This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Sep 15, 2012

Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part I

With the "Nose Flute Pioneers" series, Noseflute.org enters a little cycle of research. I hope it won't be too arid for a blog, but I really think that the facts I found have to be published. The sources : Google patents, US Census and an access to newspaper archives. But also, depending on the topic, correspondence by e-mail with descendants. Let's better say : internet searching tools available for a Frenchie not able to access US real paper archives.

---

William Carter, himself. Inventor of the first urban nose flute, through his patent (that we presented in this post) for his « Nasalette ».
It has been quite difficult to find info abour Carter. A name very common, only one patent filed, and no article in the newspapers. A very discreet an humble man.
But in the lines that follow, you'll discover little scoops...



Where to start? Well, Carter's patent says where he was living in 1892 :



So, it was mainly through US census sheets that I collected some info, but also in city directories.


Nose Flute Pioneers: William Carter - Part I

William Carter: The Irish Immigrant


William G. Carter was born in 1846 in Ireland. He immigrated in the USA at the age of 5, in 1851, with his mother Catlaine Carter. This is already a scoop! The inventor of the nose flute was not born in the USA, but in Ireland!.

When they disembark on the American ground, Catlaine was 41, and there is no trace of a father for the little William.

The Carters settled in Lockport, Niagara, NY. They are poor and live in a boardinghouse, with many other immigrants. Catlaine is "washwoman" and her personal estate is estimated at $100. William, aged of 15 in 1860, has no real occupation, but probably is already apprentice. In the 1860 census sheet, we also learn that Catlaine is a « person over 20 y'rs of age who cannot read & write »

1860 census :


In 1870, Carter lives alone in a boardinghouse of Lockport, just besides the Niagara Falls, and has become a tinsmith (second scoop!). He is citizen of US. In 1878, he resides in Lewiston, the Lockport district the nearest the Canadian border (a few hundreds of yards) :





What is interesting is that among the very few tinsmiths in Lewiston in 1878 (were there even several?), one is also named Carter, John Carter. He is probably not a William Carter's relative, since he was English. He's just 5 years older than William. Was he the one who taught his craft to Will, or a "collegue" working at the same workshop ?




In 1880, Catlaine/Catherine, already 70, is housekeeper at 40 S Ford Street, Rochester, Monroe, NY... And it's the last info about her I was able to find.



... and William, 34, has moved to Albion, Orleans, NY.



Why did William leave Lockport and settle in Albion ? Probably because this town was in full expansion and offered many opportunities.


Albion is a pretty town first settled in 1812, which grew quickly after it was decided the Erie Canal would pass through. The place was probably very inspiring since, before William Carter, two residents got great ideas there.
George Pullmann, the famous inventor and industrialist, « moved to Albion, New York, where he gained many of his ideas that made him successful » (wiki).

But funnier, Albion was the residence of Grace Bedell, a 11 yrs old girl who was at the origin of the beard of Abe Lincoln! « Grace Bedell sent him a letter from Westfield, New York, urging him to grow a beard to improve his appearance. Lincoln responded in a letter on October 19, 1860, making no promises. However, within a month, he grew a full beard. He later met with her. » (wiki)


So, in 1880, in Albion, William Carter is boarder of an hotel owned by Mr. Luke Taylor. Is he employed somewhere or does he already work on his own (in 1905, Carter will be noted as « tinsmith (at home) »). Well, it's difficult to imagine a tinsmith working in a small hotel room excepted for creating very small items (pure imagination : whistles, tin irish flutes, etc.).

Tinsmiths :

In 1880, there is another tinsmith in Albion, George Edmonds, and a "tinner", Franck Shears, from German origin.



And there are also "hardware" shops and many other craftsmen (harness makers, etc. ) capable of buying pieces made by a tinsmith. So was William already working at home or was he employed by George Edmunds or Franck Shears ? I have no clue.

Anyway, in 1891, William Carter works on his Nasalette, and files the patent in November. Why did a poor tinsmith filed a patent? Probably because he was sure to handle a great new idea.
Was Carter the inventor of the nose flute? Yes, indoubtedly.
Indeed, the Guaranis native were used to call birds with a (totally different kind of) nose whistle, but they never used it as a musical instrument. Much more : how would a tinsmith, coming from Ireland in 1851, whom mother was illiterate, how would Carter have been informed of the existence of the Guarani bird call ? No internet at this time... And such info (with no photo, no recordings) were only available in specialized ethnological society bulletins.
How did he come to invent such a device ? I don't know. Maybe just because he was already making Irish tin flutes and wanted to whistle while working with his hands ?
This is just my imagination, there no data about his motivations.



The patent is registered on June 14, 1892. That is only 7 month after the filing, which means a short procedure, with no discussion on the anteriority.

The question is what did Carter with his patent? He sold it. Remember that in 1893, there was a tin nose flute at the World's Columbian Exposition. Was it the Carter's Nasalette? Or did he sold the patent very early, and a producer launched the nose flute ? This is more than probable. Was it already James J. Stivers, of the future Humanatone Company (the brand Humanatone was used only from mid 1903) ?
How much did carter get from the Nasalette patent ? Was is a big or small amount of money ? Well, many questions still to get an answer.

In 1892, Carter is still tinsmith in Albion, and Edmunds and Shears (who is now noted as being from Belgian origin...) are still active.





To be continued !


-----

On the same topic :

- Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part I
- Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part II
- Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part III
- Nose Flute Pioneers: Ernest W. Davis - Part I
- Nose Flute Pioneers: Ernest W. Davis - Part II
- Nose Flute Pioneers: Nelson Ronsheim
- Nose Flute Pioneers: Garrett J. Couchois

-----

2 comments:

  1. Great, great, great to find out some actual details about the inventor of the Nasalatte!

    I reckon that Carter indeed sold off his patent quickly, as that would secure him of some instant money. Also, production would have been quite expensive to start up.

    It's still the very same today: only large companies have the money and the expertise to really lauch a concrete product successfully. Just watch one epsiode of "the Dragons' Den" to see it happen.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Maikel! Yep, Carter should have sold his patent quickly, and for a few bucks ... However, how was this patent discovered by the buyer ? Did he send it to factories? I would to know how that "happened". But certainly, *nobody* knows it anymore.

    ReplyDelete