Friday, October 1, 2021

ca. 1890s Blair & Baldwin Orchestra Drum

Snare drums of the late 1800s were only beginning to evolve towards the more standardized insturments of 20th century. Some of the earliest steps along this path of transformation can bee seen in this circa 1890s drum attributed to Boston's Blair & Baldwin.
1890s blair & baldwin snare drum
Though the makers label has faded to the point it can no longer be read, the lower counterhoop bears Blair & Baldwin's distinctive semicircular snare gate which was used later by their succesor, the F. E. Dodge Company, and Dodge's succesors Nokes & Nicolai. The drum also features a prominent "BB" imprint inside of the shell which presumably stands for "Blair & Baldwin".
blair & baldwin snare drum shell
antique blair & baldwin drum shell
The drum is formed around a single-ply, birds-eye maple shell with solid reinforcing rings. The shallow shell depth is a subtle forshadowing of the orchestra drums made in Boston during very early 1900s. Tensioning is accomplished via twelve prussian style rods, common in the 1880s and 1890s, and the snares are adjusted using a traditional snare strainer.
19th century snare drum strainer
antique blair & baldwin drum
Do you have a drum made by Blair & Baldwin? I would love to see it! Feel free to drop Lee a note at lee@vinson.net. And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com or follow @old_boston_drums on instagram.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Early 1900s F. E. Dodge Street Drum

Preserving collector grade instruments is one way to honor Boston's drum building past. Another is to recondition and revive survivng examples as playable musical instruments giving voice to those makers who have been lost to time. The early 1900s F. E. Dodge Street Drum seen here is a case of the latter.
Early 1900s F. E. Dodge Snare Drum
F. E. Dodge Drum Label
Upon arrival, this drum was nothing but a shell. Bruised and crudely refinished, there was little remaining value from a collector standpoint other than the large makers label inside. Eventually a suitible conglomerate of parts was sourced and the drum was pieced back together breathing new life into a drum which had been silent for decades.

Rope Drum Ear 
Rope Drum Ear photo from 1907 Dodge Drum Catalogphoto: VintageDrumGuide.com

Cooperman Fife and Drums supplied the leather ears which were then stamped and stained to emulate those typically seen on drums by Dodge and others in Boston around the late 19th and early 20th century. (See above photo from the 1907 Dodge catalog.) Calderwood Percussion supplied the faux hemp rope which provides the strength of modern synthetic rope while giving the visual impression of period correct materials. And the wooden counterhoops and calfskin batter head were taken from a donor drum built many years ago by Eames Drum Shells. The finishng touch, a custom lathed wooden grommet, was made up by Mattoon Drums and Percussion.

McIntosh Snare Strainer
McIntosh Snare Strainer and Muffler as pictured in Stone Catalog K
The hoop mounted snare mechanism is not one originally found on Dodge drums but is an intriguing bit of history in itself. Clearly this is an example of the snare strainer and muffler designed by William F. McIntosh, but there are several inconsistancies between this version and the one typically seen on McIntosh's own drums and those by George B. Stone & Son who used it widely through the 1910s and 1920s. The most obvious difference is the coarse, unbuffed exterior which is devoid of plating. The version present here also shows no signs of having ever had a lever installed.

Do you have an drum made by the F. E. Dodge Company? I would love to see it! Feel free to send Lee an email anytime at lee@vinson.net. And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com or follow @old_boston_drums on instagram.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Not a Master-Model

You can't judge a book by its cover. And in this case, you can't judge a drum by its badge. Regardless of what it says, this is not a Master-Model.
The mid-1930s were a time of resourcefulness and transition for Boston's George B. Stone & Son. With vaudeville theaters converting over to movie houses and the Great Depression taking it's toll, George Lawrence Stone began pouring more energy into teaching and gradually moved away from manufacturing.

It was during this period that Stone & Son mailed out their last known catalog, a sixteen-page, black and white booklet of recycled photographs illustrating a significantly stripped down product line. The iconic Master-Model drum is still spotlighted on the cover and in the opening pages, and several varieties of military drums are also offered, but no Master-Model field drum is mentioned. Serial numbers in the 9300 range are known to have been in use in late 1935 meaning that the drum seen here was likely produced in 1936 - the same year 'Booklet L' was distrubuted.

