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 21, 2017

Much more about William Carter - Part I

In 2012, we published all what was available to us about the nose flute inventor William Carter's life from his arrival in Lockport (NY) at the age of 5, to his death in Rochester (NY) in 1919 (here, there and there). We also made a replica of his « Nasalette » (see here, there and there).

We have nothing to retract from those pages, except one mistake: Carter's settling year in Albion (NY). Deceived by a homonym in a census sheet, we stated that William Carter made a step in Lewinston (NY) and settled in Albion around 1880. Wrong! We have discovered that Carter went to Albion as soon as 1871 or 1872. But we also have discovered much, much, much more about him.

Indeed, on one hand we found a new source of newspapers – the impressive Jim Fulton's archives – and notably the copies of
The Orleans Republican, daily newspaper published in Albion, in which many details were found. On the other one, we had the great luck to received the generous and enthousiastic help of Mr. Matthew Ballard, Historian of the Orleans County Department of History. All our warmest gratitude and kind regards go to him.


Much more about William Carter

Part I: James Carter (ca1835-1907)

One of the most interesting findings made in The Orleans Repbublican was this little news (1907-04-03):

William Carter had a brother! I wasn't aware of that, since the first archives I found were about William and his mother Catlaine/Catherine only, no other Carter family member. A brother, so what ? The more I found about James, the more explanations arose regarding William choices and feats. That's why it is interesting to look a bit deeper in James' career.


1. - Immigration

James H. Carter was born around 1835 in Ireland. Did he emigrate with the same "famine ship" as his mother and brother ? It is difficult to know. I found no record that could fit for 1851 (immigration year of Catlaine and William), but one may exist, but an archive, prior to 1851, that is consistent with James' birth around 1935 (but once again, there may be other ones that I didn't find).

This list of passengers of the St Lawrence dates of 1848, and there is one James carter who is 14 years old, comes from Ireland and is farmer. He embarked in Liverpool and declared intending to go to Canada.

If this is the right record, James have left Ireland first, maybe as a "scout" for his relatives.

Then I found a 1850 census sheet which records a James Carter aged of 15, and occupied as a servant in Mount Pleasant (NY). This is the only record consistent with a birth around 1935 (but I found a 25 y.o. ostler in Lockport (NY))

2. - Tinsmith in Lockport

1860 is the year from which we can begin to state ascertained facts. In 1860, James, but also his mother and his brother all live in Lockport, NY. They just don't live in the same house/district, and this explains why I didn't spot James existence before. Indeed, James, 24, has already got married with Mary (from Ireland too) and is the father of the little Kate, born in 1859 in the New York state.

While Catlaine is washwoman, James is surveyed as a... tinsmith! We know that William settled in Albion (20 mi. further east) around 1872 – at the age of ±26 – and it is very likely that before, William became apprentice and learned the craft besides his brother.


The first pieces of archive I found about James are those little newspaper clips of 1860 and 1861, which are interesting because they mention an address:

Lockport Daily Journal, June 4, 1860 and September 12, 1861:

In 1860, Lockport is a city of 10,800 inhabitants, located in the neighbourhood of Buffalo, NY (±15 miles). James Carter lives or works (but probably both, as a tinsmith at home) at 109 Main st. This area is a bit off the center, and not dense. The 109 should be in a very new house because it doesn't appear on the 1857 map, and even not yet on the 1860 one (but #107 has been built then)

1857 Lockport map:
So, James is a "small" tinsmith working on his own, but he did all what he could to get bigger and integrate and participate the city life. In 1862, he produces extension tin cups for the irish soldiers of Capt. Maroney's company:

2. - Development and first Invention

In 1867, it seems that James Carter has acquired some acknowledgement and credibility. He is nominated as Sealer of Weights and Measures for the city.

Two months later, the Lockport Daily Journal reports an invention by J. Carter: a beer pump and cooler!

Lockport Daily Journal, June 18, 1867:

In September, he becomes an agent for the Ne Plus Ultra portable furnace.

Lockport Daily Journal, Sept. 14, 1867, and Sept. 5, 1868:

We learn that James has moved to 101 Main street (the "104" in the second paper is probably a typo), and will keep his store at this address until (at least) 1885. Indeed, James Carter is beginning to grow money. Around 1870, he buys a house at 56 Locust Street, a charming and wealthy residential district of Lockport.

