Sunday, January 1, 2017

F. E. Dodge Field Drum ca. 1904 - 1907

At approximately 110 years old, this F. E. Dodge field drum shows its age. Cosmetic flaws aside, it is still a wonderful example of an early rod tension drum from Boston's most prominent drum maker at the turn of the twentieth century. Measuring in at a robust 10" deep by 16" across, this is a large instrument closer in size to the wartime regimental drums which preceded it than the much shallower orchestra drums which were becoming widely favored for popular music styles. This was after all a 'street drum' intended to be played while standing or marching with a military style band or drum corps.

The tension rods and even more so the claws used tension the heads are rather forward thinking for the first decade of the 1900s. For that matter, the use of metal hardware at all suggests that this was a professional level model as rope tension drums were more affordable. The single ply maple shell with solid maple reinforcing rings is constructed as well as any other instrument of the day. But Dodge's innovative hoop claws are the most ingenious feature here. Long before modern drum lug casings housed fully swiveling nuts to accommodate tuning rods, Dodge's claws represented an early attempt to help let the tensioning hardware fit into place without the possibility of any binding, warping, or stripping.

Lee's F. E. Dodge Field Drum ca. 1904 - 1907F. E. Dodge Drum Label ca. 1904 - 1907

The shell interior is painted black, a characteristic of some, but not all Dodge drums. A large circular paper label is visible inside of the drum. Note the inclusion of the "Inc." lettering which likely means that this drum was produced after the company's incorporation on December 22, 1903 and before it was legally dissolved in 1907. Curiously, the label is positioned upside down, another peculiarity common to many F. E. Dodge drums.

The snare mechanism is rather basic by modern standards but was in fact a small step forward in functionality relative to the traditional snare strainer in that it allowed the snares to be tightened using a knurled knob easily reached from the top of the drum and without the possibility of the snares becoming twisted. A simple leather snare butt, cut in Dodge's distinctive jagged fashion, holds the snares in place against the opposite counterhoop.

F. E. Dodge Snare StrainerF. E. Dodge Snare Butt

While a 10" x 16" model isn't specifically listed, the drum matches very well with those advertised in the 1907 Dodge catalog. A final indication that the drum featured here was constructed no later than about 1908, the Dodge Drum School published in 1909 includes illustrations of a Dodge drum featuring an updated claw design which would go on to be commonly used on Dodge drums until 1912 and by their successors Nokes & Nicolai until 1926.

Do you have an percussion instrument made by the F. E. Dodge Company? I would love to see it! Send Lee an email anytime at And for more on the early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit

Thursday, December 1, 2016

ca. 1936 George B. Stone & Son White Marine Pearl Master-Model Drum

One drum could never tell the complete story of a company whose life spanned decades, but the drum featured here could write its own chapter on both what could have been, and what had become of Boston's George B. Stone & Son by the late 1930s. Clearly, the potential existed for Stone & Son to have remained a respected manufacturer of professional level drums. The craftsmanship is proof of this. Yet rather than evolve with the times, George Lawrence Stone had chosen his company's fate. Having never fully modernized its production capabilities or instrument designs, Stone & Son was being left in the dust.

Very little had changed about the Geo. B. Stone & Son Master-Model drums since they were first introduced in 1922. Through the 1920s and into the 1930s, the industry had completely passed Stone by. While Leedy, Ludwig, and Slingerland had all moved to double post tube lugs, metal counterhoops, and state of the art snare mechanisms, Stone continued to use an impractical tuning system, wooden counterhoops, and a snare throw-off patented in 1909.

What is so stunning about this mid-late 1930s Master-Model aside from the brilliant chrome plated hardware and white marine pearl wrap, is just how well the whole instrument is constructed. There is absolutely nothing shoddy about the execution, nothing lacking in the way of quality workmanship to hint at Stone's long fading prowess as a drum builder.

Lee's mid - late 1930s WMP Stone Master-Model Drum

Smaller details about the drum do indicate that the end was near for Stone. The label fixed to the inside of the shell is actually a repair label. Faintly ink-stamped across the top of the label is the word "Manufactured". This is a clear sign that Stone was no longer producing a high volume of drums and that their priorities had shifted towards repair and maintenance of existing instruments. That a repair label rather than a manufacturers label was used on such a high end drum as this one speaks volumes about how late in the life of Geo. B. Stone & Son this drum was produced.

