Thursday, December 1, 2016

ca. 1936 George B. Stone & Son White Marine Pearl Master-Model Drum

One drum could never tell the complete story of a company whose life spanned decades, but the drum featured here could write its own chapter on both what could have been, and what had become of Boston's George B. Stone & Son by the late 1930s. Clearly, the potential existed for Stone & Son to have remained a respected manufacturer of professional level drums. The craftsmanship is proof of this. Yet rather than evolve with the times, George Lawrence Stone had chosen his company's fate. Having never fully modernized its production capabilities or instrument designs, Stone & Son was being left in the dust.

Very little had changed about the Geo. B. Stone & Son Master-Model drums since they were first introduced in 1922. Through the 1920s and into the 1930s, the industry had completely passed Stone by. While Leedy, Ludwig, and Slingerland had all moved to double post tube lugs, metal counterhoops, and state of the art snare mechanisms, Stone continued to use an impractical tuning system, wooden counterhoops, and a snare throw-off patented in 1909.

What is so stunning about this mid-late 1930s Master-Model aside from the brilliant chrome plated hardware and white marine pearl wrap, is just how well the whole instrument is constructed. There is absolutely nothing shoddy about the execution, nothing lacking in the way of quality workmanship to hint at Stone's long fading prowess as a drum builder.

1936 George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum

Smaller details about the drum do indicate that the end was near for Stone. The label fixed to the inside of the shell is actually a repair label. Faintly ink-stamped across the top of the label is the word "Manufactured". This is a clear sign that Stone was no longer producing a high volume of drums and that their priorities had shifted towards repair and maintenance of existing instruments. That a repair label rather than a manufacturers label was used on such a high end drum as this one speaks volumes about how late in the life of Geo. B. Stone & Son this drum was produced.

Stone did apparently have a few Master-Model badges left sitting around the shop, albeit the silver variety as opposed to the typical bronze badges with a recessed blackened background. The silver version applied here was typically reserved for special drums such as pearl wrapped models and the rare all-metal Master-Models.

Late 1930s George B. Stone & Son Drum Label

Late 1930s George B. Stone & Son Drum Label

Geo. B. Stone Master-Model Drum Badge

George B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum Badge

There are a few interesting differences between this example and earlier Master-Model drums. The most dramatic is the use of ten 'lugs' per side (20 total) as opposed to twelve (24 total). Anything other than a twenty-four lug Master-Model is almost unheard of, the notable exception being the aforementioned all-metal Master-Models which employed metal counterhoops and only eight lugs per side.

Another subtle but profound difference here is the use of washers which lack the usual "STONE & SON / BOSTON MASS" stamping. This suggests that Stone's builders had run out of stamped washers and did not expect to churn out enough more Master-Models to warrant having another batch of washers made up with the Stone imprint.

Stone Master-Model Nuts and Washers ca. mid 1920s - mid 1930s

Stone Master-Model Nuts and Washers ca. mid 1920s - mid 1930s

Stone Master-Model Nuts and Washers ca. late 1930s

Stone Master-Model Nuts and Washers ca. late 1930s

Small signs of Stone keeping up with the times are evident in the use of chrome plating, and with the factory installation of a Leedy tone control. Ludwig and Leedy, both owned by Conn at this time, had begun installing tone controls on snare drums beginning in the early-mid 1930s.

It should also be noted that wrapped examples of Stone Master-Model drums are quite scarce. Most Master-Models featured a black lacquer finish. Next most common is a natural maple finish. A "Pyralin Master-Model" was offered as early as 1928, but the number of existing wrapped drums suggests that they were produced only in small numbers, likely on a custom order basis. These were expensive drums after all. A 1932 price list offered the Pyralin Master-Model for $50 which equates to more than $800 today.

As is typical for Stone, the four digit serial number is both imprinted inside of the shell and ink-stamped onto the label. A serial number in the 9600 range places this drum around 1936. A three digit Master-Model number is also stamped inside of the shell in a smaller font. The number, 820, is extremely high, the highest among more than four dozen other recorded examples again confirming just how late this drum was produced.

