Sunday, December 30, 2012

Another Lyon & Healy / Ditson Example

In a previous post on March 1, 2012 and again in a later blog we touched on the apparent connection between Lyon & Healy of Chicago, and Oliver Ditson of Boston. If the rate at which drums born of this partnership are showing up on ebay serves as any indication, they must not be all that uncommon.

This time a seller located in New Mexico was offering a fairly ordinary single tension drum. The wood shell and hoops are held together by eight early styled single tension rods with claws on either end. The drum is short on detail other than the wooden grommet, the ornamental snare tensioning knob, and it's faux rosewood painted hoops all of which are common on Lyon & Healy drums of the period.

Source: ebay

Source: ebay

The drum drew fourteen bids and was ultimately sold for $102.50 which seems to be on the friendly side of fair. It also reflects the relatively little amount of interest in simple single tension drums of the late 1800s.

Do you have a drum made by Oliver Ditson? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, December 2, 2012

1922 Stone Separate Tension Orchestra Drum - Completion

Well it only took me three months to get around to it but the 1922 George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Orchestra Drum is all finished. The drum was quite dirty on arrival but cleaned up quite nicely. The third pair of pics below provides a glimpse of the before and after.

Stone Catalog H, circa 1915
from Stone Catalog H, circa 1915
George B. Stone & Son 1922 Separate Tension Orchestra Drum
Lee's 1922 Stone Separate Tension Orchestra Drum

The shell label inside the drum bears a very clean date stamp reading 5 FEB 1922, or February 5th, 1922. Stone & Son was in their prime in the mid - early 1920s and this drum is an excellent example from that period. The polished rosewood grommet and pre-"INC" badge are both consistent with George Stone drums produced through about mid-1922. The move to badges with the "George B. Stone & Son INC" lettering occurred at some point mid way through that year. Threaded black Bakelite grommets began appearing in place of rosewood grommets sometime in 1924.

Geo. B. Stone Snare Drum LabelStone / McIntosh Snare Throw-off

The only major structural flaw on this drum is the missing arm for the Stone / McIntosh snare throw-off. This is a common issue. Maybe a correct replacement will come along one of these days. Also, there is a crack in the bottom hoop where the strainer is attached, but so long as the snares aren't tensioned too tightly, at least the problem won't worsen.

Stone Orchestra Drum Before Cleaning
Before Cleaning
Stone Orchestra Drum After Cleaning
After Cleaning

After cleaning, the drum came back together without too much hassle. The original snares and batter side head were re-installed, and a new bottom head (a repurposed Kalfo Timpani head in fact) was tucked on the existing flesh hoop. The new bottom head is admittedly too thick for perfect authenticity, but for display purposes it fits the bill.

Do you have an instrument by Geo. B. Stone & Son? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Early George Burt Stone Photo

An interesting old photograph was recently brought to my attention by Drum & Fife instructor Pete Emerick. The photo was uncovered in an antique store located in Gettysburg, PA which specializes in military antiques. Handwriting on the back of the photo identifies the snare drummer as none other than George Burt Stone and states that the photo is of the Camp M.V. Militia at the turn of the century. I believe the abbreviation M.V. stands for Massachusetts Voluntary. The uniforms worn by the men in the picture narrow the date down a bit further I am told, roughly to between 1886 - 1895.

The drum carried by Stone reads "FIRST REGT. / M.V.M. / DRUM * FIFE / AND / BUGLE CORPS" which corroborates the inscription on the back. The drum itself looks to be a typical late 19th century rope drum with leather ears, metal rim clips, and wooden hoops. No distinguishing makers mark is apparent on either drum in the picture. The most interesting feature of of either drum is the large descriptive emblem painted on the snare drum shell.

George B. Stone had an extensive background in military music and this photograph provides a rare glimpse into the life of a man who would go on to be best known for founding George B. Stone & Son in 1890.

Special thanks to Peter Emerick for sharing the image with me and allowing me to post it here!

As always, you can send Lee an email at

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Polishing the Stone

The 1922 Stone Separate Tension Orchestra Drum by Boston's George B. Stone & Son is cleaning up nicely. The decades of dirt and grime have been removed and the shell and hardware are polishing up nicely.

