Skip to main content

Collection Dayton C. Miller Collection

Full Circle: Dayton C. Miller and Friends: Selections from the Dayton C. Miller Photograph Collection

Dayton C. Miller (1866-1941) was an acoustician and physicist who had originally studied astronomy. He was also an amateur flutist and a collector of flutes and materials related to the history of the development of the flute. By 1935, Miller had amassed a vast amount of material, which he described as "constituting five separate collections. I. Flutes and flute-like instruments. . . . II. Books and literary material. . . . III. Music for the flute. . . . IV. Works of art relating to the flute. . . . V. Portraits of flutists and composers for the flute."

Miller read widely on the history of the flute, as evinced by his collection of three thousand books. Not only did Miller attain a deep knowledge of flutes and the history of flute-making from his own researches, but he had a circle of friends who contributed to that knowledge. Many of Miller's friends were flutists, flute-makers, representatives of flute-making firms, or composers, and they often presented instruments to the Miller collection or suggested instruments for his consideration. Genuine and long-lasting friendships developed between Miller and his many correspondents, some of whom he met and visited frequently, while others he knew only through their letters.

It is through the letters, especially, that one can perceive the richness of the many interconnections among Miller's friends. With most of the instruments and a selection of photographs scanned, it is now possible for online researchers to see images of the flutes together with photographs of their former owners and the friends or dealers who provided the instruments to Miller.

Looking at the images, a kind of "orchestration" unfolds before one's eye, suggesting how Miller put together the flute collection with the enthusiastic and warm-hearted support of his friends. One can almost sense what it must have felt like to be in Miller's home and see and hear him speak about his collection, as one writer described it: "Life seems so graceful, beautiful, and peaceful in his study at home, that it is like a different world. There, the fortunate listener may hear the complete history of a certain famous flute; who made it; who played it; into what battle it was taken to soothe the soul of the warrior; to whom it was left, and how it finally arrived in Cleveland." 1

The Photograph Collections

There are at least seven separate collections of photographs in the Miller Collection, perhaps about 2,000 to 2,500 photographs in all, as follows.

About five hundred photographs--of flutists, composers, flute-makers, or representatives of flute-making firms - are simply arranged in boxes lettered A-Z, many of which are inscribed to Miller, though some are inscribed to Emil Medicus, or to William S. Haynes, whose collections of photographs were acquired by Miller at an unknown date. There is also a separate group of about a hundred photographs of flutists from the Haynes collection. Among the photographs in the A-Z group are about fifty that were in the personal collection of Captain FitzGibbon of Ireland, from whom Miller purchased them in 1923.

Nearly a thousand images come from a collection assembled by Adolph Goldberg of Berlin and cataloged in Porträts-Sammlung hervorragender Flöten-Virtuosen, Dillettanten und Komponisten (Berlin, privately issued, 1906; ML30.4b, no. 146 in Miller Library). These are images of flutists and composers for the flute and consist of about five hundred matte collodion photographic prints and a set of five hundred duplicate images printed as collotypes, a type of lithograph. Miller purchased this collection from John Finn of England in 1920.

There are also separate collections of Miller family photographs, photographs of Theobald Boehm, and several boxes of miscellaneous photographs. Miller himself was a photographer who periodically photographed the flutes in his collection. Thus, his oversize glass-plate negatives, as well as photographic prints of flutes in his collection, are also part of the photographic portion of the Miller Collection.

The photographs accompanying this text were selected from the A-Z group, the Haynes collection, and Miller's family photographs. Six groups of Miller's friends are represented. Their relationship to Miller, their mutual friends, and the instruments in the collection often display a surprising interconnectivity.

