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.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Geo. B. Stone & Son's Last Catalog - Booklet "L"

Booklet "L" from George B. Stone & Son was in many ways a last hurrah. In fact, it was quite likely the last drum catalog ever published by Stone & Son or any of the once proud drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts.

A decade had passed since Stone's Catalog K was printed in December of 1924 and for all the heights it had represented, the luster had faded completely by the time Booklet "L" was mailed out in 1935 or 1936. Catalog K was circulated for a full decade without any changes other than regularly updated pricelists. And while there were smaller advertisements printed and distributed in the intervening years, Booklet "L" was a clearly intended as a follow-up to Catalog K as indicated by the consecutively lettered title. At the same time, calling the 1935 publication a booklet and not a catalog was a subtle admission that Booklet "L" had inherent shortcomings. When measured against drum catalogs from other companies and even Stone & Son's own past, Booklet "L" was underwhelming.

In terms of wow factor, there was none. Spanning only sixteen pages, there was no color to be found, only repurposed black and white photos from previous Stone catalogs and advertisements. There were no new products in sight, only a greatly scaled down listing of what the company once offered. Most of the more notable snare drums previously manufactured by Stone were now absent including the handsome separate tension drums which had been a mainstay since the 1910s, the short lived all-metal Master-Model of the mid 1920s, and the ill-conceived Mastercraft drums of the early 1930s. The only metal shell snare drum included is a six lug, lower level model which appears to be from the Leedy Drum Company of Elkhart, Indiana.

Stone's last drum standing was the noble Master-Model, already a relic of technology past. Pyralin wrapped finishes and chrome plated hardware were available for an additional charge, though judging by surviving examples, black de-luxe and natural maple with nickel hardware endured as the most popular choices. The most interesting drum pictured in the entire catalog appears on the front cover - a Master-Model in "white and black de-luxe finish".

George B. Stone & Son Booklet L, 1935George B. Stone & Son Booklet L, 1935

Included in the booklet were bugles, fifes, and drum major's batons, a clear indication that Stone was actively marketing to school bands and drum corps. Stone's music publications occupy a full page as well. In 1928 George Lawrence Stone had released editions of The Dodge Drum School for Drums, Bells, Xylophone and Tympani and The Dodge Drum Chart for Reading Drum Music. The timing of these publications is notable in that Nokes & Nicolai, who had succeeded the F. E. Dodge Company in 1912, had been recently sold to the Liberty Rawhide Company of Chicago who likely had no interest in Dodge's old method books. Stone, a one-time student of Frank E. Dodge, must have held his former mentor's books in greater esteem. Further, the re-releases were signs of Stone moving away from manufacturing and towards other forms of revenue. It was likely no coincidence that Booklet "L" was distributed just as Stone's soon to be famous Stick Control for the Snare Drummer was published in 1935.

George B. Stone & Son Booklet L, 1935George B. Stone & Son Booklet L, 1935

Absent from Booklet "L" are the xylophones, orchestra bells, timpani and traps which occupied a great deal of space in Stone's catalogs from the 1910s and 1920s. But this isn't to say these instruments were no longer available from Stone. The next to last page of Booklet "L" holds this enlightening wording:

"IN ADDITION TO THE FOREGOING we carry a complete line of xylophones, bells, marimbas, tympani, chimes, trap tables, temple blocks, hi-hat cymbal afterbeaters, sticks and mallets (turned to order if desired), holders, stands, xylophone solos, text-books, methods, etc. Prices Upon request.

"FOR THE CONVENIENCE OF OUR CUSTOMERS we carry and sell the Leedy, Ludwig and Deagan instruments and accessories and are prepared to take orders for any of the items manufactured by the above firms."

Most revealing is the final sentence which tells us in plain language that by this time George B. Stone & Son was content to sell their competitors instruments instead of their own. This was a far cry from Stone & Son's business practices of decades before. At their peak during the late 1910s and early 1920s, George B. Stone & Son had been capable of building almost every instrument or accessory a drummer could have possibly needed for any line of work. But times had changed. The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties had come and gone. Percussion instruments, especially snare drums, had evolved. Drum companies had consolidated and modernized while Stone had done neither.