Liberon Black Bison Paste Wax did a beautiful job on the shell and I would highly recommend this product for breathing life back into aged natural finishes on antique drum shells. This was the second clean up project on which I've used the Liberon and I've been happy with the results both times. The maple color wax was a perfect match for the orange shellac finish.

The hardware was all cleaned using one of two processes. Some of the pieces (tension rods, rim clips, and strainer) were soaked in Dawn dish washing soap and then scrubbed with a toothbrush to remove any remaining grime before being thoroughly rinsed in very hot water and quickly dried. I tried a different process on the rest of the hardware (mounting screws and lugs) which was to simply soak the parts in Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner and then rinse and dry them. This was the first time I've tried using Simple Green but I have to say it did at least as good of a job as the Dawn and without nearly as much elbow grease!

After cleaning, the parts were polished with Cape Cod Polishing Cloths which did a terrific job of gently bringing back a brilliant shine to the antique nickel plating. I've used these before and will use them again. They will not scratch delicate plating and have no unpleasant odor which you can get from a lot of metal polishes.

Pictured below is all the hardware ready for reassembly. Coming soon: the completed project!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stone Drums from Gardner's Modern Method - 1945 Edition

Old method books shed some light on how students and teachers went about the learning process in generations past. These books also frequently include photographs giving us a glimpse at the instruments they were playing at the time.

From the 1945 edition of the Gardner Modern Method for the Instruments of Percussion, we have this picture of a very, very late Geo. B. Stone & Son drumset:

Previous editions of the Gardner Method pictured the author behind a more primitive trap kit. The picture seen here is clearly a younger man behind a newer set of drums. Gardner's Method was first copyrighted in 1919 and subsequently in 1927 and 1938 so it would make sense that the photographs were updated along the way.

The snare drum pictured in this 1945 "Revised and Enlarged Edition" is unlike any Stone we've come across from the 1920s or 1930s. It is likely among the very last instruments assembled by Stone and is an odd mix of old components and more modern ones not typically seen on Stone drums. Stone was merely assembling drums from old stock and parts purchased from other companies by this point. Only the shells could have been produced in house at that point, and even that much is uncertain.

We can clearly see Stone's trademark oval badge mounted on the shell over the air vent and the snare strainer is the same as those used on Stone's Master-Model drums. But the single fanged hoops (metal, not wooden) and metal lug casings (Gretsch 'Rocket' lugs or Ludwig Imperials perhaps?) are a sure sign that this was an assembly job near the very end of Stone's run, circa late 1930s.

Do you have a drum made by Geo. B. Stone & Son? Let's talk! Send Lee an email at

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Harry A. Bower "Dowelaphone"

I was recently pointed by a fellow vintage instrument enthusiast to an unusual Harry A. Bower mallet instrument in the collection of Los Angeles Percussion Rentals. Not unlike Bower's snare drums, this instrument looks to be unusual bordering on bizarre. Most if not all of Bower's instruments serve as little more than evolutionary oddities to us today. But apparently you can rent this one and play it if you really want to!

Photo: Los Angeles Percussion Rentals

Playing this "Dowelaphone" (or Dowel-A-Phone, or Dowel Xylophone) would appear to present some interesting challenges. The rounded over keys would make for awkward mallet ricochets, and the wooden slats placed between the accidentals could easily lead to disorientation when moving across the instrument.

Having studied so many of Bower's patent applications, there was undoubtedly a great deal of thought put into its design. How much of that translates into a practical instrument for performance purposes? Perhaps the ultimate answer lies in how little resemblance any modern keyboard instrument shows a resemblance to the Bower "Dowelaphone"!

Do you have an instrument built by Harry A. Bower? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shipping Vintage Drums

A few simple tips can save you time, money, hassle, and heartbreak when shipping your old drums.

