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 7, 2016

The Australian Magic Flute - Part VI

This post is the sequel of The Australian Magic Flute - Part V

I found many (really! around 200!) advertisements for the Magic Flute in the Australian newspapers. Most of them are just a few lines mentioning its availability in this or that shop. But a good bunch of them show a drawing, and they will help us to sort out our lacunary knowledge... or create even more mess in our attempt of understanding.


The very first ad for the Magic Flute I found dates of 1905 (Jun. 30), and it was a real surprise for me. It was not sold By Albert & Son, but by Natty Wood's bazaar, Wollongong. Almost the same ad was published in August:

Was Albert & Son the wholesaler ? I'm not sure of that. Indeed, as we will, it was probably the American version of the Magic Flute, and it may have been imported by the Londonian shop Ellisdon's. Why ? because many of the first ads are published by Ellisdon, and it was a huge wholesaler, with its novelty catalog. Ellisdon's also used to sell a "Magic Flute" in the 1930-40s that was said to be "British make" and we don't know if the later aussie nose flute was this version, or a Humanatone... Anyway, in the 1900s, it really seems the Magic Flute is the American version, according to the graphics.

Ellisdon's (Sidney branch) ads from Nov. and Dec.1906, and 1907:

But at the same time (Nov. 1906), The Union Mfg & Agency Co. (Melbourne) sells a "Magic Flute" subtitled "Humanatone", with a Humanatone picture...('Houston, we have a problem!').

Union Mfg ads from Nov. 1906 and Jun. 1908:
Does it mean that Sidney/Ellisdon sells early (american) Magic Flutes and Melbourne/Union Mfg sells Magic Flutes/Humanatones? Just remember the trademark has not been registered at this time, and the name "Magic Flute" can be used by everybody...

At the same period of time, other Sidney shops sells the early Magic Flute, like in this cute announcement (same Nov. 1906 month):

That's only in 1907 (Dec. 14) that I found an ad from J. Albert & Son.

Albert's ads from 1907 and 1908:

In 1913, The Union Mfg still sells a "Magic Flute/Humanatone", and the Alberts an early Magic Flute. The last appearance of the early MF, dates of July 1916. It's an ad from Shaw and Sons, Brisbane:

In fact, "Mr. Henderson" will still be used as a illustration until 1923, playing the early Magic Flute, but no one could recognize it. Here is an ad by Ellis Smith & Co, Sydney (July 1923):


The trademark 'Magic Flute' was registered in December 1924, but in found no ad with an illustration at that time. But something happened then. In September 1929, the Union Mfg Co., Melbourne, publishes an ad for the Magic Flute, with the usual Humanatone engraving. But... but this time the subtitle "Humanatone" has disappeared, and more, compared to its 1906 and 1908 ads, the name 'Humanatone' has deliberately been erased (blackened) from the nose flute.

Union Mfg 1929 ad, and comparison with the 1908 illustration:

What does it mean? Albert registered the trademark at the end of 1924 and launched the new model (the stamped one). So, Frank Albert was the sole to be allowed to use the brand. It became impossible for other shops to continue to sell 'Magic Flutes' from other origin that the Albert's ones (maybe also, Frank Albert signed an exclusivity clause with the Humanatone Co). Anyway, since the new Magic Flutes were stamped 'Magic Flute', it would have been weird to show a nose flute stamped 'Humanatone' in an advertisement.

Some boring (no illustration) ads then, and until 1941. Then a gap until 1945. Here are the 1941 and 1945 ones (far less funny, besides the mention "always in tune" :)):


1947 seems to be a rebirth for the Magic Flute. It's rather surprising since after the WWII, Humanatone didn't restart a metallic nose flute production, but definitely turned the plastic model designed by Ernest W. Davis. In Australia, the Magic Flute is advertised again with illustration. A new illustration! Not the early MF, not a disguised metal Humanatone, no, a real Albert's stamped Magic Flute! The first I found dates of April 1947, J. Stanley Johnston ad.

1947, 1948 and 1949 advertisements:

Still more advertisements then, but less and less.

1950 and 1953 ads:

The very last mention I found dates of Dec. 31st, 1955, but sadly with no illustration, and at 6th position in a list of nine instruments:


Well, this long series of articles about the Magic Flute is about to be complete, but we still have some documents to publish and will have to draw a conclusion. Stay tuned!

>> Access Part VII


Related links :

- The Australian Magic Flute - Part I
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part II
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part III
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part IV
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part V
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part VI
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part VII


May 6, 2016

The Australian Magic Flute - Part V

This post is the sequel of The Australian Magic Flute - Part IV

What's the link between AC/DC and the Australian nose flute? You'll know it by reading this post!