Stone did apparently have a few Master-Model badges left sitting around the shop, albeit the silver variety as opposed to the typical bronze badges with a recessed blackened background. The silver version applied here was typically reserved for special drums such as pearl wrapped models and the rare all-metal Master-Models.

Late 1930s George B. Stone & Son Drum Label

Late 1930s George B. Stone & Son Drum Label

Geo. B. Stone Master-Model Drum Badge

George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum Badge

There are a few interesting differences between this example and earlier Master-Model drums. The most dramatic is the use of ten 'lugs' per side (20 total) as opposed to twelve (24 total). Anything other than a twenty-four lug Master-Model is almost unheard of, the notable exception being the aforementioned all-metal Master-Models which employed metal counterhoops and only eight lugs per side.

Another subtle but profound difference here is the use of washers which lack the usual "STONE & SON / BOSTON MASS" stamping. This suggests that Stone's builders had run out of stamped washers and did not expect to churn out enough more Master-Models to warrant having another batch of washers made up with the Stone imprint.

Stone Master-Model Nuts and Washers ca. mid 1920s - mid 1930s

Stone Master-Model Nuts and Washers ca. mid 1920s - mid 1930s

Stone Master-Model Nuts and Washers ca. late 1930s

Stone Master-Model Nuts and Washers ca. late 1930s

Small signs of Stone keeping up with the times are evident in the use of chrome plating, and with the factory installation of a Leedy tone control. Ludwig and Leedy, both owned by Conn at this time, had begun installing tone controls on snare drums beginning in the early-mid 1930s.

It should also be noted that wrapped examples of Stone Master-Model drums are quite scarce. Most Master-Models featured a black lacquer finish. Next most common is a natural maple finish. A "Pyralin Master-Model" was offered as early as 1928, but the number of existing wrapped drums suggests that they were produced only in small numbers, likely on a custom order basis. These were expensive drums after all. A 1932 price list offered the Pyralin Master-Model for $50 which equates to more than $800 today.

As is typical for Stone, the four digit serial number is both imprinted inside of the shell and ink-stamped onto the label. A serial number in the 9600 range places this drum around 1936. A three digit Master-Model number is also stamped inside of the shell in a smaller font. The number, 820, is extremely high, the highest among more than four dozen other recorded examples again confirming just how late this drum was produced.

Stone Serial Number

George B. Stone & Son Serial Number

Stone Master-Model Number

Stone Master-Model Number

Most earlier Stone drums including Master-Models would have been outfitted with individual strands of snappy wire, wire wound silk, or natural gut. This being a drum from the late 1930s, the James Snappy Wires installed on the drum at present may well be original. New calfskin heads bring this drum back right back to 1936, just before Stone & Son was done for good.

Do you have a Stone Master-Model? I would love to hear about it! Shoot Lee an email at And for more on George B. Stone & Son and all of the early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Make Stromberg Great Again

To understand how far this drum has come, one has to see what it looked like before the restoration campaign was undertaken. Cobwebs, dead bugs, dust on top of dirt, and almost enough missing parts to prevent the whole thing from coming together. In other words, real change was needed to bring back this drum back from the brink.

In a triumph of determination over frustration, patience and hard work prevailed. Not that this will ever be a serviceable instrument for any modern performance application, but a glint of the past has been preserved. And that alone should give hope to future generations of drummers, drum collectors, those interested in the instruments of Charles A. Stromberg, and anyone passionate about antique musical instruments.

Do you have a drum made by Charles A. Stromberg? I want to hear from you! Feel free to drop Lee an email anytime at And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

ca. 1907 F. E. Dodge Orchestra Drum

Amongst a trio of recently acquired early 1900s F. E Dodge drums is this splendid orchestra model, circa 1904 - 1907. Complete down to the original "Satin Finished Water-proof Snares", this drum is a wonderfully well preserved example of turn of the century drum building ingenuity and craftsmanship.

F. E. Dodge Orchestra Drum ca. 1907

The 1907 Dodge Drums Catalog lists the Orchestra Drum in two sizes. The 3" x 14" drum seen here joins a 4" x 15" already in the collection.

The single-ply maple shell and hoops are both characteristic of Dodge with the shell featuring shallow reinforcing rings and a polished rosewood grommet. A small circular makers label is affixed to the inside of the shell. Note the inclusion of the "Inc." lettering which likely means that this drum was produced after the company's 1904 incorporation.

1907 Dodge Drums Catalog
F. E. Dodge Drum Label
F. E. Dodge Co. drum label

Distinctive to many Dodge drums from the first decade of the 1900s is the use of an early style of swivel nut to accommodate the tuning rods. Though the nuts only swivel in one direction, they still represent an advancement beyond traditional collar hooks. Dodge's "Direct Snare Strainer" with its square shaped shank allowed for tensioning of the snares via an adjustment knob mounted to the top hoop.

F. E. Dodge Drum Catalogphoto:
F. E. Dodge Direct Snare StrainerF. E. Dodge Direct Snare Strainer

A simple leather anchor holds the snare wires in place against bottom hoop opposite from the strainer. Note the jagged edges of this leather piece, an unusual little cosmetic touch seen on many early Dodge drums.

Though the wooden shell and hoops show their age, the nickel plating is in excellent condition, a testament to the quality of the materials and processes used by Dodge. Period correct calfskin heads put this drum in historically accurate condition for display. A photo of the original owner gives us a glimpse of the drum in action roughly a century ago.

F. E. Dodge Snare ButtF. E. Dodge Snare Butt
Dodge Drums with their Original Owners

Do you have a drum by F. E. Dodge? I'd would love to hear about it! Send Lee an email at

And for more on F. E. Dodge and the other early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Johnny Williams' Stone Master-Models

John Francis Williams, popularly known as Johnny Williams, was born in Watertown, Massachusetts on November 15th, 1905. If the name rings a bell, it may be because he was the father of famed film composer John Williams. The elder Williams became a well known drummer in the 1930s through his work with the CBS Radio Orchestra in New York and then with the famed Rayomnd Scott Quintet.

The oddly named six-piece group was assembled in late 1936 and was highly prolific from 1937 - 1939. Scott would go on to form and lead a variety of ensembles under different names through the 1940s and into the 1950s (some of which involved Williams) and was the regular orchestra leader on classic 1950s television show Your Hit Parade. But Scott's earliest fame came with his original 'quintet' and their late 1930s studio recordings of such songs as "Powerhouse", "Twilight in Turkey", and the highly recognizable "The Toy Trumpet".

As a member of the Raymond Scott Quintet, Johnny Williams appeared in several Hollywood films during the late 1930s including Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) starring Shirley Temple. The Scott Quintet's involvement was apparently significant enough that the musical group was featured along with Temple in photographs promoting the movie. The handsome fellow at bottom left of the below picture sharing a glance with Shirley Temple is none other than Johnny Williams with his Stone Master-Model drum.

Whether or not Williams played the same drum on the Raymond Scott Quintet recordings, we may never know. But clearly Williams had an affection for Stone snare drums as he appears in many other photographs from the same time period with Master-Model drums at the center of his outfit. And he must have had more than one because pictures show Williams with Master-Model drums in at least two colors - likely white marine pearl, and black diamond pearl.


By 1939 Johnny Williams had signed on with the larger, more modern Leedy Drum Company. Most signs point to George B. Stone & Son being all but out of the manufacturing business by the late 1930s anyhow so it's surprising that Williams stuck with Stone as long as he did. As George Lawrence Stone had begun to devote his attention almost entirely to his drum school and related activities such as teaching and writing, Stone & Sons' drum making interests faded. So Williams' move to a company that could more readily supply his needs was a logical one. Leedy must have been proud of their new endorser as they touted him prominently on the cover of Leedy Drum Topics #28 in October 1939.

Do you have a George B. Stone & Son Master-Model drum? I would love to hear about it! Drop Lee a note at And for more on Boston's early 20th century drum makers, please visit