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



When one approaches the amount of materials in the Miller collection, he cannot help but be amazed at the magnitude of it's holdings. The Library of Congress Checklist informs the reader that there are 1,426 instruments, all but a few are flutes or a relative of the flute, and 93 additional instruments which were either not numbered by Miller or were added after the Music Division obtained the collection.

Books and literary materials relating to the flute includes pamphlets, short magazine articles, newspaper clippings, concert programs, maker's catalogues, patent specifications, and any other written materials which treat the flute in some form. In 1935, Miller privately printed a catalog of his books and literary materials that were in his collection. A conservative estimate places the number of entries at 1,400, and even though some of the work can be obtained today in reprint editions or through antiquary book dealers, most are out of print with several falling into the category of rare books. The Rudiments or Principles of the German Flute, written by Hotteterre Le Romain and published in 1729, is the only copy known to exist. The same can be said for Hotteterre's Principes de la flute Traversiere, ou Flute d'Allemagne. Also in the Miller collection is A Vade Mecum For the Lovers of Musick, Shewing the Excellency of the Rechorder: With Rules and Directions for the Same. Written in 1697 by John Hudgebut, it is one of two known copies, the second being in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. There are, as might well be expected, photostatic copies of other rare works which Miller apparently could not obtain.

In browsing through Miller's publication, the reader finds that many of the entries are annotated, which is most helpful particularly in the area of foreign languages. Footnotes indicate that many of the volumes were made a part of the collection as a result of the author sending a complimentary copy, or a gift from a friend or acquaintance.

Included in this area of his collection is a complete inventory of patents relative to the flute. There are 170 British patents from 1694 to 1931; 206 French patents from 1791 to 1931; 250 United States patents from 1790 to 1931; and complete specifications of all German patents relating to the flute. The patents, as received from the patent authorities, are filed in chronological order so that they may be read and studied in order of their issuance.

A third part of the collection consists of about 10,000 titles of music for the flute. This music is indexed four ways: accessions, composers, titles, and instrumentation. The music of the 17th and 18th century is well represented.

The last two sections include indexes of works of art relative to the flute as well as pictures and sculptures, and portraits and autographs of flutists. Miller planned his collection to definitive in it's field.

The making of a collection is like running a race: there are educational benefits in the one and healthful exercise in the other: and likewise both give exceptional pleasure and satisfaction to one who excels. When there is a prospect of out-stripping one's competitors the sport becomes exciting and thrilling.67

Earlier, it was noted how Miller obtained the first few flutes in his collection. As a matter of record, the writer notes that more than 90 percent of the total collection in Washington was obtained after Miller's 50th birthday in 1917. In 1909 for example, he purchased only one flute (the Boehm tube without keys) and in 1911, none were purchased. However, in 1913, he bought 10 flutes from the Joseph Fischer estate in Cleveland, which brought the total collection to 15.

It was 1917 that a change seemed to occur. Miller added 27 instruments to the collection which in 1916 numbered only 53; a 50 percent increase! Looking at the Checklist, the writer can see that Miller purchased several that year (1917) from flute-maker George W. Haynes, one from Arthur Gemeinhardt, also a flute-maker, and others from Pierce's Old Book and Curio Shop, California Loan Company, and several from the Baxter-Northup & Company. One can trace Miller's travels through his flute purchases, for all of the above mentioned businesses were located in California. Numbers 62 through 75 in the Checklist were all obtained in California between August 20th and September 13th, 1917, during a vacation period with family members in Oakland.

The Baxter-Northup correspondence began on May 17, 1916, thus preceding the 1917 purchase, and lasted until June 10, 1940. Actually, Miller had correspondence with two people at Baxter-Northup - Harry Baxter and Carroll G. Cambern. It was Baxter, however, who shared Miller's enthusiasm for collecting. Baxter, a founder of the Los Angeles Flute Club, was always on the lookout for flutes that he thought might be of interest to Miller; this interest even extended to Baxter's vacation trips abroad. 68

The collecting of musical instruments, organology, is not a new art form; it has been enjoyed by kings and common men alike. However, it was the late Canon Francis W. Galpin, for whom the Galpin Society is named, who probably had the first collection which was nearly complete in it's representation of all the musical instrument families. Although small in numbers, 564 instruments, the collection contained examples of idiophones, membranophones, areophones, and chordophones. 69 The Galpin Collection was purchased for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1916, and is still contained in that institution for study and playing.