Stone Serial Number

George B. Stone & Son Serial Number

Stone Master-Model Number

Stone Master-Model Number

Most earlier Stone drums including Master-Models would have been outfitted with individual strands of snappy wire, wire wound silk, or natural gut. This being a drum from the late 1930s, the James Snappy Wires installed on the drum at present may well be original. New calfskin heads bring this drum back right back to 1936, just before Stone & Son was done for good.

Do you have a Stone Master-Model? I would love to hear about it! Shoot Lee an email at And for more on George B. Stone & Son and all of the early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Make Stromberg Great Again

To understand how far this drum has come, one has to see what it looked like before the restoration campaign was undertaken. Cobwebs, dead bugs, dust on top of dirt, and almost enough missing parts to prevent the whole thing from coming together. In other words, real change was needed to bring back this drum back from the brink.

In a triumph of determination over frustration, patience and hard work prevailed. Not that this will ever be a serviceable instrument for any modern performance application, but a glint of the past has been preserved. And that alone should give hope to future generations of drummers, drum collectors, those interested in the instruments of Charles A. Stromberg, and anyone passionate about antique musical instruments.

Do you have a drum made by Charles A. Stromberg? I want to hear from you! Feel free to drop Lee an email anytime at And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

ca. 1907 F. E. Dodge Orchestra Drum

Amongst a trio of recently acquired early 1900s F. E Dodge drums is this splendid orchestra model, circa 1904 - 1907. Complete down to the original "Satin Finished Water-proof Snares", this drum is a wonderfully well preserved example of turn of the century drum building ingenuity and craftsmanship.

F. E. Dodge Orchestra Drum ca. 1907

The 1907 Dodge Drums Catalog lists the Orchestra Drum in two sizes. The 3" x 14" drum seen here joins a 4" x 15" already in the collection.

The single-ply maple shell and hoops are both characteristic of Dodge with the shell featuring shallow reinforcing rings and a polished rosewood grommet. A small circular makers label is affixed to the inside of the shell. Note the inclusion of the "Inc." lettering which likely means that this drum was produced after the company's 1904 incorporation.

1907 Dodge Drums Catalog
F. E. Dodge Drum Label
F. E. Dodge Co. drum label

Distinctive to many Dodge drums from the first decade of the 1900s is the use of an early style of swivel nut to accommodate the tuning rods. Though the nuts only swivel in one direction, they still represent an advancement beyond traditional collar hooks. Dodge's "Direct Snare Strainer" with its square shaped shank allowed for tensioning of the snares via an adjustment knob mounted to the top hoop.

F. E. Dodge Drum Catalogphoto:
F. E. Dodge Direct Snare StrainerF. E. Dodge Direct Snare Strainer

A simple leather anchor holds the snare wires in place against bottom hoop opposite from the strainer. Note the jagged edges of this leather piece, an unusual little cosmetic touch seen on many early Dodge drums.

Though the wooden shell and hoops show their age, the nickel plating is in excellent condition, a testament to the quality of the materials and processes used by Dodge. Period correct calfskin heads put this drum in historically accurate condition for display. A photo of the original owner gives us a glimpse of the drum in action roughly a century ago.

F. E. Dodge Snare ButtF. E. Dodge Snare Butt
Dodge Drums with their Original Owners

Do you have a drum by F. E. Dodge? I'd would love to hear about it! Send Lee an email at

And for more on F. E. Dodge and the other early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Johnny Williams' Stone Master-Models

John Francis Williams, popularly known as Johnny Williams, was born in Watertown, Massachusetts on November 15th, 1905. If the name rings a bell, it may be because he was the father of famed film composer John Williams. The elder Williams became a well known drummer in the 1930s through his work with the CBS Radio Orchestra in New York and then with the famed Rayomnd Scott Quintet.

The oddly named six-piece group was assembled in late 1936 and was highly prolific from 1937 - 1939. Scott would go on to form and lead a variety of ensembles under different names through the 1940s and into the 1950s (some of which involved Williams) and was the regular orchestra leader on classic 1950s television show Your Hit Parade. But Scott's earliest fame came with his original 'quintet' and their late 1930s studio recordings of such songs as "Powerhouse", "Twilight in Turkey", and the highly recognizable "The Toy Trumpet".

