Tuesday, May 8, 2018

M. Woodman, Drummaker

One drum, two makers labels, three addresses. Depending on how all this information is interpreted, the drum featured here either originated from Boston's Thompson & Odell, or from the hands of a lesser known drum maker from Maine by the name of M. Woodman.

Thompson & Odell Drum, possibly by Manson Woodman ca. late 1870sThompson & Odell Drum, possibly by Manson Woodman ca. late 1870s

Directories list Thompson & Odell at 86 Washington Street from 1875 through 1879. Before this time, the fledgling firm had gone by the name Woods, Odell, & Thompson and in 1874 was listed at 121 Court Street. By 1880 Thompson & Odell had moved to 177 Washington Street where they would remain for the next five years. The drum seen below figures to have been produced in the late 1870s while the company was operating at the 86 Washington Street address.

From the very beginning, Thompson & Odell sold instruments from other manufacturers in addition to those made in house and it can sometimes be difficult to discern instruments produced by Thompson & Odell from those which were contract built and relabeled. Thompson & Odell's "Artist Drum" was a described as a "street instrument" intended for "military and semi-military purposes" and was crafted for many years by Joseph B. Treat and later Charles A. Stromberg. In the case of the drum featured here, there is no specific drum maker named by Thompson & Odell leaving open the possibility that someone other than Treat or Stromberg was the builder. An additional label found inside of the drum lists a separate maker and raises as many questions as it answers.

It could be that Manson Woodman did in fact build the drum… or it could be that he was only a repairman in this case.

This second label bears the name of a lesser known drum manufacturer from Skowhegan, Maine by the name of M. Woodman. Handwritten on the upper half of Woodman's label is the wording "Thompson & Odell / 177 Washington Street / Boston Mass". This might suggest that Woodman produced the drum for Thompson & Odell, though the address on Woodman's label post dates the Thompson & Odell label bringing this assumption into question. It could be that Manson Woodman did in fact build the drum and that Thompson & Odell was using up an existing stock of labels listing their old address. Or it could be that he was only a repairman in this case who later added his name to the drum after servicing the instrument. It is impossible to know for sure. Woodman would in fact set up shop in Boston later in his life but wasn't known to have been an active drum maker in Boston until about 1883. Both makers labels present here predate this point in time.

Thompson & Odell Drum LabelThompson & Odell Label, ca. late 1870sM. Woodman Drum LabelM. Woodman Label ca. early 1880s

Manson Woodcock was born November 28th, 1816 in Sidney, Maine to George Woodcock and Maria Robinson Woodcock. In 1838 at the age of 22, Manson legally changed his last name to Woodman and by 1840 was living on his own, still in Sidney. He married Prudence Pitts Delano in 1843.

The 1850 and 1860 censuses show Manson Woodman living in Farmington, Maine and in 1861 "A Business Directory of the Subscribers to the New Map of Maine" lists Woodman as a drum maker there. A fascinating series of letters held in the Maine State Archives show Manson reaching out around this time to military officials seeking contracts to build drums for the Civil War effort. Despite several appeals, it does not appear that Woodman was ever able to secure such a contract. But Manson's letters are telling of his aspirations and the lengths to which he was wiling to go in an effort to grow his business as a drum builder.

A man of many trades, Woodman is listed as having had a variety of occupations over the course of his life including that of a machinist, a coffin and casket manufacturer, and as a maker of drums, banjos and tambourines. Further evidencing his entrepreneurial nature, he is credited with an 1867 patent for a "new and useful Improvement in Horse-Rakes". The patent filing goes on to state that the improvement in fact "relates especially to the horse-rake patented [in 1849] by Calvin Delano" who was Woodman's father-in-law.

A man of many trades, Woodman is listed as… a "Manufacturer to order of Coffin and Caskets in all styles of finish. Also of Drums of all kinds, Banjoes, and Tambourines at shortest possible notice."

