Early Alto Saxhorn with Berliner Valves
It is not uncommon for me to be contacted by an owner of a brass instrument that was handed down in the family with the story that it was played during the Civil War. Sometimes the instrument is definitely from a later time period and most often there is no way to judge the accuracy of the story. This alto Saxhorn has resided in North Carolina, played by a member of the Carrigan family in a town band, since before the Civil War.
Alto horns with Berliner valves are fairly common from the time period of from 1860 to 1890 and most of them didn't see service in the war. I have a natural skepticism but this is definitely an earlier style instrument than the vast majority that I see. It was most likely made by Gautrot in Paris in the 1850s and is a very close copy of original altos made by Adolphe Sax. Gautrot and other makers made copies of Saxhorns, first in violation of the patent protections and later complying by paying license to Sax. A soprano Saxhorn made during the period of violation is shown elsewhere on this site.
All of these facts make this wreck of an instrument well worth the expense of restoring it. It had experienced much abuse and failed repair attempts making it a fairly big job. The dent work was extensive but not challenging. A number of parts had to be made including one entire piston assembly, cap, buttons, brace and the second valve slide assembly. The result is a playable and very presentable instrument. The mouthpiece is from the period, but not likely original to this instrument.