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 lee@vinson.net. And for more on the early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.

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.

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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 lee@vinson.net. And for more on the early 20th century drum manufacturers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

1925 Geo. B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum

More than 800 Master-Model drums were produced by Boston's George B. Stone & Son between 1922 and the late 1930s. A wide variety of finishes were offered from black lacquer to white lacquer, and natural maple to marine pearl and sparkling pyralin wrap. But the most commonly seen configuration is the ever classy black lacquer with nickel plated hardware.

1925 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum

Not every surviving drum can be a gem. The one featured here is a weathered example having sustained its share of bumps and bruises over the decades yet its three ply shell is no less strong and in round despite the obvious cosmetic flaws. The typical Master-Model badge is affixed to the top counterhoop positioned just above the air vent adorned with a ridged synthetic grommet.


The paper label applied inside of the shell is stamped with a four digit serial number per usual but lacks a detectable date stamp. Curiously, a second label hides underneath. The second label, mostly obscured from view, does bear a date stamp though it is not completely legible. But by referencing other dated examples, this drum can be pinpointed to the early months of 1925.

Workers at the Stone factory were keeping a running tally of each Master-Model produced. Pencil markings found inside of the shell and underneath the counterhoops identify this drum as the 334th Master-Model to be produced.


Do you have a Stone Master-Model? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at lee@vinson.net. And for more on George B. Stone & Son and the other early 20th century drum manufacturers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.






Monday, July 1, 2019

Who was William F. McIntosh?

William F. McIntosh was a peripheral figure to Boston's early 20th century drum makers. He is likely best known for his patented snare strainer and muffler used widely by George B. Stone & Son and others through the 1910s and into the 1920s. McIntosh's career as a musician and drum maker was consistently interwoven with other lines of work with his drum building endeavors often running concurrent to other employment. Much of his professional life was spent as a machinist, a trade where he would have acquired the skill and knowledge to produce drum components and accessories of his own. McIntosh's later years were spent as a radio repairer and eventually an electrician.

William Francis McIntosh was born February 27th, 1876 in Boston, Massachusetts to parents recently immigrated from Canada. His father William was from Nova Scotia and of Scottish decent. His mother Celina was French Canadian with recent family roots in Ireland. Census records from 1880 show the elder William McIntosh to be a carpenter and his wife Celina as keeping house at 100 Endicott Street in Boston.

Tracing a young William Francis McIntosh through directory listings show him as a clerk at 478 Hanover Street in Boston during the early 1890s when he was still in his teens. Through the late 1890s he is listed as a musician living at 209 Endicott Street in Boston's North End. At the age of 19 he married Sarah Veronica Farren, also 19, on February 17, 1896. Their marriage certificate lists William as a musician and his new bride as a waitress.

The couple would have three children together: Ellen Salina born February 28, 1897, William born September 7, 1898, and John Joseph born March 28th, 1900. The family suffered its share of tragedy with youngest daughter Ellen dying shy of her second birthday in 1898, and Sarah being committed to the Medfield State Asylum by her early 30s. Sarah would remain in care of the State for decades to come with census records listing her there through at least 1940.

Around 1903 the family moved just across the Charles River settling along Elwood Street in Charlestown. While directory listings from this time label McIntosh as a machinist, it was evidently a fruitful period for his drum building ventures as well. Multiple examples of McIntosh drums can be dated to the first decade of the 1900s including orchestra drums and larger parade drums.

1903 William F. McIntosh Orchestra DrumWilliam F. McIntosh Drum, ca. 1903Wm. F. McIntosh Street Drum, ca. 1903

McIntosh Drum Label, ca. 1903Wm. F. McIntosh Makers Label

McIntosh's output as a drum builder was most likely something of a slow trickle with spurts of productivity and spells of inactivity. Directory listings and census records are frequently at odds when naming McIntosh's profession. For example, the 1910 Boston Directory shows him as a machinist while the United States Census taken the same year describes him as a musician working in an orchestra.