Abelardo Albisi and Glauco Meriggioli

This group of images represents Abelardo Albisi, maker of the Albisiphon; Miller playing the Albisiphon; and Glauco Meriggioli, a composer and friend to both Albisi and Miller, from whom Miller acquired the Albisiphon. The photographs of Albisi and Meriggioli are inscribed to Miller, and Miller wrote on the verso of his own photograph with the Albisiphon: "Hurrah for the Flute! A real bass flute. The 'Albisiphone' made in Milan, Italy Lowest note: [drawing of low F on ledger lines] It has a very rich and beautiful tone, suitable for such pieces as Schubert's Serenade. Dayton C. Miller February, 1922."

Amelita Galli-Curci, Manuel Berenguer, and William S. Haynes

Represented in this group are Amelita Galli-Curci, a soprano; Manuel Berenguer, a Spanish flutist; the gold flute Galli-Curci gave him; and its maker, William S. Haynes of Boston. Berenguer was first flute of the Chicago Opera and flute accompanist for Galli-Curci. According to Leonardo De Lorenzo, Galli-Curci presented Berenguer with a gold flute in appreciation of his work. That flute is now in the Miller Collection (DCM 1441).2

John Finn, Thomas Lea Southgate, and Thurlow Lieurance

An interesting story emerges from the people and instruments represented in this group of photographs and their connections to Miller: John Finn, Thomas Lea Southgate, and Thurlow Lieurance; a Bressan recorder, a Brazilian vertical whistle flute, and a North American Indian courting flute.

John Finn was an amateur flutist and flute historian. He presented an important lecture, "The Recorder, Flute, Fife and Piccolo," at the Music Loan Exhibition, London, 1904, which was published in English Music (1604 to 1904). Being the (seventeen) Lectures given at the Music Loan Exhibition of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, held at Fishmongers' Hall, London Bridge, June-July, 1904 (second edition, with preface by Dr. Thomas Lea Southgate; London: Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd., 1906, pp. 120-163 ; ML30. 4b, no. 103 in Miller Library). Miller and Finn corresponded from 1909 to 1936 and met for the first time at Finn's new home at Garvestone in Norfolk, England, in September 1935, at Finn's invitation to Miller in a letter of 21 July 1935.

Miller purchased nine instruments from Finn between 1920 and 1923, the first being a recorder by Bressan (DCM 0127) which Miller copied and presented to Thurlow Lieurance in August 1923. Lieurance was a composer and ethnomusicologist interested in Native American music. Lieurance, in turn, presented Miller with a Native American courting flute (DCM 0480).

Two of the instruments acquired from Finn, the Bressan recorder (DCM 0127) and an English flageolet by Bainbridge (DCM 0184), belonged formerly to Dr. Thomas Lea Southgate. Southgate was a collector of flutes, many of them non-European, and other examples from Southgate's collection are in the Miller Collection, twenty of them (DCM 0281-0300) purchased from Harold Reeves of London in 1922. One, a flute from the Amazon (DCM 0300), is made of bone and ornamented with beetle wings. Southgate received it in 1894 from his son, who was then residing in Brazil.

Another important acquisition Miller made from Finn was the purchase in 1920 of the Goldberg collection, a group of five hundred photographs of flutists and flute composers mounted on gilt-edged cards and also reproduced lithographically. This set of images, with biographies of the flutists and composers, was published by Adolph Goldberg of Berlin in 1906 (ML30.4b, nos. 146 and 147 in Miller Library)."3

Henry Macaulay FitzGibbon

Henry Macaulay FitzGibbon was an Irish attorney and flutist who served as a captain in the British army in World War I. He wrote several books, among them The Story of the Flute (1914 and 1928; ML30.4b, nos. 104 and 843 in Miller Library), as well as articles on the flute and flute music. Miller acquired FitzGibbon's collection of nearly fifty portraits of flutists in 1923, a few selections from which appear here. These were mostly photographs, though they also include a silhouette, an engraving, and a lithograph. Miller purchased a Sudanese notched flute from FitzGibbon in 1921 (see DCM 0160).4

Walter C. McQuillen, Emil Medicus, and Harry Baxter

Walter C. McQuillen, Emil Medicus, and Harry Baxter were all close and long-time friends of Miller. McQuillen was a retired banker and flutist who traveled frequently. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but lived most of his life in Los Angeles. He owned a wooden flute made for him in 1900 by George Haynes and played it daily, even while traveling. McQuillen wrote many articles for The Flutist, a magazine published by Emil Medicus.

