American Perfection C Stencil
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Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:41 pm ]
Post subject:  American Perfection C Stencil

A reader writes:

My C-melody saxophone appears to be a Conn stencil. The name engraved on the sax is "American Perfection." It has the "Mercedes star" feature and also appears in all other ways to be a Conn. It was used when my mother acquired it ca. 1927. I have never been able to find info on the web that "American Perfection" was a name used by Conn. Instead I've found "American Perfecto" listed as a Conn and "American Perfection" identified as a Martin. Just wanting to see if I can offer this info for the sake of getting good info on the web. If you'd like a picture, I'll send you one. This is a minor issue; maybe nobody cares. I do appreciate the work you've done already re stencil horns. All the best,


Thanks for getting in touch.

Conns of that era have rolled toneholes. Most Conn stencils don't, but if yours does, that's a strong indicator. Martins of that era have beveled tone holes, a feature shared by many of their stencils. If you reply to this email and attach photos, I will take a look. Try to get at least one photos that shows the edge of the tone holes clearly. Photos of the left hand pinky and palm keys will help, too. As well as overall photos of the horn from the left and right sides.


Paul — I’ve taken a series of shots of my “American Perfection” horn, including what I assume to be the original mouthpiece. I’m sending them in two batches.

The story of the sax, if you have time to listen:

My step-grandfather was a Church of Christ preacher who did not serve one congregation but generally preached for small preacher-less country churches on Sunday afternoons. He was in the Texas Panhandle in the 1920s to preach a revival when he had the opportunity to purchase the saxophone. It had belonged to the nephew of the husband of a cousin of his wife, my grandmother. Unfortunately, he (the near-kin saxophonist) died of syphilis -- shades of the Devil’s instrument. The story was that he played in some sort of orchestra; I suspect it was instead an ordinary dance band. Whatever the case, my step-granddaddy bought the sax and brought it home to Electra, Texas for my mother. There’s a picture of her in the stage band with the sax in her senior annual (1927). I inherited the sax, but only recently have I been able to play it in a band (a made-up summer music camp group — not a real band). It sounds good. I usually play with a Selmer S80 C* alto mouthpiece. I use tenor or bass clarinet reeds with the original mouthpiece when I play with it. I’ve had the sax worked on some, of course, but not all the pads are new. You’ll see one of the old ones in the picture.
I took the shots against a towel. I figured you’d seen plenty of original cases with purple lining.
P16595 is the serial number, but I’ve read that those records were lost. I’m guessing it’s from the early 1920s.
It’s interesting that a preacher for a church with a cappella singing would buy a sax for his daughter when saxophones went hand in hand with jazz, and jazz was generally considered at least borderline immoral.
Me, I’m still singing a cappella at church, but I suppose if I were of a different theological persuasion, I’d be wanting to play sax every Sunday right out of the hymnal — probably not “A Mighty Fortress,” but maybe “Amazing Grace.”
My goal is to get “American Perfection” listed in at least one place on the Internet as a Conn stencil if the sax is indeed a Conn stencil.
But I’ll be happy with just a confirmation from you — or whatever you think. Thanks very much,

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Perfection C Stencil

Attached the photos separately.

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Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Perfection C Stencil

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Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Perfection C Stencil

I wrote back:

Early comparisons lead me to suspect it is a Pan American. That was Conn's student line at the time, built in a separate factory that Conn purchased so they would have two lines of horns. Originally they were designed by an entirely different set of people, and they never got the fancy Conn features like the rolled tone holes.

Nevertheless, they were solid horns, and their stencils were pretty much exact copies of the Pan American-branded instrument.

Here's one that was recently offered on eBay that has the Mercedes C key cover. ... rt=nc&_trk sid=p2047675.l2557

Here's another that only shows one photo. But look at the shape of the keywork starting with the right-hand palm keys and going left all the way to the way the key work for the lower octave key pad curls around.

I haven't found a photo that shows an exact match for your left-hand pinky keys, but I have a photo from a later Pan American that is very close.

Thank you for the story of how an "A Capella" preacher wound up buying a saxophone from the family of a fellow who died of syphilis. My wife's family has a similar story about an old mandolin that was owned by an Appalachian uncle who was knifed in a bar in New York City, and chased the victim out of the bar, mandolin in hand, until he collapsed and died. So maybe the mandolin is the "devil's instrument." Unfortunately, they stored it in the attic with the strings tight and its face turned into a roller coaster before they should it to me and told me that as the musician in the family I needed to keep and treasure it indefinitely. I declined. At least your family heirloom with the dark past is playable. :-)

I started playing my tenor in church back in the 1970s, and got pretty good at making up my own parts. About eight years ago I started playing my tenor in our present church, again with no music to speak of. But after a time, I was asked to stop playing because a violin player who needed sheet music was jealous and demanded that the worship leader print music up for her. It was easier for him to ask me to stop playing. Gotta love 'em.

I miss it, but I have so many other things going on musically, I don't miss it TOO much. Sometimes they let me play guitar when all the guitar players they like better are out of town, so I keep my hand in, in a sense.

And that's interesting in itself, because 40 years ago when one of the church's other guitar players started bringing his guitar to church they told him he was in sin because it was the "devil's instrument." But his aunt was a founding member and threatened to leave the church if they didn't let him play, so they did. I guess we've all played the "devil's instrument" at one time or another.

Have a great day,

Paul Race

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Perfection C Stencil

The reader replied:
Paul -- You win. The mandolin story beats mine.
I think you meant to send me one more site -- the one that shows just one photo?
I looked closely at the eBay offering. It is very close. The metal pieces that encircle the horn between bow and bell and between bow and tube look a little different to me. And the things you noticed. The little black pieces on the low note finger keys are mother of pearl-color on mine instead of black. Actually maybe mine really are mother of pearl.
Anyway, thanks for making the comparison.
The serial numbers aren't much alike, by the way.
I'll have to read more about Pan American.
Thanks for you time.

If I come up with any significant discoveries, I'll let you know. I probably won't.
Play on, and here's hoping you get more Sunday worship gigs,

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