When I got the the shiny unstamped Magic Flute, I wrote to the seller that if she found other nose flutes, I might be interested. She immediately answered: « Oh in the basement of the lady where I found this metal one, there were also plactic ones. I will make pictures for you ». I thought they were probably plastic Humanatones, but who knows, maybe would they be swirled color Gretsch ones... SOme days later, the lady sent me a picture of two green nose flutes, that definitely were not Humanatones... No, they were Weidlich und Lohse... a bit special.

Yes, my friends! A perfect Schwan, with no Swan logo, a … Magic Flute! Look at these babies:

As you can see, this Magic Flute has really the same characteristics than an early Weidlich und Lohse:

There are just a few differences, not able to discard a German make at Göttingen... Or at least a production from an original mould adapted for another branding.

1 - Venting points

The Magic Flute shows four venting points, while the Schwan has only two. they are convex, like on a intermediate Schwan production, but they are a bit wider in diameter:

2 - Contoured lips

Whilst the Schwan has a flat and regular surface around the mouth hole, the Magic Flute has weird contoured lips surrounding it:

3 - Labium pimples

The Magic Flute is free of labium pimples (there are different "patterns" on the Schwan, according to the moulds or production series...):

4 - Embossed logo

Whilst the Schwan logo was made as a bas-relief, the Magic Flute emblem is moulded over a salient little disk. This may be an evidence for the hypothesis of a modified mould (Schwan logo removed and replaced):

The Trademark

Regarding the Magic Flute logo... In fact, this is the trademark of J. Albert & Son Pty. It represent a lyra, but its design is constructed by 5 fancy boomerangs (what else!) as the frame mounted with 7 strings. It was filed as a trademark Dec. 8, 1932, accepted on June 22, 1933 and registered May 8, 1934. Then, as this record shows, renewed Dec. 8, 1960, and finally removed from register Sep. 5, 1974.

Some fourty years of use... Indeed, I found it on many items, notably on the records, royalty stamps, instrument labels, music sheets, and so on.

The last traces of the logo I found were in 1969. But at this time, remember, Frank Albert has passed away (†1962), and his son Alexis (1904-1996) is already 65 and has been long time in charge. Anyway, 1963 is the year of the creations of Albert Productions, lead by Alexis' son, Edward Frank 'Ted' Albert (1930-1990). Ted had been associated to Albert & Son since the mid to late 50s

« Frank and Alexis, around 1925, and Ted (early 60s?)»

« Albert Productions, founded in 1963, was one of Australia's first independent record production companies. It is a subsidiary of the venerable family-owned Sydney publishing company J. Albert & Son Pty Ltd, the oldest independent music publishing house in Australia. Albert Productions was originally established as an independent record production company but in 1970 they launched their own Albert Productions record label and in 1973 they established their own recording studio. » [source].

Ted became a great record entrepreneur and music producer.

« During the 1970s and the early 1980s Albert Studios became one of Sydney's preeminent recording studios for recording contemporary music for artists, including pop artist William Shakespeare through to The Angels, Rose Tattoo, Heroes, Cheetah, Choirboys and internationally renowned band AC/DC. In addition the studios were much in demand by rock bands such as Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil or by blues music acts such as Graham Lowndes and for the recording of commercial radio jingles. » [source]

Got the connexion ?:) The link between AC/DC and the aussie nose flute is that AC/DC's discoverer was the grandson and great grandson of the guys who invaded Australia with the Magic flute! :)

Well. Who is at the origin of the plastic Magic Flute ? What date ?


We know that Weidlich and Lohse began the Schwan production at the end of 1954. As we will see in Part VI, the Magic Flute sales were continuous from 1905 to (at least) the end of 1955 (with an interruption during WWII however). But it is unlikely that Weidlich and Lohse immediately sold a rebranded version of their Nasenflöte. I suppose it took some time for it to become a good seller (if it ever did).

So, let's say a possible earliest launch time for the aussie version at the end of the 1950s. The latest branch of the fork should be 1969, let's say end of the 1960s, when the boomerang-lyra stopped to be used.

Now, who ?

Frank Albert was certainly sentimentally attached to the (metal) Magic Flute, since he developed their 50 years long market. But Frank died in 1962 at the age of 88.

Sir (yes!) Alexis was around 60 when the plastic flute appeared. Would a sexagenarian multi-millionaire, member of the board of a huge music company decide to launch a nose flute? Nothing impossible, but not likely. At least, his marketing director could have, and that's a serious hypothesis.

