Dayton C. Miller, His Life, Work, and Contributions | Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection Home
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Abstract of Master's Report | List Of Figures | Appendix | Footnotes | Bibliography



Dr. Miller published his first book, Laboratory Physics, in 1903. This was a manual designed to be a student handbook for the performance of experimental problems in physics. It was used by Miller at Case for his and other sophmore physics classes.

His second publication, in 1908, was a translation and annotation of the Theobald Boehm book, The Flute and Flute-Playing. The publication of this book, and the revised edition in 1922, must have been two of his proudest achievements. Hardly a set of correspondence with any one respondent omits a mention of the book. Miller, always a generous person, on many occasions sent complimentary copies to fellow collectors, as was also his habit to send photographs of his collection or a single instrument should a query have been posed. One of the first such book gifts was to Email Medicus in February of 1909. Medicus, a professional flutist, teacher, and writer, and Miller had a long association via their writings to each other. They also met on many occasions, but it was the correspondence that offers the most insight into their work, ranging over a period of 31 years. (Medicus later became the publisher and editor of The Flutist, a monthly magazine devoted to the flute. The first issue was January 1920; publication was suspended in February, 1929.)

Miller was equally generous to libraries and museums. Gifts of the Boehm book were given, and accepted by at least a dozen institutions such as the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library, Library of Congress, Smithsonian, John Crerar Library, and even the British Museum. These just mentioned gifts were given in 1922, a time period in which Miller was concerned as to where he would find a permanent home for his flute collection.

The Boehm book was a labour of love for him and his desire to share it with fellow enthusiasts is quite apparent. In his introduction to this work, Miller tells the reader that he had read the Boehm book with great interest, and while on vacation translated it so that others might read this German work in English.

Theobald Boehm of Munich, 1794-1881, learned his father's trade of goldsmith; he used this skill to make a flute for himself and became so proficient that at the age of eighteen he was appointed first flutist in a theater orchestra. While still an active performer he started making flutes for himself and for others. As a result of these inquiries into the making of flutes, Boehm started to experiment with the size and placement of the tone-holes. It was his idea that the holes should be placed according to an acoustical system, not just to fit the fingers of the performer, and that various key mechanisms should be invented to compensate for and facilitate the finger technique. Although this was not an easy task, Boehm continued his experiments and finally in 1847 patented his own Boehm-System flute, a system which is still in use today.

In addition to the new flute of 1847, Boehm published a pamphlet titled Die Flote und das Flotenspiel (The Flute and Flute-Playing). This is the work Miller translated and added valuable annotations and other information and photographs. That Miller had great respect for Boehm is obvious, for in his introduction to the translated work Miller states:

Boehm was an extraordinary artist, and he was possessed of the true scientific spirit of research; he was a man of great versatility and of profound mental ability; he is more than worthy of all the honor that he has received. 51

In his pamphlet, which has been expanded by Miller to book length, Boehm discusses acoustical proportions of the flute: the system of fingering; description of the key mechanism; care of the mechanism; treatment of the flute in general; and the embouchure in part one. Part two includes the development of tone; finger exercises; method of practicing; musical interpretation; and a conclusion. For its time, it was a complete treatise on the subject. Boehm has given to us a historic work in it's field, and Miller's annotations are equally important. Miller explains, elaborates, and adds to, all sections of the original work. He also corrected errors which appeared in the Boehm work as well as adding interesting and valuable photographs and drawings.

As one might expect, the chapter dealing with acoustical proportions - including the size of tone holes, bore, and materials - has the most amount of translator comments. When Boehm discusses material of flute manufacture, Chapter IV, Miller added:

Undoubtedly the material of which a wind instrument is made sometimes affects the tone quality, but the manner in which this influence is exerted has not been explained; it is doubtful whether it is correct to ascribe it to molecular vibrations of the material. 52

Boehm, as do some modern flute players, felt that molecules in the material from which the flute is made should vibrate along with the air column. He felt that the less the weight of the flute tube, the easier it will be to produce a full tone with the least amount of blowing effort. If experimentation has proven this to be true, the writer has yet to read it in print.

Boehm also made flutes of wood, since most flute players at that time still preferred wood over silver. He also combined wood and silver, making the body of silver and the head of wood. While this never became too popular with flutists, it did attract attention among piccolo players.

Not only did Miller's collection include forty-one flutes made by Boehm and associates, he also was able to buy the maker's own first flute from Boehm's grandson, Franz Rath, on September 20, 1920. According to Mr. Rath, Boehm owned this flute in his boyhood; and as his profieiency developed, he needed a flute with more keys. He sold the first flute to his friend, Ferdinand Marker, and later Marker taught his grandson, Rath, to play the flute using Boehm's first instrument. 53

In the Checklist we find that Miller also had in his collection one of the first flutes that Boehm had made in his new system; it is dated 1847 and was made of brass with a wood embouchure tube and silver fittings.