As a member of the Raymond Scott Quintet, Johnny Williams appeared in several Hollywood films during the late 1930s including Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) starring Shirley Temple. The Scott Quintet's involvement was apparently significant enough that the musical group was featured along with Temple in photographs promoting the movie. The handsome fellow at bottom left of the below picture sharing a glance with Shirley Temple is none other than Johnny Williams with his Stone Master-Model drum.

Whether or not Williams played the same drum on the Raymond Scott Quintet recordings, we may never know. But clearly Williams had an affection for Stone snare drums as he appears in many other photographs from the same time period with Master-Model drums at the center of his outfit. And he must have had more than one because pictures show Williams with Master-Model drums in at least two colors - likely white marine pearl, and black diamond pearl.


By 1939 Johnny Williams had signed on with the larger, more modern Leedy Drum Company. Most signs point to George B. Stone & Son being all but out of the manufacturing business by the late 1930s anyhow so it's surprising that Williams stuck with Stone as long as he did. As George Lawrence Stone had begun to devote his attention almost entirely to his drum school and related activities such as teaching and writing, Stone & Sons' drum making interests faded. So Williams' move to a company that could more readily supply his needs was a logical one. Leedy must have been proud of their new endorser as they touted him prominently on the cover of Leedy Drum Topics #28 in October 1939.

Do you have a George B. Stone & Son Master-Model drum? I would love to hear about it! Drop Lee a note at And for more on Boston's early 20th century drum makers, please visit

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

ca. late 1910s No-Nic All Metal Drum

During Nokes & Nicolai's fourteen year existence from 1912 through 1926, the company had more success than any of the other Boston Drum Builders at manufacturing metal shell drums. As metal drums gained in popularity through the 1910s and into the 1920s, virtually every American drum company had their own rendition, the most common shell choice being nickel plated brass. Nokes & Nicolai constructed theirs around a thick, polished aluminum shell riveted together at the seam. Earlier examples such as the one seen here featured similarly constructed aluminum hoops while later versions of the same model feature diecast hoops eliminating the need for rim clips. Another indicator that this particular drum is an earlier one dating approximately from the mid to late 1910s is the snare-throw off, an updated version of which was installed on later models.

Polished aluminum cleans up fairly easily as it does not rust. The cap of the Washington Monument is formed of solid aluminum for just this reason - its resistance to deterioration. A light layer of oxidation can occur, but this in a way seals the metal protecting it from further damage. A homemade paste of cream of tarter and water removed enough of the oxidation in this case that the aluminum shell and hoops could then be polished back to a brilliant shine. The before and after pictures show the transformation.

For a more in depth comparison of multiple examples of the No-Nic All Metal Drum and including catalog artwork, see the post from March 6, 2012. And for more on the early 20th century drum builders from Boston, Massachusetts, visit

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Four Years with Mr. Stone

Paul Munier was 20 years old when he began studying with George Lawrence Stone in the early 1950s. Mr. Munier had previously studied drum majoring under E. Leonard Bayrd of the Redmen's Band in his native Wakefield, MA and while pursuing Education degrees at Boston University he sought out Stone's help to learn the art of drumming. Munier, now 87 years young, recounted stories from his more than 200 lessons with George Lawrence Stone in a recent telephone conversation. Excerpts from that phone call have been transcribed and edited for publication here.

Q: What was Stone's teaching studio like?

He had two locations on Hanover street. One was his studio, upstairs, second floor, and the other was a factory where they did the manufacturing. They had a store with a big glass window on the second floor that overlooked the street and in back of that was the storage room. Mr. Stone had a low wooden table with two rubber pads on it and two kitchen chairs in front of it. Fitted in the back of the table was a music stand, and that was it! Everything else was just packing stuff and there was a sink in there, a small white sink. It was, you know, as crude as it could get. It was unbelievable!

Q: How did you hear about George Lawrence Stone?

