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.

May 5, 2016

The Australian Magic Flute - Part IV

This post is the sequel of The Australian Magic Flute - Part III

As mentioned earlier, the trademark 'Magic Flute' December 1924, and we can deduce it was on 19th or 20th. It was registered with No. 40,634 for Australia, and the closest trademarks were registered on Thursday 12/18 for No. 40,623 ('Cyclops Dinkie') and Monday 12/22 for No. 40,644 ('Shavex'). So, 'Magic Flute' being right in between, it should have been registered on Friday 19th, or Saturday 20th (in the case the Patent Office was open that day).

On the New Zeland side, the 'Magic Flute' brand got the No. 22,231. I found the No. 22,227 ('Ventex') which was filed on Monday Jan. 5th, 1925. The Alberts filed their brand on the same day or the Tuesday 6th (since No. 22,239 'Columbia' applied on Wednesday).

So, the trademark stampings on the Magic Flutes necessarily appeared after those dates, let's say from 1925. My shiny Aussie dates from before.


Then, totally by chance, in a matter of 3 months after having found the shiny unstamped Magic Flute, I have been able to put my paw on 3 stamped Magic Flutes, from 3 different sellers! (I have to say that I had been looking for a Magic Flute for years! And in 3 months, I got four of them! Well... Six, in fact!...see Part V)

And even more: 3 different models! Look at this post-1925 happy family:

If you remember Part II, the (unstamped) Magic Flute was available in three versions:

The Nickel-Plated Model

Among my Magic Flutes, the first one is the Nickel-Plated Model. It is the simplest of the three, but it should be bright. Unfortunately, the last owner scraped it like a hog seeking for juicy roots, particularly on the front, and the surface is very dull and scratched. Some points are very oxidized and have turned black, like nickel does with time.

Black oxidation and scratches:

The De Luxe Model

The second one is obviously the Copper model. It is the heaviest of the trio, and weights 20g. As mentionned in the price list, it shows a beautiful dark patina, and was pre-oxidized. But it has no verdigris traces, so I suppose it's more a bronze alliage than pure copper. This De Luxe Model is simply beautiful. But if you look closely... it is not plain copper, but plated!

Great patina, but copper plating only! :

The Concert Model

The third one is the Concert Model, with a thick coat of shiny silver! The oxidation veil, brown turning darker, is typical of silver. Mine has lost its plating on the airway, that's how I can figure the thickness of the coat, and also see the dark grey metal under it. It is the same metal than the one used for the basic Humanatones and other simple nose flutes. It's simple tin. You can notice the lack of the lip rest on this one, but I suppose it has been broken or removed. This Concert model has been damaged a lot, but new, it should have been a beautiful instrument.

The thick coat of silver (yum!):


The stampings are crip and clear, but the wear and tear of some letters show that the copper nose flute was probably older (stamp younger) than the other ones.

An Australian Humanatone ?

Now, Humanatone or not Humanatone, that is the question. I must admit there are many similarities shared by both nose flutes...

… but there are also differences: the larger collar around the nose hood on the Magic Flute, the slightly differently shaped riveted flaps and the lip rest cutting, which is rounder at the corners on the Humanatone, and sharp angled on the Aussie flute. Are those points enough to assert that those flutes are different models ? I'm not sure... But they are strong enough to say that the Magic Flute was not produced on the very same press that formed the Humanatones. A copy ? Probably not, as we will see in Part VI.

Frank Albert ?

In 1904, Frank had a second son, Alexis (1904-1996), who became the "& Son" of the family shop sign. When the Magic Flute brand was registered, Alexis was 20 (his father was 50) and probably had already learned the job since, according to Wikipedia:

Frank's son Alexis, assumed the role of Managing Director of J.Albert & Son in 1931. Over the next 50 years the J. Albert & Son empire gradually acquired interests in a network of eight stations. The stations included 4BC in Brisbane, 3DB in Melbourne and 2CC in Canberra. Later still in the 1950s the company became a major shareholder in ATV Channel Seven.

But it's not over for the Alberts with nose flutes... and that's another story, that will be told in Part V !

