Sunday, December 1, 2013

Traces of Dodge

More prominently remembered today for authoring the Dodge Drum Chart (1908) and the Dodge Drum School (1909), Frank E. Dodge and his brother Harry owned and operated a well established percussion instrument manufacturing business in Boston, Massachusetts through the first decade of the 1900s. Surviving ephemera from the F. E. Dodge Company is quite scarce however. One hundred and one years after the operation was succeeded by that of Boston's Nokes & Nicolai in 1912, about all that is left of the Dodge Company is a few surviving drums, keyboard instruments, and traps.

While a few tangible scraps of advertising are still floating around in the basements and attics of old New England homes, it is now easier to find mentions of the Dodge Company online thanks to the digitizing of many historical publications. Even then, traces of Dodge are few and far between. But upon running a web search for "F. E. Dodge Co." a few tidbits are brought to light.

One of the most interesting finds is this small blurb from the Music Trade Review dated January 19, 1904. From this we gain a fascinating glimpse into the Dodge Company as the brief writeup describes both the amount of business in financial terms that Dodge was conducting, and the size of the workforce employed by the company at that time. Later listings in industry publications indicate that in 1907 the incorporation was legally dissolved though the business clearly continued to function for several more years.

This little slip of paper recently surfaced on ebay. It is a paid check dated March 12, 1912 made out to the F. E. Dodge Company in the amount $2.50. The check was written by "F. H. Howell" of Calais, Maine, a small town at the northern most tip of New England.

Stamps on the check indicate that it was deposited at the National Shawmut Bank in Boston on March 15th, 1912. And lest there be any doubt that this check was made out to a different "Dodge Company", the back of the check is endorsed with the names of none other than Nokes & Nicolai who were by this time in the process of transitioning into ownership of the business.

So what exactly could you buy for $2.50 from the F. E. Dodge Company in 1912? Well, as a point of reference, the 1907 Dodge catalog listed drum sticks for $1.00 and untucked 18" calfskins starting at $1.15. Orchestra drums, available in both 3" x 14" and 4" x 15" sizes, sold for $12.00.

Do you have an instrument made by F. E. Dodge? I want to hear from you! Send Lee and email at

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The New Dodge Folding, Piano-Action Pedal Bass Drum and Cymbal Beater

Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 5, published circa 1914, modestly describes the "New Dodge Folding, Piano-Action Pedal Bass Drum and Cymbal Beater" as follows:

ALL THE GOOD QUALITIES ever claimed for any ten pedals are combined to make this PERFECT LITTLE 18 OZ. BEAUTY. All the faults formerly found in pedals are eliminated.

It is INSTANTLY attached to ANY SIZE bass drum.

It is detached and packed up in THREE SECONDS.

EVERYTHING is right under the foot from a DEAFENING CRASH to a most delicate PATROL APPROACH.

It can be played from the FRONT or from EITHER SIDE.


The same pedal is later advertised by Nokes & Nicolai as the "All Metal Folding, Piano-Action Pedal, Bass Drum and Cymbal Beater".

Nokes & Nicolai Bass Drum Pedal

There is no such pedal included in the 1907 F. E. Dodge Company Catalog so this design must have been introduced after 1907 but no later than about 1912 when Nokes & Nicolai took over the business from Dodge. Early examples of the pedal are stamped with the Dodge name while later ones appear with the Nokes & Nicolai marking pictured below. Production of these pedals likely continued for the remainder of Nokes & Nicolai's existence until the company was sold in 1926.

Nokes & Nicolai Bass Drum Pedal from Catalog 6, circa 1918
Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 6, circa 1918

The first decade of the 1900s was a time of transition and innovation for Nokes & Nicolai's predecessor, F. E. Dodge. Wording appears stamped into many Dodge components of that era stating that patents were pending. Those designs include a hollow steel claw for drum hoops which housed a fully swiveling nut to receive the tension rod, a simple snare drum throw-off which allowed for the snare wires to be fully disengaged from the bottom head, and the metal bass drum pedal seen here. For whatever reason, none of these patents appear to have ever been granted as there is no record of them in patent databases. Also, later examples of each of these products appear with no patent wording at all whereas had the patents been granted, the applicable patent numbers would likely have been stamped into the parts.

