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 18, 2012

Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part IV

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: The Stivers - Part IV

The Stivers: Big Money

[sequel of Part I, Part II and Part III]

In 1919, George W. II is 43 years old. He resides at 225 W105 and is commercial representative for his father's and brother's activities. But George has another occupation. That year, George and his wife Kathryn apply for a passport. They intend to go to Cuba. On Kate's form, the purpose of the travel is "Visit". But on George's one, it is written "Racing". And in the occupation field: "Racing".

And more, the witness identifying George for the passport is a certain Eugene Bell, a family friend, having "racing" for principal activity and declaring to know G.W. for having been « associated with him in past 15 years racing ». George has been practicing racing for that time, i.e. since 1904!

OK. But what races? Bicycle, horse or roller-skate? I don't know, but...
But George applies for his passport November 6, and specifies he intends to come back to the USA before 6 months, that is before the 6th of May. He does not specify when he will leave (he may have applied long in advance for his passport).

In Marianao, Havana, there is one racetrack (the only one), quite new (1915), called Oriental Park. Wikipedia precises: « In its heyday, American owners brought their horses to race at Oriental Park Racetrack during the winter months, and future Hall of Fame jockeys Laverne Fator rode there in 1918, as did Alfred Robertson in the mid 1920s and the Cuban-born Avelino Gomez. »

So, did George practice horse racing? I don't know. There was also a car race in April 1920 at Oriental Park. And if you look well at the picture below, you'll discern 2 people in the car. Did George and Eugene pilot cars? I *feel* that cars fit better with the Stivers than horses, but it is just a feeling, an intuition, no a fact.

The fact is that, on an ulterior passport form (1922), George gives a bit more details, but I am not able to read what is written after the word "racing" (If someone of you is able to...). It might be the answer.

Last but not least, the 1919 passport application sheet and the 1922 one are both agremented with a picture of George W. II Stivers! We finally are able to "put a face on a name", in this "pioneers series" !!

The 1922 passport application sheet is very interesting, and this, in several ways. George's occupation is still "racing" but he applies for "Commercial" reasons. He intends to visit France and British Isles. This time, G.W. asks for a passport the first of May in order to embark on the Homeric on... 6th of May. He should be back after 2 months. In fact, George will cross the sea aboard the Mauretania, and reach Southampton on 22nd of May.

We can see on the passengers list that George was hosted in Cecil Hotel, London. The Cecil Hotel was and huge and very luxuous hotel.

So, how can we be sure that the "commercial" Stivers was in London, Ireland and France for "Humanatone reasons"? Easy! Here is a warrant letter from the G. W. Stivers & Co., allowing George to "buy any goods with his own approval". Well, I guess George was there mostly... to sell!

The letter heading shows 3 products that probably were ground-breaking sellers for the company.
In the middle: the Lucky Penny Bank, which was a tin bank shaped like a large and thick coin. The one below dates from 1975, but certainly uses the same concept:

The other items are instruments. For sure, The well-known Humanatone, but also the « Wonderful instrument Flutophone »

What was the Flutophone? It was another "variable tonality whistle". But the instrument was not blown by the nose, but by the mouth. So, the mouth was used at the same time to produce the flow and the note, by using the tongue as a separator of the mouth cavity. In fact, the Flutophone is an exact "shepherd's whistle", to which a rectangular horn was added.

An ad published in Secret Service, Sep. 1, 1911.

And a modern shepherd's whistle:

The Flutophone was invented by John A. Bartholomew, citizen of New York, in 1903. John Bartholomew was french, born from a german father and a belgian mother, in 1868. In fact, in the 1920 census, his father appears to be french, and the explanation is that at the moment of the 1900 census, the north-east part of France where he was born was german, since 1870 war and until 1918. Yes, from my region!). John imigrated in the USA in 1870, maybe because of the war. In 1903, Bartholomew was ventriloquist and widowed (later, he'll re-marry and become a comb maker!).

Well, the Stivers bought the Flutophone patent [US733,122] to exploit it, and become owners and manufacturers of the instrument. When was it? Certainly rather early, and maybe when James J. turned the Stivers' shop into a music instruments one.

1922 was already late for George W. II Stivers to visit Europe. Maybe did he do it earlier too. Anyway, in the early 1920s, the Humanaphone appears in the Keith Prowse catalog, London, then in the Jedson list. The fact is that the Humanaphone is very similar to the Humanatone... Was it a copy, or did George sell a licence to a british manufacturer, who also decided to produce a celluloid line?

In fact, the two instruments are rigorously the same ones! Generally, to avoid problems with copies, the manufacturers prefer to change some small details. Here, everything is the same, stampings excepted: even the shape of the flaps that hold the rivets...

If the Humanaphone was the british make of the Humanatone, it means that the flat Humanatone airway cover [the the rounded one is visible on the Humanaphone] dates from after 1922! (Sometimes, I feel like Sherlock Holmes)

And in France? I know there was a metal nose flute introduced in the 1920's. I have no name, no picture, no info. Was it a licensed Humanatone?