Locust st. in 1917:

Lockport Daily Journal, March 20 and April 17, 1871:

James Carter and his wife lived all the rest of their lives in this house. In a 1908 map (after their death), the name "J. Carter" is still mentioned on the 56 Locust plot.


1871 is the period of time when William left Lockport for Albion. James was following his ascension, became member of clubs. He was a fine rifle and won contests, and a fisher — he was member of the Angler's Club – who repopulated creeks with trouts and bass... while Mrs Carter was active in the Lockport branch of the Needlework Guild.

James Carter probably understood that he would really make money with his inventions. But for that, he had to file patents.

3. - Patents, patents, patents.

There were recurrent advertisement by agencies helping to file a patent, and maybe it is through this way that James began.

Ad from the Munn & Co. June 17, 1885:

Between 1876 and 1899, it is no less than 6 patents that James filed and that were registered. Stove-pipe damper (US175663), Combined filter and cooler (US308058), Tinner's fire pot (US336893), Pressure filter (US430797), Ash sifter (US614534) and a nice Luggage carrier (US633281). Among them some had more success than others.

One of the first patents, the Combined filter and cooler (1884) was a great success, that really helped growing James' social and econimical position and status. Carter was making good business, but also began to be regarded as a serious reference in filtering and purifying water.

A small selection of the many articles mentioning Carter's filter/cooler

But it's mainly the 1890 Pressure filter patent that definitely turned James Carter to a successful business man and an expert in water filtering. In 1892, James sold this patent to the Field Force Pump Co., probably for a nice amount of money... In 1897, Frank Farnell bought the entire business of the Carter Filter Co.

Lockport Daily Journal, July 19, 1890:

4. - Wealthy life of a retired businessman

In 1894, James retired from business, and left Lockport for a leisure travel in London (did he visit Ieland too?). He crossed the sea on the magnificent S.S. Paris (formely named "City of Paris"). During the crossing and then, from London, he sent some letters that were published in the Daily Lockport Journal, for our greatest pleasure:

the S.S. Pris, in 1888:

Lockport Daily Journal, July 14, August 4 and 7, 1894:

During the end of the 1890's, the Carter's filters are growing and growing in sales, as James' expertise in water solutions, as member of the Water Board of the city. He entered a long city discussion about filtering the water from the Erie canal in order to feed the city in clean water (I will not publish those numerous and long articles here, but if someone is interested, please drop me a mail).

Now James is retired from direct business, but is the owner of different stores downtown (85 Main and 36 Market st.). He is not a tinsmith anymore, like in 1860 census sheet, nor a Hardware manufacturer, as it was mentioned in the 1870 and 1880 ones... In the 1900 census, his profession is now inventor.

It is at the occasion of a rifle shooting contest that he won, that the Buffalo Evening News published a beautiful portrait of « Uncle Jim », with an article retracing his numerous successes in shooting contests.

The Buffalo Evening News, January 5, 1904:

5. - Demise

On May 30, 1906, James' wife Mary (born Stanlan) passed away.

The Buffalo Evening News, June 1, 1904:

And on 23rd of March, 1907, Uncle Jim followed Mary in heavens. James died from a typhoid fever, in his house of Locust St.


It is a bit strange to publish here a long biography of a man that had *nothing* to do with the nose flute. However, as the big brother of William Carter, this article is supposed to put in the light some facts that are directly linked – according to our own opinion – to William's invention.

First, James was probably the "scout immigrant" for the Carter family in the USA. He settled in Lockport and stayed there for the rest of his life. He became a tinsmith and we can state without any doubt that he taught the craft to William. Then, he was an inventor, patented several of his inventions, and became rich and « best-known » with them. Would it be unreasonable to think that William tried to follow the success of his brother, and that he was looking for creating his own invention, patenting it and selling the patent in order to rise from his low condition ?

I personally think that James was a model for his young brother William, and that many of William's feats can be understood through James' ones.