This isn't to say that all was lost, but the end of Stone's manufacturing days were near. George Lawrence Stone would of course go on to be a highly successful teacher, an active drum corps adjudicator, and a prolific writer in his later years. But there would be no more drum catalogs. Booklet "L" was Stone & Son's final gasp for air, the last chapter in the story of a once great drum maker.



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.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

1880 J. C. Haynes & Co. Rope Tension Snare Drum

J. C. Haynes & Company served as the musical instrument manufacturing division of Boston's Oliver Ditson Company for the entirety of the Haynes Company's existence from 1861 through the end of 1903. During that time Haynes produced many styles of drums in a wide variety of sizes including those of smaller dimensions such as this dainty example dated September 29, 1880.

1880 J. C. Haynes & Co. Rope Tension Snare Drum

Measuring 8" deep by 14" across this drum was likely intended for a younger drummer, a child even, but is otherwise not so different from any other 1880s Haynes rope tension model. The workmanship is sound but perhaps short on fine craftsmanship. Haynes' drums were not generally given the same level of care as wind and brass instruments, much less bowed string instruments - not that this was so uncommon for a large instrument maker of the late 19th century. A company devoted only to drums and percussion was a novel concept which had yet to arrive in Boston as of the 1880s.

1880 Haynes Rope Tension Snare Drum1880 J. C. Haynes & Co. Drum Label

Affixed inside the shell is a wonderful dated makers label. The same style of label is known to have been used on many other Haynes drums from the early 1880s, some of which are dated and some of which are not. Dated labels such as this one help to place undated examples to roughly the same era of manufacture.

1880s Haynes Rope Tension Snare Drumca. 1880s Haynes Drum Label

The 1883 J. C. Haynes & Co. Catalog lists a vast selection of musical instruments ranging from accordions, banjos, and bassoons, to violas, xylophones, and zithers, and of course drums. Included are rope tension wooden shell snare drums available in rosewood or maple, and 'Prussian' style rod tension drums offered with maple, rosewood, nickel, or brass shells. A 14 inch, maple shell drum with 2 calfskin heads and snare tightener, referenced as model No. 4, was priced at $9.10. And if a fourteen inch drum was still too large, 12" and even 10" diameter models were also available.

1883 J. C. Haynes & Co. Musical Instruments Catalog Cover1883 Haynes Catalog - Drums

Do you have a drum made by Boston's J. C. Haynes & Company? 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.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

1903 William F. McIntosh Orchestra Drum

William F. McIntosh was a peripheral figure to Boston's early 20th century drum making industry. Known best for his Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler, McIntosh also sold drums of his own making such as this orchestra drum dating from July of 1903.

1903 William F. McIntosh Snare Drum

A drum such as this could easily go unidentified if not for a handwritten makers label applied inside the shell opposite the air grommet. The homemade nature of the label is odd if not suspicious given that other extant McIntosh drums from the same era bear printed makers labels. There is, however, reasonable cause to assume that this drum was indeed from the hands of William F. McIntosh such as the strong resemblance it shares with a known 1903 parade drum.

The snare mechanism is an early Stromberg design which was patented in 1904. The parts are stamped "PAT. PDG.", or patent pending, which would suggest the hardware present here was minted sometime after Stromberg's patent was applied for on July 20, 1903 and before the time it was granted on April 5, 1904.

1903 William F. McIntosh Drum LabelCharles A. Stromberg Snare Strainer

Turn of the century drums were by their very nature experimental. This drum is no exception as the peculiarities abound. The shell measures just under 4 1/2" inches deep. Why choose 4" or 5" when only 4 1/2" will do? An oversized polished rosewood grommet is normal enough though it is installed somewhat off center sitting slightly closer to the bottom edge of the shell than the top. What was the need for this? And curiously, the bottom reinforcing ring is much more narrow than the top. Perhaps this was an oversight due to haste, or could there have been some logic behind the decision? These questions remain unanswered.



More quandaries arise after a look inside the drum. Several carefully cut wooden panels have been applied inside the shell, one each backing the snare mechanism and butt, and another at what appears to be a crack or weak point in the shell. It is unclear whether these are original to the drum or if they were later additions or repairs. The snare strainer and butt have been removed and then reinstalled in slightly different positions necessitating a little bit of added support seeing as they are attached using only wood screws. Scraps of paper poke out from behind the panel which backs the snare mechanism, but why?

