Images from the Study-Storage Collections
Flute by William Henry Potter, ca. 1806-1814
NMM 4439. Flute by William
Henry Potter, London,
Conical. Five sections. Stamped on tuning slide barrel: 6 /
/ POTTER / IOHNSON'S COURT / FLEET STREET / LONDON; on upper section
heart piece: WILLM. HENY /
POTTER; on foot: PATENT / WILLM.
POTTER; on ivory ferrule adjacent to barrel: PATENT. Boxwood,
mounts. Tuning slide, screw-cap, both
(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
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
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.
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
- keys for B-flat, G-sharp, F, and D-sharp;
- a tuning slide (the pitch of the instrument could be adjusted
by pulling apart or pushing together two sections of a metal-lined
- a screw cork adjuster (by moving a screw projecting through the
head cap, the position of the cork inside the head joint could be
- 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,
- 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'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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of Flutes by Richard and William Henry Potter
National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069