Pack well using more than one line of defense against damage! Use a sturdy cardboard box such as the ones used by drum manufacturers to ship new drums. If you want to line the sides of the box with extra cardboard, even better. Place the drum in a plastic bag or line it with plastic wrap, and then go around it a time or two with bubble wrap. Finally, position the bundled drum in the middle of the box filling the extra space with newspaper to keep things snug while in transit. This helps prevent dings, dents, or worse if the carrier mishandles the package. If there are any loose parts or detached components, tighten them or wrap them up separately placing them in an obvious position in the box. You don't want anything rolling around loose in the box which could go missing or cause damage to the drum. Tape the box securely shut and cover all seems in the box with packing tape.

Don't use an absurdly oversized box! Many carriers charge you not only for the weight of the package (which can't really be helped) but also for the size of the package. In other words, you're paying for the amount of space the package will take up in their trucks in addition to just the weight. As long as there is enough room to safely insulate the drum, use the smallest box possible. Most snare drums (not including field drum sizes) can be easily packed in an 18" x 18" x 8" box, and in many cases a smaller box is perfectly acceptable. Just use your common sense here!

Pack the drum yourself. This will save you money versus what your local shipping outlet will charge you. The shipping stores often charge ludicrous amounts for boxes, packing materials, and labor. Your local hardware store has everything you need including tape, bubble wrap, and cardboard boxes for much cheaper. Do the packing yourself and you'll come out ahead on the overall cost. Also, reusing boxes and packing materials is thrifty and more environmentally responsible!

Pay for the insurance! It usually doesn't cost that much extra for a few hundred dollars worth of coverage. If you don't pay for the insurance and the drum is damaged, you are completely out of luck. You've lost your money and the drum, and the other person involved in the deal won't be happy either. It's worth the small additional cost for insurance - especially considering the way carriers are known to treat packages....

Print the shipping labels online. If you have a way to measure and weigh the package, printing the shipping label at home can save you a few pennies. It's not a major savings but every little bit helps. The biggest benefits to printing your own shipping labels are that you can skip the line and drop the package at your shipping location, or you can have them come pick up the package which is a real time saver.

Get a tracking number and provide it to the person on the other end of the deal. This lets the buyer know that the drum is on the way and when to expect the delivery. Tracking packages internationally is less reliable but keeping tabs on shipments in the United States is fairly reliable with any of the major shipping providers.

Happy collecting everyone!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A New Stone & Son Badge Surfaces

Hoop mounted badges are common on George B. Stone & Son drums dating from the mid 1910s through the early '30s. What is not common is to see a badge different from those typically used on the overwhelming majority of Stone drums. Such is the case however with a drum recently listed on eBay by a seller from Lowell, MA.

In some ways this badge is a real stumper. It's different in size and shape than any other badge ever used by Stone. Since it is so unusual, it stands to reason that very few of these badges were produced and installed on finished drums.

Thankfully, there is a paper label inside the shell which clears some things up. The label is one we've seen before and is not all that uncommon on Stone drums of the mid to late 1930s.

All other indications point to a similar conclusion. There is no serial number on the label. (Serial numbers were common from 1922 up until about 1935.) The drum is simple in design using single tension tuning. And the shell appears to have a small metal grommet which was used only on very late Stone drums.

So where does all of this leave us? This badge must have been used in very small quantities near the end of Stone & Son's production in the mid to late 1930s.

Do you have a drum made by Geo. B. Stone & Son? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Drum That Doomed Stone & Son

It would be an overstatement to say that a single snare drum model from a single manufacturer put George B. Stone & Son out of business. But when an old friend from the East Coast recently sent an early Ludwig & Ludwig nickel-over-brass shell Universal model snare drum my way, it occurred to me that none of the Boston Drum Builders ever produced anything like this even though many of the companies were operating simultaneously through the 1910s.

It isn't so much that Ludwig & Ludwig's metal snare drums of the 1910s were head and shoulders above Stone's drums, it's that the drums coming out of the Ludwig factory in Chicago were completely different instruments altogether. As Ludwig and their Midwestern counterparts evolved quickly through the 1920s, Stone & Son practically stood still. For example, short of the elusive All Metal Master-Model Drum, Stone installed wooden hoops on virtually all drums built in house for the entirety of the company's existence. And that is just the tip of the iceberg really.