I had heard of Stone because I had used his books when I studied. I was going to Boston University at the time and I realized he was right on Hanover Street, so I went in there one day and I said "How do you go about getting lessons here?" And the secretary says "Well, he only takes serious students now. Are you interested in becoming a professional drummer?" I said "No, no. I'm perfectly happy being a drum major here, but I'm very much interested in drumming." "Well he really only takes more or less professional caliber students" said the secretary. So I could see I was getting no place with her!

He came out of the back room with a student and the the student took off. And I was standing there talking to her, and he came over. He said "Are you interested in studying?" and I said "I am but I'm not interested in being a professional drummer. I'm drum majoring now and I enjoy that but I'm really interested in drumming. And from what I've seen of your books, you'd be the person to go to to get information." So we talked for a few minutes and he said it was $3.00 per half an hour for lessons. I told him the money doesn't bother me and he said "You're willing to spend your money but you don't want to become a professional drummer?" He must have figured this guy is a little bit off!

He asked how I got interested and I told him. And he knew of the Redmen's band, of course he'd seen them in parades. And I said the drum major taught me four basic rudiments - single stroke roll, long roll, flam, and ruff - and he said "You're interested in learning more? You're willing to pay me to teach you about drumming, and you're not going to become a drummer?" I said "Sounds crazy but that's true!" He says "I'll take ya. Sounds interesting." So that's how I got in with him you know. And I started on half hour lessons and I was going to BU of course, I come in there once a week. And after a couple of years, some weeks I'd take a second half hour lesson. So in all when I finished up, I had 210 half hour lessons with him - four years.

Sometimes we would sit down and wouldn't even pick up a stick. We'd just get talking on some rudiment, or explaining, or working on something and he was unbelievable. I didn't know much about drumming as you know, but I knew that I had met a man that was the tops. Nothing could beat him.

He was the most unassuming man that you could imagine. He didn't come on strong yet he had everyone from Gene Krupa, you've heard of him, and all the rest of them came to him for lessons. Of course they were all famous before they got there really. But in those days those people were self taught and they'd get a few lessons and they were good, you know what I mean, naturally good. But after they became famous, they often took lessons to learn more - the technical side of drumming and everything. So he had symphony orchestra guys, the Boston Symphony drummers would come for him, rock and roll drummers came to him, jazz drummers. He ran a drum corps at one time and he was a drum instructor for a drum and bugle corps from the American Legion I think it was. And he really had a fantastic background. So I stuck with him for the four years. I spent the last three years of my bachelors degree and a year from my masters degree with him and I became a language teacher.

Q: Why was Stone willing to take you on as a student if you didn't want to be a professional drummer?

I don't think it's just because I was willing to pay. He really seemed to enjoy it because when we'd be doing something, I'd ask him questions or something and I remember several times especially towards the end of my four years there, he told me "You sent me back to the books plenty of times to find out, to get the background." He said "It was always good talking it over. You weren't just asking crazy questions, it was a good question and I had to figure out the exact answer." And after I got through with four years with him I still kept in touch with him all the time after I moved to Connecticut and when I went home I'd see him a lot if he wasn't busy at the time. We'd always have a good chat.

Q: What was a typical lesson like?

Well he'd start in, at first he used to have you close and open one of the rudiments but then he'd get right down to whatever he had assigned out of his book. And if something came up and I asked him about it then we'd get off the track. And we'd spend the rest of the half hour discussing that you know. That's why it took me so long - four years - but I enjoyed it! He never shut me down if I said I have a question.

Q: Did you cover other instruments with Stone?

No, rudimental drumming and I did have a drumset. I used to go out and play dances. I had a concert snare naturally from the set that I would use if I was playing with a military band in a concert or something. My main thing, I was still doing drum majoring and eventually I gave up drum majoring, but I'd still use the title because I didn't know what else to call myself! I didn't want to be called a drummer because I'm not a drummer.