Boehm's grandchildren were most helpful to Miller by sending to him photographs of family members, his home, and of Boehm himself. Manuscripts of several Boehm works including a transcription in MS. of Boehm's record-book of the manufacture of all his cylinder flutes, from No.1, June 20, 1847, to April 11, 1879; they also shared with Miller their memories and thoughts.

Letters on file were written by Dr. Karl Boehm and Miss Anna Boehm, both of whom sent Miller MS. works of their grandfather, and an extract written by Theobald Boehm in the 1922 edition of The Flute and Flute-Playing thanks Miller for his work in translating the work:

I wish to express my, and my sister's great pleasure and satisfaction for your labor of love, which you have undertaken in the good intention to honor my grandfather. For this we can be only very thankful to you; and I believe I express the sentiment of the whole family of my grandfather in giving you our approval of the publishing of your translation of his book: The Flute and Flute-Playing. 54

It was this correspondence that, in part, prompted the second edition of 1922. There was, however, an event which surely must be considered one of the most important happenings in Miller's collecting career. Shortly after the first edition Miller received a letter from one James S. Wilkins II:

Dear Sir: I saw the notice of your work on the flute, and it interested me for I lived in Munich for three years (beginning May, 1891) and studied flute under Mr. Boehm....At that time I translated Mr. Boehm's work on the flute, and for doing this he gave me the original manuscript in his own hand writing. 55
Later on Wilkins wrote:
I appreciate your efforts in doing reverence to Boehm, to the extent that, at the first safe opportunity I shall send you the original manuscript of The Flute and Flute-Playing, as a token, in Boehm's name of my appreciation of the labor you have devoted to his work, and for your excellent translation....I also send you as a part of your collection, a box-wood alto flute tube, without keys, made in Mendler's (an associate of Boehm) shop; this was given to me by Boehm. 56

Thus, Miller not only obtained his first Boehm flute, even though it had no keys, he also now possessed the MS. of the written work. Having this work gave Miller an opportunity to compare his translation with the original. He found very few differences, and those he did find were of little importance. (This MS. as well as all correspondence from the Boehm family, Wilkins, and the instruments, are included in the Miller collection at the Library of Congress.)

In another letter Wilkins mentioned that he had several of Boehm's flutes in his possession as well as books and music. 57 He died in 1909, however, before further communication in reference to the flutes and music could be made. Miller attempted to reach his widow, Mrs. Mary C. Wilkins, for several years; finally hearing from her in September, 1921. It was not until June 6, 1924, that Miller visited her and purchased two Boehm flutes. She was living in Newton Center, Massachusetts; and Miller, delivering a lecture before the American Otological Society in Boston the day before, made the journey to her home.

These two flutes were important for they were two of the first flutes to be made of phosphor bronze:

Mr. Boehm made three sample flutes, one 'G' and two 'C's, of phosphor bronze...This metal Mr. Boehm pronounced the best for tone and ease of emission, but it was so extremely difficult to work that he would not make flutes of it. 58

The first completed Boehm flute, tube and keys was purchased from George W. Haynes on September 26, 1916. Haynes was a Boston flute-maker who worked together with his brother, William S. Haynes. The earliest letter the writer could find was written by William S. Haynes on February 9, 1909, and requested a copy of Miller's translation of Boehm. They must have continued corresponding, for Miller visited their shop in January or February of 1914. This visit is one of particular interest because at that time Miller was in Boston to deliver his eight Lowell Institute lectures devoted to "Sound analysis." These lectures, which in 1916, were re-written and published as The Science of Musical Sounds, included many findings of his research into the science of musical sounds as related to various musical instruments and the voice. He must have had many ideas to discuss with the Haynes', for he brought with him a Haynes flute made of aluminum which Emil Medicus had been trying.

Miller purchased more Boehm flutes from George W. Haynes, as well as adding 13 Haynes flutes to the collection. One, number 1287 in the Checklist, was designed by Miller and made to his order for "lecture demonstrations on harmonic tones and complex quality due to overtones (overblowing)." 59

Theobald Boehm's contributions to the flute and its construction are without parallel; and if Miller had not completed his translation and study of this famous maker, one wonders if the Flute and Flute-Playing would be with us today.

Chapters 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 |
Abstract of Master's Report | List Of Figures | Appendix | Footnotes | Bibliography

Dayton C. Miller, His Life, Work, and Contributions | Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection Home