McQuillen and Miller corresponded from 1924 until 1938, though they seem to have known each other earlier. In their letters, they discussed diverse topics--astronomy, the maker's marks on Claude Laurent flutes, and interesting flutes McQuillen discovered in antique shops on his travels that he thought might be good candidates for Miller's collection. Miller acquired at least eleven instruments from McQuillen from about 1925 to 1931 (DCM 0517-0521, 0671-0672, 0766-0767, 1065 and 1157). This photograph of McQuillen, sent to Miller in the 1920s, shows McQuillen in Spitzbergen, Norway. It was just one of his stops on a journey that took him also to Iceland, Cuba, and Panama.

A flute made by C. Mahillon of Brussels, ca. 1878, acquired by Miller from Harry Baxter in 1929 (DCM 0885) belonged to McQuillen at one time. In his ledger, Miller records the history of this flute as told to him by McQuillen on a visit on October 27, 1929: "Mr. McQuillen bought this flute from Max Lausberg of Los Angeles in Dec. 1883. . . . The flute probably came from Sherman & Clay. It was used by Mr. McQuillen for 10 to 12 years, in theaters, 'earning many dollars when I needed them.' . . . Mr. McQuillen sold flute to Chas. J. Ellis of Los Angeles . . . after Ellis's death his daughter disposed of it to Baxter-Northup . . . till sold to D.C.M. in 1929."

Harry Baxter, the proprietor of Baxter-Northup Co., Los Angeles, sold many flutes to Miller over the years, or purchased flutes on Miller's behalf while traveling in Europe. Miller and Baxter became good friends and their correspondence dates from 1916 until 1941.5

Professor F. H. Herrick

This photograph of a Greek shepherd boy with his flute dates to 1904. On the verso, the man from whom Miller acquired the flute and photograph, a Professor F. H. Herrick, recorded his encounter with the boy and how he acquired the flute from him. Herrick's identity and friendship with Miller are not documented further, but Herrick sent both the photograph and the flute as a gift to Miller in 1904. Herrick's note on the verso of the photograph reads: "May 12, 1904. Olympia, Greece. Came upon a shepherd boy playing an arundo pipe while watching his flock on the south side of the ruins. His face was very brown as he wore no hat; he played several tunes always keeping time with his foot. After watching for a while I photographed him, and finally bought his reed pipe for a drachma. It was pleasant to see the expression of his face turn from wonder to joy as the script touched his hand; he held up the money in triumph to a passer by, and went after his flock rejoicing. F. H. H."


Notes

  1. J. J. Nassau, "A Friend to Case, to Science, to Mankind," Case Alumnus, May-June 1936, p. 48. Case Alumnus is a small publication on Case Western alumni, and this issue was devoted to Miller. It is among Dayton C. Miller's papers at the Library of Congress.
    [Return to text]
  2. Biographical information on Berenguer and his life dates taken from Leonardo De Lorenzo, My Complete Story of the Flute, rev. ed. (Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press, 1992), p. 219.
    [Return to text]
  3. Biographical information on John Finn, with conflicting birth dates, taken from De Lorenzo, pp. 39-40, 294. Bibliographic information on Finn's lecture in 1904 from Dayton C. Miller, Catalogue of Books and Literary Material Relating to the Flute and Other Musical Instruments with Annotations (Cleveland: Privately Printed, 1935), pp. 40-41.
    [Return to text]
  4. Biographical information on FitzGibbon taken from De Lorenzo, pp. 40, 232. Bibliographic information taken from Miller, p. 42.
    [Return to text]
  5. Biographical information on McQuillen taken from De Lorenzo, pp. 253-54.
    [Return to text]
 Back to top