The drum is simple in construction featuring a thin, single ply maple shell with three reinforcing rings - one at each edge and a third underneath the tuning rod posts. The single-ply maple counterhoops and single tension thumbrods are virtually unchanged from those used two decades earlier. While single tension tuning systems and wooden counterhoops would remain in use into the mid 20th century, they were often indicative of lower priced models. Professional level drums dating from the same era commonly utilized separate tension tube lugs and metal counterhoops, features which had been in use since the 1920s.

Rather then evolve, Stone continued to equip drums with the 'Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler' patented in 1909 by William F. McIntosh. As is typical for Stone, the snares are held in place opposite the strainer by a simple anchor. More advanced snare mechanisms were certainly available by the mid 1930s, but Stone's decision not to modernize is again evident here. But the most obvious indication of where this instrument fits within the timeline of Stone's manufacturing prowess is the use of a Master-Model badge on a drum which is clearly NOT a Master-Model.

Do you have a drum made by Geo. B. Stone & Son? I would love to hear about it! Feel free to drop Lee an email at lee@vinson.net. And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com or follow @old_boston_drums on instagram.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Who was I. E. White?

Boston native Ira Erving White (1839 - 1914) operated a musical instrument repair and manufacturing business for most of his life. Long overshadowed by his better-known father, Ira Johnson White (1813-1895), and uncle, Asa Warren White (1826-1894), very little has been written about Ira Erving.

The extent of Ira Erving White's training is unclear but he surely recieved an introduction to the trade from his large, musically inclined extended family. During Ira Erving's adolescent and teenage years, his father and uncle operated as "White Brothers" dealing in a wide range of musical instruments including drums but focused especially on stringed instruments. Ira Johnson and Asa Warren are best remembered as New England's earliest master violin makers.

The White Brothers storefront was known as the "Tremont Temple Music Store" as can be seen in advertising from the early 1850s. After 1863, Asa Warren continued alone at 86 Tremont Street later partnering with Louis P. Goullaud around 1870. The store would ultimately be succeeded by Thompson & Odell in 1876 with Asa Warren relocating to 50 Bromfield Street.

1853 White Brothers Ad
1853 White Brothers Ad from Dwight's Journal of Music
A. W. White makers label, ca. 1863 - 1870
A. W. White makers label, ca. 1863 - 1870

As for Ira Erving's assumed involvement in the family busines, the 1855 Census shows him working as a musical instrument maker when he was just 16 years old. Five years later, the 1860 Census lists his occupation more concisely as "music store". But perhaps the best evidence linking Ira Erving to White Brothers are directory listings showing him as a musician at 86 Tremont in 1861, and at 25 Tremont Temple in 1863 - the same address as his father and uncle's music store. By 1864, Ira Johnson departed White Brothers and Ira Erving, at age 24, opened his own shop at 83 Sudbury where directory listings describe him as a drum manufacturer.

By 1864, at the age of 24, Ira Erving White had opened his own shop at 83 Sudbury Street in Boston where directory listings describe him as a drum manufacturer.

If Ira Johnson and Asa Warren were more consumed with string instruments, Ira Erving may have learned drum making from others. Joseph B. Treat is thought to have worked for Asa Warren White in the 1860s and 1870s and shares a common address of 86 Tremont with A. W. White as early as 1863. Another little-known drum maker, George E. Rogers, is also listed at 86 Tremont Street in 1863. The Civil War era was a prosperous time for drum manufacturing and by starting his own business Ira Erving White was meeting a need for military drums while filling a void in the market left behind by the dissolution of White Brothers.

Ira Erving White married Sarah Isabella Pearl in 1861 and by 1871 was residing in Wakefield, MA. Save for a brief absence during the early 1870s, Boston directories list White's business at 83 Sudbury Street well into the 1880s sometimes appearing under the name "Irving E. White". A simple explanation for the alternative name could be that he went by his middle name "Erving" in order to avoid confusion with his father Ira Johnson. (His Uncle Asa reportedly went by his middle name "Warren".) A less plausible thoery, offered by Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston, 1640-1936, posits that "Irving E." was Ira Erving's cousin. But "Irving" and "Ira" never appear in the same directory and the full name "Irving" appears only in the personal listings and never in the business listings which always use the initials "I. E. White". Further, no one by the name "Irving E. White" can be found in the White family tree.