Sometime in the 1870s Woodman relocated to Skowhegan, ME where he further established himself as a drum maker. The 1877 New England Business Directory lists Woodman as a Drum Manufacturer there. Many directories published around this time show Woodman having dual trades including the 1883 Atlas of Somerset County, Maine which lists Woodman as a "Manufacturer to order of Coffin and Caskets in all styles of finish. Also of Drums of all kinds, Banjoes, and Tambourines at shortest possible notice."

Around 1883 or 1884, Woodman relocated to Boston where he first appears in city directories in 1884 as a drum maker at the Abattoir Grounds. At this advanced stage in life, aged more than sixty years, Woodman seems to have focused his attention fully on drum making. The culmination of these efforts can be seen in his 1890 patent for a drum which aimed to "dispense with the “skin" or “flush” hoops hitherto used in connection with the “cord-hoops" for securing the drum-heads in place upon the shell, whereby the construction of the drum is simplified, its cost reduced, and a greater clearness and brilliancy of tone secured."

Manson Woodman Drum Patent

Less than one year after his patent was issued, on May 8, 1891, Manson Woodman passed away in Boston at the age of 74. He was laid to rest in his native Farmington, ME.

Spinning forward several decades, a 1921 letter written to Boston's S. A. Woods Machine Company and later published as part of a 1922 advertisement in "The Wood-worker" discusses Woodman's planer which had recently been refurbished and was still in use. This same planer was purportedly used by Woodman to construct a mammoth 10 foot bass drum for the "Peace Jubilee in Boston in the '70s". The World's Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival was held in Boston in the Summer of 1872 and photographs from the well documented event indeed show a giant bass drum at the very center of the newly constructed Coliseum. The drum would have served as a grand centerpiece of the festival's musical offerings and a monument to Woodman's musical instrument building endeavors alike.



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.





Friday, January 26, 2018

1903 William F. McIntosh Parade Drum

Perhaps best known for his Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler, William F. McIntosh also built drums of his own including this parade drum dating from 1903.

1903 William F. McIntosh Drum

Interestingly, the drum predates McIntosh's patented snare strainer design. The shell bears witness marks indicating that the original snare mechanism was of a design by Charles A. Stromberg. Only later was it removed and replaced by a McIntosh snare strainer which mounts to the snare side counterhoop. The original Stromberg butt end, however, remains in place and is stamped with the wording "PAT PDG", or patent pending. Stromberg's patent was granted in April of 1904 so the piece installed here must have been produced before that date. This makes sense as the drum appears to have been built in 1903.


The label is nicely preserved and reads: "Made by / Wm. F. McINTOSH / Manufacturing Drummer / High Grade / Drums, Traps and Drum Findings / Professional Xylophones and Orchestra Bells a Specialty / 6 Elmwood St., Charlestown, Mass." Handwritten on the upper right hand corner of the label is the date May 18, 1903 and the name Harry Cade. The date is scribed again in bold ink on the drum shell just above the label. While the handwriting in both cases is less than official looking, the date does seem to correspond precisely with the point in time when the drum was likely produced.

The snare wires are of an unusual design. The end of each strand is made from linen cord while the length that contacts the snare side head is made from coiled wire. It is a clever combination of materials where the linen chord provides flexibility for easier mounting while the coiled wire offers a brighter sound quality. And unlike natural gut, the more commonly used material for snare wires on larger drums, McIntosh's snares are not susceptible to changes in temperature or humidity.

Harry Folsom Cade (b. April 5, 1879) figures to be the original owner owner of the drum. The 1910 Census lists Cade as an orchestra musician living at 4 Warwick Park in Cambridge, MA with a wife and son. It is entirely plausible that a 24 year old Cade would have purchased the drum new from McIntosh in 1903. And Cade very well may have taken the drum back to McIntosh a few years later to have the snare strainer replaced. The two men lived less than five miles apart.

Whatever use the drum served for Cade and successive owners, it is a powerful instrument which would have been ideal for parading down the avenue with a drum corp, or possibly keeping the beat behind a large concert band or orchestra when a military type sound was desired. The drum has held up well for more than 114 years with only minor repairs. A gentle cleaning and a new snare side head now have this drum in very good condition for display.

