Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas Master-Model

Nothing says Happy Holidays like a Master-Model drum from Boston's own George B. Stone & Son! This instrument, which has been in the collection for several years now, is date stamped December 23, 1923 making it exactly 91 years old today.

This particular example bears its original "Black De Luxe Finish" with nickel plated hardware and is in very good condition. The rosewood grommet, cylindrical tension nuts, long arm throw-off, and Stromberg butt plate are all indicative of the first generation Master-Models produced in 1922 and 1923. Look for a more comprehensive dating guide for the Stone Master-Model drums during the coming year.

There is of course no way to know, but I'd like to think that once upon a time this drum was gift wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree. It would have been a nice way for some young New England drummer to bang in the new year almost a century ago.
1923 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum
1923 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum

George B. Stone & Son Drum Label
George B. Stone & Son Drum Badge

Do you have a Master-Model drum or another instrument by Geo. B. Stone & Son? I would love to hear from you! Send Lee an email at lee@vinson.net.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Smallest of the Small

By the first decade of the 1900s, smaller snare drum sizes were fast becoming the norm for use in popular music. These lighter musical styles, which would one day evolve into jazz and eventually morph into rock and roll, called for brighter sounding instruments than the military music of earlier days which utilized drums so regularly.

By the 1920s, fourteen inches had become the most common snare drum diameter with fifteen inch drums being offered as an alternative for larger performance settings. Drums intended for classical and popular music generally ranged from about 3" to 8" in depth. The military instruments of the previous century were typically 16" or larger in diameter and much deeper. While the 14" diameter ultimately proved to be the most widely accepted because of its versatility, 15" drums were offered by many makers through the mid 20th century as "band" drums generally intended for large concert bands and symphony orchestras, and on instruments produced for use with marching bands and drum and bugle corps.

The comparatively minute diameter of 13" may be a common size for piccolo snare drums today (with still smaller options available for special effects), but this was a very small instrument in relation to the other professional level offerings circa 1900 - 1920. Outside of toy drums or instruments intended for children, drums smaller than 14" were not typical. On the very edge of the size spectrum would be the 3" x 13" professional model as seen below.

The newest addition to the collection is a Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum by Boston's Nokes & Nicolai dating from about 1912. This particular piece comes from dry climate and is quite well preserved with no significant damage to the wooden components. The shell is solid steam bent maple, complete with original rosewood grommet. What is atypical about this drum for Nokes & Nicolai is the original 'Mahogany' finish which is clearly stained maple, not mahogany veneer.

Nokes & Nicolai's catalog American Drummer No. 5 dating from the early to mid 1910s boasts "We can make any size or style Snare Drum from any material. NO VENEERS USED IN OUR DRUM SHELLS." Perhaps this stained finish was, at that time, the solution to a customer's request for a shell built from some material other than the commonly used maple.

Nokes & Nicolai Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum ca. 1912
Nokes & Nicolai Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum ca. 1912
Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 6 published circa 1918 claims "Solid Mahogany, Rosewood or Bird's-eye Maple shells add $1.50 to above prices" so it may be the case that different wooden shell materials were a later addition to the company's offerings. The 3" x 13" size is listed in both catalogs No. 5 and 6 with an even tinier 2" x 13" offered in the earlier catalog but not in the later.

The most intriguing thing about this drum is the label inside. While partially missing, the label clearly read "F. E. DODGE CO. / 3 APPLETON ST. / BOSTON, MASS." The badge affixed to the top hoop, however, reads NOKES & NICOLAI / BOSTON, MASS." So it would appear that this instrument dates to right around the time when the company was handed off from F. E. Dodge to Nokes & Nicolai in 1912 making this something of a transition drum.

F. E. Dodge drum label
F. E. Dodge drum label, ca. 1912
Nokes & Nicolai drum badge
Nokes & Nicolai drum badge, ca. 1912

Do you have an instrument made by Nokes & Nicolai or F. E. Dodge? I'd like to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at lee@vinson.net. And for more on Nokes & Nicolai and their predecessors F. E. Dodge, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

1883 J. C. Haynes & Co. Catalog

One would think that a company which vanished more than 100 years ago would be difficult to research, but there is actually quite a lot of information to be found on John C. Haynes & Company, the musical instrument manufacturing branch of the Oliver Ditson Company. It is a testament to the Haynes Company's size and influence that such a great deal of ephemera and other advertising was left behind.