Geo. B. Stone's famous Master-Model Drum (pictured at bottom right), introduced in 1922, used a visually striking yet completely impractical tuning method that involved using a wrench around the sides of the drum to adjust the tension of the heads. Again, this was not a forward looking evolution but rather a throwback to old fashioned ways which only served to put Stone further behind the curve.

Ultimately, designs such as Ludwig & Ludwig's All Metal Drum (pictured at bottom left) caught on and became the industry standard. The Universal Model (pictured at top right) was actually Ludwig's more affordable metal shell snare drum through the 1920s by which time their flagship models implemented ten tube lugs and either the Professional of Super-Ludwig throw-off.

Stone did eventually catalog a metal shell snare drum similar to the Ludwig & Ludwig Universal but these were admittedly not built in house. The metal shell drums sold by Stone were instead purchased from a third party (possibly Leedy or Duplex, or perhaps even from Ludwig themselves as Stone did carry the Ludwig & Ludwig bass drum pedals) and distributed through Stone's dealers which were predominantly in New England.

Note that Stone was cataloging a six lug drum in late 1924 by which time Ludwig had already moved to the more sturdy eight and ten lug designs. With Ludwig & Ludwig's highly advanced Super Ludwig models in production by this time, literally all of Stone's offerings including their Master-Model and Separate Tension Drums had become obsolete almost overnight.

Above: Mid - Late 1910s Ludwig & Ludwig Universal Model

Above: George B. Stone & Son Catalog K - Published 1924

You be the judge. Which of the snare drums pictured below look to you more like the instruments we play today?

Late 1920s Ludwig & Ludwig All Metal Drum
1923 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Where Did They Go?

During the early 1920s, four of the Boston Drum Builders were at or near their prime. Over the next two decades, each would disappear from the drum making map for different reasons.

Harry A. Bower was more of an assembler than a manufacturer per se. Many if not all of his instruments are presumed to have been produced largely by third parties such as machine shops or local craftsmen. Bower certainly was active in the designing and patenting of his creations, and was purported to have been quite the promoter of his wares, but he is not known to have ever had a factory full of workers under his command. So when Bower followed the rapidly evolving entertainment business to Southern California around 1925, his drum building efforts seem to have subsided. The last dated Bower drum I am aware of is from December of 1924. Bower did apply for and receive three patents while living in California in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but it is unknown whether any instruments implementing these designs were ever produced, much less marketed and sold.

Nokes & Nicolai's ending was relatively simple and concise. It is well documented in trade publications of the era that Nokes & Nicolai along with local string instrument maker Joseph Pancheco merged with the Liberty Rawhide Company of Chicago in 1926 to form The Liberty Musical Instrument Company. The looming question then is 'Why did Nokes & Nicolai chose to essentially sell their company?' We have no answer for that.

It would appear that Nokes & Nicolai was doing reasonably well at the time producing high quality professional level instruments well into the 1920s. They were financially stable enough just a few years earlier in 1922 to have purchased the F. E. Cole banjo business. And with both of Nokes & Nicolai's namesakes staying on with the new venture in Chicago, it doesn't appear that either man was looking to get out of the industry. Perhaps business has become bad for Nokes & Nicolai in Boston by 1926. Perhaps the two owners felt that the industry was passing them by. Or perhaps they just got an offer too good to refuse. We may never know.

The Liberty Musical Instrument Company was short lived, failing within two years time and was soon acquired by the Slingerland Company, also of Chicago. So in some small way Nokes & Nicolai lived on well into the 20th century, though to be honest, few if any of the instruments built by Slingerland bore any resemblance whatsoever to those being sold by Nokes & Nicolai in Boston only a few years earlier.

George B. Stone & Son was a family operation in name only by the 1920s with the elder Stone, George Burt, having passed away in 1917. But under the younger George Lawrence's oversight the company reached it's peak by the early to mid 1920s both in quantity and quality of instruments being turned out. It appears, however, to have been mostly downhill from there. The late Ralph Eames may have described the circumstances best in an interview with Rick Mattingly for Modern Drummer Magazine in 1985:

"When mechanization hit the drum industry it sort of passed Mr. Stone by. His business was primarily a handmade operation, and he didn't want to convert to the equipment that would have been necessary for him to compete with companies like Ludwig, Slingerland, and Gretsch. So the business gradually petered out."