F. E. Dodge Bass Drum Pedal in closed position Nokes & Nicolai metal hardware stamp

The most unique feature of Dodge's pedal is its ability to quickly fold down into a flat position allowing it to be stored and transported more easily. This would have been an especially desirable quality for theater drummers who were always on the move.

Do you have a percussion instrument manufactured by Nokes & Nicolai or F. E. Dodge? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Stone Catalog K Shelf Life

George B. Stone & Son's Catalog K featured the widest and most comprehensive array of products ever offered by the company. The catalog was prepared in 1924 during the tenure of Sales Manager J. W. Neptune for the 1925 calendar year. The inside cover of Catalog K reads "Printed in U.S.A. / 1925" but price lists referencing Catalog K are dated as early as October, 1924 suggesting that it was in fact published sometime late that year.

Then under the command of second generation owner George Lawrence Stone, the family business was nearing the end of it's prime as their wood hoop snare drums were quickly becoming old fashioned. At the same time, Stone's hands-on construction methods were proving to be inefficient and uneconomical on a scale large enough to compete with the industry titans of the Midwest. By the mid 1920's, the younger Stone was gradually shifting away from manufacturing and more towards writing, teaching, and overseeing the Stone Drum School which operated concurrently alongside George B. Stone & Son Inc. Ultimately, George Lawrence was unwilling to modernize the operation and allowed Stone & Son to fade from prominence over the next decade and into obscurity by the late 1930s. Nevertheless, Catalog K provides a fascinating look into Boston's largest and most complete drum company as it neared the end of its golden age.

Stone Catalog K - Front Cover

Stone Catalog K - Inside Cover

The catalog spans 63 pages and displays the largest and most complete array of instruments ever offered by Stone. The Master-Model Drum is prominently featured as the company's premier snare drum offering. Two full pages are devoted to the Master-Model which is pictured in both natural and black finishes and is listed in only the 5" x 14" size. The Separate Tension Snare Drum, formerly the flagship snare drum offering, is still included but now takes a back seat to the Master-Model. Eleven snare drum models in total are included in Catalog K and all but the "Metal Shell Drum" appear to be built in house at the time the catalog was written.

Stone Catalog K - Master-Model Drum

Stone Catalog K - Separate Tension Orchestra Drum

Complete drumsets were offered for the first time and came in eight configurations. The most elaborate kit catalogued was the "Stone De Luxe Stage Outfit" which consisted of a 5" x 14" Master-Model Snare Drum and 12" x 26" single tension bass drum with covers for each, a snare drum stand, bass drum pedal and spurs, a 13" cymbal with suspension holder, a chinese tom-tom, a woodblock and cowbell with trap holder, a snare drum mounted cymbal holder, as well as a tambourine, a slapstick, a pair of brushes and a pair of sticks.

Stone Catalog K - Complete Drum Outfits

Stone Catalog K - Victory Model Drums

The Victory model line of drums, Stone's more economical series of instruments, are listed in five sizes under the headings of the "Victory Orchestra Drum" and the "Victory Band Drum". Victory model bass drums are also offered in five sizes. The "Stone Trap-Door Bass Drum" appears for the first time along with the Separate Tension Bass Drum, several single tension snare drum models, and the Stone Military Bass Drum which was a double strung rope drum with leather ears.

Stone Catalog K - Trap Door Bass Drum

Stone Catalog K - Stone Lite-Weight Bass Drum Pedal

The catalog also lists a wide variety mallet percussion instruments - some of which were made in house but many of which were produced by Deagan and merely distributed by Stone. The 'Stone Lite-Weight Bass Drum Pedal', which is of metal construction, is the first bass drum pedal pictured and is touted as "the easiest working bass drum pedal ever invented". Metal bass drum pedals by Ludwig and Fraser are listed on the following page. A full line of small instruments, traps, parts and accessories was available as was an expanded selection of music including method books and xylophone solos.

