The Vintage Saxophone Gallery -

Presented by USA Horn

The King "King"

In 1916 [around s/n 55,000], responding to the rising popularity of the saxophone, the HN White Company began producing their own "King" model saxophone.1

The entire saxophone production from 1916 - 1918 was sold to the U. S. Army.

[Around] 1924 [or 19262], King revamped their saxophone lines with the introduction of the New Series horns, and the King line was expanded to eight instruments: C soprano, straight and curved Bb sopranos, Bb saxello, Eb alto, C Melody tenor, Bb tenor and Eb baritone. These instruments continued many of the features of the previous King instruments, such as braised rather than drawn tone holes, and featured a front F key [on alto and Bb tenor], a wider G sharp key, and an improved octave key. This mechanism, designed for King by Henry Dreves (US Patent 1549911, granted August 18, 1925) was an attempt to eliminate the hissing that often occurs between high G and high A. In this system, the tube of the neck octave pip was slanted, and the point of pad contact was rounded to better seal against a pad with a concave surface. Additional engraving, hand burnished gold finishes, and nickel plating also became available. Some of the engraving found on King horns of this era is spectacular!

The famous King Saxello was introduced in September, 1924, in an attempt to address problems associated with the straight and curved soprano horns of the time. In his patent application (U.S. Patent 1549101, granted November 2, 1926), Henry Dreves describes the curved soprano as being problematic in the bow area and uncomfortable to play. He further states that the straight soprano is acoustically superior, but is also uncomfortable in its playing position. His solution was a curved neck and a bell tipped at a right angle on a straight soprano. No tone holes were present on the bell, and only the upper octave pip was present on the neck. The instrument could be played on a neckstrap, rested on the players leg, or with an optional (and very rare!) V shaped stand [not to be confused with the other kind of stand].3

    [Technical Notes]
  • A well-engineered G# cluster to provide "maximum flexibility for technical work"
  • [Conical ("smooth") keycups that visually set the King line apart from other instruments]
  • The addition of two G# tone holes. By adding an extra G# opening, all the notes from open C# down the body lie open. A 1926 catalog claims that this "... greatly improves tone quality and makes the instrument in perfect tune. The muted A is unknown ...." In any event, this feature does permit the playing of some arpeggiated passages between both hands with a simplified fingering
  • [The single low C vent was replaced by two on the Saxello.]
  • In the mid to late 1920's, a "Crystal Silver" thumb rest was offered to prevent discoloration of the thumb and corrosion to the instrument.
  • Instruments were ONLY offered in low pitch, A=440hz
    [Available Finishes (from a 1926 Catalog)]
  • I. Brass, Highly Polished
  • I-G. Brass, Gold Lacquer [(beware of relacquered examples!)]
  • II. Silver Satin Finish, Gold Bell
  • III. Silver Satin Finish, Gold Bell and Trim [(i.e. "two-tone")]
  • IV. Gold Satin Finish, Burnished Bell
  • Artist's Special, Gold -- Hand Burnished
  • King De Luxe [(gold plate or gold wash with additional pearl keytouches and very elaborate engraving)]

    Additional Notes
  • There were no King bass or sopranino saxophones ever mass produced. If you have one with a King/HN White name on it, it's a Conn or Buescher stencil.
  • Interestingly, there was a version of the "King" alto produced in the same style as the Saxello. These were prototype models and were PROBABLY never sold to the public.
  • Baritone saxophones had a one-piece, non-removable neck.

Footnotes & References

  1. It is my great pleasure to say that Dr. Paul Cohen has allowed me to copy at length from his various articles. The articles I'm quoting on this page are from: The Saxophone Journal, Vintage Saxophones Revisited column (Spring, 1988) and The Saxophone Journal, "Kings All" (July/August 1998)
  2. This date is different for both Dr. Cohen's and Mr. Goodson's articles. Because serial number charts tend to look at a span of 5 to 15 years for horns this old (see Lars Kirsmer's list), either could be accurate. I can say that horns both pre- and post-1925 look practically identical, so I'd say that the most accurate statement is that you should check for the octave mechanism that Mr. Goodson indicates (I don't have good enough close ups), as occasionally the patent number/date shows up on horns without this feature -- and instruments with serials from 1923-1925 could be old stock.
  3. Thanks to Steve Goodson who has again allowed me to copy from his King history article from Sax-on-the-Web.

Images, sounds, and text used herein may have their own copyright and most are used by permission.

If you have any comments, corrections, suggestions or picture submissions, please email them to

If you feel any content is in violation of copyright, or for information regarding use of this site's content, please e-mail

"SaxPics", "The Vintage Saxophone Gallery", and "The Source for Saxophone Information" ©2016 USA Vintage Horn Corp.