And there you have it in a nutshell. Stone never modernized. Case in point: Stone was producing drums employing wood hoops and an archaic tensioning system for more than a decade after the major players in the industry had moved to metal hoops and standardized tension rods. It was impossible for Stone to keep up like that and eventually they just stopped trying. By the very end, the company was assembling only basic single tension drums with whatever parts were left in the shop making for a sad end to a manufacturing business that once made professional quality, state of the art instruments.

We know that Stone was still building drums, albeit it in dwindling numbers, into the mid 1930s but the factory was closed for good by the late 1930s or early 1940s and the drum making equipment sat dormant for the next decade before it was purchased by Raplh Eames in 1950. Eames Drum Company of Saugus, Massachusetts, which is still in operation today, is owned and operated by Joe MacSweeney just a few miles north of Boston and represents the closest thing to a direct lineage shared between any modern drum maker and the Boston Drum Builders of the early 20th century.

And last but not least we have Charles A. Stromberg. It wasn't that Stromberg disappeared so much as that he and his son Elmer simply shifted their focus away from building drums, harps, and banjos to the making of guitars for which they would ultimately become renowned. By the late 1920s, Stromberg's snare drums had evolved into the most modern of any built by a Boston maker of the day. Solid aluminum hoops, elegant separate tension tube lugs, and a fully functional (if slightly over-built) snare throw-off easily separated Stromberg's drums from their local competitors. But as Stromberg was basically a two man operation, their output was very small with the total number of drums produced by the 1930s said to have been only in the 400 range. It would make sense that Stromberg was drawn not only to the more popular instruments of the day for which there was more demand, but where the profit margin was higher for each instrument sold. Though Stromberg's later drums are not numbered or dated, it appears that they were fazed out through the late 1920s and early 1930s as their guitars began increasing in notoriety and popularity. Charles and Elmer Stromberg would continue building guitars until their deaths in 1955.

Do you have a drum built by one of the early 20th century Boston makers? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lyon & Healy / Ditson Connection Redux

In a previous post on March 1, 2012 I had speculated about a likely connection between Lyon & Healy of Chicago, and Oliver Ditson of Boston. A drum recently auctioned on ebay would seem to disband any doubt that there was in fact some sort of business arrangement between the two companies at one point in time.

Ebay seller "youcollectstuff" of Healdsburg, California listed for sale a rope drum in less than oustanding condition which had clearly been subjected to an unfortunate aftermarket paint job somewhere along the way. But what is fascinating about the drum is the paper label inside which reads "Manufactured For / Oliver Ditson Co. / Everything in Music / Boston, Mass. / by / Lyon & Healy / Chicago". That pretty much says it all.

Source: ebay

Source: ebay

With this information learned, it leads to many other unknowns. For one, we don't know when exactly this collaboration began and ended. And was Lyon & Healy the only one building drums for Ditson at this point in time? Who else may have been producing drums for Ditson and when? And how late, and to what extent, was Ditson still manufacturing drums for themselves during the early 20th century? All of these questions linger, but we can now say definitively that Lyon & Healy was at one time supplying drums to Oliver Ditson.

Do you have a drum made by Boston's Oliver Ditson Company? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Charles A. Stromberg & Sons Rope Tension Field Drum

From Watertown, MA comes a nicely preserved rope tension field drum by Charles A. Stromberg & Sons dating from circa 1920. The drum had been passed down through two generations from it's original owner and was safely stored away for many years inside a plastic trash bag in a basement.

The drum was evidently played back in the day but clearly it was very well cared for. The shellac finish is in terrific shape and lends a wonderful warm hue to the maple shell and hoops.