The two price lists pictured below are from 1924 and 1932 respectively, and are very similar in terms of the products they offer although there are a few differences, the most notable being the inclusion of a "Pyralin" wrapped Master-Model in the 1932 version. Interestingly, the prices listed in 1932 are actually lower than those published almost exactly eight years earlier. Perhaps this was a response to the economic conditions of the time as the Great Depression was setting in. The bleak financial times could also help to explain why Stone was continuing to use outdated advertising materials. Regardless, the very fact that Stone kept the same catalog in circulation for so many years is clear evidence that George Lawrence was allowing the company to fade.

   1924 George B. Stone & Son Catalog K Price List
   1932 George B. Stone & Son Catalog K Price List                                               photo: ebay

There is in existence a "Booklet L" from Stone & Son though I do not own a copy or know the date of publication. But if Catalog K was still being used in 1932, Booklet L may well have been released after that time and could have been the last large scale advertising publication put out by Stone. It is also possible that Booklet L was only an updated supplement to the larger Catalog K. It would be fascinating to compare the two volumes if and when a copy of "L" can be located.

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

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Made by Stone vs. Sold by Stone

In addition to manufacturing their own professional quality drums and traps in house, George B. Stone & Son Inc. catalogued instruments and accessories purchased from other companies. This is very apparent in Catalog K dating from 1925 where many Deagan keyboard instruments are included as top of the line offerings. This particular arrangement with Deagan may have had something to do with Advertising Manager F. W. Neptune, formerly of J. C. Deagan.

Also available through Stone & Son for many years was Ludwig & Ludwig's early bass drum pedal which proved to be so popular that it helped establish the Ludwigs' place in the market as their young drum manufacturing business grew.

The wording used by Stone in Catalog G dating from circa 1915 is very clear in stating that in addition to manufacturing high end maple shell drums themselves in house, they also sold "ready made veneer shell drums from another manufacturer". This information is further corroborated by former Stone employee and future Leedy Sales Manager George Way who stated the following in a 1932 business proposal:

"Wells Manufacturing Company, Brooklyn - A very small shop employing three or four men who do not make an assembled product, but supply wood shells to other drum factories such as Duplex, Stone, and a few jobbers who make up cheap models."
George B. Stone & Son Catalog I, 1919
George B. Stone & Son Catalog I, 1919
So perhaps this was the source of Stone's entry level drums distributed through the 1910s and '20s. The catalog page seen below further explains that these drums are of lesser quality and and are intended as budget level instruments.
George B. Stone & Son Catalog G, ca. 1915
It is also worth noting that just because a drum bears a strainer marked 'Stone', that the instrument may not neccesarily have been produced by Stone & Son. The "Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler" was available for purchase separately and sometimes surfaces as an after-market addition to drums. These examples are not normally stamped with the Stone name so as not to confuse the make of the drum.

All of this is to say that identifying a drum as having been built by Geo. B. Stone & Son relies on a number of different factors. To further muddy the waters, Stone sometimes assembled drums using what appear to be 'generic' parts. This was especially true during the very early 1900s before the company's hardware was unique to Stone, and in the 1930s by which time the manufacturing business was being allowed to fade. Stone was generally very good about labeling their house made instruments and at times even date stamped drums as they were assembled.
So in the absence of a manufacturer's badge or label, the best way to definitively identify a Stone drum is by looking at combination of characteristics and matching them up against known examples of factory labeled instruments.

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

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stone's Market Position in 1932

There is an interesting snippet of information included in Rob Cook's "The Slingerland Book" regarding the market position of George. B. Stone & Son as of 1932.

George Way, one of the driving forces of innovation in the drum making business across many decades was at this time a Sales Manager for the Conn owned Leedy Company of Elkhart, Indiana. Many years earlier, Way had in fact worked for the Stone Company in Boston. For that reason his remarks on Stone hold even more weight as Way would have had some first hand insights to how Stone's business functioned.