>> Access Part II



On the same topic :

- Much more about William Carter - Part I
- Much more about William Carter - Part II
- Much more about William Carter - Part III

- Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part I
- Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part II
- Nose Flute Pioneers: William G. Carter - Part III

- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Review


Oct 15, 2017

Restoration of a vintage Humanatone

I found a vintage Humanatone in a rather good shape, but totally oxidized. Since this model is very common (it dates from the 20-30's and is the most spread), I decided to practice a « hard » restoration on it, without much qualms.

1. Analysis

The instrument was dark grey - oxidized nickel - except for the solderings, but the overal shape was good, and I just had to flatten a bit the mouth shield with a jeweller anvil and a small leather mallet.

The stampings were very crisp, and there are still evidences that this instrument was nickeled. The main concerns are two deep rust spots. One on the side of the air collector in the nose saddle, and one at the side of the air exit. These can be cleaned and stabilised, but there will still be some metal missing there.

2. Cleaning

The first step was a general cleaning, first with a bath in deoxidizing product (Rustyco), then with fine steel wool (0000) soaked with another product called MPU. The top layer of oxidation was removed this way. The most difficult was, as usual, the inside of the air collector.

3. Deoxidization

I began to remove the coat of oxidized nickel with the steel wool, but it appeared to be very, very slow. It would have taken ages — it took me 2 hours only for the top of the air duct...

...So I opted for the power solution: deoxidization by electrolysis with an activator. I did it with an electro-pen powered by a DC supplier at 6V. The work went easy and efficient, and I reached the bare and vulnerable original tin.

4. Degreasing

The next step was to remove any trace of grease, including the one I brought by touching the nose flute with my fingers. The level needed is such that water doesn't form drops on the metal, but can be evenly spread on the surface. To achieve this task, I used again my electro-pen with a cleanser electrolyte. It was time to use gloves to manipulate the Hum'.

After finishing all tose cleanings and degreasing, the inside looks dull but totally free of rust. Also, all the rust has been removed from the damages spots. The metal has been digested, and won't grow back, but once protected, the disease sould be stopped.

5. Electroplating

Now that the Humanatone was totally desoxidized and degreased, the metal was bare and very vulnerable. If fact, as soon as it has dried, the oxidization started again. So, better not to wait to long before the plating.

By the past, I had practiced several electroplatings, with a correct result. But I've learned since that my nose flutes weren't prepared enough, and also that I didn't heat the electrolyte. Indeed, the nickel sulfate works far better and quicker when heated at around 140°F/60°C. More, the solution has really to be constantly stirred.

This time, I used my brand new magnetic hot plate stirrer (luxury!). The current was provided by my DC supply, set at 4.5V. This time, I used several nickel anods, instead of one only. I decided to set up my lab outside, to avoid to breath the gas emanations. My installation looked very professional and that's a sign of being on the right way :)

Heating time. I didn't want to push the current before a decent temperature of the electrolyte. I began when it reached around 120°F/50°C. On the picture below, one of the four big (square) nickel anods, hung by a titanium wire (titanium doesn't react and doesn't spread parasitic ions that would cover the nose flute). Those wires were linked together with external wires connected to the DC supply (Off at that moment). The Humanatone was directly hung by a crocodile clip, and linked to the power supply.

When the temperature got sufficient, I powered the supply, and fine bubbles (Get27 in champagne?) immediately formed. The process had begun.

I changed the nose flute position (I should say the crocodile clip position) every quarter of an hour and let the electroplating work for 2 hours. After the first 15 mn, the nickel coating was already easily visible, with its yellowish silver color (compared to the blueish silver one of the bare tin). And after 30 mn, the job seemed done. But I wanted to get a thick plating, so I did the job as planned, during 2 hours (it was too much, 90 mn would have been better).

6. Finishing

After apllying the thick coat of nickel, it was time for the last buffing, with a metal polish and sealant.

7. Results

Well, the result is very satisfying. For sure, the spots were the metal has been digested by rust are still visible, as are the little flaws (scratches, etc.) that were on the flute when I got it. Also, I exagerated a bit on the plating time, and some tiny flaws appeared because of the excess of nickel... But all in all, this Humanatone is beautiful now, restored in its nickel coat, and protected for long.

For sure, the most satisfying and rewarding is to make a comparison Before/After...