Flute key marks and makers




As our researches into the old flutes continue, we come across flutes that have interesting and maybe meaningful markings underneath their keys.  These marks seem to take several forms:

  • initials, eg "AL", "F", "IN", "RR".

  • names, eg "Wylde". 

  • numerical marks, such as Xll, \/// or ///

  • a combination of marks.

It may prove valuable to researchers to record somewhere whenever these marks are found - after some time a pattern may emerge.  This is such a place.  Please feel free to let me know whenever you come across such a marking, and I'll add it to the list.

Note I have introduced the expression "Flute Brand" to encompass makers and dealers.

Keys with numerical marks

To give this page more room to grow, I've moved the section on numerical marks to its own page.

Keys marked "AL"

It's generally believed that AL was Alexander Liddle.  According to the NLI, Liddle flourished in London from 1847 to 1879.  He was listed as a "Wind Musical Instrument Maker" and employed the marks "Liddle, London" and "AL".  Note no decimal point between A and L.  We don't know if that's an oversight or maybe a distinction of importance.  The marks we see under keys have the decimal point.

So far, flutes with these names have employed keys stamped "AL":

Flute Brand Owned/Reported by:
D'Almaine & Co Ciaron Carson "Last Night's Fun"
G.J. Best Patrick Dunn
Butler Marc Lfgren 
Butler (2 flutes) Jem Hammond
Liddle Dave Ogden
Keith Prowse & Co Ebay sale info
Metzler Jem Hammond
Metzler & Co Terry McGee
Metzler & Co Mark Saul/Terry McGee
Metzler & Co Jem Hammond
Metzler & Co (engraved "1857") Michael Eskin
Metzler & Co Latticino (from Chiff & Fipple)
Metzler & Co (LH Bb band flute)  Patrick Dunn
Moon (cylindrical 8-key) Terry McGee
Unstamped (longbody style) Dave Ogden
Unstamped Jem Hammond
Unstamped MarkP
Unstamped Pauline Allen
Unstamped piccolo Jem Hammond
Wainwright / Sydney* Terry McGee

*Note we have yet to determine whether flutes stamped Wainwright from the period he worked in London also used AL keys.

A question we'd like answered is did Liddle make all the flutes with his name under the keys, or was he a general key maker and supplier to other flute makers?  We have to consider too the possibility that the answer was "some of both".  Liddle seems sufficiently interesting that we should seek out his story separately.

Here's an example of the AL mark:

Note this flute has not just "AL", but numerical marks as well.  

From a Butler flute, information and image kindly supplied by Marc Lfgren 

Since not all AL keyed flutes have the numerical marks, does this lend support to the Liddle as key-maker theory?  Or was marking shafts a phase Liddle went through and moved on from?

Another "A*L"

In what seems an extraordinary coincidence, there is also a French maker with the same initials, Arsne Lecomte, wind maker in Paris at the turn of 20th century.  He uses a star, rather than a decimal point, to separate the letters.  And the characters in his mark are raised, in the style of a hallmark, not sunken, in the style of a punching.  Finally they are set in a horizontally-stretched sunken rhomboid: <A*L>.


Keys marked C

The C# touch on my Geo Rudall, Willis Fecit flute is neatly stamped with a capital C.

Keys marked F

C and C# foot keys from an unmarked flute resembling a Wylde. 

Note the F mark under one touch, and the four slashes on both shafts.

F also appears under the keys of a flute by Blackman, London, currently in my possession.

Flute Brand Owner / Reported by
B&S (Barnett Samuel) Dulcet Jem Hammond
Blackman McGee
Butler (1893-1915) Jon Cornia
Clementi Jem Hammond
Fentum (on Eb key) Jem Hammond
Unstamped Jem Hammond
Unstamped MarkP
Wylde ?
Wylde Jem Hammond

Keys marked Fs

Jem Hammond reports "Fs" on the low C# and high C keys of a Clementi flute which bears F stamps on some other keys.

Keys marked H

Jem Hammond reports a key from a Hawkes and Son Bb band flute with the letter H.

Keys Marked H&L

Jem Hammond reported a Fentum with what appeared to be H&I stamped on most of its keys, but F on the Eb key.

Note again the coexistence of numerical and initial markings.


