Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Geo. B. Stone & Son Silver Sparkle Pyralin Master-Model

Christmas came early this year with the arrival of a very special drum earlier this Fall, a circa late 1920s George B. Stone & Son Master-Model drum in sparkling silver pyralin wrap.

Geo. B. Stone & Son Master-Model Snare Drum

Stone & Son offered a "Pyralin" Master Model at least as early as 1928. Aside from sliver sparkle, surviving examples are known to exist in gold sparkle and white marine pearl. Much more common however are drums featuring a natural maple finish or the ubiquitous black lacquer. The factory original silver sparkle wrap applied here is a very fine pattern which has mellowed slightly over the years to a subtly warmer hue. Depending on the lighting it can appear more gold or copper like in color, or at times even greenish.



No doubt this was a special drum to roll off the assembly line as extra care was taken in other ways besides the addition of the silver sparkle wrap. For one, the shell interior was finished with a clear coat of lacquer, a characteristic highly atypical of Stone & Son who normally left the inside of their shells unfinished and occasionally even rough.



The badge and label present here are typical of late 1920s Master-Models. Stone ceased date stamping their makers labels sometime in 1925 so we are left to guesstimate the exact age of this drum. The Master-Model number is penciled inside of shell just below the air vent, and also stamped into the underside of the counterhoops.



Do you have a Stone Master-Model? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email anytime at lee@vinson.net. And for more on George B. Stone & Son and the other early 20th century drum manufacturers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Who was O. A. Whitmore?

Featured here is a very early drum for Thompson & Odell by O. A. Whitmore, dating from about 1875. Thompson & Odell was only beginning to become established at the time, a fact underscored by the wording "successors to A .W. White" on the makers label.

ca. 1875 Drum by O. A. Whitmore for Thompson & Odell, Boston, MAca. 1875 O. A. Whitmore drum label for Thompson & Odell

Thompson & Odell's beginnings can be traced back to 1872 as "Woods & Odell". In 1873 J. Harrison Woods and Ira H. Odell took in a third partner in Charles W. Thompson forming "Woods, Odell, and Thompson" operating at 121 Court Street. Woods left the company by 1875 after which the remaining two partners established Thompson & Odell at 86 Tremont Street, the address most recently occupied by Asa Warren White and Louis P. Goullard under the moniker "White & Goullaud".

The drum dates from circa 1875 placing Whitmore as perhaps the first in a long succession of drum makers contracted by Boston's Thompson & Odell.

This drum being from right around 1875 places O. A. Whitmore as perhaps the first in a long succession of drum makers contracted by Thompson & Odell that would later include J. B. Treat, and Charles A. Stromberg. Whitmore's makers label also describes his business as specializing in E. B. Mansfield's banjo, a design for which Mansfield received a patent in 1872.

O. A. Whitmore settled north of Boston in Malden, Massachusetts around 1871 and was building drums and banjos at least as early as the mid 1870s. He is listed in the 1876 Boston Directory as a musical instrument maker producing drums and banjos at 282 Washington Street. Before this time, as early as 1871, Whitmore appears in the Directory with the occupation of "musician", but is not included under listings for musical instrument makers.

Around 1879 Whitmore opened his own shop at 178 Washington Street. As of 1880 he was in business with Peter J. Boris at the same address, the firm being known as "Whitmore & Boris". Boris, long active as a musical instrument importer and dealer, had previously been partnered with J. H Woods of Woods, Odell & Thompson. Whitmore and Boris' working arrangement was evidently short lived lasting only until about 1882. Perhaps their business interests merely evolved in a different direction, however, as the two are listed as assignees of an 1882 patent for fish nets of all things.

By 1883 Whitmore had essentially traded one partner for another now joining up with the aforementioned Eben B. Mansfield to form "Whitmore & Mansfield" still operating at 178 Washington Street. The two men together had previously secured a patent for a music stands a few years prior. In addition to manufacturing Mansfield's patent banjos, Whitmore & Mansfield also dealt brass instruments including cornets. But like Mansfield's previous joint business venture, the partnership was short lived. Whitmore & Mansfield vanishes from Boston directories after 1884 as do both individuals for a time.

Whitmore & Mansfield was short lived, vanishing from Boston directories after 1884.