>> To Be Continued


Related links :

- The Australian Magic Flute - Part I
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part II
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part III
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part IV
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part V


May 4, 2016

The Australian Magic Flute - Part III

This post is the sequel of The Australian Magic Flute - Part II

So, we were saying that the last of the four pages was very interesting... It is a full page advertisement for mouth organs by « The King of Mouth Organs ». On the harmonicas themselves, you can read « Albert's system », and a small boomerang logo for those boomerang mouth harps.

It was not difficult to find that « the King of mouth organs » was Mr. Jacques Albert, from Albert & Son, 118 King st., Sidney, Australia. As soon as 1899, one can find ads for Albert's mouth organs. Here in the Children's Newspaper (10-28-1899):

So, Albert & Son was at the origin of the Magic Flute.

Jacques Albert (1850-1914) was a Swiss horologist who immigrated in Australia in 1884 with his family (his wife Sophie [†1890] and their children Michel-François, later known as Frank, and Pauline). The next year, he established in Sidney a clock, watches and occasional violin repair business.

On the left side, at 118 King st., Albert & Son music shop :

Wikipedia details:

« Albert and his son Frank began importing and selling a wider range of musical instruments including a Boomerang mouth organ. The company trademarked the word 'boomerang' and stamped it on German manufactured mouth organs. The distinctive instruments were a run away success selling at a rate of 800 a week by 1897.

Oh-Oh! So, Jacques Albert was not the maker of the Boomerang harmonicas, but the founder of the trademark, while the instruments were manufactured in Germany.

Journalist James Cockington wrote , quoting Ray Grieve’s book, Boomerangs and Crackajacks:

« In 1896, J. Albert & Son of King Street, Sydney, introduced the first ‘home-brand’ mouth organs, the Woolloomooloo Warbler and the Kangaroo Charmer. These were made in Germany by Seydel & Son, but re-badged to suit a patriotic Australian market.»

And David Payne:
« Albert send the templates for the Boomerang to Germany by ship and he and SEYDEL management became close friends over the many years of their working relationship. (...) That relationship continued even after World War II, when SEYDEL was a nationalized company behind the Iron Curtain. Seydel continued creating Boomerang models until Albert's death in 1962. »

This is very interesting, because Seydel & Söhne was a company settled in Klingenthal, in the craddle of the German Nasenflöte (Klingenthal, Markneukirchen, Brunndöbra,...)[see here and there]. And in the early 1920s, when nose flutes began to be produced in Saxony, the Seydel may have told about the new instrument to Mr. Albert, and who nose, might have sold/send a bucket to Australia, as they did with the Boomerang harmonica during almost 70 years! There is another fact that fits with the German hypothesis, but it will be revealed in... Part V!

But there is a problem: the Magic Flute design doesn't match the German Nasenflöten templates, which were never closed by rivets, but by bent flaps:

So, the most reasonable (?) hypothesis is an American make. The Stivers may have dealt with Albert & Son, for an unstamped Humanatone-shaped nose flute, provided with a brand ("Magic Flute", owned by the Humanatone Co., after the Stivers probably bought it from Garrett J. Couchois) with the Magic Flute papers. This would explain, on one hand the drawings on the papers and the mention «… the Magic Flute which had just arrived from New York… », in the Hendersons' Magic Flute romance!

Another point on the credit of this hypothesis: « In 1919 [Frank Albert, the son] visited Europe and the United States of America…», according to this biography.


As seen before, Jacques Albert passed away in 1914 (at 64 of age), and it is unlikely he was himself at the origin of the Australian nose flute. Indeed, the Magic Flute might have appeared in the 1910s at earliest, but much more probably did in the early 1920 (the brand 'Magic Flute' was registered Dec. 19th(?), 1924 for Australia).

His associate and successor was his son Frank Albert (1874-1962), and he was certainly the one who launched the Magic Flute in Australia and New Zeland.

Frank Albert:

At this time, Frank has developped a very lucrative music business and is a very wealthy man. In 1926, he built a villa named 'Boomerang', from the mouth organs brand which made his fortune.

