I just received my great grandfathers saxophone and wall mounted it. It says Martin on the etching, and possibly Elkhart Indiana. On the back it says Low Pitch and I see a number, 97455, etched above that. Any info on this sax would be awesome as this is a family treasure. My great grandfather played in several bands and I would love to have any information/history on this type of saxophone. Thank you for any information!
Based on the serial number you may have a standard run of the mill Martin Handcraft sax, or you may have a model that is extremely collectable. In order to tell, I will need to see some pictures of the instrument that include close up of the keys for the right and left hand as well as the pinky clusters. If it's possible, please send them to my e-mail at email@example.com
OMG!!!, Thanks for the photos. I have some great news and some not so great.
The instrument you have is known as the Martin Master model Alto Sax AKA the Martin Typewriter.
As you asked for a bit of history I will be more than happy to give that to you. The Martin Band Instrument company was in business from the early years of the 20th century, (circa 1905# until they were bought out by Leblanc in 1971. In their day, they were considered one of the big companies in saxophone production and made some fantastic instruments. The others companies were #Conn, Selmer Paris, King, and Buescher) These companies today are referred to as the "old five" as they were the primary manufactures and distributors of saxophones in the fist half of the 20th century. There were and are other companies but between those five they produced about 80% of the worldís saxophones. Each of these companies produced some great and legendary models. However all but Selmer Paris has been sold and merged into other companies. I personally own and play a Martin Committee Tenor sax, and I have an old Handcraft alto that is due for a complete rebuild in the near future.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Martin was manufacturing 2 models when your horn was produced. The standard was their Handcraft model, and they made a step up / professional, saxophone called the Master Model. However the Master model is better known by its nickname, The Martin Typewriter, and that is what you have. The reason it's called the Typewriter, is all the touch keys on the horn are round like an old fashioned typewriter. If you compare the instrument in your possession to a modern sax, you will see only the keys played with the ends of the fingers are round. The rest are a more ergonomic shape. The Typewriter had absolutely no ergonomic design to it at all.
Martin only made this model for about 2 years, 1929-30. Therefore they are relatively rare, collectable, and valuable. They hardly ever come up for sale as collectors like to hang on to them. As they are very rare, I have not gotten my hands on one yet. From what I understand, they are based on the Handcraft, but are a bit heavier. (possibly from the key design) and have a similar tone. The down side is they are uncomfortable to play and moving around those weird finger buttons makes some fast passages difficult if not impossible to play. This is why they only made the horn for 2 years. What makes them collectable is not their sound but the design. It was just such a strange thing to have all the touch pieces in that round configuration.
An interesting note about these is Martin only offered them in 2 finishes, bare brass and gold plate. Bare brass is just that, as the horn aged, the metal would tarnish turning a dull brown color. Like an old door knob. The other option was a gold plate. The horn you have is not bare brass, but I canít tell if it's gold either. Because they were available in bare brass, some players had them lacquered after they were purchased. The only way to know for sure is to have the horn in my hands. If this is a gold plated horn it's going to push its resale value to around $2000. BTW... If this is a gold plated horn, don't get excited. There is more copper in a BB than there is gold on that horn. If it's a lacquered horn then it's only going to be worth about $1000 assuming the horn is in good playing order. That brings me to my next point.
From what I can see, this horn is not in good playing order. There are several pads that are ripped and may be rotting. The leather on the pads will not last forever and the pads are designed to be replaced. When the horn is played, they get wet and dry out many times. This causes the leather to shrink and degrade. Eventually the leather rips exposing the felt underneath. This can cause the horn to leak making it unplayable. Also there is a chance the exposed felt will attract a type of microscopic insect called a carpet beetle, in our industry we sometimes call them pad mites. When the eggs hatch the larva feed on the felt until they molt and lay more eggs. The sad thing is these little bugs were included with the horn from day one as the eggs are laid in the felt at the factory. However, they need 3 things to hatch, air, moisture, and darkness. As long as the leather on the pads is in good shape and they cannot get access to air, they don't hatch. But once the leather rips, and the horn is left in the case, for any length of time this satisfies the other two conditions as the case is dark and humid. It's more common to see this type of damage in clarinets and flutes as the pads have a thinner outer layer. But it can occur with saxophones when the pads rip. If the horn is going to be on display then youíre going to be fine as they hate light, but if the horn goes back in the case for any length of time, it can cause them to hatch if they havenít already. Donít try to find them, they are extremely small requiring a microscope to observe, move extremely fast and they don't like light.
My recommendation would be to seek out a qualified N.A.P.B.I.R.T certified technician who can access the instrument and bring it back to a playable condition. Even in you don't plan to sell it, I can't think of a better way to honor your great-grandfathers memory by making this horn playable again. If you go to www.napbirt.org and do a tech search you should be able to find someone in your area. Just call them and confirm they have experience working on saxophones from the 1920's and 30's. Saxophones from this era are a bit different and have a few quirks that you don't find on modern saxophones. I've seen a few destroyed by well meaning but under qualified technicians.
If you have any other questions please let me know.