Ted ? Well, Ted is 20 to 30 during the late-50s to late-60s period of time. He loves rock'n'roll... He is the head of Albert Productions from its foundation in 1963. The company has its own logo, but conjointly uses it together with the old trademark, at least until 1969. But ted was not in the musical instrument business. And if he had produced a "marketing toy" for the launch of Albert Prod., he would probably have preferably used the new logo, not the old trademark. But who nose ?

>> Access Part VI


Related links :

- The Australian Magic Flute - Part I
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part II
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part III
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part IV
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part V
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part VI
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part VII


May 5, 2016

The Australian Magic Flute - Part IV

This post is the sequel of The Australian Magic Flute - Part III

As mentioned earlier, the trademark 'Magic Flute' was registered in December 1924, and we can deduce it was on 19th or 20th. It was registered with No. 40,634 for Australia, and the closest trademarks were registered on Thursday 12/18 for No. 40,623 ('Cyclops Dinkie') and Monday 12/22 for No. 40,644 ('Shavex'). So, 'Magic Flute' being right in between, it should have been registered on Friday 19th, or Saturday 20th (in the case the Patent Office was open that day).

On the New Zealand side, the 'Magic Flute' brand got the No. 22,231. I found the No. 22,227 ('Ventex') which was filed on Monday Jan. 5th, 1925. The Alberts filed their brand on the same day or the Tuesday 6th (since No. 22,239 'Columbia' applied on Wednesday).

So, the trademark stampings on the Magic Flutes necessarily appeared after those dates, let's say from 1925. My shiny Aussie dates from before.


Then, totally by chance, in a matter of 3 months after having found the shiny unstamped Magic Flute, I have been able to put my paw on 3 stamped Magic Flutes, from 3 different sellers! (I have to say that I had been looking for a Magic Flute for years! And in 3 months, I got four of them! Well... Six, in fact!...see Part V)

And even more: 3 different models! Look at this post-1925 happy family:

If you remember Part II, the (unstamped) Magic Flute was available in three versions:

The Nickel-Plated Model

Among my Magic Flutes, the first one is the Nickel-Plated Model. It is the simplest of the three, but it should be bright. Unfortunately, the last owner scraped it like a hog seeking for juicy roots, particularly on the front, and the surface is very dull and scratched. Some points are very oxidized and have turned black, like nickel does with time.

Black oxidation and scratches:

The De Luxe Model

The second one is obviously the Copper model. It is the heaviest of the trio, and weights 20g. As mentionned in the price list, it shows a beautiful dark patina, and was pre-oxidized. But it has no verdigris traces, so I suppose it's more a bronze alliage than pure copper. This De Luxe Model is simply beautiful. But if you look closely... it is not plain copper, but plated!

Great patina, but copper plating only! :

The Concert Model

The third one is the Concert Model, with a thick coat of shiny silver! The oxidation veil, brown turning darker, is typical of silver. Mine has lost its plating on the airway, that's how I can figure the thickness of the coat, and also see the dark grey metal under it. It is the same metal than the one used for the basic Humanatones and other simple nose flutes. It's simple tin. You can notice the lack of the lip rest on this one, but I suppose it has been broken or removed. This Concert model has been damaged a lot, but new, it should have been a beautiful instrument.

The thick coat of silver (yum!):


The stampings are crip and clear, but the wear and tear of some letters show that the copper nose flute was probably older (stamp younger) than the other ones.

An Australian Humanatone ?

Now, Humanatone or not Humanatone, that is the question. I must admit there are many similarities shared by both nose flutes...

… but there are also differences: the larger collar around the nose hood on the Magic Flute, the slightly differently shaped riveted flaps and the lip rest cutting, which is rounder at the corners on the Humanatone, and sharp angled on the Aussie flute. Are those points enough to assert that those flutes are different models ? I'm not sure... But they are strong enough to say that the Magic Flute was not produced on the very same press that formed the Humanatones. A copy ? Probably not, as we will see in Part VI.

Frank Albert ?

In 1904, Frank had a second son, Alexis (1904-1996), who became the "& Son" of the family shop sign. When the Magic Flute brand was registered, Alexis was 20 (his father was 50) and probably had already learned the job since, according to Wikipedia:

Frank's son Alexis, assumed the role of Managing Director of J.Albert & Son in 1931. Over the next 50 years the J. Albert & Son empire gradually acquired interests in a network of eight stations. The stations included 4BC in Brisbane, 3DB in Melbourne and 2CC in Canberra. Later still in the 1950s the company became a major shareholder in ATV Channel Seven.

But it's not over for the Alberts with nose flutes... and that's another story, that will be told in Part V !

>> Access Part V


Related links :

- The Australian Magic Flute - Part I
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part II
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part III
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part IV
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part V
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part VI
- The Australian Magic Flute - Part VII