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