Q: What was Stone like as a teacher:

None of them could top Mr. Stone because Stone knew every phase of it. In fact, if you were writing him up, you would have to say that he was the first drum instructor who covered all drumming. Because before that, there was no jazz drumming, you know, set drumming. It was either concert or parade. Then the set drumming came in - jazz came in - and that went into rock n roll or whatever they call it today. He bridged both of those from the time before jazz came in and then when jazz came in and once jazz went into what do they call it now? Rock 'n' roll or something? He covered everything. It was really interesting to see that he was in the era that covered the old style that first introduced jazz, and when they got into this syncopated jazz that we have today. I don't know what they call it, but it's a more advanced type of set drumming you know?

Mr. Stone said to me "Most people, when they come on here, they just want to finish their two year course and make some money on it you know?" So I dragged it out for four years, and he must have been sick of seeing me after four years. He was a really interesting go to and boy we had some great conversations. Sometimes we wouldn't even pick up a stick. You know, we just kept talking on something - the history of how a rudiment fit in with another one or something. And then he wrote articles on how many basic rudiments are there, are there two? or are there four? or are there six, you know what I mean? and then he'd write it up in his column for the international musician!I would read his column and I'd think, oh yeah, we discussed that three months ago. He was unbelievable. I couldn't say enough good about him.

Lee can be contacted any time by email at And for more on George Lawrence Stone, George B. Stone & Son Inc., and the other early 20th century drum makers of Boston, MA, please visit

Monday, May 2, 2016

ca. 1906 - 1910 Stromberg Orchestra Drum

From Gary Wolprt in Mason, New Hampshire comes this early single tension Orchestra Drum by Boston's Charles A. Stromberg. The drum was long ago refurbished but much can still be pointed to as evidence of Stromberg's craftsmanship and ingenuity, and his evolution as a snare drum maker.

ca. 1906 Stromberg Orchestra Drum

Most interesting about the drum is the hardware used to tension the heads, a method sometimes referred to as 'double tension'. This is in fact merely another form of single tension where both heads are tuned simultaneously. The main distinguishing feature of the so called double tension tuning method is that the tension rods are adjusted from the side of the drum with the use of a key, not from the top or bottom using thumbrods or more conventional tension rods.

Stromberg Single Tension Hardware
Stromberg Single Tension Hardware
ca. 1906 Stromberg Drum Hardware
Stromberg 'Double Tension' Hardware
Stromberg Separate Tension Drum Hardware
Stromberg Separate Tension Hardware

The claws used here (above center) are an interesting modification of those typically employed by Stromberg. In order to better accept the tension rods, or perhaps to emulate the look of slotted tension rods being fitted into the claws from above, each claw has a fixed cylindrical segment which is permanently affixed. The tension rods are then threaded in a different direction at each end so that turning the rods adjusts both heads at once. An unusually fine threading gives the player added control over fine tuning, though it would mean more turns to bring a damp drumhead up to pitch.

ca. 1906 Stromberg Drum LabelStromberg may have chosen to apply this so called 'double tension' method for one of several reasons. Firstly, this was likely intended as a lower level model than his patented Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum which was being produced contemporaneously. Another possibility is that a customer specifically requested a drum with this tuning method as there was still much discussion during the early 1900s as to the merits of single tension versus separate tension.

The label applied inside of the drum tells us several things beyond the fingerprints from some less than careful shell refinishing. For one, the address listed, 767 Washington Street, is not often seen suggesting that Stromberg only operated here for a short period of time. The same address is handwritten inside of the previously referenced Invincible Orchestra Drum with a date from March of 1906 placing the drum featured here sometime shortly thereafter. Also noteworthy is the omission of the word "Invincible" which tells us that the maker did not want us to confuse this drum with his patented design featuring separate tension lugs.

Unfortunately the original snare strainer is no longer present (a plugged hole in the shell prior to it being refinished confirms this modification) leaving us to wonder what exactly was there in the first place. And the hardware which now appears a copper-ish hue was likely nickel plated upon leaving Stromberg's shop. For that matter, the original color of the drum may have been something very different from the very dark stain it now wears.

But the shallow one ply maple shell is as refined as any made by Stromberg. And as usual the drum has a subtle elegance about it due in part to Stromberg's claws which were more streamlined that those of other makers of the era. A new slunk head from Stern Tanning tucked onto the original flesh hoop has this drum back in service once again. Special thanks to Gary for allowing his drum to be featured here!