An original 1883 John C. Haynes & Co. catalog is held in the Winterthur Museum Library in Wilmington, Delaware. And thanks to modern technology, and sponsorship from the Lyrasis Members and Sloan Foundation, the full catalog has been digitized and is viewable online at the Internet Archive.


1883 J. C. Haynes & Co. Catalog - Front Cover

1883 J. C. Haynes & Co. Catalog - Inside Cover

Listed in the catalog amongst a myriad of other instruments ranging from accordions, banjos, and bassoons, to violas, xylophones, and zithers, are of course drums. Included are a couple of different styles of drums notably rope tensioned wooden shell drums available in rosewood or maple, and 'Prussian' style rod tension drums which were offered with maple, rosewood, nickel, or brass shells.


Rope Tension Field Drums and Orchestra Drums

Rod Tension 'Prussian' Drums and Rope Tension Bass Drums

Both rope tension and rod tension 'Prussian' style bass drums are catalogued as well. Timpani are listed in two styes: "French" which utilized brass shells, and "best American" which employed hammered copper shells. Eight models of polished snare drum sticks are offered in a variety of woods including ebony, rosewood, cocoa wood, and snakewood.


Rod Tension 'Prussian" Bass Drums

Kettle Drums and Drum Sticks

The catalog lists a full selection of calfskin and sheepskin drum heads, and a variety of drum snares including natural gut and "clock cord" which was likely made from braided linen. A full selection of drum fittings for both rope drums and rod tension 'Prussian' style drums is also offered. The last drums pictured are "Toy Drums" which were smaller sized, more simply built drums for children and young drummers.


Rope Drum Fittings

Toy Drums

Do you have a drum made by John C. Haynes & Company? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at lee@vinson.net.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Who was A. W. White?

It never ceases to amaze how intertwined were the vast number of drum makers in Boston during the 19th and early 20th centuries. While the focus here tends to be more on the prominent builders of the early 1900s, these drum producing entities were on many levels merely following in the footsteps of their predecessors of the late 1800s and the Civil War period before that. To better understand where the early 20th century Boston Drum Builders had evolved from, it warrants a look back at their forefathers. One such maker was Asa Warren White.

A great deal of information on White is included in Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston, 1640-1936 which describes the White Brothers, Ira Johnson and Asa Warren, as "the first Boston master makers of violins". Both Whites are reported to have been fine woodworkers who taught themselves the craft of violin making by studying instruments from the European masters. Drum making evidently made up a comparatively small part of the brothers' operation who were known primarily for their string instruments.

Ayars reports that Asa and Ira J. were in business together as music dealers, publishers and instrument makers under the name I. J. & A. W. White from 1849 to 1852 at 52 Court Street, and as White Brothers from 1853 until 1863 at 86 Tremont Street. After 1863, Ira went out on his own relocating just north of the city first in Malden, Massachusetts and then later in Melrose. Ira Johnson White died in December of 1895 at the age of 82.
A. W. White, 147 Tremont Stret Ad
The Musical Record, October 7, 1882

Ira E. White, the oldest son of Ira Johnson, also was a maker and repairman of musical instruments ranging from violins and basses, to guitars, harps and drums. It does not appear that Ira E. at any point was partnered directly with Asa Warren as the two are listed concurrently in local business directories at different addresses.

Ayars provides an extensive description of Asa W. White which is excerpted below. Ayars' footnotes indicate that the included quotations were provided to by William H. Howe and that the anecdote at the conclusion of this passage was related by violin maker Treffle Gervais.

"Asa Warren White was born in Barre, Massachusetts in 1826. He worked in his young days for Henry Prentiss [dealer and publisher], with a violin maker named Giradol, a quick workman, who worked on all forms of stringed instruments. In 1849 Ira J. and A. W. White formed a partnership and worked together repairing and making different instruments. Asa Warren made his instruments after the Stradiuarius and Guarnerius models. After Ira J. withdrew from the firm, Calvin Baker worked for him [Asa Warren] and made many good violins. After him, Orrin Weeman worked for A. W. White about three years and for a while also a man named Alden."