McIntosh's manufacturing output was not limited to drums. Accessories including drum sticks and bass drum pedals, and traps such as ratchets and bird whistles were also built and sold. McIntosh makers labels make mention of xylophones and orchestra bells too. His overhead bass drum pedal and patented snare strainer appear in George B. Stone & Son catalogs from the late 1910s raising the possibility that other products were distributed through larger, more established dealers as well. But his overall production was small and sporadic, spread out across decades, making it difficult to definitively date most McIntosh products.

Ratchet by William F. McIntoshBird Whistle by William F. McIntosh              image source: ebay

McIntosh Drumhead Stamp               image source: ebay1928 Advertisement from "100th Anniversary, St. Mary's Church, Charlestown, MA, 1828-1928"

McIntosh's World War I draft card offers a humanizing snapshot of his life in 1918. He is described as tall, medium build, with blue eyes and blond hair. He was then employed as a machinist by the F. M. Tanck Company at 170 Atlantic Avenue in Boston. His parents were by this time deceased and his closest living relative was his wife Sarah who resided at Medfield Hospital, a solemn reminder that he had raised two sons largely on his own. He would however remarry many years later.

Beginning in 1924 McIntosh worked from an address at 33 Main Street in Charlestown, a quick five minute walk from his home at 6 Elwood Street. For the next two years he is listed in city directories as a drum maker perhaps coinciding with a period of renewed focus on drum building. Regardless, by 1926 he is again listed as a radio repairman, a line of work he seems to have mostly kept with before branching out into electrical work towards the end of his life.

While McIntosh eventually turned his attention away from drum making, he remained prone to designing and building things. In 1936 he was granted two patents, one for an electrical receptacle and another for an electrical receptacle plug.



For all the years McIntosh spent supporting himself in other ways, he never stepped away completely from his drums. A 1941 newspaper article tells of McIntosh reclaiming one of his instruments in person at City Hall in Winchester, Massachusetts. The drum, made in 1914, had long sat unused and forgotten by the drummers club for which it was built before the drum was unearthed from a locked wooden box backstage by a custodian. After a write up appeared in the Winchester Star telling of the discovery, McIntosh showed up in person to collect it. Then in his mid 60s, he still held an affinity for the drums he had constructed decades before.

William Francis McIntosh passed away on May 20th, 1950 in Chelsea, Massachusetts and was laid to rest near his mother at Holy Cross in Malden. Perhaps deciding once and for all how he was to be remembered, his death certificate lists his occupation simply as 'musician'.



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.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Ditson Special Orchestra Drum, ca. 1904 - 1910

As of January 1st, 1904, Boston's Oliver Ditson Company officially absorbed their former musical instrument manufacturing department, John C. Haynes Company, and began dealing musical instruments under the Ditson name. The Special Orchestra Drum featured here may or may not have been manufactured in Boston but is representative of Ditson's high end offerings during the first decade of the 1900s.

Oliver Ditson Special Orchestra Drum, ca. 1904 - 1910

The makers label present inside the drum lists Ditson branches in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. In 1910 the Philadelphia was discontinued ergo this drum most likely dates to between 1904 and 1910. The snare mechanism is a simple one which does an effective job of tensioning the wires but lacks the ability to quickly disengage the snares from the bottom head.

After a journey across eBay, the drum arrived missing half of its hardware so another set of six tension rods and claws was needed to reassemble the drum. The result is a subtle two-faced appearance where a different set of claws is visible depending on which side of the drum is in view.



The drum measures four inches deep and nearly sixteen inches across and is constructed not of solid maple, but of veneer. Advertising is careful to omit this fact as multi-ply shells were at the time seen as inferior. The outward appearance, however, is quite striking.

Other than the dimensions, the drum is a very close match for model #610 described in Ditson Wonderbook Number Four (1910) as "14 inch, bird's-eye maple shell, 3 inches high, rosewood veneered hoops, with metal top bands, 12 nickel plated rods and trimmings, 8 woven silk waterproof snares, 2 calfskin heads." The listed price was $15.00



Do you have a drum made by or for Oliver Ditson & Co.? I'd like to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at lee@vinson.net. And for more on Ditson and their fellow drum makers of early 20th century Boston, please visit www.BostonDrumBuilders.com.