I. E. White Drum, ca. 1870s
I. E. White Drum, ca. 1870s
I. E. White makers label, ca. 1870s
I. E. White makers label, ca. 1870s

Across more than five decades Ira Erving White built and repaired a wide variety of musical instruments but seems to have focused a considerable amount attention on drums. For much of the 1870s and 1880s, directories describe White's line of work as "drums and musical instruments" suggesting that drums in fact accounted for a major segment of his business during the middle part of his career. Yet considering how long White was active, very few surviving examples of his work have been documented. This raises the possibility that some of his manufacturing was done on contract for music stores who then applied their own labels. It could also be that repair work took up the bulk of White's time while his manufacturing efforts were less prolific. And, especially in his younger days, White was likely dividing time between performing and running his shop.

Around 1887 White relocated to 48 Hanover Street where he remained through the late 1890s. From 1900 through 1904 White was listed at 144 Friend Street and in 1905 the Boston Diretory places him at 15 Marshall Street. Beginning in 1906 White is listed at 44 Merrimac Street where he remained until he last appears in 1909. Apparently having never fully retired, Ira E. White was advertised as a musical instrument maker in the Wakefield Directory as late as 1913, a year before his death in 1914.

1887 Advertisement from Gatcomb's Banjo and Guitar Gazette
Gatcomb's Banjo and Guitar Gazette - January 1888
1887 Classified Ad from The Boston Globe
Boston Globe - July 20, 1887

A short death notice printed in the Boston Globe described White as "a well-known Boston musician and member of the old Boston Brass Band, Gilmore's Band and the Boston Cadet Band." A more humanizing obituary ran in the Boston Herald on Friday, February 13th, 1914 (which mispells his middle name and gives the wrong middle initial for his widow) and reads as follows:

Ira Irving White, for many years a manufacturer of musical instruments and former member of several Boston bands, died yesterday at his home on Spring street in the Boyntonville district of Wakefield as the result of a shock. He was 74 years old.

Mr. White was born in Boston but made Wakefield his home for 43 years. In earlier years he had belonged to the Boston Brass Band, the Cadet Band and Gilmore's Band. He belonged to the Unitarian church of Melrose and was a great nature lover. In his later years he devoted himself to the cultivation of flowers and plants.

He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Sarah J. White, and by four children, George E. and Louise G. White, and Mrs. Clara I. Haskell, all of Wakefield, and Mrs. Sarah E. Wilmarth of Jamaica Plain.





W. Lee Vinson is a classical percussionist, music educator, and snare drum historian. He is the author of BostonDrumBuilders.com, a website devoted to the late 19th and early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts. Lee can be contacted by email at lee@vinson.net.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum, ca. late 1910s

Featured here is an Invincible Orchestra Drum by Charles A. Stromberg of Boston, Massachusetts. Lacking a makers label, the drum cannot be precisely dated but is typical of Stromberg's work during the late 1910s.
1910s Charles A. Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum
The drum is complete and functional and, from a distance, looks to be in good cosmetic condition. Upon closer inspection however the shell shows signs of having been refinished and is significantly faded on one side likely from having been exposed to direct sunlight over a long period of time.
1910s Stromberg Snare Drum
Stromberg Snare Drum Badge
The drum is outfitted with twelve single post tube lugs, slotted tension rods and Stromberg's small two-pronged claws which fit over the three-ply maple counterhoops. The shell is also unusual for the era being formed of three staggered plies. The snare mechanism and butt seen here are a refined version of Stromberg's 1904 patent.
Stromberg Snare Drum Strainer
Stromberg Snare Drum Butt
Do you have a drum made by Charles A. Stromberg? I would love to hear about it! Feel free to drop Lee an email at lee@vinson.net. And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com or follow @old_boston_drums on instagram.