It's a large drum measuring 12" deep by 16" across with the top hoop bearing a very clean Chas. A. Stromberg & Son badge. The shell has a large, highly polished rosewood grommet which is a beautiful aesthetic touch as well as a functional air vent. So often these break and go missing. It is nice to see this one intact.

The original rope and leather ears are still and place though several of the ears are dried and cracked making it precarious to tension the drum. They will be left as they are however for the sake of authenticity, and since I do not intend to play the drum this does not present a problem to me. I am more interested in preserving the instrument in as original condition as possible.

The drum utilizes a factory installed Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler again demonstrating an apparent working relationship between George B. Stone & Son and Stromberg. The drum is set up with calf heads and wire wound silk snares which, if not original, are certainly of the era.

The paper label affixed to the inside of the shell is not one I have seen before. Not only does it read "Charles A. Stromberg & Sons" (plural) but it lists the address of 40 Sudbury Street, Third Floor and a phone number of "Haymarket 581". In the background behind the black lettering is the faint image of a Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum, the company's flagship snare drum model at that time.

Interestingly, the wood hoops are notched to hold in place the rope hooks. This would assure that the hooks are spaced uniformly around the drum and help provide for even tension and a clean visual appearance.

Do you have a drum made by Charles A. Stromberg? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Drumsticks from Yesteryear

Drumsticks haven't changed all that much in 100 years. The same premise applied then as it does now. They are made from wood, have a bead at one end, have a taper somewhere towards the bead, and preferably the stick is straight. In a way, there's not all that much to it. But I do get the impression that more attention to detail was put into crafting drumsticks back in the day, particularly by George B. Stone and Son.

Through the 1910s and 1920s Stone proclaimed in their catalogs that their sticks were "hand-turned by skilled workmen" as opposed to "the common machine-turned sticks which warp quickly and are usually rough and uneven". The same statement could be made today by a boutique stick turner to distinguish themselves from their mass marketed competitors and it would be no less true.

Stone & Son sticks turn up every once in a while. Recently a bundle of seven sticks (three pairs and a straggler) came my way along with a drum dating from circa 1920. The stamp imprinted near the butt end of the sticks typically reads "Geo. B. Stone & Son Inc / BOSTON" or sometimes simply "STONE" and is often followed by a model number.

The other Boston Drum Builders likely made their own sticks as well. They certainly cataloged and sold them. Below are catalog pages from several of the Boston Drum Builders through the 1910s describing their varied offerings. Models were produced from a wide selection of woods including rosewood, ebony, and snakewood, leopardwood, and cocoabola. Oliver Ditson even lists something called "ivory-tipped snare drum sticks" (which may or may not have actually been made from real ivory...) that would seem to be predecessors to today's nylon tipped sticks.

George B. Stone & Son - Catalog I, 1919:

Nokes & Nicolai - Catalog 5, ca. early - mid 1910s:

Nokes & Nicolai - Catalog 6, ca. 1918:

Oliver Ditson - Wonderbook No. 4, 1910

Oliver Ditson - Wonderbook No. 4, 1910

Sunday, September 9, 2012

George B. Stone & Son Advertising in 1922

Recently, in perusing online a digital copy of Jacobs' Band Monthly, Volume 7 published in 1922, I took notice of an evolution in the advertisements placed by George B. Stone & Son. From January through May of that year, Stone placed a simple all-text ad in the monthly publication:

After months of running this rather generic, uninspired ad, a new one appears in June of 1922. It is likely no coincidence that this comes shortly after the hiring of Fred W. Neptune, formerly of J. C. Deagan, as Advertising Manager only one month earlier. Also notice that the company's address is listed here as 49 Hanover Street.

In July of 1922, the previous month's ad is adapted to include an image of the Stone Separate Tension Orchestra Drum but offers essentially the same information as before. Interestingly, the address of 47-49 Hanover street is now being used.

Most significantly of all is the advertisement appearing in September of 1922 where we see for the first time what is soon to become known as the Stone Master-Model Drum. Apparently it was initially called the "All-Weather Drum" which didn't exactly have much of a ring to it. This ad was also run in October and November of 1922. Only the 49 Hanover Street address is listed now.