When Asa W. White was in business alone he continued at 86 Tremont St. until 1870. Later addresses were 50 Bromfield St. from 1876-79 and 147 Tremont St. from 1881-83. He (A. W. White) turned out several hundred violins "and about ten 'Cellos, several violas, three viol da gambas, and two viol d'Amors. A. W. White received a gold medal from the Massachusetts Mechanics' Fair." He advertised the quality of his instruments thus in 1883:

"Violins Highest Awards Wherever Exhibited
Over three hundred now in use
None have proved inferior
Endorsed by the best artists in the country
Every instrument guaranteed
Only the finest and best old wood used in construction
Amati, Stradivarius, Guarnerius & Maggini Models
$75 each"

Asa Warren White apparently followed the lead of Elias Howe in collecting old instruments for sale, as the same advertisement stated, "I keep in stock a line of fine old Violins - Italian, French & German - A list sent upon application." He imported French violins of the celebrated Italian models which he graduated and adjusted and sold for $17 alone, with bow and case for $21. He also graduated and adjusted German violins selling them for $9 alone, with bow and case for $13. He kept in stock for sale violins, violas and 'cellos of different grades, boxes, cases, trimmings of all kinds, and Italian and German strings by the best known makers.

His shop in Boston was a training school for some of the later violin makers. He died in 1893. The following story is related of him:

A short rotund man brought into his shop one day an instrument which he claimed was a Stradivarius. Mr. White, a tall, genteel-looking man, examined it carefully and said he was not interested as it was not a genuine one. The man thereupon swore roundly and vociferously at him reasserting the authenticity. Mr. White simply stamped his foot and exclaimed, "You're an ass!"

To fill in one missing gap in the timeline outlined by the above excerpt, around 1871 A. W. White partnered with Louis P. Goullaud to form White & Goullaud, an arrangement that would last until about 1875. White & Goullaud was predominantly a music publishing business which was located at 86 Tremont Street.

The drum seen below figures to have been manufactured by A. W. White after his brother Ira left for Malden around 1863, but before Asa partnered with Goullaud around 1871. Even if White continued to build instruments under his own label while in business with Goullaud, the drum would date no later than about 1876 by which time White had relocated to 50 Bromfield Street.

Lee's A. W. White Drum
A. W. White drum, ca. 1863 - 1870
Lee's A. W. White Drum Label
A. W. White drum label, ca. 1863 - 1870

Do you have a drum made by A. W. White? I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to drop me an email at lee@vinson.net.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Nokes & Nicolai Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum

New to the collection is a Nokes & Nicolai Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum. After a gentle cleaning and polishing, and the addition of two new calfskin heads tucked onto the original flesh hoops, this drum is up and rolling once again.

Lee's Nokes & Nicolai Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum
Nokes & Nicolai Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum, ca. 1912 - 1920
Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 6, ca. 1918
Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 6, ca. 1918

It is a simple but elegant instrument built around a one-ply maple shell. As the name would suggest, this is a single tension drum tuned by using thumbrods which pull down on both heads simultaneously. The drawback to this type of tuning system of course is that the heads can not be tuned independently from one another. When this drum was produced in the mid 1910s, however, single tension drums still had a significant following of drummers who either preferred the convenience of tightening both heads with the turn of a single screw, or were stuck in their old ways and weren't ready to accept the change over to separate tension drums which were fast becoming the industry standard on high end models.

This particular example appears to date from earlier in Nokes & Nicolai's existence, not too long after they had succeeded the F. E. Dodge Company. This much is suggested by the fact that both the snare throw-off and one pair of the rim clips are stamped with wording indicating that patents are pending. These markings are absent from hardware on later instruments as the patents were evidently never granted and the earlier 'patent applied for' stamped hardware were eventually used up.

Nokes & Nicolai shell label
Nokes & Nicolai Label, ca. 1912 - 1920
Nokes & Nicolai drum hardware
Nokes & Nicolai Thumbscrew Rods and Claws

This drum is of particular interest to me because it completes a 'set' as pictured in Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 5.

Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 5, ca. 1914

Lee's Nokes & Nicolai Orchestra Drums

Do you have a Nokes & Nicolai snare drum? I'd like to hear from you! Feel free to send me an email at lee@vinson.net. And for more on Nokes & Nicolai and their predecessors F. E. Dodge, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Sad State of Stone

By the late 1930s, George B. Stone & Son was all but done as a manufacturer. Long past their heyday of the early - mid 1920s, Stone & Son was now little more than a small time repair shop capable of assembling low end models built of parts sourced from other makers. The Stone Drum School would carry on for years to come as George Lawrence Stone had become quite successful as a teacher and author, but the drum production side of the family business had sunk to a very low point. And representing that unfortunate era is the drum pictured here which was recently offered on ebay by a seller in North Carolina.

