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Flute by William Henry Potter, ca. 1806-1814

NMM 4439.  Flute by William Henry Potter, ca. 1806-1814

NMM 4439.  Flute by William Henry Potter, London, ca. 1806-1814. Conical. Five sections. Stamped on tuning slide barrel: 6 / WILLM. HENY / POTTER / IOHNSON'S COURT / FLEET STREET / LONDON; on upper section and heart piece: WILLM. HENY / POTTER; on foot: PATENT / WILLM. HENY / POTTER; on ivory ferrule adjacent to barrel: PATENT. Boxwood, ivory mounts. Tuning slide, screw-cap, both graduated (six concentric rings stamped with Arabic numerals). Metal lining in head joint. Six silver keys fitted with patented pewter plugs. Closed keys: B-flat, G-sharp, short F, D-sharp. Articulated keys: c'-sharp, c'. Lowest note c'. Total length, 664.1 mm. Sounding length, 591.85 mm. Arne B. Larson Estate, 1988.

William Henry Potter (1760-1848) apprenticed and worked with his father, Richard Potter (1726-1806), at 5 Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, London. He joined his father in business about 1801 and carried on the business after his father's death. William produced high quality instruments, according to the flute virtuoso, Charles Nicholson, who stated that Potter's flutes, along with those by Milhouse and Monzani, were the most highly regarded flutes made in London.


Additional Views

Close-up of signature on William Henry Potter flute

Close-up of the maker's stamp on barrel and PATENT stamp on ivory ferrule adjacent to barrel. Although some of the features of Potter's patent were not original to him, he was able to claim patent rights to all of them in England, simply because no one else had previously done so. Richard Potter's patented features (Patent No. 1499, October 28, 1785) appearing on his son's flute include the following:

  1. keys for B-flat, G-sharp, F, and D-sharp;
  2. pewter plug keys;
  3. a tuning slide (the pitch of the instrument could be adjusted by pulling apart or pushing together two sections of a metal-lined head joint);
  4. a screw cork adjuster (by moving a screw projecting through the head cap, the position of the cork inside the head joint could be adjusted);
  5. a register foot (telescoping metal tubes inside the foot joint allowed the player to adjust the length of the foot joint to adjust the flute's pitch. This patented foot joint was only supplied to flutes without low C and C-sharp keys); and,
  6. projecting stem of screw, tenon of tuning slide, and tenon of foot register marked with incised concentric marks, each of which is numbered. According to the patent, to achieve optimal tuning the exposed numbers on each piece should be identical.

Close-up of pewter plug keys on William Henry Potter flute

Close-up of pewter plug keys on William Henry Potter's flute. The key heads, which William's father, Richard, called "valves," were made of soft pewter shaped like flattened cones. The pewter plugs were flexibly attached to their shanks and fit securely into countersunk tone holes that were usually lined with metal. Their air-tight design made the use of leather key pads unnecessary.


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