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Saxophones J.R. Lafleur & Son Varsity alto: Any idea who made it?

helen

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A number of years ago a friend of mine bought this rather curious horn off eBay from a music shop in Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Recently I got it from my friend b/c it was so curious. Lots of pics of the horn are available here on my website's gallery. (I've just included a few here as a teaser.) ;)

Over the years this particular horn has been the subject of much searching and speculation, but no definitive answers. I thought perhaps since this forum was UK-based--and so many of you players are more familiar with horns with UK stamping than those of us in North America are--I would take a moment and post a query here.

It is an an alto with rolled tone holes; a "man on the moon" neck brace; left-sided bell keys; nail file G# key; bis Bb, but no front F. The bell stamping reads:

Varsity
J.R. Lafleur & Son
London-Paris-New York
No 21
Made In United Kingdom

I have only come across 2 other saxophones that resemble this one. Both were marked Hüttl. One is a tenor that appeared on eBay a long time ago, while the other is an alto that someone sent me pictures of. (I haven't had a chance to upload those photos yet, but they are pretty much the same as the tenor in engraving.)

Like the tenor, the Hüttl alto also has a front F key and is silver plated.

I should mention, a number of years ago my friend who owned the horn at the time, did some research and came across a mention in an old Boosey & Hawkes database of sorts, that a German by the name of Hüttl worked for the company. However, when we went to search for that page again, it no longer existed, and unfortunately he no longer remembers exactly what website he might have seen it on, since he visited so many ATT.

If anyone has any ideas about this sax, I'd really appreciate hearing them. Thanks!

Bell-Engraving.jpg Left-Side-Neck-Attached.jpg Right-Side-Neck-Attached.jpg
 

nigeld

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J.R Lafleur and Sons was used as a trade name by Hawkes and Son (which later became part of Boosey and Hawkes). In the UK, they seem to have used the Lafleur name for imported stencils made by other manufacturers, but in your case the saxophone says "Made in England", so I would guess it was made by Hawkes for export. Hawkes used rolled tone holes.
 

kevgermany

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Tend to go with @nigeld, there are quite a few similarities to the Hawkes 20th century. But a lot of differences also.

I've also seen a page saying there were saxes made by a German in the UK, probably Wales, post WWII, but haven't seen it recently.
 

kevgermany

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nigeld

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Hawkes made saxophones before the XX Century model, but I can't remember seeing a picture of one.
I have been told that the earliest saxophone in the Hawkes records is an alto made in 1922. In 1926 they opened their Edgware factory and started making saxophones in earnest. I think the XX Century model dates from about 1928.

Boosey and Hawkes also used the Lafleur name after the merger, so it is possible that this saxophone is from later. But the lack of a front F key suggests to me that it is from the 1920's.
 

kevgermany

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Btw, the French Varsity looks suspiciously like Beaugnier from the keyguards. But the rth make me wonder.
 

helen

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And on this page, you say the Hüttl saxes were Hammerschmidt stencils, some from JK, and that La Fleur came from them as well.

Hüttl Saxophones - Bassic Sax | Bassic Sax

Before I saw the horn in person, I thought it might be a Hammerschmidt. However, it is most definitely not a Hammerschmidt. I actually have a Hüttl alto--which is the horn that got me started down the road of Hammerschmidt research, when Uwe Ladwig emailed me about it years ago and told me what it was I had. Until then, I had never heard of the brand. (Nor had anyone else here in North America.)

Btw, the French Varsity looks suspiciously like Beaugnier from the keyguards. But the rth make me wonder.

Yup, a number of years ago when I wrote about the French Varsity on eBay, I got an email from someone in France who owned a Beaugnier Special Perfect. That fellow told me the horns were identical. The 3 pics he included with his note confirmed his belief.

The Hawkes connection is an interesting one I had only briefly considered before, but never really explored...

Hawkes made saxophones before the XX Century model, but I can't remember seeing a picture of one.
I have been told that the earliest saxophone in the Hawkes records is an alto made in 1922. In 1926 they opened their Edgware factory and started making saxophones in earnest. I think the XX Century model dates from about 1928.

Boosey and Hawkes also used the Lafleur name after the merger, so it is possible that this saxophone is from later. But the lack of a front F key suggests to me that it is from the 1920's.

Since I'm not an expert by any means on horns from the UK, I don't know if this will help or not, but I have some images in the Hawkes & Son galleries that I have always assumed pre-dated the XX Century.

As for the lack of front F, it is a bit odd. Since the horn has left-sided bell keys, I have always thought it would date it more likely to the 1930s than 20s. The lack of a front F could mean it was a cheaper horn perhaps??