The most striking thing about this instrument is just how basic it is from top to bottom. The wooden shell and hoops are simple in construction and may or may not have actually been produced by Stone in house. (This is a topic which was discussed at further length in an earlier post.) The snare strainer is of the rudimentary, old fashioned variety and is not a capable of easily engaging or disengaging the snares from the bottom head.

The tensioning hardware is also quite old school. Simple thumbrods connect through single point, stamped metal claws to threaded claws on the opposite hoop and tune both heads simultaneously. This is the definition of single tensioning which does not provide for the individual tuning of each head. Separate tensioning, where each head can be tightened independently, had been common on higher end models for several decades by this time.

The drum has no butt plate, only a simple fiber snare butt which is held in place against the bottom hoop by the snares themselves. This may have been commonplace in the early 1900s and even into the 1920s for some models by some makers, but by the late 1930s when this drum was put together, using a true butt plate was more typical.

Everything about this drum points to it being an inexpensive assembly project dating from extremely late in Stone's existence. So far from it's prime had Stone's workshop descended by this point, they had apparently even run out of maker's labels to apply to the inside of drum shells. So it had come to this. Someone evidently sat down at a typewriter and pecked out the name and address "GEO. B. STONE & SON, Inc. / 61 Hanover St. / Boston, Mass" on a blank adhesive label, almost succeeding at keeping the lettering inside of the colored margins. This is the miserably poor level of attention to detail to which Stone had sunk in the end.

Late George B. Stone & Son Single Tension Field Drum
Late George B. Stone & Son Single Tension Field Drum Label
The quality level of Stone drums had certainly tumbled a long way, but it is all part of the story of how Boston's largest drum builder rose and fell over an arc of nearly fifty years. It is a shame however that drums such as this could easily give the impression that Stone & Son wasn't at one point a maker of carefully crafted, top of the line instruments capable of stacking up favorably with those from any other maker in the world.

Late George B. Stone & Son Single Tension Field DrumLate George B. Stone & Son Single Tension Field Drum

And as always, if you have an instrument made by Geo. B. Stone & Son, I'd love to hear from you. Drop me a note at lee@vinson.net.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stone Master-Model Restoration - Completion

Restoration projects always take some time to complete. In a test of patience, this one took more than two years to come back together. But the end result is a beautiful George B. Stone & Son Master-Model drum.

The drum dates from late 1924 or early 1925 based on its four digit Stone serial number. And at age 86, there were a lot of issues with this drum when it arrived in the summer of 2011. The original finish had been removed from the wooden shell and hoops, and a shoddy coat of goop had been applied in its place. The metal parts were in no better shape. There were several missing claws and nuts, though this isn't too unusual when these drums surface. But the remaining hardware had been poorly replated over the existing original nickel plating, most of which was beginning to flake away as rust was starting to take its toll. So the decision was made in the Spring of 2012 to ship this one off to a couple of experts to have them work their magic.


The maple shell and hoops went to Will Tillman of Drummers Dream in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. Will is a Cabinetmaker who specializes in the restoration and reproduction of period American furniture and he builds drums as a side business. His experience as a woodworker and his knowledge of period finishes and application techniques makes him uniquely qualified to handle a project such as this one. Will was able to remove the unoriginal wood finishes and then apply several coats of natural shellac bringing the drum as close as possible to its original appearance.

The metal hardware went to Italian master craftsman Adrian Kirchler. AK's handmade metal shells, formed in the tradition of the early 20th century drum makers, are setting a new industry standard and have been featured on special edition models from Ludwig and Craviotto as well as Adrian's own custom made drums. His work as a craftsman is of the highest caliber and, even as his custom drum business has made it difficult to take on restoration projects, he was willing to tackle this project. Aside from stripping and replating all of the original hardware, Adrian was able to make several reproduction claws and nuts to help complete this drum. He was also able to re-blacken the background on the Stone Master-Model badge so that the raised lettering could once again be legible.

Master-Model Badge, Before and After RestorationReproduction Master-Model Claws and Nuts

Master-Model Hardware - Before RestorationMaster-Model Hardware - After Restoration

Now that the drum is reassembled, it is a truly striking example of a blond Stone & Son Master-Model. The before and after pictures tell the story best.