Licensing would have been a good trick for Stivers. Not only spreading the instrument in Europe, but also being discharged of paying for patents, since the ones used on the Humanatone applied... only in the USA! Big money to come (again)!

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
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part I
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part II
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part III
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part IV
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part V


About metal Humanatones, check :

- Humanatone - part I : the metallic era
- New Humanatone ads
- The Two metal Humanatones
- Another metal Humanatone
- Humanatone boxes
- Another Humanatone box
- Humanatone: A very early user manual
- The Magic (Nose) Flute: only questions... .
- A Humanatone and clones chronology
- A Humanatone in 1892 ?
- Humanatone: Early promotional demos
- Another Humanatone archive
- Huma... something
- Rectification: Humanatone appearance date
- Great paper from 1903
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part I
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part II
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part III
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part IV
- Nose Flute Pioneers: The Stivers - Part V
- A Humanatone as a scientific tool
- Two other Humanatone Ads

And on later Humanatones :

- Humanatone - Part II : the Gretsch plastic era
- Humanatone - Part III : the Gretsch metal era



  1. The word after 'Racing' could be 'Amateur' or something to do with 'AMT', which stands for Aluminium (car) Model Toy. I doubt whether that existed by then... Why would anybody write his profession so illegibly? I will keep on trying though...


  2. "Amateur" is the word I first read. However
    1) it's not understandable to write " racing amateur" in a "occupation" form for a passport, whilst you are a commercial, who specifies the reason of his travel is commecial (remember this 1922 passp. application was made to sell Humanatones to Europe, not for racing in Cuba)

    2) there clearly is a "s" at the end of the word (which look as other ending "s" on other parts of the passport). I would read something like "clomteurs" or "Almterms" or "cloniterns"... (which obviously means nothing).

    the only thing I'm almost sure is that after 1 or 2 or 3 characters, there is a M then a T, then 2 or 3 letters, then a S


    But the last char. before the S is probably not a M, because elsewhere, the Ms are well formed (that the reason I recognize a M in the first part of the word)

    The first letter is probably not a Capital letter, because there is more difference in size between caps and small letters. So I guess its a pair of characters : CL, or AL.

    Despite all that argument, each time I see the word, I re-read "Racing amteurs" (with a mispelling in the french word). And it's maybe that word, but I still don't understand why "racing amateurs" would figure in the occupation form. and why put at plural. Anyway, it would be of no help for us to determine whether George was racing horses or cars...)

    There is however one case possible which would explain the "s" at the end. For instance, if George Stivers was a representative (even a commercial!) of a racing organization or federation, and not a racer himself. and called "Racing Amateurs". As he would have written "West Coast Choppers" (if he had been working for that company) or "New York Publishers" (as a union representative for instance...)

    But I found no such organization for called Racing Amateurs. And if this "company/organization/group/union..." was enough powerful to travel to Cuba, it would have left some traces in the newspapers. However there were racing associations (the "Business Men's Racing Association" for instance)

    It could also be something like "Racing materials", "Racing accessories", but in this case, why have filled only "racing" in the 1919 application, since "racing" all alone is directly linked to the race itself (as a racer or as an official)...

    For sure, I found no traces of Eugene Bell neither.

    well; I really don't know.

  3. Could Stivers have been a Racing Punter? A 'Punter' is somebody who bets on horse races. It matches his commercial purpose of visiting Cuba... The word could possibly also be read as 'Punting', which is 'the act of...' (as in 'My profession is teaching'). Could this have been his occupation?

    There actually are professional punters, very much like professional poker players. Officially, punters are simply gamblers who have no stakes in the outcome, unlike bookmakers. However, with whichever kind of gambling one can never know who is to be trusted, right...? Wasn't Stivers a bit of a crook?

    Stivers may also have placed bets for others, taking commission, as well as himself. His betting might even have been a way of laundring money... I know that horse racing was pretty spectacular and big in the 1920s and 1930s, where a lot of money was to be made (as it still is) and I know for a fact that the maffia had a lot of influence in horse racing at the time...

  4. Stivers could certainly have been a "punter".
    However, I don't think he would have written that as an occupation... And why have practice that "with" someone during 15 years... Anyway, "punter" does not fit with the writing... Yes, he could have been "bookmaker". George Stivers was not a crook, as far as I know, but more: he was rich! And if he was a crook, he would not have chosen "punter" as occupation on an official form, but "commercial representative". You would not write "opium dealer" when you're a banker who owns an opium den. You would write "banker".

    On the "horse" possibilities to solve this mystery, I feel it more on owning a stall, breeding and training race horses (an financial investment) we should look at.
    (I don't feel that Geo. Stivers' body (as judged by his massive face) fit with riding a horse for a race (jockey).)

    But more and more I think it's written "amteurs", with a lacking "a" and with a plural "s". The first can be explain easily: amrerican people always make mistakes in this french word (sometimes "amatuer") like they do in "connaisseur". And the "s" because he practiced that sport in tandem with Eugene Bell, who was on his side when he filled the form. But probably not as a racer, but as a representative of an racing amateurs organization.

    Maybe we'll know on day the answer, but not through this document.