Richard Carte’s Claims
in Relation to the Exhibition of 1851



Elsewhere on this web site Great Exhibition of 1851 we have provided a summary of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, with particular emphasis on the flutes that were on display there.  Coming as it did at the very height of the mid-nineteenth century debate regarding future design directions for the flute as an instrument, this was without doubt one of the most significant events in flute history, since it brought together the full range of designs which were then competing in the marketplace and placed them in direct head-to-head competition before an International Jury as well as the general public.

Two of the more prominent flute exhibitors were Theobald Boehm, exhibiting on his own stand, and the celebrated London firm of Rudall & Rose, which had held the English patent on Boehm’s innovations with respect to the flute and other wind instruments since 1847.  Rudall & Rose appear to have focused on co-operating with Richard Carte in the development of his 1851 Patent model (as well as an old-fingered model called the “New Flute with Old Fingering”).  These models both used elements of Boehm’s patent as it applied to the flute. As a result of his successful design efforts, Carte was admitted to the firm as a full partner in 1850, and subsequently became the sole proprietor.  

At the Exhibition, Boehm displayed flutes and an oboe which exemplified the applicability of his innovations to a range of woodwind instruments.  He was successful in convincing the International Jury of the merits of his ideas, to the point that he became one of the relatively small number of exhibitors who were favored with the prestigious Council Medal for innovation. 

Rudall & Rose appear to have focused primarily on Carte’s new designs, although they did also exhibit a standard Boehm model.  They were successful in gaining a Prize Medal for workmanship in connection with their Carte Patent models, but failed to win any award for innovation.  In particular, they were not awarded a Council Medal for any of their products.

Notwithstanding this, immediately following the Exhibition the firm began to mark their Carte 1851 Patent cylinder flutes with the Council Medal appellation as well as the Prize Medal!  Carte also published his claims in this regard in a postscript to the second edition of his essay entitled “A Sketch of the Successive Improvements made in the Flute” (the “Sketch”), first published in 1851 to coincide with the Exhibition.

During the present authors’ study of the Exhibition in general, this presented itself as an obvious anomaly which appeared to us to call for in-depth examination.  The following discussion is intended to summarize the results of our investigation.  

Carte’s published claims to recognition of his 1851 Flute

Carte first published his previously-noted “Sketch” in early 1851. This pamphlet was basically a “sales puff” for his own newly-designed Patent flutes which used Boehm’s metal cylinder bore and so-called “parabolic” head but with very different mechanism and fingering.  The work seems to have been quite popular, since it soon ran into a second and then a third edition. 

When preparing the Second Edition, which followed closely on the heels of the 1851 Exhibition, Carte added a Postscript (as which we shall henceforth refer to it) in which among other things he set out his own listing of the awards gained at the Exhibition.  Carte wrote as follows:

In accordance with these views, the Council [of Juries] awarded to M. Boehm the highest honour it had to bestow – the Council Medal – for his Parabola and Cylinder Flute; and they [the Jury] awarded also, to Messrs. Rudall,  Rose  & Co. the only Prize Medal obtained in England, which was for the improvement I have been enabled to make in Boehm’s Flute as regards facility of fingering”.

Carte goes on to note:

“These prizes having been awarded, Boehm’s Cylinder Flute is now entitled:

The Council Medal Flute (Boehm’s Patent);

and for the sake of distinguishing one from the other, his Cylinder Flute with my new mechanism is entitled

The Council and Prize Medal Flute (Boehm’s and Carte’s Patents)”

This Postscript also appeared in the third edition of Carte’s “Sketch” published in 1855. 

