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Various Players

We conclude our treatment of the Musical Glasses with a quick survey of other musical glasses players:

Mr. Cartwright  

A certain Mr. Cartwright (his first name is a mystery) performed on the musical glasses in London in April, 1783. The British Museum possesses a handbill, on which

Mr. Cartwright respectfully acquaints the nobility and gentry that he has taken Mr. Sechard's convenient rooms at no. 115 Pall Mall, next to Carlton House, where, in a style peculiar to himself, he will perform on the Musical Glasses.... The reception he met with at Bath, and the persuasion of those people of fashion, who countenanced him there, have encouraged him to exhibit in the Metropolis. The dulcet tones, in imitation of the human voice, and soft notes of harmony, which have gained an admirer in every person who has honoured the performance, are the recommendation on which Mr. Cartwright rests for public support.... It having been thought that the Musical Glasses would not admit of great execution, Mr. Cartwright (hopes not presumptuously) takes the liberty of informing the public that he plays Fischer's favourite minuet, with all its variations, and several others, no less difficult, which were never attempted by any other performer in public, on the glasses.1

On February 1st, 1787, Cartwright returned to Bath, as advertised in the Bath Chronicle:

Upper rooms. By desire. Mr. Cartwright's Public Breakfast will be on Saturday the 3d of February, 1787, attended with French Horns, Clarionets, etc. After breakfast Mr. Cartwright will perform on his new-invented grand set of musical glasses, several favourite compositions of Handel's Fischer's and Shield's etc.2

A second advertisment, of February 22nd, repeats the sentence "The dulcet tones..." from his London announcement of 1783, and adds the following: "He also constructs this melodious apparatus for sale. Terms for instruction, 3 lessons for one guinea, one guinea entrance." Apparently Cartwright continued to tour for some time, for in an 1827 encyclopedia, the article on the "Harmonica" includes:

Some readers will recollect the performance of Mr. Cartwright a few years ago in different parts of Britain. In the latter case (i.e. Cartwright's as contrased with the harmonica proper) the glasses are arranged in a frame or box.3


Dr. Edmund Cullen of Dublin, who lived in the second half of the eighteenth century, was another performer on the musical glasses. He used thirty-five glasses, arranged in a special way to facilitate playing, and used a dampening device to prevent prolonged vibration. He claimed that his improvements made his instrument fully the equal of Franklin's armonica, and seems to have enjoyed considerable popularity in Ireland. Cullen claimed to have heard Fischer's celebrated rondo, Vivaldi's fifth concerto and music by Giardini played with ease and clarity. [??? Full details are given after the reprint of Franklin's letter in the Encyclopedia Britannica, third edition.]

An Edmund Cullen is listed as President of the King�s and Queen�s College of Physicians in Ireland in 1787.

Dr. Edmund Cullen also published a book: Physical and chemical essays; translated from the original Latin of Sir Torbern Bergman, ... By Edmund Cullen, M.D. ... To which are added notes and illustrations, by the translator. ... in two volumes, in 1784.J.E. Franklin  

No relation to Benjamin Franklin. J.E. Franklin published an Introduction to the Knowledge of the Seraphim, or Musical Glasses in 1813. It was a method for playing thirty upright glasses, and includes a selection of popular songs. He also offered Seraphims (musical glasses) for sale, and elicited a comment from a reviewer in the Gentleman's Magazine4: "We think 15 gns not a very moderate price for this fragile instrument."

The glasses continued to be popular throughout the nineteenth century. Scholes[???] records that in 1823 one Edwards

with two colleagues, gave performances in Scotland on a set of over 120 glasses, the largest of which held three gallons and the smallest of which was the size of a thimble, the whole providing a six octave scale.5

Around the middle of the nineteenth century there was a clergyman by the name of Rev. Thomas Jessop, Rector of Wighill in Yorkshire (from 1830 to about 1860) of whom it is recorded6 that he was

a man of prodigious learning, well read in Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, besides Latin and Greek. He was a good mathematician, had a knowledge of chemistry, played well on the violin. When he held an evening service in his house, he would accompany the singing by playing on musical glasses.7
Other Musical Glasses Players  

In Stainer and Barrett's Dictionary of Musical Terms (1888)8 we read in the entry for "Musical Glasses": "The instrument has been recently revived under the name of Copophone". 9 WHY? Was there someone named Cope? Was it a trade name? We may never know...

