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