In 1857, Carte placed an advertisement in a number of issues of the London Times.  It read as follows:

“FLUTES – A Caution – Messrs. Rudall, Rose, Carte & Co., Flute, clarionet and military instrument manufacturers, 20 Charing-cross, beg to direct attention to the following facts: - At the Great Exhibition in 1851 there were three awards, representing three degrees of merit.  The first and highest, for flutes, was the Council’s medal, obtained by M. Boehm for his cylinder flute, purchased, patented, and manufactured solely by Rudall, Rose, Carte & Co.  The second was the jurors’  prize medal, obtained by Rudall, Rose & Co. for Carte’s improved Boehm flute.  The third and only other award was the honourable mention, which was obtained by Mr. Card.  See Report, class 10a.  Other articles, although favourably noticed in the Report, were not considered of merit sufficient to entitle them to any award”. 

In both his Postscript and in his 1857 advertisement, Carte rightly points out that Boehm won a Council Medal and Rudall & Rose took a Prize Medal.  This is confirmed by reference to the List of Awards to which he draws his readers’ attention. The List of Awards also confirms the Honourable Mention conferred upon William Card.  So far, so good.  So what’s the problem with these apparently straightforward statements?  Well, quite a lot, as we shall see! 

Firstly, Carte failed to mention in his 1857 advertisement that, apart from Card, another rival flute maker, Jean-Louis Tulou, also took an Honourable Mention!  A very minor point, granted, although Tulou might not have seen it that way!  Similarly, Carte’s failure to mention several other Prize Medal winners for flutes (see below) falls into the same category.  Having mentioned Card, surely he should have gone on to mention the other awardees for flutes apart from himself and Boehm?!? As it is, Carte’s statement is simply incomplete.

Of far greater significance is the very clear implication in Carte’s Postscript that his Patent flute possessed a higher degree of merit than Boehm’s because it was identified with both Council and Prize medals while Boehm’s only carried one.  This suggestion is made very unambiguously through the designations applied to the two models, and it is quite clearly false and misleading – the Awards List confirms that Rudall & Rose took only the Prize Medal for Carte’s Boehm patent flutes, while Boehm himself took the far more prestigious Council Medal.  More of this below.

Carte’s comment that the double medal designation was made “for the sake of distinguishing one from the other” appears as a paper-thin excuse in the light of the above discussion – surely all that was necessary to distinguish between the two models was to call one the “Boehm’s Patent Model” or the “Council Medal Flute” and the other the “Carte’s Patent Model” or “Prize Medal Flute”?  In fact, the double application of Boehm’s and Carte’s Patents to Carte’s flute is quite acceptable, since it did utilize key elements of Boehm’s Patent as well as that of Carte.  It is obvious that any of these approaches would have completely sufficed for the purpose of “distinguishing one from the other” and would have accurately reflected the true facts.  

Hence, Carte’s use of the need to distinguish between the two models as justification for the application of Boehm’s award to Carte’s flute is simply not justifiable on any credible basis.  The Exhibition Jury had had the one legitimate and, one would hope, disinterested opportunity to objectively decide upon the relative merits of the two instruments, and they issued the awards accordingly.  In particular, only the Jury could legitimately apply the Council Medal to Carte’s flutes, and the official record (to which Carte himself referred) shows that they did not do so.  The subsequent application of the Council Medal to Carte’s Patent flute by Carte and/or his business colleagues, presumably for commercial reasons, is thus unsupported by the official records of the Exhibition.

To add insult to injury, and without qualification of any kind, Carte claimed that the Prize Medal awarded to Rudall & Rose for his Patent flutes was “the only Prize Medal obtained in England”.  A review of the official List of Awards shows that Prize Medals were won by a number of other English musical instrument exhibitors, including the flute makers John Pask and Cornelius Ward.  Neither of these two exhibitors won their medals specifically for flutes, but then Carte did not confine his claim to awards for flutes.  As worded, Carte’s very general and unqualified statement is completely untrue.

So – three seemingly obvious inconsistencies appear immediately in Carte’s claims upon the most cursory examination.  This became apparent to the present authors immediately upon reading this material, and it was this that led us to begin our detailed investigation into the veracity of a wider range of Carte’s published statements.