In 1932 George Way was searching for financial backing to start his own company. Way's business proposal sized up the competition by including a brief description of each of the major players in the marketplace at that time. His write up of Stone is excerpted below. Remember, this was well after Geo. B. Stone & Son's prime when they're manufacturing ambitions and capabilities were much greater.
"This firm is about 35 years old. They manufacture old style snare and bass drums in limited sizes and finishes. They also make eight or ten accessories. The main activity of the firm is the operation of a large drum school. It is doubtful if their manufacturing activities exceed $25,000.00 a year."
This quote is interesting for several reasons. For one, Way considers Stone's product line to be "old style" by 1932. This isn't altogether surprising as the Stone Company's golden age of the early - mid 1920s had now passed. It also fills us in that by this time the drum school side of the Stone business had surpassed manufacturing as the firm's primary activity.

Further information from Way included in Cook's book gives us some idea of how small George B. Stone & Son really was in comparison to other companies in the industry. Way states that in 1929 just as the Great Depression was setting in that Leedy's sales were down by $80,000 to $449,000 for the year. Slingerland was still very much a newcomer to the percussion business in 1929, but Way estimates that Singlerland's drum division sales rose to about $100,000 that year. Compare this to Ludwig & Ludwig who had grown to surpass Leedy as the largest percussion company in the country by 1927 totaling approximately $800,000 in sales that year. Way's 1932 sales estimates of several other drum makers are telling as well: Novak Drum Supply Co. of Chicago, IL - $50,000 per year; Wilson Drum Company of Chicago, IL - $50,000 to $60,000 per year before going out of business in 1928; Walberg & Auge of Worcestor, MA - $60,000 per year; Duplex Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, MO - around $20,000 per year at their height.

It is difficult to compare all the numbers accurately as Way jumps around a bit on the dates used. Percussion companies in the late 1920s and early 1930s were grappling with the loss of the theater drummer business due to the advent of talking movies, and the Great Depression was crippling the entire economy to the point where nearly everyone's sales figures fell off somewhat. But at the very least, Way's presumptions shed some light on the size of George B. Stone & Son relative to the other major players in the industry during that era.

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

Sunday, July 21, 2013

William F. McIntosh Rope Drum

From reader Joe Zajack come pictures of an early 20th century rope tension field drum by William F. McIntosh. The drum is fairly simple in design and construction but is notable because very few examples of instruments built by McIntosh are known to exist. McIntosh was mostly a tangential figure in the percussion industry and is best known, so far as the Boston Drum Builders are concerned, for having designed and patented a snare strainer and muffler in 1909 which was used extensively by several manufacturers, most notably Boston's own George B. Stone & Son.

But McIntosh apparently did some manufacturing, or at least assembly, of his own. Clearly he wanted credit for putting this drum together as he marked nearly every component with his name including the shell, leather tugs, and even the drumheads!

Everything about the drum is typical of other Boston makers of the era so it is entirely possible that McIntosh sourced some of the parts, especially the shell and hoops, from his friends at Stone or Stromberg. Given McIntosh's extremely low output of drums, it is unlikely that he had the ability to produce steam bent maple shells and hoops himself.
William F. McIntosh Rope Drum
William F. McIntosh drum, ca. 1926
McIntosh is listed briefly in Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the art of music in America by the music industries of Boston, 1640 to 1936 as having been a "Drummer, drum maker, radio expert and now mostly a dealer in radios and equipment" from about 1900 through 1936. According to the author's footnotes, this information was provided by none other than Enes J. Nokes of Nokes & Nicolai. Inside of the shell of this McIntosh drum is a marking reading "5/26" which may well stand for May of 1926 placing it comfortably within the timeline provided by Nokes to Ayars.
William F. McIntosh Field Drum Detail
William F. McIntosh Rope Drum Shell Stamp
William F. McIntosh Field Drum Head Marking
Do you have a drum by William F. McIntosh? I want to hear from you! Send Lee and email at

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Preservation vs. Restoration

My goal is always first and foremost to preserve an antique drum in as close to original condition as possible. The more aggressive one's approach to 'restoring' a drum, the less of the original is left for future generations to discover. One hundred years from now, a drum's owner should not have to decipher what is factory original and what is a misguided attempt at restoration. That being said, a variety of different approaches may be appropriate when addressing the condition of an old drum. Nothing is cut and dry here, but these are the three basic options with a bit of room for interpretation within each.

