Frank Holton Tenor Saxophone, ca. 1914-1915

from the Musical Americana Collection – Silver plated brass

The Frank Holton Company manufactured this tenor saxophone in either late 1914 or early 1915 when the company was located at Chicago’s 169 Gladys Avenue.  Since the Holton company officially began producing and marketing their professional model saxophones in 1915, this instrument was likely one of the first saxophones made by the company.  The company’s newsletter introduces their new saxophone line by writing:

The Holton saxophone – a fit companion of the Holton brass family – has at last been fully developed and the Alto, C Melody, and Tenor are now ready for delivery.  For a long time this announcement has been looked forward to by the saxophone players of this country, as during the past two years Mr. Holton and his experts have been steadily at work endeavoring to produce a saxophone having all the good qualities of those now on the market, none of the bad, and with some much needed improvements to simplify the playing of difficult passages.

The Holton saxophone line introduced several new keys to enhance the instrument’s playability which included specialized trill keys to play between the pitches B natural and C, A to B-flat, F to F-sharp, D to E-flat, C to E-flat, and G to G-sharp.  In addition, a key to play low B-flat could be special ordered when requested.  The prices for these 1915 horns ran between $90 and $113 for the alto saxophone, $95 to $120 for the C Melody, and $97 to $123 for the tenor saxophone.  

Listen to a Holton tenor saxophone, played by Al McLean (ca. 2012).

While saxophones made by the Conn and Buescher music companies were endorsed by Edward Lefebre and Tom Brown, the Holton saxophones were endorsed by Rudy Wiedoeft who composed numerous pieces to highlight the horn’s additional trill keys.  In 1925, the Holton Company introduced the Rudy Wiedoeft saxophone model, which ran until 1932, and the Revelation saxophone line, which ran until 1980.  In 1928, the Holton Company introduced a low octave key on the bow of the instrument, but the other saxophone manufacturers never adopted this additional key.  This additional key was discontinued by Holton in 1932 when they introduced their Collegiate saxophone model.