It could be that Whitmore returned to the road for a few years, or that he simply didn't have a business address in Boston for a period of years. Nevertheless, his music store at 178 Washington Street changed hands at this point as a man named George M. Lane was selling musical instruments there in 1885. By 1886, Lane was gone and D. C. Hall was selling musical instruments at the same address as would be the case for the next several years.

O. A. Whitmore resurfaces in directory listings in 1888 as a music teacher at 179 Washington Street, a professional address shared by several others including J. H. Woods. Whitmore would continue to appear here through the 1890s while living in Malden.

Long before coming to Boston, Osceola Aurelius Whitmore was a native of Reading, Vermont. Born September 2, 1838, he would take up the clarinet at a young age and soon become well established with a variety of minstrel shows eventually taking on management positions and ownership stakes in several companies. This early chapter of Whitmore's life is well described by Frank H. Clark in "History of Reading, Windsor County, Vermont. Vol. II:


Whitmore & Clark's Minstrels
"The most famous musical organization which originated in Reading was undoubtedly Whitmore & Clark's Minstrels, a company that for more than a quarter of a century annually visited every part of New England, and parts of New York and the Provinces, and the memories of which will be remembered with pleasure by many an "old-timer". The company was organized at the close of the Civil war and was the successor of several similar organizations that had been more or less successful, S. A. Brock's Broadway Minstrels, Whitmore & Thompson's Minstrels and others."

"Of the proprietors of the company [Whitmore & Clark's Minstrels] only one, Osceola A. Whitmore, was a native of Reading. He was born on the old Whitmore place Sept. 2, 1838, a son of Capt. Nelson Whitmore, at one time captain of the militia company and Mrs. Lucy (Holden) Whitmore. Young Whitmore must have been inspired by the old time music of the fife and drums, which he says was the most important part, to him, of the annual June training. The players were Otis Foster, snare drum, Henry Megrath, fife and Capt. Nathan Sherwin, bass drum.

Mr. Whitmore began to play the clarinet at an early age, his first engagement in public being at the hotel in Hammondsville in 1855 for a dance, playing with Carlos Hawkins and for which he received for his valuable services the sum of twenty five cents. He received his first instructions on the clarinet from Alonzo Bond of Boston, who taught the Woodstock Band about this time, and was a member of the band in 1860 and '61, and went into camp at Rutland in May 1861 with the Woodstock Light Infantry. In the beginning of the war, when the first call for three months' men from President Abraham Lincoln was made the government did not employ bands, so the band returned to Woodstock when the company left for the seat of war. Afterwards he traveled with Barnum's Circus and was with the Whitmore and Clark troupe for twelve years after it was organized. The name was retained after Mr. Whitmore retired from the organization except for one or two seasons."

Whitmore & Clark's Minstrels was formed in 1866 with Whitmore himself reportedly staying on board until about 1878 before leaving the group to accept more solo clarinet work with various musical organizations in Boston and to pursue his interests in the musical instrument business.

At the time of his death in 1918, Whitmore was remembered foremost as a performing clarinetist and teacher. The final stages of his life perhaps overlapped with but apparently outlasted and overshadowed that of his banjo and drum manufacturing interests and certainly his early career with traveling minstrel shows.

A brief obituary from the Musical Courier published November 28, 1918 reads as follows: "Osceola A. Whitmore, at one time one of the worlds' most famous clarinetists, died Sunday, November 17, in Allston, Mass at the age of 80 years. Mr. Whitmore had been associated with Gilmore's, Carter's, Sousa's and the Germania Bands and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He had been for twenty-seven years in charge of the orchestra at the Fabyan House in the White Mountains, and was also well known as a teacher and maker of clarinets. Mr. Whitmore passed the greater part of his active life in Malden, was a member of the common council for three years and a member of many fraternal organizations. He is survived by two married daughters."



This particular drum had previously suffered the indignancy of being converted into an end table of sorts. The conversion had been accomplished by screwing three drum sticks into the shell to serve as legs. The legs have now been removed and new heads tucked onto the existing flesh hoops restoring some semblance of respectability to this interesting historical piece.


