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.

Oct 1, 2012

Nose Flute Pioneers: Garrett J. Couchois

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: 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.

The second patent (USD31876), filed Oct. 21 by Couchois alone, is for the design of a nose flute. The shape is very elegant and uses the same kind of "mouth tube" that was found in the Nasalette design. Here, it is cylindrical, and not of rectangular section anymore. The nose cap has become a "nose rest" (and not a "nose hood" anymore): this is the real modern nose cap, the same kind that will be found on the Humanatone or even on the 1955 Weidlich & Lohse "Swan" plastic nose flute.

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 :
And the series is not over! :

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



  1. AMAZING!!! What a story...should be made into a book, film...

    Couchois certainly was a very talented man who knew his trade well. He probably thought he could take a few shortcuts here and there and as a result got caught out. If we are to condemn Couchois, perhaps we should first take a look at rip-off-genius Edison...

    Couchois for Hall of Fame certainly: he actually did play a part in the history and the development of the instrument design, even though I am sure that his design was taken straight from the Nasalette.

    Only 8 years after the introduction of the Nasalette, the Couchois nose whistle is simply another take on the design of the first urban nose flute. It clearly shows the very same principle, including the mouth tube and its singled out air pipe. The Couchois nose whistle is nothing but a more elegant, curved version of the Nasalette.

    Filing this copy is nothing but an opportunistic attempt to cash in on somebody else's idea. It reveals the very same mentality he later displays with his repeated copyright infringements and his scandalous blackmail attempts. I find stealing somebody else's idea EVEN WORSE than the stuff our beloved bankers are still doing to our bank accounts. To me, the idea is what separates life from existence.

    However, I see the Couchois nose whistle paving the way towards a more rounded, more ergonomical, more functional shape and design of the nose flute. The plastic W&L "Swan", the plastic Simmy and also the old German metal nose flutes can all be traced back to the Couchois design. That makes it important enough to me.

  2. Thank you for your opinion Mr. Mei! (we have the same!:)

  3. Another interesting story. And great research as usual.

    IMHO, if you do something bad you may be punished. I you do something good you may be honored. If you do both good and bad, you may be both honored and punished.

    So Mr. Couchois did some good and some bad. He spent some time in prison for his bad. Let him be honored in the Hall of Fame for his good.

    Two examples/precedents, for and against:

    . Lead belly was in prison several times, yet has been inducted into various Halls of Fame.

    - Pete Rose was banned from induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame because of betting in sports, though apparently he always betted on his own team.


  4. Thank you Luis for your input. I share your opinion.

  5. Hm, a difficult question. Hall of fame or not? Since the nose flute is such a rare and neglected instrument there are not so many people suitable for this honour. Since he has developed original ideas and made innovations he might be a candidate.
    But although the nose flute world is very small I wonder if the hall of fame maybe could have a history branch - because to put Carter or him in the hall of fame with Elvis who has contributed just his personal fame and some out-of-tune notes on a cheap plastic instrument - ? there really is not much in common -except the general dealing with nose flute, for sure.
    And who knows how many more interesting instrumentalists or music instrument makers our most preferred blogmaster will turn up with - so maybe the hall of fame will be too small soon.
    However, il le vaut bien :o)

    1. i have a nose flute stamped pat allowed 1899, any idea of value?

    2. Hello Brian

      Please send me some pictures, so I could give you an estimation... (my email address is near the top/right of this page)

      All the best,


  6. Dear Diva,

    There are several degree of accpetance in the NFHoF.

    Presley is simple member.
    Carter and Threlkeld have been received with Honorary degrees.

    You see?

  7. I agree with The Nosy Diva that quite possibly there could be a division between players and makers or designers of the instrument.

    Obviously, the thing with Elvis Presley is that no-one would have expected him (Him!) to ever consider playing the nose flute. The fact that he did and actually recorded with it in some way adds to the nose flute getting some kind of 'recognition'.

