We acknowledge Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and give respect to Elders – past and present – and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
H6847 Clarinet, six keys, boxwood / ivory / brass / ebony with case, made by John Cramer, London, 1790-1796. Click to enlarge.

Clarinet made by John Cramer

This clarinet is significant as it is the earliest clarinet in the Powerhouse Museum's collection. As an example of an instrument dating from the late eighteenth century it helps to illustrate the technological development of the clarinet and the changes occurring in music over this time. In this context it provides a useful contrast with the usual type of clarinet manufactured and played today. Unlike a typical modern instrument this clarinet is made of boxwood and includes only six keys arranged in a simple system.

This instrument along with others in the Museum's collection from around this period help to document wind instrument making in London during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Apart from Cramer makers such as Hale (flute), Astor (flute) and Cahusac (oboe) are also represented. Collectively they give some indication of the types of instruments by popular London makers that would have been known and may have been used in Australia by English immigrants and visiting musicians during the colonial period.

Further Reading:

F. Geoffrey Rendall; The Clarinet, (Ernest Benn Ltd, London, 1971)

Albert Rice; The Clarinet In The Classical Period (Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 2003).

William Waterhouse; The New Langwill Index - a dictionary of musical wind-instruments makers and inventors (Tony Bingham, London, 1993).

Michael Lea
Curator, music & musical instruments.
February 2012


Object No.


Object Statement

Clarinet, six keys, boxwood / ivory / brass / ebony with case, made by John Cramer, London, 1790-1796

Physical Description

Clarinet of boxwood with six brass keys with square heads, the mouth piece (-1) is ebony, tapered and flattened for the reed, although there is no reed brace, the tenon joint (-6), is a short tapered joint, both ends have ivory collars, the first middle joint (-2) has three uncovered finger holes and three keyed holes, with square head, brass levered keys, 'blocks' have been left on the shaft of the joint for key attachments, the second middle joint (-3) has a short straight shaft with a bulbous ivory collar at the top, three uncovered finger holes and the bottom join bound in red and green waxed thread, the third middle joint has a finial like top - a swelling with an ivory band, one uncovered finger hole and three keyed holes with square headed brass keys on long levers, the joint is bound in red waxed thread. The foot joint (-5) is a conical shaped bell, with ivory bands top and bottom(the top band is split through and loose).Silver metal reed cover (-8)


Makers mark stamped on the front of first middle joint (-2), "CRAMER/LONDON", with a symbol of a unicorns head. Makers mark on the top of the shaft (-3), stamped, "CRAMER/LONDON" symbol of a unicorns head, "DACRE. STRT./WESTR.". Makers mark, stamped on middle joint (-4) "CRAMER/LONDON" with a symbol of a unicorns head. Makers mark and information stamped on foot joint (-5) , "CRAMER/LONDON/SUCCESSOR/TO/G.MILLER" with a symbol of a unicorns head.



John Cramer was an English woodwind instrument and reed maker.



John Cramer is listed in the New Langwill Index as working with George Miller at 3 Dacre Street, Westminster from 1790 to 1796 and described as a rate payer. Miller is listed at this address from 1777 until 1790. From 1796 Cramer is listed as a rate payer at 20 Charing Cross. This instrument, stamped with both the Dacre Street address and also the fact that John Cramer is the successor to George Miller, suggests it was made between 1790 and 1796. George Miller is regarded as the earliest English clarinet maker (see Rice, p.42).


Credit Line

Purchased 1961

Acquisition Date

24 May 1961

Cite this Object


Clarinet made by John Cramer 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 5 March 2021, <https://ma.as/246761>


{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/246761 |title=Clarinet made by John Cramer |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=5 March 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}