Sunday, June 16, 2013

Blair & Baldwin, Practical Drum Makers

Amongst the most 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 with William J. Blair soon taking lead of the company. By the mid 1890s they 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). Ayars may have her facts jumbled however seeing as Nahum "Grandsire" Baldwin of the J. C. Haynes Company died in 1896. It may be the case that a man by the name of James G. Baldwin, not Nahum J. Baldwin, was in fact a founding partner of Blair & Baldwin as the 1892, 1893, and 1894 Boston Directories list him as working for the company. 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."

It does appear that Blair kept the company in motion for several years before selling out to a young Frank E. Dodge. So in a way, Messrs. Blair and Baldwin would each continue to help shape drum building in Boston well into the early 1900s.

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

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What's in a Label?

The latest arrival into the collection is an early George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum in very good condition. (This would be Master-Model number ten, but who's counting...) The drum 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 bears a rosewood grommet and a Stromberg butt plate. The drum is tensioned using the fully rounded 'first generation' Master-Model nuts. The most unique aspects of this find, however, are found inside of the drum.

For one, there is a large paper label applied to the inside of the shell, presumably placed there by the drum shop who sold or repaired the drum. The label reads "Hammond & Gerlach / Drum Specialists / Largest Drum School in Pennsylvania / Expert Drum and Banjo Repairing / Telephone Atlantic 3887 / 624 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA." Advertisements from 1926 describe Hammond & Gerlach as dealers of Stone, Ludwig, Leedy, and Barry Drums and Traps and here is evidence of that.

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 the Grand Theater orchestra, and at one time a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Both men were both founding members of the National Association of Rudimental Drummers along with George Lawrence Stone. This personal connection with Stone formed through the American Legion National Conventions which ultimately yielded the founding of N.A.R.D. might explain why a dealer in Pittsburgh was selling Geo. B. Stone & Son drums when the most of the company's sales were localized to New England.
Lee's 1923 Stone Master-Model Drum
1923 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum

Hammond & Gerlach Drum Label
Hammond & Gerlach Dealer Label
So it was Hammond and Gerlach's shop who either sold or repaired this drum once upon a time. And in an amazing coincidence my teacher from college, John H. Beck, took lessons at this very drum shop as a high school student. Now how about that for a backstory?
George B. Stone & Son Drum Label
George B. Stone & Son Drum Label
But back to the drum and why it is significant in and of itself. The Stone label, also applied to the inside of the shell, is damaged and partially missing but the important half remains and is clearly legible. The drum is dated December 31st, 1923 - the very last day of the year!

Stone was quite diligent about date stamping their labels from early 1922 through about 1925. Comparing the dates and numbers of other known Stone drums tells us that the company produced a total of about 1100 drums in 1922 through 1923. This works out to less than 600 drums per year, or fewer than 50 drums per month over that period of time.

Interestingly, I have two other Master-Model drums built within only a few weeks of each other in December, 1923 and January of 1924. It is fascinating to me to think that all three of these drums left the Stone factory within one month of each other! Anyway, this drum will receive some light detailing and a new calsfkin batter head and will then be ready to display alongside its long lost siblings.

Do you have a George B. Stone & Son Master-Model drum? 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.