Do you have a drum made by Charles A. Stromberg? I want to hear from you! Feel free to drop Lee an email anytime at And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Blond Master-Model with Provenance

Boston's George B. Stone & Son produced more than 800 Master-Model Drums after its introduction as the company's flagship snare drum offering in 1922. The most commonly applied finish is what Stone cataloged as "Black De Luxe". Second most common is the natural maple finish seen here.

Geo. B. Stone & Son Catalog K (1925)George B. Stone & Son - Catalog K, 1925
Geo. B. Stone & Son Master-Model DrumGeorge B. Stone & Son Master-Model Drum

Stone & Son heralded their Master-Model as "The Ace of All Orchestra Drums" proclaiming that it was "easiest playing and best tone snare drum in the world." The three ply maple shell, a feature unique to Stone at that time, was "guaranteed not to split, warp, or crack." Describing how the drum was set up before leaving the factory, Catalog K (1925) states "Both heads are of the most durable, first quality calf, specially selected and treated to withstand dampness" and that "Each Master-Model is equipped with snare strainer and muffler attachment of a new design, also the best coiled wire snares". True to Stone's intentions, the original snare wires and new calfskin heads adorn this example. And note the small metal tab attached to the strainer which keeps the knob securely in place - a small piece which frequently goes missing or is removed and misplaced.

Stone Master-Model Snare StrainerStone Master-Model Snare Butt

Equally as interesting as the period correct setup is the provenance associated with this drum. So often the story is lost over the decades of who originally owned the drum. In this case however, we can trace ownership all the way back to the beginning because the drum remained with the family for nearly 90 years before it was purchased from the owner's granddaughter.

Ernest Rhys Llewellyn was born in Auburn, Massachusetts on July 2, 1888. A patent attorney by trade, Llewellyn was also something of an inventor himself receiving three patents for designs of his own pertaining to locking screws and a power transmitting mechanism. According to his family, he was also an architect, a Free Mason, an award winning field dog breeder, a small arms instructor for the U. S. Coast Guard during the second World War, and at one time owned an office equipment retail store in Manchester, New Hampshire. And somehow in addition to all of this, he apparently found time to play drums.

Mr. Llewellyn lived out his later years in Arlington, Massachusetts, his possessions eventually ending up in a wooden shipping crate relegated to the basement for storage after his death. His timpani were long ago donated to a local Massachusetts high school, and his snare drum has now found its way into the author's personal collection. As a nice touch, included with the drum were several pairs of sticks complete bearing the etched initials of Llewellyn's granddaughter who briefly played the drum as a junior high school student.

Do you have a drum made by George B. Stone & Son? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email anytime at And for more on George B. Stone & Son Inc. and the other early 20th century drum manufacturers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit
Ernest Rhys Llewellyn

Sunday, March 6, 2016

William F. McIntosh Snare Drums

William F. McIntosh's most notable contribution to percussion was an early snare throw-off design for which he received a patent on February 9th, 1909. Over the next two decades, his so called "Snare Strainer and Muffler for Drums" would be installed on hundreds if not thousands of snare drums including many by Boston's George B. Stone & Son. According to Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston 1640 - 1936 (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1937), McIntosh had by the 1930s taken up other interests and was dealer in radios and radio equipment.

As discussed in a previous post about a William F. McIntosh rope drum, McIntosh had only a very small industry presence as a drum builder and it is unclear exactly to what degree he was capable of manufacturing for himself the various components needed to produce drums. He did however assemble a small number of snare drums over his life span, three of which are featured here.

First comes a pair of drums now in the possession of the Italian American Citizens Club in Malden, Massachusetts stamped "Wm McIntosh Drum Maker Charlestown, Ma" inside the shells. The drums were apparently owned by the Colonial G. Verdi Musical Club of Malden and reportedly were used for the annual Saint Rocco Processions for many years before being stored away in a basement. No other information or photographs were provided but it is interesting to note that the snare drum employs twelve Stromberg-like separate tension lugs and McIntosh's patented strainer and muffler. Also noteworthy are the collar hooks similar to those used by Stone & Son on their Separate Tension Drums.