But Jem has come back with more information.  Another Fentum shows that the letters are really H&L.

Interesting too the keys on the two flutes seem to have come from different key-makers.  The markings are "F" on the Bb and G# keys, "H&L" on the low C# and "I.N" on the short F.   In the previous set, the F was on the Eb key.

We can also see "///" workshop slashes on the foot key shanks.


So, who fits the initials H&L?  Possibilities would have to include Haite & Leach, listed briefly between 1852 and 1855 as woodwind and brass instrument makers.  They seem mostly involved with clarinets, but may have had a less public life in keymaking.

Keys marked H S or HS

Jem Hammond reports finding keys crudely marked H S on both a Hawkes & Son and a Butler flute.



Keys marked "IF"

Once again a mark under the C# foot key, once more the period up at waist level like a decimal point.  Daryl King provided us with the image shown.

Is it possible that this is a fuller version of the "F" discussed above?

Again the I could be a J.  There are no London flutemakers with initials I.F., but there are a few with J.F.

Flute Brand Owned/Reported by:
Blackman Daryl King

Keys marked IH

Nobody has supplied any images of IH markings yet, but we should be on the lookout for them.  Reputed (in the NLI) to be the mark for John Hale, London, 1785-1804, which puts him considerably earlier than most of the flutemakers we deal with in this site. 

Montreal maker Boaz Berney reports seeing IH on flutes by Cahusac and Collier, and quotes Ardal Powell in regard to flutes marked Florio and Gedney.  The IH mark is allegedly found on flutes by Astor, Kusder, G. Miller, Proser, while Hale's own flutes were sold by Goulding & Co.

Keys marked "IN"

The New Langwill Index doesn't list any maker that fits into the initials I.N. - a plausible suggestion is that I.N. was a silversmith keymaker and not a flute maker.  "I" often stands for "J" - eg the mark IHALE for John Hale - but still no one obvious with those initials.

It may occur to you that it could be NI rather than IN, however note that the letter N in Times Roman has no seraph at the bottom of the oblique line.  

Ciarn Somers reports the example below, on a flute stamped "George & Manby".  Again, the NLI makes no reference to George or Manby.  Ciarn reports having seen the inscription on flutes by Rudall & Rose, and seeing a Rudall & Rose also stamped George & Manby.  It is possible that they were a music dealership in Fleet Street. 

Flute Brand Owned / Reported by:
Fentum Jon Cochrane
Fentum Jem Hammond
George & Manby Ciarn Somers
George & Manby Ebay sale / Jem Hammond
Rudall & Rose Ciarn Somers
Rudall & Rose Chris Wilkes
Wylde Pamela Carr
Wylde Chris Wilkes

Keys marked M

This C# key touch bears a neatly marked M - the flute itself marked Butler, Dublin, but in a curiously unsophisticated manner!  Thanks to Lawrence Mallette.

Keys marked N

Only one reported so far.  Jem Hammond advises:

Paine & Hopkins 9-key (B foot) concert flute #54 (Flute stamped "Paine & Hopkins, 69 Cornmill, London" - P&H were music publishers and flute dealers, not clear if actual makers, and at that address 1821-37) - "N" on long C key - only stamped key.


Keys marked "R" or "RR"

Rudall & Rose were the most prestigious makers in the first half of the 19th century.  In most cases, as far as we know, the underside of their keys were not marked.  

I'm indebted to Lawrence Mallette for the image shown of the underside of three keys from his RR no 4256.  Assuming the same stamp was used for each (but not totally successfully aligned) the stamp is RR.

Jem Hammond also reports a Rudall Rose flute with keys marked in a single R, but possibly preceded by another letter.


Flute Brand Key Mark Owned/Reported by:
Rudall & Rose RR Lawrence Mallette
           " R or ?R Jem Hammond

An interesting question arises - were these:

  • stamped by Rudall & Rose, 

  • stamped by an independent key-maker as being for Rudall & Rose, or 

  • stamped by an independent flute-maker as being for Rudall & Rose?

And, in any case, why were the other keys not similarly stamped?

Another form of RR?

Bob Perron mentions an RR stamp which doesn't sound the same as the ones above, in two respects:

  • He describes it as "Under 4x magnification, the mark looks like an offset double-strike of an R, much like the old Rolls-Royce logo, only much more crowded."