Do you have a drum made by William F. McIntosh? I would love to hear about it! Feel free to send Lee and email at lee@vinson.net.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Variations on a Stone Orchestra Drum

Like a twice baked potato or a baseball double header, some things aren't finished until the second time around. The George B. Stone & Son drum featured here is not as it was originally constructed. What was likely a single tension drum to begin with was later modified, the end result essentially becoming a Separate Tension Orchestra Drum not unlike those offered by Stone & Son from the mid 1910s through the 1920s.



The inside of this drum offers many clues as to how it came to be a separate tension drum. The center reinforcing ring was clearly added later as is evidenced by the fact that it is both crudely installed, and that it covers most of the original makers label. When the ring is removed, the complete label is revealed including an early date stamp from the year 1911. There are certainly earlier Stone drums but date stamping was used sporadically during the early years making this an interesting find.


The decision to install eighteen single post tube lugs on a fourteen inch drum is unusual. By the time Stone's Separate Tension Orchestra Drum became a staple of the Company's lineup (and before the Master-Model was introduced in 1922) twelve lugs was the common configuration on 14" models. The choice to use so many lugs coupled with the early manufacturing date likely indicates that the rebuild happened sometime in the 1910s but before Stone & Son was entering its prime in the early 1920s.

The original strainer was left intact. Most versions of the Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler are stamped with the Stone name but the earlier version installed here reads "McIntosh". A simple leather snare anchor holds the wire wrapped linen snares in place opposite the snare mechanism.


It is impossible to say who was responsible for the rebuild. Stone & Son was known to take on custom jobs of all shapes and sizes and the fact that the newly added lugs are genuine Stone parts suggests that the drum may have indeed gone back to the factory for an overhaul. But the lugs could have also been purchased separately and installed by any reasonably handy drummer which would explain the extremely sloppy workmanship inside of the drum the likes of which are atypical of Stone.


The most puzzling aspect of it all may be the relocation of the vent hole which was required to accommodate the lugs. The original vent hole was plugged and is mostly concealed by one of the newly installed lugs so that the patch is only visible from the outside when the lugs are removed, though two deep gashes emanating from the site of the old vent suggest the original grommet didn't go down without a fight. So why not just use sixteen lugs and leave the original vent hole and grommet alone? The answer to that question was made about 100 years ago and is lost to history. What is left behind is a unique piece of Stone history which has a story - or two - to tell.

Do you have a drum made by Geo. B. Stone & Son? I would love to hear about it! Drop Lee a note at lee@vinson.net. And for more on Boston's early 20th century drum makers, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

ca. 1880s John C. Haynes & Co. "Prussian" Drum

Amongst the most common styles of drums manufactured during the late 19th century were the so called "Prussian Drums". Featured here is just such a drum from Boston's John C. Haynes & Co.

ca. 1880s John C. Haynes & Co. Drumca. 1880s John C. Haynes & Co. Drum Label

The J. C. Haynes & Co.1883 catalog gives a bare bones description: "PRUSSIAN DRUMS, WITH RODS, HOOKS, SNARE-TIGHTENER, KEY AND KNEE-REST, OUR OWN MAKE". While other styles could be custom ordered, seven Prussian models are listed with the main difference being the shell material. Maple, rosewood, nickel, and brass shell drums were all offered with "nickel trimmings" and "fancy hoops" as additional cosmetic upgrades. The drum pictured above appears to be an example of model no. 19 1/2 built around a 16" maple shell and outfitted with nickel hardware.


1883 J. C. Haynes & Co. Catalog

The maple shell is quite thin with solid maple re-inforcing rings providing extra structural support. The seam is held together with small brass tacks, a feature common to many larger Haynes drums. A polished rosewood grommet lines the vent hole providing a small element of visual appeal to an otherwise plain drum. Solid maple counterhoops, painted black around the outer face, are roughly cut suggesting that these drums were produced quickly and in large numbers with less attention to detail than some other higher end Haynes instruments.


The paper label affixed to the inside of the drum is rather plain, merely listing the makers name and address underneath an image of a standard rope tension drum. The 33 Court Street address was used by Haynes from the mid 1860s all the way into the late 1890s meaning that this alone is not a reliable dating guideline.

