Saturday, May 23, 2020

1910s George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Band Drum

This drum has been in the collection since before the days of the blog and is long overdue for a feature here. It's a nicely restored Separate Tension Band Drum from Boston's George B. Stone & Son. The before and after photos depict the dramatic overhaul.

1910s Stone & Son Band Drum Before RestorationLee's Stone Field Drum After Restoration

The drum was found in southern New Hampshire in 2009 and had been neglected for many years. A poorly applied aftermarket paint job masked the original shellac finish and a crack had developed running a third of the way around the shell. Several pieces of hardware were missing and the slotted tension rods on the bottom side of the drum were caked in mud where the drum had recently been placed on the ground. A thorough restoration was in order.

Paint was stripped from the shell, hoops, and hardware. The shell was sent to Joe McSweeney at Eames Drum Company in Saugus, Massachusetts who repaired the crack. After a light sanding on the wheel at Eames, the very same equipment used by Stone & Son generations ago, the shell and hoops were refinished to closely emulate what would have been the original color. The tube lugs were polished by hand and reinstalled with new mounting hardware as the original screws were badly stripped and rusted. New calfskins were sourced from America's last remaining drumhead tannery, Stern Tanning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and tucked onto the existing flesh hoops. The end result is a drum which may not hold as much collector value as an unmolested one, but is highly playable and remains a visually accurate representation of George B. Stone & Son's work.

George B. Stone & Son Drum BadgeGeorge B. Stone & Son Drum Label

Stone's Separate Tension Band Drums were constructed around thin single-ply shells, typically maple, and utilized four reinforcing rings - one at each bearing edge and one underneath each row of tube lug posts. Slotted tension rods attached to single-ply counterhoops using hooks cast from brass or bronze. A simple but functional Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler allowed for the gut snares to be quickly engaged or disengaged from the bottom head.

William F. McIntosh Snare Strainer and MufflerBottom View of Stone Field Drum and Gut Snares

Stone & Son's Catalog K (1925) listed several models aimed at the band and drum corps market but the use of double post tube lugs is unique to the Separate Tension Band Drums. Far more common for this style of drum in the 1910s was the use of thumbscrew rods adjusted by hand from the underside of the drum thereby tuning both heads simultaneously. Catalogued by Stone under many different monikers through the years, sometimes with center posts and sometimes without, the design of these single tension models remained essentially unchanged from the early 1900s through the 1920s and even into the 1930s.

Stone & Son Catalog K - page 9Stone & Son Catalog K - page 13

Do you have a drum made by Geo. B. Stone & Son? 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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Harry A. Bower "Special Artists Orchestra Drum"

It's been several years now since this rope tension drum labeled by Harry A. Bower floated across eBay and into a private collection. Best known for his influential method books and unusual snare drum designs, Bower was granted more than a dozen patents between 1897 and 1933 pertaining mostly to the design and construction of snare drums, timpani, and other percussion instruments. This older style drum raises the possibility that he may have been an active instrument maker before his more modern designs had been imagined and brought to life.

Bower was adamant in stamping his name and patent numbers all over his instruments. And while this drum bears his name on both an oval shaped badge and a paper label inside the shell, there is no visible mention of patents. Bower's earliest snare drum patent was applied for in 1903 and granted in 1904. If this drum were to predate that time, it would be one of Bower's earliest known surviving instruments.

The snare mechanism present here is of a simple, traditional style nothing like those seen in any of Bower's patents. However, extra holes in the bottom hoop indicate that some other mechanism was once installed. One of the few apparent similarities to Bower's later drums is a synthetic grommet adorning the air vent. If original, this would be highly unusual for a drum built around the turn of the century which again raises suspicion of possible after market modifications.

The semicircular snare gate is a somewhat unique trait shared by several other Boston drum builders of the early 1900s. But overall, the drum appears to have more in common with the work of Boston's late 19th century band instrument makers than Bower's own drums of a few decades later. One last mystery here is a series of witness marks or plugged holes in the shell, partially obscured from view by the snare strainer, which are suggestive of an ornamental tack pattern seen on earlier rope tension drums, a cosmetic feature sometimes echoed by Bower on his metal wrapped synthetic shell drums of the 1910s and '20s.

Do you have a Bower drum? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at And for more on Harry A. Bower and the other early 20th century drum manufacturers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit

Monday, November 25, 2019

W. H. Cundy Drum, ca. 1876 - 1885

The following comes from Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston, 1640-1936:

"W. H. Cundy is first listed in the Boston City Directory of 1868 as having a music store at 1195 Washington St. For a short time the firm was Cundy & Whitcomb. Mr. Cundy seems to have moved frequently since he was given at various addresses in successive years, such as Continental Building 1869, 1135 Washington St. in 1870, the same with 717 Tremont St. added in 1873, 1317 Washington St. in 1875, 55 Court St. and 717 Tremont St. in 1878, 186 Washington St. in 1890 and 93 Court St. from about 1900 until the business was bought and taken over by Mr. Bettoney."