1.) Strict Preservation. Leave the drum virtually untouched. Rust, corrosion, and broken heads remain. Only the lightest, most gentle cleaning is done. This approach is recommended for very antique instruments where any tampering could potentially devalue the drum. Patina can be a good thing after all! Once the age is wiped away, it can take decades to return so think twice about cleaning a centuries-old antique. A good candidate for this kind of hands off approach would be an original 18th or 19th century rope drum which still has period heads, rope, and leather ears intact.
Lee's 1880s George W. Bemis Drum
1880s George W. Bemis Rope Drum in 'as found' condition.
Unless the drum is incomplete or badly damaged on arrival, only the least invasive cleaning techniques should be used. And unless it has already been converted into a player drum as is sometimes the case, resale value and collectibility in general tend to be adversely affected by any significant alteration to the instrument. Just leave the drum alone and appreciate it for what is is!

2.) Soft Restoration. Gently clean what is left of the original finishes without modifying anything. This to me is still preservation over restoration. It maintains a drum's character and leaves it with a somewhat aged look but helps preserve the instrument and protect it from any further decay. It is important to still keep the instrument in as close to original condition as possible. This is my default approach to cleaning most drums, especially the early 20th century Boston-made drums which I collect.

The level of cleaning and polishing used can be catered to each case but care should be taken not to over clean an antique instrument which can leave it looking over-restored. I typically like to replace broken heads with new calfskin, and gently polish the hardware and shell with products which are non-abrasive and safe for the particular finishes. Abrasive cleaning products should be avoided as antique nickel plating and shellac finishes are especially delicate and can be irreparably damaged with very little effort. Several cleaning products with which I have had success are detailed in a previous post.

Ideal candidates for this type of treatment would be instruments which arrive in fair to good condition and need no significant structural repairs or replacement hardware. So long as the original plating and finishes are in decent condition, shine up what is left and let the drum show its age! The two drums pictured below are examples of 'soft restoration'.
Lee's George B. Stone & Son All-Metal Master-Model Drum - Before Cleaning
Mid 1920s George B. Stone & Son All-Metal Master-Model Drum - Before
Lee's George B. Stone & Son All-Metal Master-Model Drum - After Cleaning
Mid 1920s George B. Stone & Son All-Metal Master-Model Drum - After

1910s Oliver Ditson Orchestra Drum - Before

1910s Oliver Ditson Orchestra Drum - After

3.) Full restoration. This may include the refinishing of wooden shells and hoops, re-plating of metal hardware, replacement of missing parts, and repairs to damaged shells and hardware. This approach is only advisable in extreme cases where the original finishes are already completely destroyed and no real value, financial or otherwise, is being lost. When work is done, care should be taken to use period correct materials and techniques when at all possible. Value is rarely added to antique drums by completely restoring them. Most collectors would much prefer to bring in drums in original condition, flaws in all, than instruments which have already been completely overhauled.

The two drums pictured bellow have undergone significant restoration. Both drums were in poor structural condition, had been previously refinished, and were missing hardware on arrival.
Charles A. Stromberg Orchestra Drum - Before Full Restoration
Charles A. Stromberg Orchestra Drum - Before Full Restoration
Charles A. Stromberg Orchestra Drum - After Full Restoration
Charles A. Stromberg Orchestra Drum - After Full Restoration
George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Band Drum - Before Restoration
George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Band Drum - Before
George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Band Drum - After Restoration
George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Band Drum - After

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Blair & Baldwin, Practical Drum Makers

Amongst the more obscure of the early 20th century Boston Drum Builders is a firm by the name of Blair & Baldwin. They do deserve to be recognized, however, as forefathers to several other Boston makers of the early 1900s.