By November of 1922 the new drum is being referred to by Stone in other industry publications as the "Master-Model" and in December of that year the following advertisement runs in Jacobs' Band Monthly proclaiming that the "Stone Master-Model Drum" is "Used in the Boston Symphony Orchestra". Also note the change of address to 61 Hanover Street.

Do you have a Stone Master-Model snare drum? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Harry A. Bower Serial Numbers

Below is a table listing the Harry A. Bower drums of which I am aware along with their corresponding serial numbers and dates of manufacture. Not all Bower drums have serial numbers and not all are dated, so undated drums are included in this table with approximate dates based on which patents are applied to the drum, patent dates stamped onto the hardware when present, and where the serial numbers fit into the established pattern.

All of the serial numbers here fit the pattern. And taken at face value, Bower may have produced more than 1000 drums by the end of 1924. Whether or not this is true, we have no way of knowing. For one, we don't know where the serial numbers begin. They could have started at number 100, or 200, or even 300. Also, it is entirely possible that numbers were skipped along the way for any number of reasons such as the assigning of a specific number to a certain date, or the starting of each new batch at a fixed number. Any such manipulation of the serial numbers would completely skew the data graphed at bottom.

Serial Number
354(no date) ca. 1917 - 1918Lee's Personal Collection
379January (or June?) 22, 1918National Music Museum
(no number)(no date) post-1919 Lee's Personal Collection
529June 29, 1920Private Collection
532July 19, 1920flickr - username "theckman"
576March 31, 1921Lee's Personal Collection
577April 1, 1921Lee's Personal Collection
766August 23, 1922ebay
960March, 26, 1924ebay
967July 24,
1022December 15, 1924Lee's Personal Collection
1028(no date) ca. 1924 - 1925Percussive Arts Society Museum
1917 Harry A. Bower Drum Advertisement

Do you have an instrument built by Harry A. Bower? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, August 26, 2012

1922 Stone Separate Tension Orchestra Drum - Arrival

The newest arrival is a Stone Separate Tension Orchestra Drum dated 5 FEB 1922 from Boston's George B. Stone & Son. This one is especially interesting to me because it provides a concrete point in time from which to compare earlier and later examples of which I have two, three if you count the larger Separate Tension Band Drum.

This drum could use some cleaning to loosen up the dust (and cobwebs....) and lift away the grime but it is structurally in good condition and should turn out nicely when I have time to get to it. The drum was acquired via eBay from a music store in Massachusetts near Providence, Rhode Island. The following photos are from the auction listing. More pics to follow after the drum is detailed.

Do you have a drum made by Geo. B. Stone & Son? Let's talk! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Nokes & Nicolai Trap Door Bass Drum

Early 20th century Boston drum builders Nokes & Nicolai catered greatly to the needs of theater drummers of the day. These and other such drummers on the move would have been the main target demographic for the Trap Door Bass Drum.

This design was not unique to Nokes & Nicolai. Companies such as Duplex of St. Louis and Boston's own George B Stone & Son marketed similar bass drums. The idea was that a gigging drummer could store all of his "traps" or small instruments and sound effects inside of the bass drum thereby saving space and improving portability.

This particular example is in fair condition with the finish somewhat worn from age and years of responsible but substantial use. The shell has several cracks radiating out from the trap door and where the hinges that attach the door. The hardware shows significant plate loss the worst of which is on the steel parts such as the thumbscrew side claws and the latches used to secure the door shut. Also, the wooden grommet which mounted into the vent hole at the top of the drum has long since gone missing.

But the drum is not without charm. The badge is well preserved and lists the company's address of 3 Appleton Street in Boston, Mass. The nickel plated brass hinges which attach the trap door are an interesting visual detail on an otherwise utilitarian drum. And the four single ended, single post tube lugs - two on each side mounted at the top of the drum - leave room for the trap door to open and close.

        This Trap Door Bass Drum came to me from a seller on Cape Cod in the Spring of 2010 along with a matching Separate Tension Orchestra Drum and a briefcase full of traps and accessories which made for a fascinating time capsule find.

Do you have an instrument made by Nokes & Nicolai? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at