J.W. York & Sons Soprano Saxophone, 1923

from the James L. Benefiel Papers and Music Instruments – Silver plated brass with gold bell

This soprano saxophone, keyed in C, is the smallest regularly played member of the saxophone family.   The soprano horn is constructed as either a straight or curved bell instrument.  The straight configuration is frequently mistaken for a clarinet. However, unlike the cylindrically shaped clarinet, the saxophone utilizes a tapered conical shape for its design, which gives the instrument its vocal-like sound quality.  

Listen to a 1920s York soprano saxophone, played by Alan Tucker (2014).

During the 1910s, saxophone ensembles like the Brown Brothers Sextet frequently utilized the soprano saxophone as their lead melody instrument.  The York Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan manufactured this saxophone in 1923.  James York opened his Grand Rapids music store in 1882 and by 1886 joined forces with Frank E. Holton to manufacture professional model cornets and trombones. The company began manufacturing professional model saxophones in 1921 to capitalize on America’s new saxophone craze and the country’s new school band movement, which needed quality music instruments for the country’s growing school band programs.