Blair & Baldwin Drum Makers

Blair & Baldwin was founded in 1892 by William J. Blair and James G. Baldwin. Blair soon took lead of the company and by the mid 1890s the firm claimed to be the largest drum manufacturer in New England. The partnership initially was located in the Brighton District's Abattoir Grounds as is confirmed in the 1893 Boston Almanac and Business Directory. In 1894 the young company moved into Boston proper setting up shop at 379 Albany Street and around 1897 relocated to 169 Dudley Street. The 1902 New England Business Directory and Gazetteer again lists Blair & Baldwin at 169 Dudley Street in Boston. The last inclusion of Blair & Baldwin in Boston City Directories is 1902 at the Dudley Street address.

The information below is reported by Christine Merrick Ayars in Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston 1640 - 1936 (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1937). The author is mistaken however in that Nahum "Grandsire" Baldwin of the J. C. Haynes Company died in 1896. James G. Baldwin, not Nahum J. Baldwin, was in fact a founding partner of Blair & Baldwin. The 1892, 1893, and 1894 Boston Directories list James G. Baldwin as working for Blair & Baldwin. During the very same time period, Nahum J. Baldwin is listed at the same address as the J. C. Haynes Company.

"William J. Blair was a drummer in the Civil War and a maker of good drums. Baldwin was a fine workman also. He resigned to manufacture bicycle wood rims and wheels. Later he worked for John C. Haynes & Co. where he was known as "Grandsire Baldwin". When Mr. Baldwin resigned about 1905, F. E. Dodge bought out Mr. Blair who worked first for Mr. Dodge and then for Nokes & Nicolai until his death."

For more on the origins of Blair & Baldwin, please visit:

Do you have a drum made by Blair & Baldwin? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Saturday, June 1, 2013

1923 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum

The latest arrival into the collection is another early Master-Model Drum by Boston's George B. Stone & Son This one is finished in the commonly seen black lacquer with nickel plated hardware. As is consistent with other Master-Models from the first two years of production, the drum features a rosewood grommet, Stromberg butt plate and cylindrical tensioning nuts.
1923 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum
1923 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum

Inside the drum is a Stone & Son label dated December 31, 1923 as well as a second label reading "Hammond & Gerlach / Drum Specialists / Largest Drum School in Pennsylvania / Expert Drum and Banjo Repairing / Telephone Atlantic 3887 / 624 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA."
W. F. "Bill" Hammond was a renowned performer and teacher in his day. Malcolm M. "Heine" Gerlach was a four time National Champion Drummer of the American Legion Contest, a former member of Pittsburgh's Grand Theater orchestra, and a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Both Hammond and Gerlach came to know George Lawrence Stone through their involvement in the American Legion competition circuit. The three men were among the thirteen charter members of the National Association of Rudimental Drummers founded at the 1933 American Legion National Convention in Chicago. This personal connection between Stone, Gerlach and Hammond helps explain how a drum shop in Pittsburgh became a dealer for Geo. B. Stone & Son whose sales were mostly localized to New England.
1923 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum
1923 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum
Do you have a George B. Stone & Son Master-Model drum? I would love to hear about it! Drop me a note at And for more on Boston's early 20th century drum makers, please visit

Sunday, May 26, 2013

F. E. Dodge Timpani

From Jim Davey in Norfolk, Massachusetts come photos of a turn of the century timpano by the F. E. Dodge Company. The pair of drums, one of which is shown here, was acquired several years ago at a large outdoor antique show in New England and now sees regular use with Southeastern Massachusetts Community Concert Band.

Of note is that the drums are constructed around "Silver-Aluminum Bell-Metal Seamless Kettles". This is unusual in that timpani are traditionally built around copper bowls. The tuning system on these Dodge drums is also somewhat unusual as the handles used to tension the heads pull against metal bands which stretch fully around the outside of the shell and connect at the bottom of the drum. More conventional designs apply tension to brackets attached to the side of the kettles.