At this point, it is apparent that academic rigor requires us to look more closely into the basis for Carte’s statements quoted above. To do this, it is first necessary to fully understand the significance of the awards so that we may clearly understand who actually received which award and for what!  Interestingly enough, this very view was championed at the time in a letter from an unidentified correspondent which appeared in the October 25th, 1851 edition of the London periodical “Musical World” .  The writer, styling himself “A Constant Reader” stated that  

it is very important that the public should understand clearly on what grounds the [awards] decisions are founded; otherwise all distinctions conferred on Exhibitors, be they Council Medals, or Prize Medals, will alike lose their value”.  

It appear that this precept was not widely followed at the time, and we will now do our best to remedy this long-standing deficiency. 

The Medal criteria

Reference to the official criteria with which the Jury was provided by the Exhibition organisers reveals that the Prize Medal (which Rudall & Rose undoubtedly won for “Carte’s Boehm Patent Flute”) was specifically to be conferred by the respective Jury upon exhibitors whose offerings displayed “a certain standard of excellence in production or workmanship”.  A vital  point – there is no mention here of ideas or design innovation. Recognition of those factors was reserved for the Council Medal (awarded to Boehm), which was only to be awarded by the Council of Juries (on the recommendation of individual Juries) to those exhibitors whose offerings displayed “some important novelty of invention or application” (our emphasis) and was specifically not to be awarded on the basis of “excellence of production or workmanship alone, however eminent".  This point did not escape the notice of the above-mentioned “Musical World” correspondent, who mentioned it specifically in his letter. The comment was actually made at the time that some winners of the Council Medal were far inferior in terms of workmanship to their less innovative brethren!

The crucial point to grasp here is that in no sense could the two awards be considered as representing any relative degree of merit.  It should now be crystal clear that they were conferred on the basis of two entirely distinct criteria which bore no direct relationship to one another.

It is crucial to retain the above distinction as we review this matter in more detail.  It will suffice if we remember that, in the most simplistic terms, the Council Medal recognised originality of ideas as demonstrated by the exhibits while the Prize Medal recognised excellence of execution of the items exhibited. Thus, the Council Medal recognised intellectual achievements, while the Prize Medal recognised manual achievements.  The one recognised original thinking, the other recognised outstanding craftsmanship. Since an inanimate object cannot think, it follows that Council Medals were won by individuals, not objects.  No flute design could win a Council Medal – only its inventor could do that on the basis of his design originality.  Similarly, no flute design could win a Prize Medal - only its manufacturer, as opposed to its designer, could do that on the basis of his manufacturing skills.  

In either case, a flute might legitimately be cited as the vehicle through which the designer or manufacturer (who actually merited the award) had demonstrated his skill.  But the awards themselves were won by the designers and manufacturers, not by the objects that they displayed. 

The Basis for the award of the Council Medal

Now that we are clear on the award criteria, let us look into the basis upon which the Council Medal won by Boehm and later applied by Carte to his own flute was actually awarded.  Starting with Boehm, his entry on the official list of exhibitors confirms that he did not exhibit only his flutes, but also exhibited an oboe which utilized the same general principles as those applied to his flutes. This instrument appears to have been the result of a collaboration between Boehm and the French-born oboist Antoine Joseph Lavigne (1816 – 1886).

It was clearly this demonstration by Boehm of the adaptability of his original flute improvements to other instruments that really caught the attention of the Jury, just as Boehm almost certainly intended that it should. Indeed, this was probably his sole reason for exhibiting the oboe alongside the flutes which always remained his primary personal concern.  The official citation in the List of Awards makes it explicitly clear that Boehm received his Council medal not merely for his new flute but for "important scientific improvements of the flute; and the successful application of his principles to other wind instruments" [our emphasis]. This is further clarified when we review the reference to Boehm in the text of the Final Report of the Jury which precedes the Awards List.  Here we find the Jury making the following statement:

“Mr. Boehm’s inventions (our emphasis) may be described as follows:-

Firstly, he has brought the acoustical proportions of tubes and the fingerholes of wind instruments into correct numbers and measurement, by which means flutes, oboes, clarionets, bassoons, &c., can be theoretically constructed.  Secondly, he has invented a mechanism for the keys which gives facility and precision to the execution, and by which the former difficulty of reaching or stopping the holes at great distances, or of large size, is now surmounted.  As by these means the holes can be made correct in size and position, Mr. Boehm has acquired not only a perfection in tone and tuning never before attained, but also a great facility in playing in those keys which were hitherto difficult and defective in sonorousness or intonation”. 

