Jordan Wainwright is the earliest known flute maker to be working in Australia. Originally working in London, possibly in partnership with his brother, he is recorded in London trade directories as a flute maker from about 1820 until about 1850. He is known to have travelled to Sydney with his wife in 1853 and by 1857 had established himself in George Street, Sydney where he worked in several premises until 1883. He died in Newtown in 1884 at the age of 86. Apart from being recorded as a musical instrument maker at various times he is also recorded in Sydney trade directories as a wood turner, suggesting he certainly had the skills to produce quality work rather than merely importing instruments and stamping them with his mark.
Wainwright exhibited in several colonial and international exhibitions such as the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition of Australasia in Melbourne, a preliminary Sydney exhibition to the London International exhibition held in 1861, the London International Exhibition in 1862 itself and the Paris International Exhibition in 1867. Several of his instruments both during his London period and in Australia are stamped "Patent" however, there appears to be no record of such a patent existing in either English or Australian records. It is also unclear what the exact patent would be as his flutes are usually quite typical simple system instruments of the first half of the nineteenth century.
The reasons surrounding Wainwright's decision to leave London are also unclear. Whether it was the pull of a new land with new resources and the prospect of prosperity from the gold discoveries or the push of an increasingly competitive market in London is uncertain. Clearly when in London Wainwright would have seen several new developments in flute design and equally would have missed seeing many others after he left. This possibly explains why he went to Australia but continued manufacturing flutes in an older style, still using a simple fingering system. This dislocation from the English musical instrument making scene possibly suggests that Wainwright could not compete with other makers and the amount of innovation occuring in London. However, although Wainwright adhered to this older style of general design he adopted the use of new materials in Australia. This included the use of a native timber, Myall (Acacia Pendula) and silver from Moruya on the New South Wales south coast. It is unclear at this stage how many of his Australian flutes were made using Australian materials but an instrument comprising them was used as his showpiece instrument for the exhibitions mentioned above.
Curator, music & musical instruments