The snare strainer looks to have been replaced once upon a time as the bottom hoop has been crudely gouged to accommodate a newer but similarly basic mechanism. The gut snares are held in place with a simple leather snare butt as is common for drums of this age.


Rustic condition aside, the construction methods implemented here are more crude than those commonly seen on drums from a decade or two later. Whitmore used not only a series of small tacks to hold the shell together along the seem, but the same is true of both the counterhoops and the re-inforcing rings. Yet signs of high end refinement are simultaneously present as seen in the beautifully polished rosewood grommet lining the air vent and faded remnant of a gilded scroll design ornamenting the black enameled counterhoops.



W. Lee Vinson is a classical percussionist, music educator, and snare drum historian. He is the author of BostonDrumBuilders.com, a website devoted to the late 19th and early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

ca. 1920s Charles A. Stromberg & Son Supertone Snare Drum

This is a drum with a memory. It remembers the the real book charts and the sounds of rehearsals past. It remembers the smoke filled jazz clubs and cocktail bars, the buzzing feeling of a room full of liquored up party goers. It recalls being the cherished possession of a proud drummer who gave great attention to maintaining the drum and was meticulous about how his instruments were set up on the bandstand. And it remembers the neglect of being stored away for decades in the back of a closet somewhere in Maine before an estate sale brought it back to the surface once again. All of these memories are evident upon close inspection of this roughly 90 year old Supertone snare drum from Boston's Charles A. Stromberg & Son.

Charles A. Stromberg & Son Supertone Snare Drum

Stick marks left on the old (now replaced) batter side head suggest whoever last used the drum was a light player, not a heavy hitter. He was a concise with his motions, consistently striking the same beating spots, the stick marks focused in very small areas. He took very good care of his instrument tucking high quality calfskin heads onto heavy aluminum flesh hoops. The heads were tucked German style no less, perhaps in an attempt to prevent the skins from binding against the counterhoops, or maybe in an effort to have the hoops stand a bit higher above the otherwise exposed bearing edges.

Upon disassembling the drum, the cobwebs inside prove it has not been paid attention to for quite some time. When touched with a lightly damp cloth, the tangible smell of cigarette smoke leaps from the wooden shell's unfinished interior.

The die cast aluminum counterhoops were technologically ahead of their time. The top and bottom hoops are virtually identical with no accommodation made for the snare wires on the underside of the drum. But it is obvious which hoop is which by the scars left behind on the bottom counterhoop from a sharp edged snare drum stand. The scratches are isolated to three particular areas of the bottom counterhoop making it clear the drum was placed on its stand the same way every time it was played, night after night, gig after gig.

There are signs of a previous soft restoration. A drum of this age can, after all, be forgotten about for a quarter century and brought back to life more than once. Among the more subtle indications that the drum has been previously serviced are the slightly concave washers made this way from well intentioned but overzealous tightening of the lug mounting screws. This is not the careful work of someone at the Stromberg shop, but more indicative of a well meaning yet strong handed repairman. Seven of the ten lug mounting screw have been trimmed short as well in an effort to prevent the screws from extending all the way into the hollowed out tube lugs. The shell finish has been retouched too. At first glance it has a nice sheen but a closer inspection reveals a brush stroked surface not up to Stromberg's usual standards.


The most noticeable aftermarket modification is to the oversized snare throw-off lever which in its current state is unique from other Stromberg snare mechanisms. The work here was exceptionally well done however, the newly altered snare throw-off being almost unnoticeable save its lack of nickel plating. The decision to modify the throw-off may have been more out of preference than necessity. Most Stromberg drums of a similar vintage utilize a taller throw-off arm which on a drum of this depth would have extended above the batter side counter hoop potentially interfering with the drummers sticks.


Years of neglect had lead to two broken heads, some corrosion on the die cast aluminum counterhoops, and a bit of light rust on the tension rods, but otherwise this Supertone has held up quite nicely. Well preserved original features include the nitrocellulose shell grommet and Stromberg's oversized business card serving as a makers label inside of the drum.



Do you have a drum made by Charles A. Stromberg? Feel free to drop Lee an email at lee@vinson.net. And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

M. Woodman, Drummaker

One drum, two makers labels, three addresses. Depending on how all this information is interpreted, the drum featured here either originated from Boston's Thompson & Odell, or from the hands of a lesser known drum maker from Maine by the name of M. Woodman.

