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 19, 2016

Nose Flute Demonstrations

As far as I know, there were (at least) five ways to sell nose flutes:

1.- Newspapers (advertisements)
2.- Catalogues (musical instruments, toys or novelties)[see here, for instance]
3.- Shops (musical instruments, toys or novelties physical)
4.- 'Fakirs', or street agents, selling the nose flute among other novelties (see this post)
5.- Demonstrations (in concert halls, parties or world's fairs)

Street 'fakirs'

We already published some documents recruiting musicians for demos, and some other about the performances themselves. Here is an advertisement from a demonstrator looking for a job!

The Era, London (Mar. 21, 1928):

The demonstrations were held in different kind of places. Some were organized in music shops before Christmas, or even in concert halls.

Chillicothe Constitution (1912-11-27) and Santa Ana Register (1913-05-08):

The San Bernardino County Sun (1913-01-25):

The Republic - Columbus (1915-03-26):

Some demonstrations were performed during parties or musical shows as entertainement during other kinds of events. But privileged places for commercial demos were trade show and fairs, particularly the big World's fairs. In the streets of Chicago fair, Seattle or New York, there certainly were fakirs selling Humanatones. But the Humanatone Co. had also probably a booth here and there. We are sure that the Stivers had a stand at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (Seattle 1909)[check this post], but it's more than likely they also got one in other fairs.

I found an interesting picture of a stand for musical demonstration. It dates of 1939 San Francisco World Fair:

Unfortunately, it was not a Humanatone stage, nor even probably for a nose flute, but for the Hum-A-Tune. Yes, there was a nose flute called by this name (see this post), but it is impossible that this 1970s nose flute was demonstrated in 1939. It is not possible to see the instrument played by the musician, but it was certainly the Hum-A-Tune kazoo.
This instrument had many imitators (Hum-Al-Band, etc.) including the FanFare by Paul Brunner. There were also 'special editions' for the Hum-A-Tune, we know one made for the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Now, how did the demonstrators proceed? Well, it was a fair, so it had to be a real show! I found an extraordinary video document in which 15 seconds show a Hum-A-Tune demonstrator on stage, at 1933 Chicago World's Fair. The musician first plays the Hum-A-Tune, pretending to play a mini and damaged trombone… Then we can see him playing the Hum-A-Tune while bowing a totally wrecked violin (The whole document here). There is also a ukulele hanging on the side:


  1. I love the historic posts such as this one. Together with the posts about new innovations, these are my favourite.

    1. We are rather few to be interested in historical posts (including me, for sure), but they have their right place in this blog. And I will continue to write some, as far as I collect info. All the best to you

    2. PS: my goal would certainly to be able to have a rather "clear view" of nose flute history, which is absolutely not the case for now. So many questions and hypothesis...

  2. Without any of your historic posts, nose flute history would have remained in the dark; it really is all down to you. I thank and salute you for that, as the nose flute has been very dear to me ever since I was a 5-year-old. I would simply not have known so many interesting facts and developments. Let's hope that we will live to see a proper renaissance.

    1. Thank you Maikel! Well, my dream is to find a vintage movie with a nose flute... and sound! There should be somewhere a short 1930 jazz band footage with a Humanatone... where???