Nose Flute Pioneers: Garrett J. Couchois
Garrett John Couchois was born in 1860 in Chicago, Ill. Couchois filed his first patent at the age of 24, for an "Agraffe for pianos" (US326020), and the same year, on Christmas day, married Orpha A. Hazenplug (born Sep. 1861, Chicago).
The Couchois live in Chicago, at 1010 N Haleted St., and Garrett continues to file patents. In 1885, for a "Tucking attachment for sewing machines" (US354100) then for a "plaiting attach for sewing machines" (US354101). On the 24th of September, 1886, the Couchois have a daughter, Alice.
In 1889, the family moves to Duluth (943 N Clark Ct), Minnesota. Garrett is declared as "Com. Trav.", that is a commercial traveller. He is a travelling agent for GT Porter & Son, music dealers in Duluth. On 21st of November, he has a son: Garrett John Jr.
Back in Chicago with his family in 1892, Garrett Sr. files another patent, another agraffe for piano (US500562). In january, he has left the Ayers Co. for Kimball :
In 1895, Couchois works for the Rintelman Piano Co., and we learn a funny detail about how his name should be pronunced (with a mistyped inital "C" instead of G") :
In 1899, Garrett J. Couchois files 2 patents.
The first one (US641025), on 25th of January, is primarily filed by a certain Albert Leech (Couchois is collaborator), for a "Self-playing whistle". It is not a nose flute, because the air is blown by the mouth, mouth which is also used to change the pitch: the airway tube is pressed onto the palate with the tongue, which serves as a wall to create a chamber in the front of the mouth. Very interesting system, but certainly very difficult to play.
Please note that those 2 patents numbers will be stamped on the metal Humanatone, just below the Carter's one, meaning that James J. Stivers bought them (between 1900, when the patents were registered, and 1903, when the Humanatone was issued):
How did Couchois, a piano seller come to the nose flute? Who was this Albert Leech?
The answers lay in the 1900 US census sheet!
From 1899, Garrett J. had an office in New York City (as testified in the patents), but the Couchois' family lives Belgroove Drive in Kearny (NJ). On the 1900 census sheet (one year after the patents were filed), we can read that Garrett has become "Pres. (Novelty Co.)"... president of a novelty company! Couchois publishes music sheets, but does he also sell his nose flutes and whistles?
Now, if you look several lines below - and that means 1 or 2 houses in the street - you will find... a certain Albert Leech, "Professional Actor"! Leech was just... Couchois' neighbour! And since Leech is the prior registrant of the first patent, it is very probable that Leech drove Couchois to interest in nose flute. Indeed, the first nose flutes were used in the Music-hall, and Albert Leech certainly had heard one (even was he used to playing one). Leech invented his own "self-playing whistle", which probably lead Couchois to help him filing a patent and then to design his own (Couchois) nose flute. Did Albert show an original Nasalette by Carter, or a copy, to Couchois who decided to improve it? The fact is that the "mouth tube" is a "specific character" of that pioneer flute.
In those years, Couchois was also a famous and prolific music/lyrics composer.
Albert Leech, having moved to Arlington, will file another patent in 1902, and a famous one: the slide whistle (US780674)(in fact, it's a multiple patent, because it also includes a kind of whistle which pitch is driven by the buccal cavity)
Couchois, still in Kearny (31 Franklin pl.) in 1902-03, moved to Rutherford (NJ) where he bought a house at 456 Montross avenue. Garrett J. has become "editor". In fact, he's a music publisher.
Probably this house :
And in 1905, drama and scandal! Couchois is convicted of piracy for having published and sold "spurious copies" of the orchestration of a waltz called "Beauties' Charms/Hearts and Flowers" by Theo Tobani, and which rights where owned by Carl Fischer. Couchois was sentenced to a $350 fine and... 30 days of jail!
When the trial occured, Garrett had already spent a month in the "Tombs" jail, and is liberated. But 3 days later, he is arrested again for another act of counterfeiting on "Blue Bell" (Haviland publish.). He returns to jail.
Excerpts of the Music Trade Review :
Garrett spent 8 month in jail and we can write without defamation that Couchois has become a professional copryright infringer.
His image has clearly been taken a notch down... :
In 1909, we learn that Garrett John Jr., 20, has become an architect.
At the same time, Couchois Sr. is implicated in a blackmail against a piano manufacturer, J.V. Steger. And in 1913, the scandal strikes back! Garrett, former agent of a trade journal, The Musical Courier Extra, explains to the court that his boss, William Geppert, asked him to do the dirty job: first, to find "anything discreditable" to Steger, a piano manufacturer, and then demand him $50.000. Otherwise, "they would turn the batteries of the paper upon him". Couchois added that this blackmail "had been done by the Musical Courier Extra in the past to other piano houses".
New York Times, Feb. 28, 1913 :
But it was judged that Couchois was forced to act as he did. Well, scandal had exploded anyway, during this 10 days trial.
In 1917, Garrett Jr., architect-engineer, asked for an exemption not to serve during the war. Exemption rejected, he will be soldier from Apr. 1, 1918 until Feb. 3, 1919.
In June 1918, Garrett John files a patent (US1256877) for a "resilient tire".
Bizarre, no? A tire?? Did also Garrett John Sr. (57 y.o.) work for the army? Why not... It could also have been a patent by Jr., architect and engineer, but whether we compare the signatures, the "tire patent" one looks more similar to senior's one than junior's one, which appears on the army form (please take a look at the "G", the "C" ...):
From the nose flute patent :
From the tire patent :
From the army form :
In 1920, we discover that Jr. has married Alice G. (1894-1975), an english immigrant. He is still an architect, and Sr. is recorded as a "salesman" in "specialties". All the family still live in the Montross house (Rutherford, NJ).
But in 1921, Orpha appears in the city directory as a widow. So, Garrett John Sr. has passed away, late 1920 or 1921, at the age of 60 or 61.
Garrett J. Jr. died in 1971, in Littleton (NH), and Alice, his wife, in 1975.
I've not been able to trace any descendance.
Now, the question is: does Garrett John Couchois deserve to enter the Nose Flute Hall of Fame? In other words: should the NFHoF regard "moral considerations" to elect a new member? Without wanting to enter a controversy on that subject, I guess that American and Japanese readers will answer "Yes, NFHoF cannot accept crooks in its list". On my side, I have a tendancy to answer: "Oh yes, Couchois was a crook! But on a pure nose flute point of view, he designed a great nose flute. He acted as a pirat against his competitors, but he didn't killed anybody. And even if he did: should Louis Althusser the philosopher be expelled from the philosophic pleiad because he killed his wife? Is it the man's soul, or is it only the work, that is celebrated in the Hall of Fame? I do not know anything about Buford Threlkeld's soul or Ernest W. Davis' one. Anyway, I wait for your anwser to that question.
See also :
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Review
- An Original Couchois' Whistle
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