The history of the saxophone is a fascinating journey that spans over 180 years. In 1842, Adolphe Sax invented this iconic instrument, and since then, it has evolved in remarkable ways. This article delves into the significant events and transformations that have taken place in the world of saxophones since their invention.
The Saxophone’s Birth Year: 1842
Adolphe Sax‘s invention of the saxophone in 1842 marked a pivotal moment in history. At that time, our world was vastly different from what we know today. Our solar system remained largely uncharted, with no airplanes, cars, or electric lights. Wars were fought with muskets, and the United States as we know it did not exist. The Wild West was just beginning to flourish, and gold rushes were yet to come. Communication relied on handwritten letters, as telephones and electricity remained undiscovered.
Let’s take a journey through time to see how things changed.
Saxophone’s Debut and Early Developments
In 1842, Adolphe Sax introduced the first saxophone, a bass instrument tuned in the key of C. This same year saw the discovery of chromosomes and the tragic Hamburg fire. While Adolphe Sax and Hector Berlioz worked to promote the saxophone, in 1843, Michael Faraday performed the first galvanic nickel plating, which later enhanced saxophone surfaces. Meanwhile, in Berlin in 1844, the first attempts at technological communication took place as Samuel Morse transmitted the first telegraphic message using Morse code.
1845 marked the discovery of the planet Neptune and a groundbreaking moment in medicine – the first successful public anesthesia performed by W. T. G. Morton, revolutionizing surgical procedures.
The Gold Rush and Beyond
In January 1848, the Klondike region became famous for gold, sparking a rapid transformation from isolated huts to a thriving metropolis in California. The 1849 invention of the safety pin and the introduction of postage stamps in Austria in 1850 were significant milestones. In 1851, Louis Napoleon conducted a coup in France, and in 1852, Henri Giffard’s steam-powered airship flew from Paris to Trappes.
While Adolphe Sax and his saxophones continued to gain recognition, the world was changing rapidly. The American Civil War began in 1861, leading to the formation of the Confederate States of America and significant emancipation developments. In Russia, 1861 also witnessed the end of serfdom, marking progress towards human rights.
Saxophone’s Rise to Fame and Adolphe’s Struggles
Adolphe Sax’s relentless efforts to protect his invention included legal battles, financial crises, and competition. Despite these challenges, he succeeded in establishing his patent and supplying saxophones to the French military in 1854. Paris erected the world’s first advertising column nearby. As Sax’s fame grew, he became a saxophone teacher at the Paris Conservatory in 1857 and was appointed as the director of the Paris Opera’s orchestra in 1858.
Despite his success, Adolphe Sax continued to face adversaries. Meanwhile, in 1861, the USA experienced the start of the Civil War, while Russia announced the end of serfdom. The developments in other parts of the world received little attention in France, where the saxophone’s popularity was rapidly growing.
The Changing Landscape
Amid the 1866 Austro-Prussian War and the sale of Alaska to the USA for $7.2 million in 1867, Adolphe Sax’s fortune continued to rise. The transcontinental railway opened in the USA in 1869, while political tensions emerged in France and led to the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. The war’s aftermath saw Adolphe Sax face financial troubles, and by 1871, his position at the conservatory was eliminated due to budget constraints.
However, Adolphe Sax managed to overcome these challenges, even winning a legal battle in 1873. The economy thrived in the USA, where jeans were patented in 1873, marking the birth of a timeless fashion staple.
Twentieth Century Innovations
The dawn of the 20th century brought revolutionary advancements. The Wright brothers’ controlled flight in 1903 led to the establishment of the first airline, DELAG, in 1909, which initially operated zeppelins. The demand for saxophones increased, with various American manufacturers, including Conn, Buescher, King, Martin, and York, striving to meet it.
However, the dark clouds of war loomed again. World War I broke out in 1914, leading to devastating consequences for Europe and the world. The war’s end in 1918 saw the creation of Czechoslovakia. Germany introduced women’s suffrage during its parliamentary elections in 1919.
The saxophone’s popularity continued to grow, and the best saxophone brands and companies such as Conn were producing them in large quantities. In Germany, Julius Keilwerth restarted production in 1920, while in France, Selmer, Buffet & Crampon, and Adolphe Sax & Cie also manufactured saxophones.
A World in Turmoil
The world was rapidly changing. In 1929, the Great Depression gripped Germany, leading to hyperinflation and economic turmoil. Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 transformed Germany’s political landscape. The world faced turbulent times, leading to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Post-War Renaissance and Split
Following the end of World War II, Germany was divided into East and West, and the saxophone industry faced significant challenges. In East Germany, various state-owned companies attempted to manufacture saxophones, albeit with limited success. In the West, Julius Keilwerth resumed production in Nauheim and became one of the largest German saxophone manufacturers. Other companies, like Kohlert, also returned to production.
The Modern Era
The post-war era witnessed remarkable progress in various fields. The wild west no longer existed, with urbanization taking over. Wars were fought with advanced weaponry, and technology was advancing rapidly. In 1969, humans landed on the moon, and today, plans for Mars exploration are in the works. We have witnessed the transformation of the world in the last century, from electric windows in cars to space tourism.
Throughout these changes, the saxophone has remained a constant. While there have been advancements in its design and playability, the essence of Adolphe Sax’s invention from 1842 continues to shape the world of music.
The saxophone has endured and evolved alongside our rapidly changing world. In its 180-year history, it has captured the hearts of musicians and audiences alike, and its future remains as bright as ever.