Note that flutes are by no means singled out here – the Jury is actually concerned with Boehm’s inventions, and the word “flute” appears only once, as just one element of a list of the various wind instruments to which Boehm’s innovations are applicable.  Neither Boehm’s exhibition flute nor his Patent are mentioned at all. In any event, that Patent covered only the use of metal construction for “flutes of all descriptions, clarionets and other similar wind instruments”,  the use of a cylinder bore and so-called “parabolic” head specifically in the construction of flutes, plus an extra key to improve the middle C natural of the “ordinary” flute.  It did not include any specific details of the hole arrangements or bore proportions referred to by the Jury. In fact, none of the elements of the Patent are specifically mentioned in the above citation.

The point here is that Boehm did not win his Council Medal merely for his silver flute or for his Patent in relation to that instrument.  The Medal was actually awarded for his own originality of thought and his intellectual achievement in developing an overall system of improvements which he had demonstrated (using his oboe as well as his flutes) to be applicable to wind instruments in general, not merely the flute. The Jury made this abundantly clear, and Carte had the same opportunity as anyone else, and far more reason than most,  to read what the Jury had to say.   

Furthermore, the official entry list confirms that Boehm did not rely on Rudall & Rose to exhibit his design concepts on his behalf (although Rudall & Rose did exhibit a standard Boehm flute on their own stand, as did Clair Godfroy), but instead exhibited instruments of his own manufacture (flutes and an oboe) on his own stand.  He did so in his dual capacity as “Inventor and Manufacturer” under an entirely separate entry number from Rudall & Rose.  Accordingly, Boehm won the Council Medal as an independent exhibitor in his own right.  Rudall & Rose did not win a Medal of any kind for their rendition of Boehm’s flute and neither they nor Carte had any part whatsoever in his intellectual achievement in winning the Council Medal for the design concepts represented on his flutes and his oboe. 

As soon as we understand all of this, Carte’s statement in the Postscript that the Council Medal was “obtained by M. Boehm for his cylinder flute, purchased, patented, and manufactured solely by Rudall, Rose, Carte & Co”. becomes wide open to question.  Firstly, the statement used by Carte clearly implies (and was doubtless intended to imply to the uninformed) that it was a Boehm flute manufactured by Rudall, Rose, Carte & Co. which took the Council Medal (since they are directly associated in the above statement with the winning flute and are cited without qualification as the “sole manufacturers”).  This of course is completely untrue. The Council Medal was not obtained for any product of Rudall, Rose, Carte & Co. (a firm, by the way, which did not exist in 1851!!), but for a system of design improvements which had been demonstrated to the Jury using instruments (flutes and an oboe) of Boehm’s own manufacture. 

Moreover, the new Boehm flute was most definitely notpurchased, patented and manufactured solely by Rudall, Rose, Carte & Co.” – apart from being patented in Germany and France and manufactured in Munich by Boehm himself, it was also being manufactured at the time by the Paris firm of Clair Godfroy (Boehm’s French manufacturing partners, who also exhibited Boehm Patent flutes in 1851, in the process gaining a Prize Medal of their own which apparently escaped Carte’s notice).  Carte’s statement may have been true at the time as far as England was concerned, but then Carte did not include that essential qualification!  As written, the statement is completely untrue.

Furthermore, it should by now be abundantly clear that the Council Medal was not obtained by Boehm merely for his cylinder flute (as stated by Carte) but for his overall system of improvements and their demonstrated applicability to other wind instruments (using the oboe as his other example).  The Jury could not have been more specific in making this clear.  Boehm won the Medal personally for his ideas, not merely for his flute or his oboe!!  The criteria and the Jury comments set out above surely make this obvious.