The heads, I am told, originally were tucked directly onto the counterhoops as is the case with many antique timpani. However, to more easily facilitate modern performance applications, plastic heads have now been fitted onto the drum.

The badge affixed to the drum is not one I have come across before. Perhaps it is of an earlier design and or a badge used exclusively for large instruments such as timpani.

The drums rest on a simple three legged cradle and would have been suitable for use with theater orchestras or larger performing ensembles of the day.

The drums were modeled around a patented design by Harry A. Bower. Timpani illustrated in the 1907 Dodge Catalog are of a more common design. The catalog page seen at right is taken from Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer no. 5, circa 1914. Nokes & Nicolai succeeded the Dodge Company in 1912 and continued to produce and market many of Dodge's products under their original names.

Bower's design included both an external and internal tuning mechanism. The production model appears to use only the external system while the internal mechanism is absent from both the cataloged drum and the surviving example seen here.
Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 5, ca. 1914
Photo Courtesy of Jim Davey
Photo Courtesy of Jim Davey

1907 Harry A. Bower Patent Drawings
1907 Harry A. Bower Patent Drawings

Do you have a percussion instrument made by the F. E. Dodge Company? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Single Head Snare Drums

The early 1900s saw a great deal of experimentation in drum design and construction. One model which caught on for a brief time but has long since gone nearly extinct is that of the single head snare drum.

Single head snare drums served several purposes. For one, they were compact in size and were highly portable. A small drum with only one head could easily nest with other smaller drums or be filled with traps and sound effects to be packed and transported to the next gig. Also, single head drums were by their very nature economical since they didn't require as much material to assemble. In some instances, these drums were constructed with less than high end shells and hoops which further reduced production costs.
It should be noted that companies were not promoting single head drums as being top of the line. Instead, these drums were targeted towards working drummers who were on the move and those buyers who were looking for cheaper options than the high end models. This isn't to say, however, that single head drums were poorly built.

In terms of construction, most of these drums are fairly straight ahead. The three examples pictured here, as well as all of those depicted in catalog artwork below, utilize a single wooden counterhoop. Some use conventional tension rods and some use thumbscrew rods. Many but not all had some sort of posts affixed to the shell to facilitate the positioning of the tension rods. The style of hooks used to pull tension down on the hoop vary by maker. Some designs tension from the top but most tune from the bottom where the tensioning hardware would remain completely out of the way of the player.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of these drums is how the snares are mounted inside of the drum against the bottom of the head. Some models had only a simple strainer with which to adjust the snare tension. Other examples, such as the one pictured at top, had a true throw-off capable of engaging or fully disengaging the snares from the head.

The three drums pictured at right are all of unknown make. No badge or label is present on any of the three nor do they match up definitively with any of the catalog pages below. This speaks to a couple of point including the inherent generic nature of these drums, and the fact that these were generally considered lower level instruments even in their day. It would appear that many companies were less likely to herald or even label these instruments as they left the factory.
Lee's Early 1900s Single Head Drum

Danielle's Early 1900s Single Head Drum
Photo Courtesy of Danielle Squires

Early 1900s Single Head Drum
Photo: ebay
In the catalog pages below, most of which date from the 1910s, you will notice some shared artwork. Where these instruments were being manufactured is unknown. Note how adamantly the second Stone & Son catalog states that their single head drums are bought from another manufacturer! Again, this all speaks to the fact that these instruments were popular economical offerings available through a great number of companies during the early 1900s.

Oliver Ditson Wonderbook Number Four - 1910

Excelsior Drum Works - 1911          Photo:

Geo. B. Stone & Son Catalog G - ca. 1912

Geo. B. Stone & Son Catalog H - ca. 1915

F. E. Dodge Company - 1907          Photo:

Carl Fischer Musical Instrument Co.          Photo: eBay

Acme / Sears, Roebuck, and Co. - 1908          Photo: eBay

Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 6 - ca. 1918

Do you have a single head snare drum? I want to to hear from you! Send Lee an email at