15-key Saxophone, Grafton, London, 1955

 In Must See

Grafton (John E. Dallas & Sons); Hector Sommaruga
ca. 1955
Acrylic, brass, plastic mouthpiece
London, England
SMM 2004.04


With a cream-colored acrylic body, the visually alluring Grafton saxophone was designed in 1945 by Italian-British musician and engineer, Hector Sommaruga. Serving Britain during World War II, Sommaruga became aware of new manufacturing materials, like acrylic plastics. Armed with the idea that an acrylic plastic saxophone would be more accessible and affordable in a post-war world, Sommaruga received his British patent in 1948. Named after a street in London where Sommaruga worked, production of Grafton alto saxophones began in 1950. Sommaruga left the company in 1953 but the company continued until 1961, manufacturing around 3,000 instruments.


Though more fragile and brittle than a metal instrument, the Grafton saxophone enjoyed popularity throughout the post-war decade and was played by significant jazz musicians such as John Dankworth, Charlie Parker, and Ornette Coleman.