William H. Cundy was born in Birmingham, England on August 18, 1832. He came to America in 1854, married in 1856 and became naturalized in 1869. Cundy was widely considered to be a fine clarinet player and according to Ayars was trained at the English Military Band Conservatory at Kneller Hall, England. During the Civil War he was a member of Patrick Gilmore's Band of the Twenty-Fourth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers and later performed for many years with the orchestra of the Boston Theatre. Through the 1870s Cundy grew to become a highly successful musical instrument dealer and music publisher. Ayars continues:

"In his retail store he dealt largely in imported instruments, string, woodwind and brass. He was agent for Higham Band Instruments made in England and was largely instrumental in making well known in the United States the Buffet Clarinet made in Paris by Buffet-Crampon.

Mr. Cundy also started an engraving and publishing business, probably soon after he opened his store, as some of his music bears addresses of early locations like 1123, 1135 and 1195 Washington St. He described his business as follows: "Dealer and importer of Sheet Music Domestic & Foreign; Italian, German & French strings of best quality; Pianos, Melodeons, Cottage Organs, and Musical Merchandise of every description."

W. H. Cundy Drum ca. 1876 - 1885

According to The American Bookseller, Vol. II, No. 12 dated December 15, 1876, Cundy announced his move to 55 Court Street before the end of that year. From 1877 through 1881 Boston Directories list Cundy under Music Dealers and Publishers with two addresses, 55 Court and 717 Tremont. The Tremont address is absent from 1882 through 1885 though he remains listed at 55 Court Street. Beginning in 1886 and continuing for the next several years, Cundy is listed at an address of 1 Columbia. Thus, the drum featured here figures to have been produced between 1876 and 1885.

Individually, Cundy was best known as a publisher of sheet music. Harry Bettoney, previously an employee of Cundy, bought out the Cundy Music Publishing Company in 1907. The Cundy-Bettoney Company would eventually become a renowned maker of clarinets. William H. Cundy passed away at the age of 80 on January 11, 1913.

Drums manufactured by W. H. Cundy are quite scarce owing to their age and obscurity. Cundy sold a much greater volume of wind and brass instruments than drums, and the music publishing side of his business was likely more profitable. The few Cundy drums known to exist are simple in design and construction showing no major distinguishing characteristics from those of other Boston-based drum makers of the day. Cundy's drums do however compare favorably to the work of the larger local music houses such as Thompson & Odell and John .C. Haynes & Co. Cundy's drums are so similar, in fact, that the possibility cannot be ruled out that his drums were manufactured for him and then labeled with the Cundy name. He was after all a prolific distributor of imported instruments.

Do you have a drum made by W. H Cundy? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at And for more on the early 20th century drum manufacturers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit

Thursday, October 31, 2019

F. E. Dodge "Double Tension" Orchestra Drum, ca. 1908 - 1912

Frank Edward Dodge (1877-1918) ventured into drum manufacturing around 1903 after buying out William J. Blair (1845-1916) formerly of Boston's own Blair & Baldwin. By 1904 the F. E. Dodge Company was incorporated under Massachusetts law with a capital of $50,000 and was located at 3 Appleton Street where the company would remain until they were succeeded by Nokes & Nicolai in 1912. The drum featured here is a fine example of the Dodge company's later work dating from about 1908 - 1912.

Dodge's drums evolved quickly over the the company's brief lifespan. The most innovative aspect of their later drums is the use of self aligning swivel nuts housed inside hollow steel claws. This design is conspicuously absent from the 1907 F. E. Dodge Company catalog suggesting this particular example was built after that time.

The throw-off mechanism seen here is Dodge's own design. Though it closely resembles William F. McIntosh's mechanism, Dodge's "Combined Snare Strainer and Muffler" is distinct in that it is formed from stamped steel rather than cast brass. Also, Dodge's mechanism bridges over the snare gates cut into the bottom counterhoop whereas McIntosh's mounts below the cutout. Wording stamped into this example indicates that Dodge applied for a patent of his design though it appears to have never come to fruition as no records of a patent having been granted can be found, and later examples lack any stamp referencing a patent at all.

The tensioning system implemented here is what Dodge, and later Nokes & Nicolai, described as "double tension". While this is arguably an advancement over the older thumbscrew style, it still yielded a drum which was effectively 'single tension' in that the two heads could not be tuned independently. This particular drum is formed around a shallow, one-ply maple shell which is reinforced inside by thin rings at each bearing edge.

Overall, this is a well preserved example of a roughly 110 year old snare drum. The original shellac finish and nickel plated hardware are in good condition and needed only a gentle cleaning and hand polishing to bring back a nice sheen while preserving enough patina to let the age show through. New calfskins tucked onto the existing, and possibly original, flesh hoops completed this soft restoration.

