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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Who was F. W. Neptune?

Outside of George Lawrence Stone himself, the man most responsible for the outward face of George B. Stone & Son in the early - mid 1920s was Fred W. Neptune. Formerly with J. C. Deagan Inc. of Chicago, Neptune was hired by Stone as Advertising Manager in May of 1922 and remained with the company until November of 1926.

Neptune was in all likelihood the driving force behind a push made by the Stone firm to become more visible in industry publications, among them the Music Trade Review which is searchable online. Without hardly a mention of Stone & Son in the publication prior to Neptune's hiring in 1922, regular updates from the company begin appearing immediately thereafter.

It is almost surely in Neptune's own words that over the next several years we read about several new Stone innovations including the new Master-Model drums and the oddly designed Tru-Balance drumsticks. Neptune also would have been largely responsible for Stone & Son's lengthiest and most comprehensive catalog ever published, Catalog K which was released in late 1924.

But then in 1926, as quickly as the Stone news items had appeared in the Music Trade Review, they ceased. And while this is only one such publication which may or may not represent a trend in Stone's marketing efforts industry wide, it is surely not through happenstance that the timeline here coincides exactly with the arrival and departure of Neptune. Perhaps the escalation in advertising at the time of Neptune's hiring represents on a broader level Stone's attempt to keep up with industry kingpins Leedy and Ludwig & Ludwig. And perhaps Stone's ads ceasing in the MTR is one of the first signs of the company's resignation that they had advanced as far as they were able and were now watching the industry pass them by. Or maybe this rise and fall in advertising presence is merely evidence of the coming and going of an active advertising manager in Fred W. Neptune.
        Fred W. Neptune

A few advertisements run George B. Stone & Son during the tenure of Fred W. Neptune:

Music Trade Review, June 10th, 1922

Music Trade Review, January 3rd, 1925

Music Trade Review, August 14, 1926

Music Trade Review, February 23rd, 1924

Sunday, August 5, 2012

One Last Piece

There's nothing more annoying than an old drum that shows up missing one small piece of hardware. It's not as if extra parts from small early 20th century drum makers are easy to come by. But when spare parts do come along, I tend to snatch them up whether or not I have a real need for them at the moment. One viable source of spare parts is a so called 'donor drum' - an instrument that in such a sad state of disrepair that it can only be used for extra parts to be be 'donated' to other projects. Such was the case with a George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Orchestra Drum which came along this past Spring.

Upon arrival it was not a pretty sight. The thin one-ply maple shell was collapsing. The internal reinforcing rings were completely separated from the shell. The original badge and grommet were both missing. And the whole drum - shell, hoops, and even the tension rods - had been painted! No strainer was present and the drum was missing 7 claws and tension rods to boot. Unfortunately, there was no realistic chance of putting this drum back together. But as a donor drum, it was worth bringing in.

I've had for several years now a late 1910s - early 1920s George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Band Drum. It was a real train wreck when I bought it back in 2009. Every inch of the drum had been painted and several cracks ran horizontally most of way around the shell. The hardware was mostly intact but a few small pieces were missing. It was going to take a lot of work to bring this one back but it appeared that it was possible. First the shell and hoops were stripped. Then the shell was repaired by a professional. The hardware was cleaned and polished, and the shell and hoops were refinished. New heads were tucked and mounted, and new gut snares were installed. In the end, this one turned out much better than I had expected!

But two small missing pieces remained missing - a single tension rod and claw. Enter the donor drum purchased this Spring.

One rod and claw were removed from the donor drum and then cleaned and polished. We were all set ... sort of. The donor drum was of an earlier generation than the three Stone Separate Tension Drums I already owned including the 8" x 15" Band Drum. That much I knew when I opened up the donor drum and saw the single ply shell with three re-rings. But what I didn't expect was that the tension rods from the earlier drum would not match the ones from the later drum!

It's not a deal breaker fortunately as the differences are mostly cosmetic. The rods are essentially the same length and the thread size matches. The most significant difference is the shape of the head. The rods from the earlier drum are shorter and are nearly flat on top. The later rods have noticeably taller heads and are more rounded over. The good news is that the donor rod fits and that the Separate Tension Band Drum is finally complete, if slightly unoriginal. And at first glance, even I don't notice that one tension rod is a slight mismatch.

As an added plus, we now know that there were at least two different generations of slotted tension rods used by George B. Stone through the 1910s and 20s. And hopefully somewhere down the road we will be able to develop a more detailed dating guide for Stone drums using benchmarks such as this one.

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