Returning to the designations applied to Carte’s flutes in his Postscript, it would appear that in attaching the Council Medal to his own Patent flute, Carte was claiming that because his 1851 Patent flute used Boehm's cylinder bore and parabolic head plus his arrangement of the fingerholes, it was the same flute with different mechanism and was thus in effect the “Council Medal flute” just as much as Boehm's was!! 

Of course, Carte is (possibly deliberately) missing three key points which must by now be obvious to any objective reader.  Firstly, the Jury citation for the Council Medal made no specific reference whatsoever to Boehm’s cylinder bore and “parabolic” head; secondly, the Council Medal was not awarded to Boehm for his exhibition flutes alone; and finally, the Council Medal recognized outstanding ideas, not objects, and was thus an intellectual award to which Boehm alone was personally entitled.  As we have taken some pains to point out, there was really no such thing as a “Council Medal Flute”.  Not only that, but the main features of Boehm’s flute Patent (the metal cylinder bore and the so-called “parabolic” head) were not so much as mentioned in the official Jury citation but were instead included in the far more general statement regarding “acoustical proportions” in a citation which covered far more than flutes in any case! 

Carte’s Patent flutes certainly used a number of the elements noted by the Jury for which Boehm received his award, notably the bringing of the “acoustical proportions of tubes and the fingerholes of wind instruments into correct numbers and measurement” and certain elements of the “mechanism for the keys which gives facility and precision to the execution, and by which the former difficulty of reaching or stopping the holes at great distances, or of large size, is now surmounted”.  However, Carte clearly expects his readers to miss the very important point that in that sense, his design was almost completely derivative and hence clearly not deserving of independent recognition from an innovation standpoint. The only real differences were in the details of the mechanism - Carte's mechanism is rather different, albeit based on the general style of mechanism and keywork pioneered by Boehm. 

Carte may have expected his readers to miss these points, but the Jury appears to have been in no doubt whatever regarding the truth of the matter!  They recommended the award of the Council medal to Boehm for, among other things, his intellectual originality in designing his mechanism as exhibited on his own products (flutes and oboe), not to Carte for his highly derivative flute as exhibited by Rudall & Rose.  The Jury had the same opportunity to recommend the award of a Council Medal to Carte for his intellectual achievement in creating his new mechanism (his sole innovation) if they had chosen to do so.  They declined, and accordingly Carte had no legitimate claim whatsoever to the attachment of a Council Medal to his own flute designs. 

Hence, to suggest on the basis of the inclusion of certain aspects of Boehm’s overall design concept that Carte’s flute effectively merited the award of the Council Medal for innovation (to which only an individual, not a flute, was actually entitled, as the Jury obviously knew very well) is a very long stretch indeed!  Carte’s published inscription on his Patent flutes clearly implies (and was doubtless intended to imply) that they merited both medals and thus embodied a higher level of merit than Boehm’s own designs. It should by now be objectively apparent that this represents an extreme case of “salesman’s license” on Carte’s part!!

Setting aside the intrinsic merits (or rather, the lack thereof) of Carte’s claims with respect to his Patent flutes, the double designation applied by Carte to his own flutes by comparison with the single designation applied to Boehm’s design certainly appears indicative of a salesman’s desire on Carte’s part to inflate the merits of his own flute by comparison with that of Boehm, and also represents rather shabby treatment of Boehm in appropriating an accolade awarded to Boehm personally and denied to Carte by the Jury.  This is also reflected in the listing of the articles displayed under the entry for Rudall & Rose in the list of exhibitors.  Carte’s Patent flutes come first and have the longest write-up, followed by Boehm’s flute and lastly by the improved “ordinary” flute. 

