PAST TIMES BY JOHN ASHTON
Located at the edge of Riverside Cemetery in New Glasgow is an unadorned grave marker. This stone has a maestro-like view overlooking the gently flowing East River. On this headstone is chiselled a name followed by the single word “Musician.” The term “inventor” should also have been etched beside this Pictou County’s man’s name.
Charles Logan Chisholm was born in New Glasgow in the year 1865. He was one of seven children raised by parents Daniel and Christina (Logan) Chisholm. Charles’s father ran a well-known saddler and harness-making business as well as an entertainment venue called Machines Hall located on corner of MacLean and Archimedes Streets.
Music and entertainment abounded during the time when young Charles was growing up in New Glasgow. The chance to attend concerts, hear music and watch creative products being manufactured at his father’s hall and harness shop would have a great influence on his musical and inventive career throughout his life.
Leaving New Glasgow at the young age of 15, Charles would start his dedicated music career at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While at this prestigious school he studied under some of the most influential music teachers of this time. Prominent instructors such as Julius Eichberg and Canadian-born Alfred De Seve would introduce Charles L. Chisholm to the world of music of performing, teaching and directing music. While in Boston he was offered a job at Oliver Ditson and Company, one of most influential music publishing houses in United States. Charles would also tutor private students in the Boston area.
At 21 years of age, Charles moved back to the Maritime Provinces where he began his organizational career, starting a violin class in Amherst and co-ordinating the violin department at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. In 1889, he was encouraged to attend the Belgium School of Violin in the Paris Conservatory, but instead moved to Stuttgart, Germany, where he received intense violin training from the “celebrated, brilliant concert violinist teacher” Edmund Singer. Charles also took lessons from world famous musicians Percy Goetschius, Paul Klengel, Karl Doppler and Joseph A. Mayer. While studying in Germany, he was a member of the Wurttemberg Orchestra and was “lead violinist in the Court of Wilhelm 1st of Germany prior to World War One.” During his stay in Germany, Charles also travelled around Europe as an invited of many famous musicians.
Prof. Chisholm returned to North America on 1893 and moved to Pennsylvania, United States where he taught music, became head organist at Olivet Presbyterian Church and lead concert director for the city. A year later Mount Allison was in need of a Dean for its Music Department. Knowing Charles’s talent and inspirational teaching ability the Sackville all girls school offered him the job. On June 5, 1895, Charles Logan Chisholm married Alice W. Gibson of Marysville, New Brunswick. In just over a year the couple started their family of six children.
Prof. Chisholm would strike out on his own in 1898 as a private and public music teacher and inventor. Leaving Mount A., Charles, Alice and growing family moved to New Glasgow. He became a music teacher at the local high school and began private lessons at his March Street residence. Prof. Chisholm also organized the Pictou County Conservatory of Music in New Glasgow. His musical genius was called for all over the province of Nova Scotia. Prof. Chisholm helped set up music educational programs in public schools in Halifax, Sydney and North Sydney. He was credited with introducing innovative and successful music programs in Nova Scotia schools. On many occasions, Prof. Chisholm’s motivating and thorough way of teaching was publicly acknowledged and praised.
In the early 1900s Prof. Chisholm began to experiment ways to improve sound and recording. He invented many devices that were registered patents in United States, Canada and Europe. Several of his inventions and technical improvement were adopted and sold by several major North American companies. Some of his inventions patented were the “Improvements to a Sound Producing Mechanism,” “Improvements to the Telephone Transmitter and Receiver,” “A Talking Machine,” “A Vest Pocket Telephone Transmitter,” “Improvements to the Telephone Signal” and many other interesting sound enhancement creations. Most of his registered inventions can be viewed online.
A news article dated Dec. 8, 1916, stated, “After a long illness Charles L. Chisholm passed away from a sever paralytic stroke at the Vendome Hotel in New Glasgow. Of this town’s sons he possessed the greatest musical genius and through his teaching and playing he did much to develop the art. During his illness he was tenderly nursed by his wife.”
John Ashton of Bridgeville is a local historian and the province’s representative to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.