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 4, 2012

Nose Flute Pioneers: Ernest W. Davis - Part II

With the "Nose Flute Pioneers" series, 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.


Nose Flute Pioneers: Ernest Davis

Newspapers: Ernest Davis' life

Patents give no more info that what we published in Part I, but fortunately, local newspapers and census sheets do.

What stood for the "W", in "Ernest W. Davis" ? William? Walter? Wayne? Wilbur?
There is one and only place where I found it : the Town Records book of the city of Boston, MA. So, Ernest Winfield Davis was born in Boston, on March 19, 1881.

The Davis live at 2709 Washington St. in Boston, and we also learn that his parents were both born in Lubec, Maine. The father, Luther J. Davis is a baker (his father was a millman). He was born Jan. 3, 1846, and was the youngest of 8 children. Elle B. Davis (born Berganson), was born Aug. 2, 1850.

In 1870, the Davis Sr. are married and live in Boston :

And in 1880, they have a 7 years old daughter, Lillie, Ernest's sister :

The next year, Ernest was born, and in August 1883, it's the turn of the young Alice.
The Davis family moved later to Chicago, and the occupation of Luther will become "Engineer Stationary".

We know, from the patents, that Ernest lived in Forest River and Oak Park, Cook district, in West neighborhood of Chicago.

The two first "Ernest W. Davis" of Oak Park/Forest River entries I found date from 1895 - Ernest is already 14 - and deals with Tilton School graduation. The first one teach us that he interpreted Douglas Club Two Step (1894) by George Schleiffarth (1848-1921), as a commencement exercise. So, the boy was already musician and played the piano (according to the sheet music).
The second article tells that Davis has decided to continue his studies.

Oak Park Vindicator, Jun.21 and Jul. 5, 1895 :

A Tilton school class in 1887 :

Then, no news from Ernest Winfield Davis until 1900. His older sister has disappeared from the census (married?). Ernest lives at his parents home in Chicago, with his youngest sister Alice, and work as a clerk.

In 1910, Ernest has become Head of the family, hosting his father Luther (64), who has become "Electric Engineer". What happened to the mother Ella B.? We know she's still living. But another name is written on the census sheet "Davis Mary C." as "mother"... Did the Davis parents divorce and Luther re-married with Mary? Probably.

But more! Ernest married Anita C. (born Ashler) on the 6th of March, 1910.

Anita - sometimes written Hannah - Ashler was born in October 1874 in the State of Illinois, from Frederic W. (b. Oct 1830) and Ivanna (b. 1838, Altenberg, DE), both German. Frederic imigrated in 1851, was naturalized in 1858 and was laborer.
Anita has 4 sisters and 1 brother.

On 28th of September 1919, Luther J. passed away.

In 1920, Ella B. lives at her daughter Alice, who has married a dentist, Charles E. Douglas. They have one son, Malcolm E. (b. 1915) :

The Davis live in Marion St., Oak Park (West of Chicago). They have a 7 years old daughter, Ruth Estelle, and they host Fred W. Ashler, Anita's father (certainly after his wife Ivana's death).

In Oak Leaves, Dec. 31, 1936, we learn Ruth Estelle was born in Kenniwick, WA.

But in 1924-25, she is "freshman" at Oak Park Highschool (Oak Leaves, Dec. 13, 1924), "senior" in 1927-28 with an average of 90 per cent or more and elected member of the National Honor society (Oak Parker Jun. 22, 1928), register to Wisconsin University in 1930 (Oak Leaves, Dec. 5, 1930) where she is elected to the Sigma Epsilon Sigma fraternity (Wisconsin State Journal, Oct. 24, 1930) and enrols in the general Letters and Science course (Oak Leaves, Feb. 3, 1933). She awards sophomore honors in 1931 (Wisconsin State Journal, Oct. 6, 1931).

Ruth Estelle is a very good student, and besides the school, she's scout girl, member of Troop 12 and of the Citizen Troop of Oak Park district. It's a pleasure to notice she's fond of wind instruments (she plays the bugle) and physics :

Oak Leaves, Apr.7 and Oct. 28, 1928 :

Occasionally, Ernest W. is involved in his daughter scouting activities... as a singer :

But when at university, Ruth Estelle is more interested in dancing and parties with her friends, notably a certain C. Byron (sometimes Barney) Flinn, whom name is always printed just besides hers (hehe!), and who'll become her husband after 1937 and before 1940, according to her name (Oak Leaves, Apr. 8 1937 and Aug 29, 1940). On Aug. 29, 1940, Ruth Flinn is invited to one of her High School friend :

The Flinn will move then to Ashland, IL (Jacksonville Daily Journal, Sep. 16, 1948), and Ruth become member of Soroptimists on Dec. 8, 1952 (Pottstown Mercury, Dec. 9, 1952)

What did she become? Here is the answer, Ruth E. passed away in 1986 :


In 1933, Ernest is 51, works for Stewart-Wagner, and has already applied for 63 patents... He regularly receives awards for his inventions. He is married with Hannah(Anita) C., who's member of a circle of Forest River Presbyterian church and of the Forest River Women's Club. We don't know much about Anita, but thanks to the "Social Affairs" chronicle of the Oak Leaves newspaper, we are aware of the Davis' holidays, hobbies and residential address...

Oak Leaves, Aug. 18, 1938, Jul. 6, 1939 and Aug. 29, 1940 (year of Humanatone filing) :

Indeed, as learned in this last newspaper article, Ella B. left Illinois in 1928 for California, where she lived 10 years, before to come back to Oak Park and live her last years at her son. She passed away on 14th of August 1944, at the age of 96.