Do you have a Geo. B. Stone & Son Master-Model? I'd love to hear from you! Send Lee an email at lee@vinson.net.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Corroborating Haynes Labels

A drum in my personal collection manufactured by J. C. Haynes & Co. bears a fantastic label inside which reads in part: "Manufacturers and Importers of Brass and German Silver Musical Instruments. / J. C. Haynes & Co., / Importers, Wholesale and Retail Dealers in / Musical Instruments, Strings, Sheet Music, and Musical Merchandise. / 33 COURT ST., opp. the Court House. / John C. Haynes.   Oliver Ditson.   C. H. Ditson.   J. E. Ditson."   Left incomplete, however, are the blanks where the date and owners name can be filled in. Even upon close inspection, no handwriting can be made out. One theory as to why this information isn't present is that the ink has simply faded over time. It now appears more likely that these blanks were never filled in at all. We can say this with a bit of confidence after comparing it with another similar instrument.


J. C. Haynes & Co. Drum, ca. 1870s - 1880s

J. C. Haynes & Co. Drum Label, ca. 1870s - 1880s

The example seen below was recently offered up on ebay by a seller from Texas with the username "all_things_peacock". The drum is quite similar to mine, especially upon viewing the shells from the inside. Both drum appear to be made of a dark hardwood and have narrow reinforcing rings made of a lighter colored wood at each bearing edge. The labels on these two instruments are a perfect match which helps solve a bit of a mystery as to how old my own drum is. Past research showed that the address on a Haynes label by itself was not enough to accurately date a drum beyond a decades wide window spanning most of the later half of the 19th century. But this new label, complete with a hand written date provides a firm point on the timeline. September 9th, 1880 it reads, which happened to be a Thursday for what it's worth.


J. C. Haynes & Co. Drum, 1880

J. C. Haynes & Co. Drum Label, 1880

For more information on John C. Haynes and their parent company Oliver Ditson, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com. And as always, I love hearing from folks about old drums so feel free to drop me a note at lee@vinson.net.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lessons with George Lawrence Stone

In a recent email correspondence, Jim from Massachusetts was kind enough to share his memories of studying with George Lawrence Stone in the early 1960s. Jim's recollections provide a fascinating first hand account of what Stone was like as a man and as a teacher.

By this time, George Lawrence Stone would have been in his mid 70s and in the twilight of his long and distinguished career as a teacher, author, and businessman. The family drum manufacturing operation, George B. Stone & Son, had long since been shuddered and his performing days were behind him. George Lawrence would have been best known in the 1960s as a sort of grandfather figure in the percussion world having been an accomplished drum corps instructor, a founding member of the National Association of Rudimental Drummers, and a regular columnist in a variety of widely circulated music publications including the International Musician. Today, he is of course remembered above all else as the author of the ever useful resource on drumming technique, Stick Control.

The following is an edited together version of Jim's words. And below is an exercise written out by George Lawrence Stone in one of Jim's lessons entitled "Hand Velocity".


I studied with him in 1961-62. He had just published Accents and Rebounds and was writing a manuscript containing "Personal Conditioners". His secretary would announce before each lesson "the doctor will see you now."

He wore a three-piece tailored suit including a breast pocket handkerchief and a watch fob. His office/studio included a custom built practice desk built for two. There were permanent gum rubber practice pads built into the desk top with a pad on his side and a pad for the student on the other. The pads were elevated 30 degrees to accommodate the traditional grip. Mr. Stone always used hand-crafted rosewood sticks.

Each lesson began with Mr. Stone setting a wind up alarm clock. My lessons were 30 minutes. Often times the metronome and the clock would be ticking at the same time.

He loved chewing tobacco and would take a break mid-lesson relating stories of his life such as from his time playing xylophone with a vaudeville company. Mr. Stone's favorite/most often used expression to emphasize or clarify a direction was "Don't 'cha know?"

Mr. Stone gave me undivided attention on every detail of my playing for the full lesson. He would often do "stop action" checks on my sticking positions by saying "freeze!" Most of the time my stick tips would be out of the two-inch circle he would allow you for error.

He would assign three to four hours of homework. My assignments were to learn to "open and close" all 26 rudiments, and the usual "Stick Control" exercises. He recommended lengthy exercises averaging 15-30 minutes each. They were near torturous! He would say "Don't stop playing. If you need a rest, go out by the rim and play softly."