Miller introduced himself to the British-born Galpin in a letter dated August 16, 1921, and included a photograph of his flute collection. The correspondence between the two men is small, but important. One letter from Galpin is dated January 11, 1927 and mentions a forthcoming auction which was to be held in June at the Brownsea Castle in Bournemouth, England. At this sale, the instrument collection of the late C. Van Raalte was to be put up for bidding. Galpin, a friend of Van Raalte, who had helped him with his collecting, undertook the task of making a catalogue for the auction.

Miller, busy with 'ether drift' and other scientific enquiries, could not journey to England for the sale. Instead, he asked a London bookseller, Harold Reeves, to attend the sale and bid in his absence. Reeves, it should be noted, heretofore had supplied Miller with a considerable number of books on music as well as many instruments. Their correspondence actually began on March 15, 1918, when Miller requested information about a book titled Harmonics of Tone and Colour.

Reeves went to the sale and purchased 27 instruments - the largest single acquisition in the Checklist. Miller had sent a cable to Reeves before the auction indicating those instruments he wanted to bid on, and the top price he was willing to pay for each.

It was an awkward place to reach and I had to spend 3 days on the job. About 50 persons were present and it was necessary to make certain arrangements to secure some of the lots with other possible bidders. 70

Reeves then packed and sent them to Miller in Cleveland. In a letter dated August 11, 1927, Miller tells Reeves that the shipment was received in good condition and that he is grateful to add them to the collection. Miller also mentions that some of the items had come from the former Taphouse Collection which had been sold in 1905 or 1906. He shows some regret that the two groups had been dispersed.

I am happy, therefore, that my collection will be permanently preserved and I am trying to make this certain. I think I have already made the statement that I expect it to be placed in our National Museum in Washington. 71

Seven years later, in 1934, Reeves again acted as Miller's agent and purchased 11 instruments from the Desiree Ellinger collection. Included in this group was a tenor recorder made by Anon which Miller considered one of the finest in his collection.

As has been noted, acquisitions came from auctions, dealers, other collectors, friends and even gifts from interested people who wanted to see the collection grow. Additions also came as a result of Miller placing ads in various musical and antique magazines. Letters came in from virtually every country in the world. If a price was too high, Miller would offer what he thought to be the correct value. On occasion, he would request to see the flute, paying postage both ways, if necessary. Always the gracious gentleman, he would reply to every letter and, if pertinent, would pass on any information that he knew relative to the instrument in question. Some, however, did attempt to take advantage of Miller, and on at least one occasion, a dealer was asked to stop sending flutes for approval.

He must have been a familiar figure in many antique shops and pawnshops in the United States and in Europe, because many entries in the Checklist were bought in such shops.

It seems there is not an antique dealer in the world whom he does not know either by personal contact or by correspondence. Pawnshops are his specialty. Recently he complained about the deplorable conditions of the Bowery. When asked why, he replied that the place had been so improved that all his "first class" pawnshops are gone. 72

As might be expected, Miller actively corresponded with most of his fellow enthusiasts. Among them were Adam Carse, Geoffrey Rendall, Philip Bate, Francis Densmore, and Lyndesay Langwill to name just a few. The letters were both chatty and highly scholarly. They might discuss a recent meeting at a friend's home or the differentiation of bore measurements and how that difference would effect the tone or tuning. One letter the writer found interesting was written to Langwill and was dated January 19, 1939:

The collection of flutes and books proceeds rather slowly; it seems that the collection is nearing the saturation point. In the year 1938, 38 specimens were added; most of these are unimportant. The total number is now 1,373, with several specimens under consideration. 73
Most present-day organologists would be delighted to add a mere 38 instruments a year, or for that matter in two years.

See Caption Below
Some of Dr. Miller's Flute
Collection in 1928

The photograph on page 60 was taken by Miller of his collection as it appeared in 1928; slightly more than 50 percent of the final number. This, as well as similiar pictures, was sent to other collectors and friends throughout the world. Although it is nearly impossible to identify more than a few of the instruments, the reader does get some sense as to the physical size of such a collection.

Only two exhibits seem to have been devoted to the Miller collection - one in 1921 and a second in 1927. The 1921 exhibit was held in the Cleveland Museum of Art in October of that year. On display were 173 flutes, 35 flute cases, 10 books, and 3 photographs. The 1927 exhibit was held at the Museum of Peaceful Arts, a scientific and technical museum located at 24 West 40th Street, New York City. Correspondence between the director, Dr. F. C. Brown, and Miller began early in 1927; arrangements had to be made so that the exhibit could open on May 24th. Part of Miller's concern was that the collection should be properly insured and that it would be under guard at all times. The exhibit did open on May 24th with about 400 people attending the first day lecture given by Miller. He used the phonodeik to show sound waves on a screen, and demonstrated the tonal qualities of about 20 flutes. In addition, he played several short selections.