Charles A. Stromberg Snare Butt1903 William F. McIntosh Snare Drum

Peculiarities in all, there is an admirable simplicity to the drum in appearance and function. It is not excessively designed or over complicated. Stromberg's snare mechanism which McIntosh chose to employ is forward thinking yet basic. And the tensioning hardware, modern as it may have been for the turn of the century, is uncomplicated and efficient. Not that McIntosh can be credited for any of the subtle advances in drum making technology on display with this instrument, but he was at the very least keeping up with the changing times. One is left to wonder what could have become of him had he spent a lifetime devoted to drum building. McIntosh's career would later pivot towards radio sales and repair, a far cry from his drum making endeavors of the early 1900s.

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



Sunday, February 3, 2019

1910s Oliver Ditson Nickel Plated Orchestra Drum

Boston's Oliver Ditson Company traces its roots back to the 1860s as a music publisher and musical instrument dealer. Before 1904, the John C. Haynes Company served as Ditson's manufacturing branch while the Ditson Company handled retail. All the while, Haynes and Ditson were essentially one in the same managed by singular ownership. In conjunction with Ditson's opening of their new quarters at 150 Tremont Street, John C. Haynes & Co. officially ceased to exist as of January 1st, 1904 though John C. Haynes remained as president of the Oliver Ditson Company as he had been since 1888.

1910s Oliver Ditson Orchestra Drum

Drums labeled as being manufactured by the Oliver Ditson Company first appeared in 1904 and were produced through the 1910s. The nickel plated model featured here dates to the 1910s. Drums produced during the first decade of the 1900s, circa 1904 - 1910, list three Ditson branches including one in Philadelphia which was closed in 1910. The label affixed inside this particular example lists only Ditson's Boston and New York branches placing the date of manufacture at 1910 or later.

Oliver Ditson nickel shell Orchestra Drum ca. 1917Oliver Ditson Drum Label, ca. 1910s

Two outstanding pieces of provenance appear inside of the shell. A penciled-in date and name, presumably that of a previous owner, perhaps even the original owner, reads "Apr. 26, 1917, Harry Scully, Pittsfield, Mass." There is also an ink stamp from a dealer who may well have sold the drum: "L. E. Page, Pittsfield Agent for Ludwig Drums and Traps, 47 Reed St. Pittsfield, Mass." World War I draft records from 1917-1918 list Lewis Elliot Page, born August 31, 1887, as a machinist and musician in Pittsfield employed by the General Electric Company. Richard Harry Scully's draft card, complete with a signature matching the one found inside of his drum, lists his date of birth as November 28, 1890 and his profession simply as farmer.



The shell is formed from a single sheet of metal riveted at the seam and rolled over at the bearing edges. Snare beds are rather crudely hammered into the snare side bearing edge. The wooden counterhoops are described by Ditson advertising as "maple hoops, ebonized, with top metal bands". The metal bands are rolled over on the inner edge much like the shell's bearing edges and, beyond cosmetic flair, provided protection against damage from rimshots.

1910s Oliver Ditson Orchestra Drums

Ditson offered their Orchestra Drums in a variety of shell materials including bird's-eye maple, white holly, mahogany, and rosewood. These options and more are listed in Ditson's "Wonderbook Number Four" published in 1910. The catalogue spans more than seventy pages in length and lists instruments ranging from drums, cymbals, bells, and percussion accessories, to wind instruments including flutes, piccolos, trumpets, and bugles. As Ditson was a large music house with multiple branches, they were no stranger to the practice of selling instruments made by other manufacturers including Chicago's Lyon & Healy with which Ditson shared deep roots and an ongoing business relationship. It is often times ambiguous as to where a given instrument was sourced with makers labels sometimes reading "made expressly for" Ditson. That said, it is assumed that a fair percentage of the instruments cataloged in 1910 were still manufactured by Oliver Ditson in Boston.

Oliver Ditson Wonderbook, 19101910 Oliver Ditson Catalog - Snare Drums

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 many other Boston based drum makers of the early 20th century, please visit www.BostonDrumBuilders.com.