His ideal student was the one that would and could improve, challenge, and enhance his teachings. Joe Morello is the most obvious example.
Stone had his students agree to a three month trial after which he would let you go or keep you on. I kept on for a year. Joe Morello did three.

Mr. Stone always used a straight edge to title his exercises and solos. I watched him do this several times. He took care with what he wrote and said. I recall "the Doctor" telling me he prepared the manuscript for Stick Control literally by hand.

At one of my lessons he asked if I would mind stepping out of the studio and waiting twenty minutes while he met with a "musician from out of town" who dropped by to see him. It was Lionel Hampton in for a consultation.



Sunday, May 4, 2014

Harry A. Bower Drumline

.
From a reader in Maine comes pictures of a Harry A. Bower field drum in a white finish with the American Legion Logo applied to the shell. More interesting is that this drum is reportedly one of EIGHT in a complete set which was at one time used to outfit the local Legion's drum & bugle corps.

The drums have consecutive serial numbers in the very low 1100 range, an extremely high number for Bower. It is doubtful that he actually produced that many instruments even over the long span of time during which he was active as an assembler of drums.

In the late 1920s Harry A. Bower relocated from Boston, where the Vaudeville scene was drying up, to California where there was a burgeoning music and entertainment industry. Most of Bower's drums date from the late 1910s and early 1920s which appears to have been the height of his success as a drum builder. He largely disappears from the manufacturing and retailing scene after about the late 1920s.

The label inside of this drum appears to date the instruments to 1932 which would be very late for an instrument of this design. Bower's patented tensioning system was an odd one where both heads were tuned concurrently by turning the nuts on the side of the drum. The major disadvantages of this system were that the heads could not be adjusted independently, and that there was nothing holding the rods in place. Should one set of claws lose tension for whatever reason, the drums tended to literally fall apart!

What makes these particular instruments so strange is that not only are they of an outdated design, but they were apparently produced well after Bower had left Boston and his musical instrument building operation behind. Is it possible that the parts for these drums were left sitting around back in New England where an associate was able to build out a full set of drums for an American Legion corps? Or did Bower take his remaining stock with him to California only to later sell them to an old connection back on the east coast? There are questions to which answers are not likely to be found, but it is interesting to ponder how Bower came to outfit an entire drumline in 1932.

Do you have a drum by Harry A. Bower? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at lee@vinson.net
Harry A. Bower Field Drum

Harry A. Bower Drum Label



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Savage & Sons Rope Drum

From Ellis Mirsky's Field Drum Blog comes an interesting early 20th century Boston-made rope drum labeled with the name of a little known musical instrument dealer. The hoop mounted metal badge reads "HENRY H. SAVAGE & SONS / MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS / 166 Hanover St., BOSTON, MASS.". The characteristics of this drum are all typical of the Boston Drum Builders of the early 1900s, but information on Savage & Sons is hard to come by.


Henry Harrison Savage was born in North Bridgton, Maine on September 12th, 1839. Savage was married with three children, including two sons, and in his early life was involved with farming and the grocery business. He moved to Boston in the 1860s working as a clerk in a broker's office for several years before going into business for himself about 1878. Savage would go on to have diversified business interests including real estate, development, and banking, and was active as both a Mason and an Odd Fellow. Savage passed away in Wakefield, MA at the age of 92 on March 22nd, 1932.


During the late 1910s and early 1920s, Savage & Sons advertising appeared in college newspapers including MIT's "The Tech" and Boston College's "The Heights". The business obviously dealt in more than just musical instruments as their advertisements listed an eclectic array of wares for sale including everything from "Talking Machines and Records" to "Diamonds, Watches, Clocks, & Jewelry". It also says something about Savage's target audience when advertisements are running in college newspapers but not the prominent music trade publications at the time. All of these clues suggest that Savage was more of a lower level musical instrument dealer than any sort of high end drum manufacturer.