In all of this we see a clear intention to promote the Carte Patent flutes over and above the standard Boehm instrument. As far as the Jury was concerned, Carte’s claim to innovation did not merit the level of recognition accorded to Boehm.  But this did not deter Carte in the least – he relied on the undoubted probability that few if any of his readers would make themselves sufficiently well-informed to spot the discrepancies in his published claims.  Indeed, it would appear that none of his immediate rivals did so, otherwise there would surely have been considerable criticism of his action?!?  The key is that in order to understand the truth of the matter, one first has to understand the award criteria, which would have involved reading the “fine print” with a degree of attention.   It is of course quite possible that Carte himself did not bother to check the true facts – as witness to his capacity for carelessness in this regard we have only to look at his blatantly incorrect statements regarding the Boehm patent, which any of his rivals could have challenged incontestably had they taken the trouble themselves to check his statements! 

Upon any objective study of the true facts of the matter, the double award designation applied to Carte’s Patent flute can only be viewed as a very clear attempt to attribute an inflated degree of merit in the eyes of the 1851 Jury to which the instrument was not in fact entitled in their eyes – the only eyes which counted.  In the final analysis, Carte’s action in applying credit to his own flute for an award that was actually won by Boehm personally for his intellectual innovations scarcely supports the credibility of Carte’s stated respect for Boehm.

Carte’s Claims regarding the basis for Rudall & Rose winning the Prize Medal

The above discussion regarding the Council Medal brings us directly to a further point – Carte’s claim in the Postscript that the Prize Medal was awarded to his flute “for the improvement I have been enabled to make in Boehm’s Flute as regards facility of fingering”.  Now that the basis for  Carte’s application of the Council Medal to his own flute has collapsed, it seems prudent that we examine the basis for the award of the Prize Medal more closely.

We have already discussed the criteria for the two Medal awards which could be obtained.  We have seen that the Prize Medal recognised outstanding workmanship and production techniques while the Council Medal recognised innovation of ideas or their application. The two awards thus recognised two completely distinct areas of excellence – the one manual, the other intellectual - and quite intentionally implied no relative ranking whatsoever, greatly easing the task of the Jury.  This award system had actually been established at the request of the Juries themselves specifically to recognize entirely distinct criteria and hence to avoid any implications of relative merit! 

This of course makes complete nonsense of Carte’s previously-quoted statement in his 1857 “Times” advertisement that “there were three awards, representing three degrees of merit”. As soon as one applies the Awards criteria discussed above to the matter under discussion, the true situation becomes quite clear, in the present authors’ opinion at least.  The Prize Medal was to be awarded for outstanding execution of ideas rather than for the ideas themselves. The cited objects were only relevant as the vehicles upon which the makers had demonstrated their skill. Carte’s Patent flutes as manufactured by Rudall & Rose met this criterion perfectly – the makers were utilising the then-new technique of all-metal construction (as included in the Boehm Patent notwithstanding Carte’s extraordinary claim to the contrary, discussed elsewhere), and doing so to a very high standard using a challenging showpiece.  Carte’s 1851 Patent flutes with their very elegant but rather delicate mechanism required an extremely high standard of workmanship in order to function properly and thus gave Rudall & Rose a perfect vehicle upon which to demonstrate their manufacturing expertise. There can be little doubt that they fully merited their award!

Presumably, Rudall & Rose’s Medal-winning workmanship was applicable to all of the flutes that they made, not only Carte’s.  But by virtue of its relative complexity, his flute undoubtedly provided them with an ideal vehicle through which to demonstrate their skill to the Jury, and this may perhaps explain the fact that Carte’s flutes were specifically cited.  We shall examine this matter further in a following section.

Some evidence of the relative implications of the two Medal awards in the eyes of the Juries (the only eyes which counted) may be gathered from the fact that, while 2,918 Prize Medals were awarded, only 170 exhibitors were judged to have earned the Council Medal.  Clearly there were, then as now, far fewer individuals with truly original ideas than there were people with skilled hands!  The relative proportion of awards granted in the two categories shows that the Juries understood their business very well indeed and were readily able to distinguish between innovation and mere execution of ideas.