In the same years, Frank, who's a yachting enthousiast since 1900, bought a beautiful schooner that he baptized... 'Boomerang'! It was certainly not his first boat, as you can read in this very interesting blog.

Voila! We know the face of the man who launched and spread nose fluting in Australia! An elegant and successful businessman and a yachting enthusiast... For sure, the story doesn't end here, but you will have to wait for Part IV...

>> To Be Continued


Related links :

- The Australian Magic Flute - Part I
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part II
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part III
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part IV
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part V


May 3, 2016

The Australian Magic Flute - Part II

This post is the sequel of The Australian Magic Flute - Part I

So, the Magic Flute came with its papers, I was saying... Yes, two beautiful memories, almost one century old.

First sheet

Sheet 1 - Page 1

The front page has a beautiful header, showing joyful birds gathering before the Magic Flute. One of them has already landed on it and looks very curious: maybe could he use the nose flute as a nest box! (One thing bothers me on that image though: the drawing of the flute has been directly borrowed from the 1903 American Magic Flute advertisement... Is it a simple steal or does it mean a link between the two Magic Flutes?? Why to choose this image of a flute that is not shaped like the one in the box??)

On the left side of the nose flute, a Magic Flute trio live on stage, before an orchestra. And on its right, the info that the Magic Flute was available in three grades:

B(right) finishCopper oxidizedSilver oxidized
Wow! Already some surprises here! The first one is that my beautiful shiny nose flute was the cheapest and the most humble grade among the three available!
Then... there was a silver model! Silver plated, I assume, but silver! :)

I'm not very easy with Commonwealth currencies and prices, but I guess they were, respectively: 1 shilling, 1 shilling and 6 pence, and 2 shillings and 6 pence. I suppose my flute was from the 1920s, and at the time, the Australian currency was the Australian Pound.

On the left side of the page, a series of drawings showing different possible uses of the Magic Flute, as explained in the text. In a concert hall, forming a nose flute orchestra, as a bird call at a hunting session, as a « shrill summons of alarm » (the image depicts a street demonstration!), or as a solo instrument.

Sheet 1 - Page 2

The back page of this first flyer has also a beautiful header. It shows a couple of noseflutists whistling, and separated by the title "A Magic Flute Romance". Hahaha! What a program! (It just makes me think of my personal case with the Incomparable Nosy Diva...). Well, take a moment to read the story of Mr. and Mrs Henderson.

This header is, one more time, a source of questions... If you take a look at the design of the nose flute played by Mr. Henderson, you'll be able to see the flat top on which he puts his finger. The model draught here is, with no doubt, the American Magic Flute... The text deals with a story happening in Omaha (Nebraska, US). More, the story is quoted from the Home Journal, Nov. 19th, 1899. Wait... The American Magic Flute was patented (filed) on Nov. 21st, 1899, just two short days later!!! Is it a coincidence? It looks like a communication campaign! I'm more and more inclined to believe this whole flyer borrowed drawings and texts from the original Magic Flute. But... but the shape of the Aussie model and the three different grades seem to belong only to the Australian instrument. What's the meaning of all of that?

The Howe catalogue ad, the US Magic Flute and Mr. Henderson:

At this time, any reader not interested in history research has left for an aspirin and a nap. The other(s) should be very excited!

Second sheet

Sheet 2 - Page 1

The front page of the other flyer is a detailed user manual. At the top, the Howe catalogue illustration once again, but this time in a nice format and complete of the legends that were barely readable on the catalogue (nothing special, however):

Under it, Mrs. Henderson, and the user manual. It is probably the most complete « How To » sheet for nose fluting I ever saw, with detailed instructions to get low or high notes, how to blow, how to obtain a vibrato and so on. And once again, the price list.

Sheet 2 - Page 2

The last of the four pages is the only one which doesn't deals with the Magic Flute, and even more, with any nose flute at all. It is a full advertisement page for mouth organs! But contrarywise to what one may think at first, it is maybe the most interesting page of all four!! Why? Well... you'll have to wait for Part III!

>> Access Part III


Related links :

- The Australian Magic Flute - Part I
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part II
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part III
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part IV
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part V