The drum pictured here, which appears to be fairly common in design and construction, was likely bought and relabeled by Savage & Sons. The biggest tipoff that this is a relabeled drum is the four extra holes around the savage hoop-mounted badge. A different, larger badge was obviously in place here at one time. The other major clue is the deteriorated paper label inside of the drum. There is very little left of the original label, but what is still present would appear to correspond with a late Nokes & Nicolai label circa 1920 - 1926. The way the original badge was removed and replaced suggests that this instrument wasn't even a contract build so much as it was either repaired or bought by Savage and then quite literally relabeled for sale.
Savage & Sons Rope Drum, circa early 1920s


The Heights, Volume IV, Number 15, February 8th, 1923


Compare the pictures below of the Savage & Sons drum to a Nokes & Nicolai instrument from the same time period. And for more photos of the Savage & Sons drum, visit Blog.FieldDrums.com.

Savage & Sons drum badge
Savage & Sons Drum Badge
Nokes & Nicolai drum badge, circa 1920 - 1926
Nokes & Nicolai Drum Badge, ca. 1920 - 1926
Savage & Sons drum label
Label appearing inside of Savage & Sons Drum
Nokes & Nicolai drum label, circa 1920 - 1926
Nokes & Nicolai Drum Label, ca. 1920 - 1926

Do you have an instrument from Henry H. Savage & Sons? I want to hear from you! Send Lee and email at lee@vinson.net.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Military and Art Drumming, by Enes J. Nokes

Enes J. Nokes, one half of Boston's Nokes & Nicolai, was also an active performer and teacher. Below is an interesting article by Nokes comparing and contrasting rudimental and concert snare drumming. This essay was published originally in THE METRONOME on September 15, 1926.

The question often arises as to what differentiates military drumming from art drumming and why military drumming may not be considered art drumming as well. Another question which has been raised is why an art drummer is said to be able to play any military beat whereas even an excellent military drummer might not always be able to qualify as an art drummer.

Military drumming represents a skill developed originally for signaling purposes in the army and marking the step of soldiers on march whereas art drumming represents an adaptation of drum beats to musical figures. From these widely diversified sources two separate schools of drumming came into being. In some respects they were similar, in others, dissimilar. Each demanded much technical facility but the paths of the two schools diverged. One coordinated physical technic and dexterity with musicianship at every point whereas the other developed the physical technic and dexterity with musicianship at times a secondary consideration. The laurels lay with the art drumming because while in many cases it made no greater physical demands it adhered closer to true musical concepts. For the reason that military drumming frequently ignores musical principles the thoroughly schooled and musicianly drummer sometimes experiences difficulty with some of the military beats in that they violate his musical sense. The physical dexterity can soon be developed by any well schooled drummer but the unmusical attributes of certain of the beats can quite conceivably baffle the musician who possesses a well developed rhythmic sense.

An analysis of that military beat the single paradiddle will help to illustrate the foregoing. This beat consists of two alternating single strokes and one double stroke. Such a combination cannot produce the correct normal rhythm when applied to even notes of equal mathematical value with their accompanying relative stress values. In particular, there is a peculiar lilt to the paradiddle - a rhythm which does not coincide with natural musical rhythm. To discover the reason for this requires an analysis of the manner in which a paradiddle is produced. In a rapid sequence of notes, the fourth stroke of the paradiddle must necessarily be a bounce of the third stroke and in this respect is to more or less extent beyond the absolute control of the drummer. We therefore obtain three strokes under perfect control and one under limited control with a consequent sacrifice of perfect temporal evenness. Similarly, the proper stress values are to an extent beyond the control of the drummer.

The Six and Ten-Stroke Rolls are musically unrhythmical and are, therefore, seldom found in art music. The nearest approach to such "rolls" to be found in art music is what might be termed a "feint off" a stroke roll. This occurs when a stroke roll (five, seven, or nine) ends upon an accent and is followed rapidly by a single stroke.

The single and double drags and the single, double, and triple ratamacues are names only for combinations in rhythms characteristic of military drumming. Grouped as they are in these rhythms they are likely to be musically awkward especially the characteristic rhythm of the double drag. The nearest approach to a rhythm in art music similar to the triple ratamacue is to be found in Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. Here the snare drum repeats a figure very similar to the triple ratamacue and requires the same technic. (The drum part of this composition was analyzed recently in an issue of THE METRONOME.)

