Henri Selmer “Paris Modele 22” Alto Saxophone, 1923

from the Musical Americana Collection – Lacquered brass

This 1923 Henri Selmer E-flat alto saxophone was manufactured the second year of the Selmer Company’s new instrument production line.   The horn’s original model name was “Series 1922,” but it was changed to “Paris Modele 22” in 1923.  Unlike other instrument builders’ saxophones, the Selmer Modele 22 utilized better tone-hole and key placements, which enabled musicians to play faster melodies with ease.  The design significantly improved the saxophone’s intonation and tonal quality.  In addition, Selmer simplified saxophone construction by building on Arsène-Zoé Lecomte’s 1888 patent for a single octave key, which replaced Adolfe Sax’s earlier two- and four-key octave vent mechanisms.

Henri Selmer founded his company in 1885 in Paris after graduating from the Paris Conservatory.  He began exporting his clarinets to the United States in 1898 through his brother, Alexandre Selmer, who toured with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  In 1905, Henri Selmer opened his first storefront in New York City and from this location began distributing his instruments throughout the country.  He began manufacturing saxophones in Paris in December 31, 1921 to capitalize on American audiences’ growing interest in saxophone ensembles like the Brown Brothers. At the time, Selmer employed fifty craftsmen at his Paris workshop and produced about thirty hand-crafted saxophones each month.  

In 1922, Selmer sold his company to the Indiana-based manufacturer, C.G. Conn, who began producing saxophones using Selmer’s name.   As part of this sales agreement, Selmer retained the right to continue handcrafting his saxophones in his Paris workshop and designating them as Selmer Paris instruments. In 1929 Selmer’s Paris company purchased the Adolphe Sax workshop, and since then has continually manufactured a significant line of saxophones used by musicians around the world.