  • Secondly, he describes the flute as: "Apparently of French manufacture, but sold in England under the dealer's Mark 'Douglas & Co'."

Douglas & Co are listed in the NLI as Musical Instrument dealers in London, late 19th early 20th century.

Keys marked "T"?

Jem Hammond came across this mark under a key on a flute by Fentum.  Under cross-examination, Jem adds:

"Well, I can't honestly totally rule out it being a scruffy F, but I don't think what shows matches our known Fs too well. Also I can see what appears to be the only lightly struck, symmetrical R-hand half of the top of the T. I wouldn't stake too much on it, but I think it's worth listing as a ?T with appropriate caveats."  So, be warned!

Keys marked "WYLDE"

Neatly stamped, image provided by Rob Sharer.

The NLI advises that Henry Wylde flourished London 1832 - 82.  He was earlier with Rudall & Rose, and is listed from 1835 as a Flute Maker.


Flute Brand Owned/Reported by:
Pask Terry McGee
Simpson Jem Hammond
Wylde / From Rudall and Rose Rob Sharer

So the question here is - did Wylde make the flute or just the keys?  And notice that Wylde appears in the entry on I.N, but this time as the maker, not the marking!

Flute Key Makers

Were there other flute key makers?  A Google search gives these hits:

  • Lloyd, flute key maker, 2 Broadway, Westminster, (Insurance Policy, 1832)

  • JANE LLOYD: I live at No. 9, Plumtree-court, my husband is a flute-key maker. (Old Bailey, 1819)  Conceivably the same family as above.

  • Richard ARNOTT b. ca 1803 London (a native of St Lukes, at some point) - had a wife Sarah, when convicted and transported to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in 1827.  Flute key maker, and later a chairmaker.  (From a genealogy site).

  • Mrs Cook.  From the trial of William Camp we glean this tidbit:----JENKINSON. I am in the employ of Mrs. Cook, of Vauxhallshe makes silver keys for the prosecutor (Rose) I made these four keys.

So far, we cannot link any of these to keys, other than to wonder if C in the Geo Rudall, Willis Fecit flute could be Mrs Cook.  If she made keys for Willis while he was making Rudall's flutes, Rudall is quite likely to have mentioned her to Rose when he joined him.

None of these names show up in the NLI as makers.  It is good to establish that flute key making was an activity carried out in isolation as well as in association with flute making.

Keymarks used, listed by Flute Brand

Did any flute brands use keys by more than than one maker?  This can best be answered by rejigging the data as in this table. 

Flute brand

Keymarks used by this brand
Astor IH
Barnett Samuel (B&S) F
Best, G.J. AL
Blackman F, IF
Butler AL, M, HS or HS
Cahusac IH
Clementi F, Fs
Collier IH
Douglas & Co Overlapping RR
Fentum F, H&L, IN, T(?)
Florio IH
Gedney IH
Geo Rudall, Willis Fecit C
George & Manby IN
Hawkes & Son H S, H
Keith Prowse & Co AL
Kusder IH
Liddle AL
Miller, G. IH
Metzler AL
Metzler & Co AL
Moon (cylindrical 8-key) AL
Paine & Hopkins N
Proser IH
Rudall & Rose IN, R, RR, ?R
Simpson WYLDE
Wylde F, IN, WYLDE
Unstamped flutes AL, A*L, F

I've highlighted flute makers who are reasonably likely to also have been their own keymakers.  Don't rely on that yet until we see a lot more data.

Note that suddenly we are interested in the keymarks on unstamped flutes, as, with the rest of the data beginning to fall into place, it might give us an idea of who made the unstamped flutes.

The question also arises did any of these brands sometimes have no stamps under the keys?  We should note that too.


I haven't included any Hallmarks in this account, at least at this stage.  We may come back to that if we find useful examples.  Some makers were renowned for them, for example Monzani & Hill, see Rick Wilson's Monzani page.


A bit too early to jump to any conclusions - we're going to have to assemble a lot more data.  So pop those pesky keys off your old flute and look underneath, and let us know what you find.  My thanks to those above who did!

Related pages

Numerical Key Marks
Alexander Liddle

Back to McGee-Flutes Home Page

Created:  Aug 2004