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.

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