After his daughter's wedding and his mother's death, another event left Ernest W. totally alone : Anita's death, which happened on 24th of May, 1948 :

Oak Leaves, May 27, 1948 :

Daughter married and away, wife and mother dead, were probably the reasons which made Ernest W. move from his big house to a smaller one. Indeed, thanks to the very inquisitive newspapers, we can even precisely trace Ernest's homes, and we can notice he moved from Park Avenue to Washington after Anita's death.

1881 -          : 2709 Washington St., Boston
1900 -          : 31 Lincoln Street, Chicago
1910 -          : 2134 Hampton Court, Chicago
1918 - 1922 : 229 N. Marion St., Oak Park
1930 - 1938 : 133 S. Harvey, Oak Park
1938 - 1948 : 538 Park Ave., Oak Park
1950 -          : 448 Washington Blvd., Oak Park
1956 - 1965 : 808 S. Cuyler Ave., Oak Park

I don't know when exactly Ernest retired, but it was probably around 1950, after his last patents were filed.

In november 1965, Ernest Winfield Davis passed away at the age of 84, after a life of work, rich of 132 patents, among which the plastic Humanatone one.


One last thing : in 1893, at the Columbus Chicago Fair, the first metal nose flute was presented. Ernest is 12 and (probably) lives already in Chicago. In the 1920s, several Jug Bands of Louisville came to play nose flute in Chicago. Ernest is in his thirties. He is musician, engineer... His first professional wishes were turned to entertainment. Is it so astonishing he drew the plastic Humanatone in 1939/40 ?

Ernest Winfield Davis is elected to The Nose Flute Hall of Fame !


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



  1. Well....
    the nosy diva must admit that she is not quite nosy enough to read this very impressing yet not too inviting article (so viel Text...). But we will!
    What a beautiful scientific approach to one of the fathers of our beloved instrument. Congrats for your work, and my sincere compassion for the tragic fate of doing all this work for such a little audience. But your name surely is engraved in noseflute history!

  2. Hello Nosy Diva,

    Yes, this post is not very funny, but I thought it had to exist to assemble the data about E. Davis. And worst, there will be more, about other pioneers...

    But be insured that has not become a "research blog" : it will obviously continue to propose funnier topics, videos, reviews, and so. It is just a mix of "all those things around the nose flute". News, but history, archives, but current creations...

    Regarding your last point, I do not consider this work as ingrate. I would do it only for me, so why not to share it with the very few people interested in?

    Kindest Greetings

  3. I do believe this is the first time Ernest W. Davis's life has been categorized. To me, people like him actually shape the world and therefore deserve to be preserved in collective memory. So, very very well done, indeed!

    Fantastic to see that out of this blurry history, quite a few jigsaw pieces have emerged, although this only could have happened through some gritty research, I am sure. These facts combined actually do draw a picture of who Ernest Davis was as well as what he did.

    To me, it is amazing to read about him living in the same area where Frank Lloyd Wright worked and lived until 1910,and about him also possibly visiting the Columbian 'Expo'. I am sure the Fair would have been an absolute 'must-see'. I guess it was a unique happening and quite an experience!

    It is fair to say that Chicago at the time truly was an awe-inspiring place, as it literally showed that 'the sky is the limit'. Young Ernest couldn't have had a better place to grow up in!

  4. Thank you Maikel!

    Yes, I think like you do : someone had to do the job! :)

    I'm quite sure that Ernest visited the Columbus expo. I have no evidence of it, but I guess that any child (he was 12) have been annoying the parents until they have taken them for a visit. More, Luther had become "engineer stationary" and was certainly himself interested in all the machines presented there. Such an international event in your own city (or in the neighborhood), and at this time when there weren't so many events of that kind (even the Olympics hadn't yet reborn!) should have *marked* any young guy...

    Regarding architecture, and independently of the great F.L.Wright, Chicago was the place to be at that time! The famous "School of Chicago" was at its apogee between 1875 and 1905... Chicago was a leader city, for sure, in many domains at that period, even in music!

  5. I am sure The Davis Family must have visited the Fair, possibly even on several occasions... Far more than any other fair, this must have been regarded as the equivalent of the modern Olympics: once in a lifetime, really.

    It is funny though that quite a few people who live in the very area where the London Olympics are taking place (yes, they are STILL taking place at this moment of writing, it's just that the Paralympics aren't getting as much coverage!) have escaped the city as they didn't want to have anything to do with it!

    Equally, many great museums or concert halls have never been visited by quite a few locals, whilst they attract people from all over the world, who specifically come to visit that particular place! Quite an interesting Americana band, 'Lambchop', keep on telling their audience to come and visit the world famous 'Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum' in their hometown Nashville, Tennessee (USA). Then they kindly ask you to let them know all about it, as they have never set a foot inside!

    On a personal level I simply find it thrilling to realise that Ernest Davis possibly could have walked past Frank Lloyd Wright or could have witnessed one of his residences being built. That's one of the things probably never to be found out, but it's interesting enough to me to give it a thought nonetheless.

    Having to be totally rebuilt after being destroyed by fire actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the city of Chicago. Chicago also was on the forefront of the American Arts & Crafts movement, so obviously it had a very dynamic 'cultural climate'. Great for Davis, now how about Carter?:-)

  6. Wow, great research. Merci beaucoup!.

    I have been to Chicago, yes fine architecture. And a great view from the Sears tower.

    Interestingly, my mother was born in Chicago in the 1920's.



  7. @ Maikel >>"Great for Davis, now how about Carter?:-)",
    don't be so impatient! :)

    @ Luis : Thank you Luis!

  8. Ukeheidi You should be an investigative reporter or a detective, your research is very thorough and you have the knack of finding the information. Well done, and thank you for sharing your wealth of information.

  9. Thank you Mr. Bocarina! Hope it was not too indigest :)