Some smallish, semi-thoughtful modifications were made to this particular drum over the years with an additional (sloppy) coating of shellac being added to the shell, and the original snare strainer being swapped out for another very similar one. Time has taken its toll on the nickel plating leaving the tension rods a steely dark gray color and the claws a dull bronze. The overall effect is, nevertheless, a fairly good representation of one of the most widely produced drum styles of the late 1800s from one of Boston's largest band instrument makers of the era.

For more on the history of John C. Haynes & Company, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Stone & Son's Entry Level Snare Drums

Over the course of more than forty years of drum making, Boston's George B. Stone & Son offered different levels of products at varying price points aimed at a wide range of buyers. One market in which Stone & Son did a great deal of business was the school market as evidenced by this advertisement announcing "Stone Drums for the School." The ad is undated, but came enclosed in a copy of Catalog K which included a price list dated September, 1928.

George B. Stone & Son Advertisement, ca. 1928

The single page flyer describes three economically priced "Colonial" models which "are made in our own factory" and "are far superior to the average drums offered at higher prices elsewhere." This likely meant that the Colonial model shells were single ply maple with solid maple reinforcing rings - the style most commonly used by Stone on nearly all of their drums, a notable exception being the famed Master-Model Drums which featured 5/8" thick, three ply shells.

The artwork seen above was in fact recycled from earlier Stone catalogs. That explains why the Colonial Orchestra Snare Drum and Colonial Military Snare Drum are advertised here as being equipped with the "long model snare strainer" though the pictures clearly depict drums outfitted with the Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler designed by William F. McIntosh.

Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler
Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler
Stone Long Model Snare Strainer
Stone Long Model Snare Strainer

Stone's Colonial models were single tension drums which used simple thumbrods and claws to adjust both drumheads simultaneously. This was at a time when separate tension drums had long since become widely accepted as the professional standard. Another distinguishing characteristic of Stone's lower end drums including the Colonial drums is the absence of a badge or makers mark on the exterior of the drum. Stone certainly didn't want these beginner level instruments to be mistaken for professional level drums.

The Colonial drums were part of a long succession of budget level drums offered by Stone & Son. Among the comparable lines offered by Stone at other points in time were the "Victory" model drums, which appeared in Catalog I (1919) and the 1922 Supplement, and the "Veneer Drums" of the mid 1910s which were last included in Catalog H (ca. 1915). It should be noted that unlike the Colonial drums of the late 1920s, the earlier Victory models were likely assembled using components sourced elsewhere. The Veneer drums were not made by Stone at all but were instead purchased from another maker altogether.

The inclusion of these lower end models in Stone catalogs is accompanied by language distancing Stone & Son from the quality of the product to some degree. In the case of the Victory models, Stone Catalog I states "In answer to a widespread demand for an inexpensive drum we offer the VICTORY line of medium grade drums which, although not up to the Stone quality, are good serviceable instruments for orchestra, band and drum corps."

Stone Victory Model Drums, Catalog I (1919)
Stone Victory Model Drums, Catalog I (1919)

The earlier Veneer drums carry an even stronger disclaimer in Catalog H announcing "For those wishing an inexpensive drum, we buy from another manufacturer, this line of veneer shell drums. While not up to the "Stone" quality, they are good serviceable drums, priced extremely low, and are as good as any veneer drums made."

Stone Veneer Drums, Catalog H (ca. 1915)
Stone Veneer Drums, Catalog H (ca. 1915)

All of this is to say that Stone making the entry level Colonial model drums in house during the late 1920s was noteworthy because it indicated a shift in Geo. B. Stone & Son's business strategy to move away from professional level drums and more towards catering to school bands and the drum corps markets, a mission advanced by Stone's own Drum School. The move away from high end drum manufacturing proved to be a trend through the 1930s as the Great Depression took its toll, talking movies was killed off the theater musician, and the industry generally passed Stone by.

Do you have an instrument labeled Geo. B. Stone & Son? I would love to hear about it! Drop Lee a note at lee@vinson.net.

And for more on George B. Stone & Son and the other early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.