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 And for more on the early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Carl E. Gardner Free Tension Drum

Carl Gardner is not well known for his imprint on musical instrument manufacturing. There is no mention of him in Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston, 1640-1936, the single most comprehensive resource for information on early 20th century musical instrument makers of Boston, Massachusetts. But Gardner did for several years partner with trombonist Fortunato Sordillo to form the Sordillo Correspondence School of Music and later the Sordillo-Gardner Music Company which would soon become known as Sordillo-Gardner Inc.

1922 Carl E. Gardner Free Tension Drum advertisement

Both Sordillo and Gardner were one-time members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and each would later hold positions teaching music in the Boston Public Schools. Their business partnership, first formed around 1919, dealt a variety of instruments and accessories related mostly to brass and percussion and was, for a time, a distributor for Holton band instruments. Much advertising was devoted to Sordillo's patented mutes and mouthpieces with less attention paid to Gardner's patented machine timpani and so-called "Free Tension Drum" seen here.

Carl E. Gardner Free Tension Drum, ca. early 1920s

Carlton Edward Gardner, born April 13, 1885, was a native of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts and spent at least a decade of his youth living in Lynn, Massachusetts with his mother and stepfather. Gardner resided in Lynn as late as 1910 before moving to Boston by 1913 where he was married to Marion Gertrude Dillon on September 15th of that year. By the time he became a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1915 he was in his early 30s and already a published author.

Gardner's Essentials of Music Theory (1912) was the first of several books published by Carl Fischer followed by Music Composition: A New Method of Harmony (1918), Modern Method for the Instruments of Percussion (1919) and the expansively titled The Military Drummer; a Manual on Drum Playing as Practiced in the United States Army and Navy adapted to School and Scout Corps including Drum Duties with Fife and Bugle (1918). Gardner also edited Frank Edward Dodge's Dodge Drum School (1909) for republication by the Columbia Music Company shortly after the authors death in 1918. The title would be edited once again by George Lawrence Stone and republished by George B. Stone & Son in 1928.

Gardner was a widely published author and headed the Boston Society of Musical Instrument Manufacturers, but his snare drum design never gained much traction.

Following his departure from the Boston Symphony in 1920, Gardner helped to spearhead the Boston Society of Musical Instrument Manufacturers which aimed to further promote Boston as a center for musical instrument manufacturing. Gardner was one of three directors of the Society, the other two being William S. Haynes and George Lawrence Stone. Among the Society's principal initiatives was a push to encourage Boston schools to purchase instruments locally rather than patronize dealers and makers from other cities or foreign countries. Members of the Society included the Boston Musical Instrument Co, Christenson & Co Inc., Cundy-Bettoney Co., William S. Haynes Co., A. E. Mathey, Musicians Supply Co., Nokes & Nicolai, Sordillo Gardner Inc., George B. Stone & Son and the Vega Company. Gardner's industry presence was evidently short lived as advertising for Sordillo-Gardner ceases after the early 1920s. The same appears to be true of the Boston Society of Musical Instrument Manufacturers.

Gardner's timpani and snare drum designs likely never gained much traction. It is telling that Gardner's Modern Method for the Instruments of Percussion depicts the author with snare drums that which are not of his own make. The 1919 edition pictures him behind what might be a Duplex snare drum while the 1927 edition shows him playing a George B. Stone & Son Master-Model drum.

Gardner's Modern Method - 1919 editionGardner's Modern Method - 1927 edition

Gardner's Free Tension Drum is uncomplicated in design and is essentially a single tension thumbrod tension model. It's one main selling point is the extended collar allowed for by oversized cast aluminum counterhoops meaning that the flesh hoops do not come in contact with the shell. The major drawback is that the bearing edges are left unprotected from rimshots which could potentially ravage the shell. Gardner's model on the whole reads as a something less than a professional model when compared even with local makers, and certainly Ludwig or Leedy who were leading the golden age of American drum building during the 1920s. Perhaps Gardner's drum was aimed at students or school music programs which would make sense given his future career teaching in the public schools. Regardless, his drums seem to have achieved very little foothold in the market and surviving examples are scant.

Carl E. Gardner Free Tension Drum, ca. early 1920sCarl E. Gardner Free Tension Drum, ca. early 1920s

The snare mechanism is basic yet functional in that it allows the snares to be adjusted gradually or to quickly be disengaged. The shell measure in at 14" across by just under 5" deep and is formed from a thin single ply of maple with reinforcing rings at either bearing edge. Sordillo-Gardner advertising makes mention of a metal shell being available for $35. Wood shell drums were priced at $30. One noticeable difference in the example featured above from the one pictured in Sordillo-Gardner's advertising is that the tension rods are adjusted using wingnuts positioned underneath the bottom counterhoop rather than from on top of the batter side hoop, a player friendly modification preventing the possibility that the wingnuts could interfere with the performer's sticks.

Do you have a Sordillo-Gardner drum? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at And for more on the early 20th century drum manufacturers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit