same basic reasons. The F# was played by a RH key and the G by the LH.
3. An additional "4th" octave key to facilitate the high tones from E3 - G3. The third octave key was apparently an open hole at the LH thumb position. The design was apparently similar to that of the current ringed clarinet thumb mechanism on this saxophone. This hole was an octave key for the first register notes.
4. Both LH and RH G# keys.
5. The notes played with the LH keys could all be lowered 1/2 step with the addition of the RH keys for F or F#.
6. Rounded little finger keys to facilitate technique.
7. A tone hole in the crook of the neck which was fitted with a vibrating membrane. This hole was covered by a pad and could be opened with a key. This allowed the vibrating air column to vibrate the membrane causing a "grating, bowed string-like quality to the sound of the saxophone." This was to be used as a special effect when the saxophone was replacing a viola in the orchestra.
(This patent fell into public domain @ 1903.)

August 9, 1886 -- L'Association générale de ouvriers en instruments musique recieved a patent which allowed Bb to be played with 1+1, 1+2, or 1+3. Also a front Bb akin to the front Eb on the clarinet, a front F similar in function the the clarinet's front Bb (Chalumeau register) and a side C key were added. The first finger on the LH had a half-hole mechanism which served as the small B - G1 octave key, and the middle finger on the RH had a half-hole mechanism for D3 and D#3. The RH little finger had keys for Eb, C, and C# while the LH little finger had a key for C# which did not require the addition of the RH C key to play low C#.

January 2, 1887 -- L'Association augmented their original patent adding a RH G# key which permitted F#-G# and G#-A trills. (At this point the other saxophones apparently did not have the modern mechanism which permits the F#-G# trill by closing the G# key when any of the RH keys are depressed.) Also, the high F palm key opened all of the palm keys simultaneously so that it was only necessary to depress one key to get F3. A moveable metal tuning sleeve was added to the mouthpiece.

July 25, 1887 -- The Evette & Schaeffer Society patented a saxophone which added the following modern mechanisms:

1. The current G# mechanism allowing the G# pad to be closed by any of the RH fingers. This allows the trills to G# from RH notes such as E,F, and F#.
2. The current RH F# trill key.
3. bis key for Bb.
4. An extension of the bell allowing the Bb key to be placed on the outside of the bell. (B-natural was still placed on the inside of the bell.) The range of this saxophone was now Bb to F3, but the octave key mechanism still had two independently controlled thumb keys.

March 11, 1888 -- Guichard, Gautrot, and Triebert had united their companies into one called Coueson in 1887. Coueson recieved a patent which had a mechanism which allowed the F and F# keys to close the G# key. The low Bb key alone was necessary to produce the low Bb. (Apparently the RH C key was depressed automatically.) An Eb key was added to the LH little finger keys. A RH G# key allowed G-G# trills. There are still two separate octave keys, and the range of this saxophone was B to F3.

January 9, 1888 -- The Millereau-Mayeur System was patented. This saxophone had a LH little finger and RH thumb key for low Bb.

November 4, 1888 -- Lecomte received a patent which used the Boehm principle fingerings and finally united the octave keys into one automatic mechanism.

December 4, 1928 -- Chiron & Company received a patent for improvements to the palm key mechanism which permitted the saxophonist to depress only one palm key to produce the high D3-F3. Each palm key opened all of the keys lower than the hole for its note. (ie. D# opened the D key as well, etc.)

This information was gleaned from Frederick Hemke's dissertation on The Early History of the Saxophone.

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