The newspaper coverage of the exhibit, however, did prove to be an embarassment on at least one count. The New York Times stated that he made the first and only gold flute in the world. This, of course, was not true. In response to this error he wrote an apology to his friend Montague S. George of Rudall Carte & Company; the company who, many years before, did in fact produce the first gold flute. 75

See Caption Below
Selected Specimens

The museum exhibit lasted until June 29th, whereupon most of the flutes were returned to their storage trunks. Forty-eight remained behind for a longer period, however, and thirty-seven were thought to be lost. Fortunately, the missing instruments turned up in a packing room at Case.

Miller enjoyed collecting the rare and unusual, and the photograph on page 63 shows several of these rarities. Number 9, for example, is a flute for a one-handed player. This curious little flute was one of three in the collection. The instrument numbered "one" is a walking-stick flute, of which there are 15. It is what it appears to be, and close examination of the picture will show 6 finger-holes and one key for the pinkie.

See Caption Below
Ivory Flutes

Ivory and glass flutes are represented quite extensively. The photograph on page 64 show 21 ivory flutes from the collection. Number 14 is historically interesting because it once belonged to Count Istvan Szechenyi (1791-1860), an outstanding Hungarian soldier and statesman. It is believed that the maker was Ziegler. 76

Special notice should be given to instruments 1, 2 and 25, which are ivory recorders; numbers 23 and 24, which are a clarinet and oboe respectively, and numbers 27 and 28, which are piccolos.

Miller's concern and interest in the various materials used to make flutes has already been noted. In addition, he had the following to say in reference to glass:

Regarding the tone-quality of the glass flute, it is disappointing to have to say that it is in no way exceptional. ...The flute of glass seems to possess no musical qualities which call for further use of this material, but there is a sentimental interest in these exquisite specimens by Laurent. 77

See Caption Below
Glass Flutes

The photograph on page 66 shows several glass flutes made by the French flute-maker, C. Laurent. Laurent patented his glass flute in 1806 and continued to make these instruments until at least 1848. 78 Estimates have placed the number of known existing Laurent flutes at about 40. 79 Miller owned 17 of these.

In the photograph on page 66, the fourth flute from the left is the first glass flute that Miller bought. This purchase took place in September of 1905. 80 The third flute from the left supposedly was presented to President James Madison by Lafayette. 81 Made in 1813, it is clear cut glass fitted with four silver keys. It is a beautiful instrument.

The fifth flute from the left was purchased from Rudall & Carte in 1923. 82 Other glass flutes came from the Van Raalte and Taphouse collections, as well as from private individuals. The photograph on page 68 show Miller holding one of his Laurent flutes. It is the writer's opinion that this flute is the 3-keyed Laurent purchased in 1927 from the Van Raalte auction. The picture is dated October 24, 1931. On the table in front of Miller is another glass flute, a metal flute, a recorder, and what appears to be several Indian flutes. On the far left is a set of panpipes.

See Caption Below
Dr. Miller Playing an

The Albisiphon being played by Miller on page 69 was one of his favorites, for on the back of the original photograph he wrote:

Hurrah for the flute! A real bass flute the "Albisiphon," made in Milan, Italy. It has a very rich and beautiful tone, suitable for such pieces as Schubert's Serenade. Feb. 1922.
The instrument shown is number 232 in the Checklist, and was made in 1891 especially for Mascagni's opera, La Parisina. Miller's enthusiasm is obvious, and in a letter from the inventor, he learned that the instrument shown was the first made. 83

Since writing was an important part of Miller's life, it is not surprising that we find articles that he wrote for The Flutist covering such subjects as "The contra-base flute and the albisiphon," December 1922; "Comments on certain characteristics of flutes," March 1923; "Flutes of glass," July 1925; "Flutes for one-handed players," August, 1925; "Flutes of the American Indians," October, 1921; "Flutes of Japan and China," November, 1921; "The flute D'Amour and other transposing flutes," November 1922; and, "The Dayton C. Miller collection," June, 1923.

It is apparent that Miller's avocation as a collector was as meticulously conceived and implemented as would be one of his scientific experiments. He left no areas of research unattended by his investigation, and complete accuracy and authenticity was his immediate goal. His ultimate goal was to write the definitive work on the flute. This treatise may have been written had Miller lived a few more years, for he had made plans to begin the writing.

See Caption Below
Dr. Miller Holding a Glass Flute

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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