William F. McIntosh Snare DrumWilliam F. McIntosh Bass Drum

Secondly, a reader sends along a few (rough) photographs of an early McIntosh orchestra drum with a handwritten label reading "July 03, Made by William F. McIntosh, 6 Elwood Street, Charlestown / Mass." The snare strainer present on the drum is a patented Stromberg design and is stamped 'patent pending'. This would suggest that the strainer was produced after the patent was applied for, but before the patent was granted on April 5th, 1904. This corroborates the date of July 1903 date written on the makers label.

1903 William F. McIntosh Snare Drum1903 William F. McIntosh Snare Drum Label

Do you have a drum by William F. McIntosh? I would love to hear about it! Feel free to send Lee and email anytime at

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Word About Separate Tension, by George Burt Stone

One hundred years ago, separate tension drums were still something of a new thing. Single tension drums were perhaps slow to fall out of vogue because they had more in common with the traditional rope tension instruments used by drummers for the past century or two. In the case of rope tension drums, the simple pull of a leather tug tightened both heads simultaneously. The same principle was true of early rod tensioned drums, the only difference being the use of metal rods and claws rather than rope and leather to tighten or loosen the heads.

Geo. B. Stone & Son Thumbscrew DrumGeorge B. Stone & Son - Catalog H, ca. 1915Geo. B. Stone & Son Separate Tension DrumGeorge B. Stone & Son - Catalog H, ca. 1915

Catalogs of the 1910s often listed single tension drums and separate tension drums side by side making little suggestion as to which was preferable for any particular reason. A query posed to George Burt Stone in a 1915 magazine column then doesn't seem quite so uninformed. In response to a reader's question published in Volume 6, Number 1 of Jacobs' Orchestra Monthly, Stone chose to reprise his own article from the same publication in August of 1913. This topic was evidently so timely that he also reprinted the article in George B. Stone & Son "Catalog H". The 1915 question and answer are transcribed here.

Q. What is your opinion regarding single and duplex strain on drum heads? I notice that many of the late drum makers are straining with a single rod from rim to rim instead of each head separately. This is, of course, in keeping with the old principle of rope strain but I have had much better results from duplex strain because you can use a heavy batter and a thin snare head.

A. In answer to your question, and to many other questions which I have received within the past month or so concerning the relative merits of separate and double tension, I will reprint below an article, entitled "A Word About Separate Tension." This article appeared in the August, 1913, issue of J. O. M. in the Drummer department.

     "There is at the present time considerable discussion among professional and amateur drummers as to the relative merits of separate and of double tension for tightening snare drum heads.

     "Personally, I think that separate tension is much the better for the following reasons: In a snare drum, the snare head should be comparatively thin, the tension being loose enough for it to vibrate freely against the snares. The batter head should be a certain degree thicker, for this head must receive the beating of the sticks and must necessarily be strong in order to stand it. The batter head should be considerably tighter than the snare head in order to properly transmit the concussion of the sticks to the snare head, also to properly rebound the sticks.

     "With ordinary rods (straining both heads at once), the snare head, being thinner and weaker, is strained much tighter than the batter head, which is the reverse of the correct adjustment.

     "In rainy weather or in a damp theatre pit where heads are bound to slacken, ordinary rods cannot begin to take all the looseness from the batter head without at the same time pulling the snare head to a high tension. Result - a drum with a "tubby" tone that "plays hard" because the batter head is loose; so loose that it will not rebound the sticks to the player's satisfaction.

     "Another point, suppose one of the heads begins to pull down on one side (this is possible with the most even heads obtainable) an attempt to correct the unevenness by tension with ordinary rods invariably results in the other head being pulled out of shape, which makes retucking necessary.

     "Separate tension rods control each head independently. These rods allow the correct relative adjustment of the batter and snare heads, giving the user the exact combination of head tension that he has found in practice to be the most satisfactory for tone and playing qualities. In damp weather, provided he is using separate tension rods, Mr. Drummer will find it very easy to strain the batter head up to a sufficient tension to rebound the sticks without even touching the snare head unless he thinks it necessary. If one of the heads starts to pull down on one side more than on the other, it is a simple matter with separate tension rods, to adjust the strain so that one head will be evened out without disturbing the other.