In summary, the Prize Medal was won (and doubtless very fairly won) by Rudall & Rose for their undoubtedly fine execution of Carte’s design.  The Award criteria make it abundantly clear that innovation did not enter into the matter, and hence Carte himself did not win any award at all for his highly derivative design. Carte’s claim to have won the Prize Medal “for the improvement I have been enabled to make in Boehm’s Flute as regards facility of fingering” can only be regarded as completely spurious.

If any doubt remained that Carte’s design was not the basis for the award of the Prize Medal, it is only necessary to review the rest of the Prize Medal awards on the official List to which Carte referred but which he failed to quote in full after making a start with Card.  Apart from the awards to Carte’s fellow London flute-makers Pask and Ward (albeit not specifically for their flutes), Prize Medals specifically for flutes were in fact won by no less than three other makers – Buffet and Clair Godfroy of Paris (the latter for his own rendition of the Boehm flute, among others!) and Eisenbrandt of Baltimore, USA.  

None of these makers exhibited any innovative designs, focusing instead upon high-quality renditions of existing designs.  It follows that these other awards were not for any design innovations developed by the makers in question, any more than Rudall & Rose’s award was for Carte’s design.  All of these awards, like that gained by Rudall & Rose, were won by the makers for the fine workmanship displayed in their exhibits. If innovation of design had come into the matter of the Prize Medal awards, the exhibits of the other flute makers with their essentially standard designs would not have qualified.

Carte’s Double Standard with respect to the Boehm flute

Now that we have clarified both the Council Medal and Prize Medal situations at the 1851 Exhibition, it is perhaps time to reflect upon another aspect of this rather unsatisfactory affair.  The record shows unarguably that Carte was quite comfortable with the notion of the transfer of an award from one instrument to another, even if that instrument did not actually win the award. Given our understanding at this point that the Prize Medal was awarded strictly for workmanship and that Rudall & Rose’s workmanship was presumably applied uniformly to all of their products, it must now be obvious that Carte could far more legitimately have applied the Prize Medal designation to his firm’s rendition of the standard Boehm flute (along with the Council Medal which he did apply) than he could apply the Council Medal to his own flute. 

In fact, the only legitimate basis for Carte not acting in this manner would be if Rudall & Rose did not make the Boehm instrument to the same high standard, reserving their “Prize Medal” standard of workmanship for Carte’s Patent flutes. Otherwise, Carte’s cavalier approach to the appropriation of Medal honors should surely have worked both ways, and Boehm’s flute should have been equally entitled to the same double designation!

It is extremely difficult for the present authors to believe that a firm with the reputation of Rudall, Rose, Carte & Co. would have deliberately applied a double standard of workmanship to their products. Hence their failure to attach the Prize Medal for workmanship to their other products (including Boehm’s flute) while assigning credit in the other direction can only be viewed as a deliberate strategy intended to attach an inflated degree of merit to Carte’s design by comparison with Boehm’s flute which the 1851 Jury obviously felt that it did not deserve.  In effect, Carte was quite flagrantly reversing the findings of the Jury and hoping that no-one would notice!  Until now, he has been justified in his hopes.  On the face of it, pure salesmanship with little attention paid to the true facts. 

The only alternative to this very unsatisfactory finding is that the firm was quite deliberately applying a double standard of workmanship to their products. Hardly consistent with the reputation for quality that they had so painstakingly built up over the years! 

At this point it is worth pausing to note that, although it was less mechanically complex (and hence less prone to regulation problems) than the Carte design, the standard Boehm flute nonetheless offered a very comparable degree of construction challenge to that posed by Carte’s flutes. This was certainly reflected in the case of the Prize Medals awarded to Clair Godfroy for their full range of flutes, including their rendition of their own most complex model, the Boehm cylinder flute. This being the case, one is forced to wonder why the Prize Medal for excellence of workmanship was specifically awarded to Rudall & Rose for “Carte’s Boehm Patent Flute” and not, as in the case of Godfroy, for their full range of Boehm-based flutes.   