Whatever it is, it is definitely a head-scratcher...
 

nigeld

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I have a J.R. Lafleur and Son soprano, but it doesn't look anything like your alto, and it is probably a French-made stencil from before 1926.

Hawkes owned the J.R. Lafleur & Son name, so the saxophone was almost certainly sold by Hawkes & Son (if before 1930) or Boosey and Hawkes (after the merger in 1930) or their overseas dealer. I am confused by the "Made in United Kingdom" stamp, which would seem to rule out a German or French stencil, and if the saxophone was made in the Hawkes Enfield factory, I would expect "Made in England". This might support the idea that it was made in Wales. Or maybe they imported the parts and assembled the saxophone in the UK. The Hawkes XX Century models don't say "Made in United Kingdom", even thought they were. Hawkes opened a large new factory in 1926 and started making their own saxophones in earnest, so it seems unlikely that they would have sold stencil alto saxophones after then.
 

Dibbs

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From here : Hüttl hilfe, bitte

"According to Gunter Dullat, who wrote a book about the instrument makers from Graslitz, Anton Richard Hüttl worked after the confiscation of his firm in May 1945 from 1947 till March 1954 in South Wales (A.K. Hüttl LTD) in close connection with Boosey & Hawkes. In 1953 12.000 instruments were made, mostly for export. In 1954 Hüttl moved to Baiersdorf in Western Germany, were he had a workforce of 150 making 20.000 instruments a year. After his bankrupcy (Hans) Hüttl went to Canada in 1975 with ca 50 workers and founded the New Brunswick Deveopment Corporation, that went bankrupt within a year."

And Here's his book for anyone who can read German and has too much spare money.

Der Musikinstrumentenbau und die Musikfachschule in Graslitz von den Anfängen bis 1945: Amazon.de: Günter Dullat: Bücher
 

nigeld

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According to Jocelyn Howell's PhD Thesis, the Boosey and Hawkes factory in Edgware was mostly taken over for war work during the Second World War, with only 3 employees left making reed instruments by 1942. Hüttl set up a factory in Williamstown South Wales after his factory was expropriated in 1945. B&H acquired an interest in the Hüttl company in 1950, and they had a joint showroom in London after 1952. In 1953, the factory in Wales was closed and production taken over at the B&H Edgeware factory.

I wonder if B&H were selling Hüttl saxophones just after the war because they couldn't make enough at their own factory. This would date the Lafleur alto between 1945 and about 1953.

Boosey & Hawkes: The rise and fall of a wind instrument manufacturing empire - City Research Online
 
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kevgermany

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According to Jocelyn Howell's PhD Thesis, the Boosey and Hawkes factory in Edgware was mostly taken over for war work during the Second World War, with only 3 employees left making reed instruments by 1942. Hüttl set up a factory in Williamstown South Wales after his factory was expropriated in 1945. B&H acquired an interest in the Hüttl company in 1950, and they had a joint showroom in London after 1952. In 1953, the factory in Wales was closed and production taken over at the B&H Edgeware factory.

I wonder if B&H were selling Hüttl saxophones just after the war because they couldn't make enough at their own factory. This would date the Lafleur alto between 1945 and about 1953.

Boosey & Hawkes: The rise and fall of a wind instrument manufacturing empire - City Research Online
I heard that B&H shut down their own production of saxes shortly after the merger.
 

nigeld

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I heard that B&H shut down their own production of saxes shortly after the merger.

After the merger, B&H closed the Boosey factory and gradually consolidated the Boosey and the Hawkes ranges. Due to hard economic times, the saxophone production was significantly lower than before 1930, and the Boosey models were mostly discontinued, but the company still made saxes. The XXth Century models continued in production until about 1940. In 1932, the company introduced hydraulic expansion (as used by Conn) for saxophone parts, which allowed bell, bow and crook to be seamlessly expanded from single pieces of metal. The cheaper "32" model was introduced for jazz bands. Jocelyn Howell's thesis says: "During 1932 and 1933 saxophones represented 45% and 42% respectively of total reed manufacture at B&H, thus demonstrating the influence of dance and jazz band music on production." Instruments were also sold under the British Band Company brand name.
 

kevgermany

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Guenther Dullat is a sax historian, has writen a few books, If I remember correctly, he is closely associated with/employed by the musical instrument museum in Markneukirchen. That place is well worth a visit if you're in the area. It's not just saxes, but almost all woodwinds, strings as well as quite a few instrumnets from outside europe. ..... And the wordl's largest violin. There's a huge piano accordian as well.
 

helen

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Wow, you guys are making my head spin... But in a good way... You are such a great wealth of information. Thank you for giving me all this to follow up on.
 

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