    The first person I had in mind when thinking about whether Couchois should or should not be inducted, was Leadbelly, as Luis brought forward. Leadbelly was in fact convicted for murder, yet thanks to his memory and play (and Alan Lomax's persistence in recording) a great many traditional song was put down to tape and therefore saved.

    When you look at the world of sports, players get inducted into their Hall of Fame while still alive. People from the entertainment industry get their 'star' on the pavement in Hollywood while very much alive and kicking, or else their hand print and the photo opportunity that accompanies it couldn't be created.

    In wrestling entertainment, people usually get inducted when they die or retire. It is quite debatable who make it into that Hall of Fame and who don't. Clearly, there will always be some form of preference and favouritism.

    In the case of the Nose Flute Hall of Fame, I would indeed back a division of makers and designers based on merit, and a division of players based on merit OR fame, as the name is Hall of Fame to start with.

    My suggestion would be to drop the 'must be dead' principle, as I feel somebody for instance like Ms Komatsuka Nae has created the most wonderful designs and backdrop to the nose flute. Induction could be limited to one or two a year.

  8. I agree with both, regarding the makers and the players distinction. But where to classify Mrs Esther Averil ?
    Create another distinction, "literature" ?
    and then one for the composers (Ezra Pound). etc.
    So i think it's better to have only one classification, but indicate each time WHY the person has become a member.

    The "grades" also help to separate very important members (that is : people having been very important to nose flute) from the simple members.

    The pioneers have their place in the Wall, because they were pioneers! But I don't think that any patent maker should enter the wall. Some just "copied" existing systems. Contrarywise, other really invented new systems or shapes.

    regarding Elvis : the fact is that I learned he didn't play the nose flute. I just learned from an Australian expert that it was the saxophonist Boots Randolph. But Elvis *let* the nose flute recording on Barefoot Ballad. So Elvis was only, let's say, a "promoter" for the nose flute, just by putting his famous name on the record. Another category for the "promoters"? You see... there are much more categories than only "players" and "makers". There are other kinds of people who deserve their nomination.

    regarding your remark, Maikel, about the necessary death. I persist. Else the NFHoF would be submerged by many very interesting current players (Mosurin, Nosy Diva), Makers (Schuermans, Katada, Handler, Ikeyama, ...). Plus composers (Ulrich Nehls) ... And the painters? And the poets? And the promoters? and the videasts? ... there would be 100 names, and among them 10 historic. That would kill the NFHoF.

    the only exception I made (and I almost regret it for consistence reasons) is for Leonard Cohen. I will not say I hope to get the consistency back in order as soon as possible! :) But it was certainly a mistake from my part.

    But let's continue to talk and discuss about that.
    If someone find 2 or 3 "categories" that can really englobe everybody, let's do that.

  9. Dear Antoine,

    I see your point about the 'necessary death', as otherwise every visitor of this blog may end up in the Hall of Fame...! The people who share this blog are awfully nice to one another, so...:-)

    I would suggest one category for 'Producers' (Carter), one for 'Promotors' (Presley, Couchois, Nehls) and one for 'Players' (Threlkeld, Boots Randolph). I would indeed stick to differentiate 'Members' and 'Honorary Members'.

    I am not sure though about the 'Producers' category: what distinguishes the one nose flute design from the other, making it a totally new type of nose flute? They are all based on the same principle, the one that William G. Carter patented in 1891! Needn't the Guarani people be inducted?

    Another suggestion would be to have one category for 'Producers' and one for 'Players'. The 'Producers' category would only count for merit, divided into 'Members' and 'Honorary Members'. The 'Players' category could be divided into 'Merit' and 'Fame'. Also, these divisions could then be sub-divided into 'Members' and 'Honorary Members'.

    It would be good to see a caption as to what each individual actually brought to the instrument and why he or she was inducted into the Noseflute Hall of Fame.

    In the case of Leonard Cohen: long may he live! Maybe someone should tell him just how lucky he is!:-D

    All the very best,