     "And last, but not least, if while playing on a separate tension drum, his stick goes through the batter head, the player simply turns his instrument upside down, and finishes the engagement playing on the snare head. If he has had the forethought to buy an extra head, tucked, stretched and dried on a flesh hoop, it is a matter of but a few moments to put the drum into first-class playing condition once more."

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Stone Black Beauty Separate Tension Snare Drum

Boston's George B. Stone & Son produced a great of drums in black lacquer finishes during the 1920s and into the 1930s. Most were either Master-Model snare drums or bass drums from matching drumsets. Much less common are black lacquered examples of the Separate Tension Orchestra Drum.

1925 Geo. B. Stone & Son Black Beauty Separate Tension Snare Drum
1925 Geo. B. Stone & Son Black Beauty Separate Tension Snare Drum

This model was in fact listed in Stone's Catalog K (1925) as the "Black Beauty Separate Tension Snare Drum". It is significant to note that Stone's use of the moniker 'black beauty' predates that of Slingerland by three full years. And this was SEVEN years prior to Ludwig using the term in their advertising.

Stone Catalog K - Inside Front Cover
George B. Stone & Son Catalog K - Inside Cover
Stone Catalog K - Page 27
George B. Stone & Son Catalog K - Page 27

While Stone's Black Beauty was not an engraved metal shell drum like those of Slingerland and Ludwig, it was a high end model in its own right. As was the case with all of Stone's Separate Tension Orchestra Drums after 1923, this drum was constructed around a 5/8" thick, three-ply maple shell with no reinforcing rings. This was the same shell used for Stone's flagship snare drum, the highly recognizable Master-Model Drum after its introduction in 1922. It is quite possible that using the same shells for both the Separate Tension Orchestra Drums and the Master-models was a way to streamline production. Earlier Separate Tension Orchestra Drums, before the introduction of the Master-Model, featured thin one-ply shells with a trio of re-enforcing rings. This earlier shell design would remain in use through the 1920s on the larger dimension Separate Tension Band Drums.

This particular example dates from January of 1925, as is indicated by the faintly legible date stamp on the interior shell label, and was one of the first to be adorned with Stone's bakelite grommet. Earlier Stone drums were installed with rosewood grommets. The transition from wooden grommets to plastic occurred somewhere between late November of 1924, and January of 1925 when this drum was manufactured.

Stone Drum Shell Interior Label
Geo. B. Stone & Son Drum Shell Label
Geo. B. Stone & Son Drum Badge
Geo. B. Stone & Son Drum Badge

The badge seen here is that commonly installed on the top hoop of Stone snare drums. A very similar badge which lacked the "INC." lettering was in use until 1923. This drum is equipped with the Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler as was typical on Stone's Separate Tension Orchestra Drums. Note that the strainer present on this drum lacks its original lever used to engage or disengage the snares.

Geo. B. Stone & Son Black Beauty Separate Tension Snare Drum
Geo. B. Stone & Son Badge and Grommet
Stone / McIntosh Snare Strainer
Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler

The drum is tensioned using twelve single post tube lugs which attach to the single ply maple counterhoops via slotted tension rods which pass through cast brass hooks. Stone's tube lugs, while elegant, are prone to cracking and are generally less durable than the double post tube lugs used commonly by Ludwig & Ludwig and others on snare drums of the same era. The shell measures 4 1/4" deep despite being listed in Catalog K at four inches even. Earlier advertising was more specific, listing the exact shell depth.

1920 Geo. B. Stone & Son Advertisement
1920 Stone & Son Advertisement
Before Restoration
before restoration

Despite spending many years in a North Andover, Massachusetts barn this example is in fairly good condition and required no major restoration. The nickel plated hardware is surprisingly clean after a thorough polishing. The black lacquer finish shows its age but also shined up reasonably well. A new pair of calfskin heads and gut snares brought the drum back to period correct condition where it will be preserved for many years to come.

Do you have a drum made by George B. Stone & Son? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email anytime at