The logical presumption is that the firm had invested a great deal more effort in making their “Exhibition” examples of Carte’s flute than they had with respect to their rendition of Boehm’s model!  Otherwise, surely the award for excellence of workmanship would have been granted for “silver flutes on Boehm’s Patent”?!?  Buffet, for example, received his Prize Medal for the manufacturing excellence of his entire exhibit, of which flutes were only one component, implying a uniform standard of excellence.  Eisenbrandt and Godfroy received their workmanship awards for “flutes” without qualification regarding the specific model, again implying a certain uniformity of quality. 

By contrast, the Prize Medal awards to other makers such as Pask and Ward as well as Rudall & Rose singled out the specific components of their exhibits which had convinced the Jury that such an award was due to the makers concerned. The implication of noticeably variable quality of execution between the various components of the individual exhibits is surely very clear.  It would seem that the Jury members were very wide awake indeed.  It would be extremely interesting to have the opportunity of comparing Rudall & Rose’s “Exhibition” versions of their Boehm and Carte models.

A further point to note is the fact that if the Prize Medal designation was to be legitimately applied to the production version of Carte’s flute, that version should by rights have been made to the same standard as the example which was on display at the Exhibition.  Again, it would be interesting to have the opportunity to determine if this was the case.

There is of course one other possibility.  The Rudall & Rose exhibits may indeed have been to a uniform standard, and the Jury may have been ready to award the Prize Medal to Rudall & Rose for “flutes”, just as they did in the cases of Godfroy and Eisenbrandt, or for “silver flutes on Boehm’s Patent”. This would speak far more positively to the commitment of the firm to a uniform standard of quality.

However, such an outcome would not have suited Carte at all – all of his associated actions show that he was clearly out to promote his own Patent design over that of Boehm.  It thus seems quite possible that the highly persuasive and business-minded Carte may have somehow persuaded the Jury to recognise his flute specifically in citing the award to Rudall & Rose. The only credible alternative to this is to presume that Rudall & Rose, abetted by their new partner Carte, deliberately presented a noticeably higher quality rendition of Carte’s flutes than they did of Boehm’s.  Neither approach reflects much credit on those involved when it came to protecting the interests of their associate Boehm.


Well, there we have it!  Not a particularly satisfactory finding, but it is truly difficult to objectively view Carte’s claims with respect to the awards at the 1851 Exhibition as being anything other than an extreme stretching of the facts to breaking point for the purposes of salesmanship.  The only credible alternative is to attribute a truly extraordinary ignorance of the facts to Carte, a view which would be very much at odds with his obvious level of intelligence and with the opportunities that he undoubtedly had to become well informed.

In any case, as we have pointed out in Historical Veracity, the motivation for false statements of this kind is immaterial if we are concerned with establishing historical facts – all that matters is the facts themselves and the correction of errors. 

Overall, Carte’s published claims to the basis for the recognition of his Patent flutes at the 1851 Exhibition can be readily shown to be completely without foundation outside of the realm of salesmanship. Unless he was remarkably ill-informed himself, Carte must have known this perfectly well, and it would seem that he was relying on the undeniable probability that few if any of his readers would be sufficiently familiar with, or take the trouble to make themselves familiar with, the award criteria so as to be able to challenge him.  In this belief, history has proved him right until now – even his rivals appear to have swallowed his story without taking the trouble to check it out, just as they accepted his obvious gaffes regarding the Boehm patent.  

As with so many of these studies of ours, some readers might now be saying “Who cares?!?  It was all a long time ago anyway!!”   Our answer is that anything that can shed light upon the character and credibility of the individuals upon whose writings we are dependent in large part for our information on this period is of value since it helps us to judge the credibility of those writings and evaluate the interactions between individuals.  On this basis, it is clear that any statements that Carte may have made in connection with the promotion of his business interests must be treated with caution.


Thanks to Adrian Duncan for researching these issues so thoroughly and bringing the implications to our attention.  Thanks also to those readers who commented on the earlier draft, helping us to refine the article further.


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  Created October 2006, last revised June 2007