As time goes on, new names (why?) for the musical glasses seem to get stranger and stranger. In the Musical Times in 190110 we read:

You probably refer to the "Crystalphonicon," a species of musical glasses upon which a Mr. Arthur Lincoln, from New Orleans, performed, some thirty years ago, in London. He played on the glasses with his right hand and accompanied himself on the pianoforte with his left.

But Scholes quotes in his Companion11 what has to be the all-time record for the strangest and longest name for any musical instrument:

[The musical glasses have] the distinction of having had attached to it the longest section of the Greek language ever attached to any musical instrument, for a reader of the The Times wrote to that paper in 1932 to say that in his youth he had heard a performance the advertisement of which styled the instrument the Hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica.

Also worth note are two posters dating from around 1820–1840:

Positively for One Night only

A Hundred Musical Glasses
Upon a Scale of Magnitude never before displayed in this Town

The grandest, most ingenious, and exquisite
Of the Kind ever exhibited in the known World, the Particulars
of which are as follows:

Which met with such unbounded Applause at the Marquis of BUCKINGHAM'S, from a numerous Assemblage of British Nobility,at Stowe-House, on the 18th of February last, and at the Assembly Rooms in Sheffield and Doncaster.

T.S. sole Inventory and Proprietor of the Grand Harmonica, which consists of ONE HUNDRED MUSICAL GLASSES, on a Scale of Magnitude never before attempted, and which are arranged in five Treble Sets, to be performed on by five persons all at one time, and all of one Family, forming in the whole the most Grand, Ingenious and Exquisite Musical Performance in the World!!! The Harmonic Glasses, for Sweetness and Brilliancy of Tone, even in their original state, are indisputably the most Melodious of all other Instruments; but how far superior must they be on such an amazingly extensive Scale, as in the present instance; as it is evident that five Persons performing on the Glasses at one time must produce a fuller body of sound, and a much more complete and melodious chord, than the exertions of one Person (however excellent his skill) can possibly execute; in short, the combination of Harmony which they are capable of producing is indescribable; and nothing but the Testimony of the ear can convey an idea of their exquisite sounds, which may very justly, and with great propriety, be termed the very QUINTESSENCE of MUSIC.12

And another poster from the same time period:

Three Musical Prodigies!
The greatest acknowledged Wonder in the Art and Science of
Music the Age has yet produced,
The celebrated Three Miss Smiths,
Whose astonishing powers in the Harmonic Art have
justly entitled them to the appellation of
which includes the inimitable and unrivalled

Only TWELVE YEARS OF AGE, who is enabled, from Mr. SMITH'S Inventions, to perform the most difficult Pieces ON TWO VIOLINS at ONE TIME, VIOLIN and PIANO-FORTE at ONE TIME; also VIOLIN and VIOLONCELLO at ONE TIME. Miss SMITH also performs Scientifically on SIX INSTRUMENTS, viz. Violin, Piano-forte, Tenor, Violoncello, Musical Glasses, and Grand Harmonica; is capable of leading any Band or Orchestra, and is allowed to be the FIRST JUVENILE FEMALE VIOLIN PERFORMER IN EUROPE.13

1Quoted in King (1946) p.116

2Quoted in King (1946) p.116

3"Harmonica", Encyclopedia Edinensis (1827) vol. 4, p.103; quoted in King (1946) p.116

4vol.84, part 1, p.372

5Quoted in King (1946), p.118

6R.W. Hiley's Memoirs of Half a Century (1903); London; p. 313–4

7Quoted in King (1946) p. 119

8Stainer (1888)

9Quoted in King (1946) p. 119

10vol.42, 1901, p.126

11Scholes (1970)

12Quoted from King (1956), 62

13Quoted from King (1956), 62