The reader should not infer from the foregoing that because certain beats in military drumming are musically unrhythmical that this applies to all. For instance, the so called ratamacues are not inconsistent with the rhythmical demands of art music and while it is conceivable that the double drag would similarly not defy musical laws it nevertheless remains an awkward sounding rhythm. The paradiddles, however, are to musical rhythm what slang is in English. This will be clearly understood if the reader will compare the paradiddle to a similar effect produced on the trumpet. Let us suppose that a first class trumpet player is asked to play a sequence of rapid notes in double rhythm. For this he will use single tonguing unless the rhythm is extremely rapid in which case he may resort to double tonguing if he has not developed his single tonguing sufficiently. Ask him, however, for the sake of producing an effect similar to the paradiddle, to mix the tonguing by playing two singles and one double upon a group of four equal notes and he will produce a rhythm which is not legitimate even though it may be pleasing in its lilt. Such a combination of tonguing would surprise a good performer and would sound equally surprising to the trained listener.

If the drummer will but bear in mind the significance of these military beats together with the musical shortcomings of certain of them he will find in the rudimentary practice of them much valuable material for developing his technic. Many drummers feel that because military drumming is not wholly compatible with art drumming that it should be discarded. This is a misunderstanding of the case. Military drumming is distinct from art drumming and has a legitimate place. It is only when the military drummer without discretion and without musical education takes the technic of his military school "bodily" and indiscriminately into his orchestra playing that he errs and brings disparagement upon military drumming.

Because the drum so lends itself to faking, it is with difficulty that a high standing of drumming is maintained. Added to this is the regrettable fact that worthwhile literature upon the instrument is scarce. Composers, too, frequently err in writing for the drum and this in itself adds to the general chaos of misunderstanding surrounding the instrument. One may say that it is drawing the line to finely to differentiate between certain military beats and art beats but it is only by maintaining a strict line of demarcation between that which is musically legitimate and that which only approximates it that the technic of the drum and the literature concerning it can be raised to the level and standard existing for other orchestral instruments.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Who was A. J. Oettinger?

In relation to the early 20th century drum makers of Boston, A. J. Oettinger was little more than a tangential figure. It does appear, however, that he was a very active participant in the musical instrument manufacturing and retail scene in Boston during the early 1900s, and a knowledgable one at that.

Oettinger's name is referenced more than a dozen times in Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston, 1640-1936. While most of Oettenger's expertise appears to have been outside the realm of percussion instruments, he did brush shoulders with several well known drum makers of the time including Elias Howe, Thompson & Odell, and Blair & Baldwin. Amongst Ayars' footnotes we see that it was Oettinger providing information to the author about "Grandsire Baldwin" who after leaving Blair & Baldwin went to work for John C. Haynes & Company.

Ultimately, A. J. Oettinger was primarily known as a string instrument dealer, repairman, and provider of raw materials and parts to other makers. Earlier in her book, Ayars includes the following description of Oettinger's Musicians Supply Company which thrived for nearly 30 years until the owner's death in 1935.

"Adolph Joseph Oettinger started work as a boy in W. H. Cundy's shop, was in business for himself for a year or two about 1884, and later worked for the Geo. W. Stratton Co., becoming associated with Elias Howe when that firm took over the Stratton Company from Howard C. Barnes.

"The Musicians' Supply Company began in 1905 at 164 Tremont St. with the purchase of the stringed instrument and accessories business of Thompson & Odell. The firm consisted of Mr. Oettinger, Carl and Julius Nelson, the latter two being owners of The Vega Company. Mr. Oettinger later bought out the interest of the Nelsons. The company was located in 1920 at 218 Tremont Street, in 1925 at 83 Newbury Street, and finally at 177 Tremont Street. Mr. Oettinger died Dec. 10, 1935. As his sons had their own business interests elsewhere they did not care to carry on this concern, which is now being liquidated.

"This company supplies raw materials, bows and tools for all kinds of bow-stringed instruments to makers located all over the United States and in foreign countries, such as Honolulu, South Africa, South America and the Walker Group of Islands. It is the largest dealer in the United States in wood and tools for these instruments.

"The business includes also importing, selling and appraising old violins, violas and violoncellos, repairing all kinds of bow-stringed instruments and selling modern violins, bows and trimmings. "Oettinger Products" include their patented specialties such as a chin rest, a violin tailpiece, a violoncello tailpiece, a banjo tailpiece, a guitar tailpiece, tools, and the products which they sell to jobbers.

"From its start the company has had expert violin makers making instruments to order as well as repairing them. For the last eight years Giuseppi (Joseph) Martino, an Italian who previously had his own shop at 181 Tremont St., has been with the company as violin maker and repairer."

The Violinist, March 1913



The Violinist, August 1923