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John Clinton

No serial number.

London, England

Stamp: Engraved on barrel: (heraldic belt inscribed PRIZE MEDAL EQUISONANT) / (within the belt-formed cartouche) CLINTON & CO / Sole Patentees / 35 Percy Str. / LONDON. / W . Head and foot unmarked.

Marks: No marks visible (disassembly not attempted).

Manufacture Date: Made c. 1862-1864. This model was invented in 1862, and Clinton died in 1864. Current research on John Clinton is greatly aided by the late Karl Ventzke's introduction to the reprint of Clinton's "Code of Instructions" (ed. Rien de Reed), by the enthusiastic reporting and research of The Clinton Flute project (Andra Bohnet, Adrian Duncan, and Terry McGee, at, and, and via the always useful web site of Rick Wilson at

Hallmarks: No hallmarks.

Comments: It seems clear that Clinton's flutes caused a stir among flutemakers, perhaps of greater significance than his effect upon flute playing. Clinton actually patented the graduated tone holes in 1862, in spite of their having been used by Boehm earlier. Most of his fingerings and new keys had either been part of the Carte 1851 or similar systems. One early (pre-1851) Rudall & Rose silver cylinder flute, now I believe part of the Peter Spohr collection, shows similar keymaking decisions, and similar thoughts in configuration. We have long suspected that Clinton had a hand in designing this flute. The principle new invention of lasting (although forgotten) influence is the split E, claimed to have been invented by Djalma Julliot some 30 years later. Nonetheless, Clinton's success at the 1862 exhibition popularized the notion of graduated tone holes. Within a year, on 10 July, 1863, Louis Lot mentions a new footjoint with large holes for the first time. This was the beginning of the use of graduated toneholes in the Louis Lot shop. Lot had, incidentally, apparently sold a Clinton flute to an Englishman on Oct. 12, 1855, showing that he was at the very least familiar with the name, although he misspells it in the book. Clinton's other discrepancies with Boehm are the usual closed short F, G#, and thumb Bb keys from the old 8 key system, and an awkward fingering for C, via the thumb Bb key. Numerous other keys are surely useful, but escape us in their purpose. Clinton's clutches are also highly original, including the seesaw under the left-hand mechanism, and his penchant for activating the tails. This particular instrument is made with several manufacturing quirks that raise questions about the actual maker. The key-touches are finished with a flat top, yet curvaceous sides and even a slight point to the G# key. The keywork is basically French, yet modified to English taste. These are characteristics of several of the very early cylinder flutes made for Rudall & Rose, and suggest the presence at Clinton's of the same exceptionally talented maker. The hanging spring catches are cut from flat stock and effectively wrapped around the silver hinge tubes, a trick which I have seen before but never as nicely done as here. In short, it looks to us as though Clinton hired a French maker of exceptional creativity, well established in London, who had probably worked for Godfroy in Paris and Rudall and Rose in London. We see characteristics in one of the early Rudall & Rose cylindrical flutes that look as though Clinton may have worked with this same maker in the 1847-1851 days, before Carte. In fact, Clinton was sure that he had made some sort of arrangement with Boehm prior to 1847 to be the producer and promoter of Boehm's new flutes, whatever they ended up being. In the event, Clinton claims not to have liked Boehm's 1847 flute, and ceded his presumed rights to Rudall & Rose. Clinton was five years into his tenure as professor of the flute at the Royal Academy in London in 1847, thus he was one of the most prominent flute teachers in London. In Paris, the (roughly) equivalent position was then held by Tulou, who was a vocal opponent of Boehm's flutes. Clinton adopted the Boehm flute, by his own account, in 1841, two years before Rudall & Rose began their manufacture, and one year before Clinton's appointment to the Royal Academy. Thus Clinton was chosen by the Academy as a Boehm flute player! One suspects that Boehm must have been very pleased that the professor of the Royal Academy had adopted and promoted his 1832 system flute.

Material: This fascinating flute is made of silver tubes, with silver keys and lipplate. The springs are steel, and a combination of needles and flat. The original springs were not blued, and numerous replacement blued steel springs are present. The cork arrangement is currently stuck.

System: The Clinton Equisonant system champions hugely graduated tone holes and a modified key system which largely includes the 8 closed keys of the simple system along with an open keyed mechanism based on Boehm. Scholars differ over the origins of some of the ideas incorporated into this flute, such as the various ways of playing F# and F natural. Regardless, this instrument shows a very active and creative mind, as well as masterful flutemaking.

Condition: The condition of this flute is complete, and completely unrestored. Two tone hole rims are loose. The rest have been resoldered away from the workshop. The silver tube has been stained by heat from resoldering all of the rib bits and tone holes. The pads look old and English. The adjustment screws are all chewed at the top. Other than that, the flute looks completely original and unaltered.

Pitch: This flute seems pitched at A=452.

Sounding Length: Sounding length 580 mm.


Weight: Weighs 422 g.

Case: In a Lafleur and Co. clarinet case.

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