Thompson & Odell Drum, possibly by Manson Woodman ca. late 1870sThompson & Odell Drum, possibly by Manson Woodman ca. late 1870s

Directories list Thompson & Odell at 86 Washington Street from 1875 through 1879. Before this time, the fledgling firm had gone by the name Woods, Odell, & Thompson and in 1874 was listed at 121 Court Street. By 1880 Thompson & Odell had moved to 177 Washington Street where they would remain for the next five years. The drum seen below figures to have been produced in the late 1870s while the company was operating at the 86 Washington Street address.

From the very beginning, Thompson & Odell sold instruments from other manufacturers in addition to those made in house and it can sometimes be difficult to discern instruments produced by Thompson & Odell from those which were contract built and relabeled. Thompson & Odell's "Artist Drum" was a described as a "street instrument" intended for "military and semi-military purposes" and was crafted for many years by Joseph B. Treat and later Charles A. Stromberg. In the case of the drum featured here, there is no specific drum maker named by Thompson & Odell leaving open the possibility that someone other than Treat or Stromberg was the builder. An additional label found inside of the drum lists a separate maker and raises as many questions as it answers.

It could be that Manson Woodman did in fact build the drum or it could be that he was only a repairman in this case.

This second label bears the name of a lesser known drum manufacturer from Skowhegan, Maine by the name of M. Woodman. Handwritten on the upper half of Woodman's label is the wording "Thompson & Odell / 177 Washington Street / Boston Mass". This might suggest that Woodman produced the drum for Thompson & Odell, though the address on Woodman's label post dates the Thompson & Odell label bringing this assumption into question. It could be that Manson Woodman did in fact build the drum and that Thompson & Odell was using up an existing stock of labels listing their old address. Or it could be that he was only a repairman in this case who later added his name to the drum after servicing the instrument. It is impossible to know for sure. Woodman would in fact set up shop in Boston later in his life but wasn't known to have been an active drum maker in Boston until about 1883. Both makers labels present here predate this point in time.

Thompson & Odell Drum LabelThompson & Odell Label, ca. late 1870sM. Woodman Drum LabelM. Woodman Label ca. early 1880s

Manson Woodcock was born November 28th, 1816 in Sidney, Maine to George Woodcock and Maria Robinson Woodcock. In 1838 at the age of 22, Manson legally changed his last name to Woodman and by 1840 was living on his own, still in Sidney. He married Prudence Pitts Delano in 1843.

The 1850 and 1860 censuses show Manson Woodman living in Farmington, Maine and in 1861 "A Business Directory of the Subscribers to the New Map of Maine" lists Woodman as a drum maker there. A fascinating series of letters held in the Maine State Archives show Manson reaching out around this time to military officials seeking contracts to build drums for the Civil War effort. Despite several appeals, it does not appear that Woodman was ever able to secure such a contract. But Manson's letters are telling of his aspirations and the lengths to which he was wiling to go in an effort to grow his business as a drum builder.

A man of many trades, Woodman is listed as having had a variety of occupations over the course of his life including that of a machinist, a coffin and casket manufacturer, and as a maker of drums, banjos and tambourines. Further evidencing his entrepreneurial nature, he is credited with an 1867 patent for a "new and useful Improvement in Horse-Rakes". The patent filing goes on to state that the improvement in fact "relates especially to the horse-rake patented [in 1849] by Calvin Delano" who was Woodman's father-in-law.

A man of many trades, Woodman is listed as… a "Manufacturer to order of Coffin and Caskets in all styles of finish. Also of Drums of all kinds, Banjoes, and Tambourines at shortest possible notice."

Sometime in the 1870s Woodman relocated to Skowhegan, ME where he further established himself as a drum maker. The 1877 New England Business Directory lists Woodman as a Drum Manufacturer there. Many directories published around this time show Woodman having dual trades including the 1883 Atlas of Somerset County, Maine which lists Woodman as a "Manufacturer to order of Coffin and Caskets in all styles of finish. Also of Drums of all kinds, Banjoes, and Tambourines at shortest possible notice."

Around 1883 or 1884, Woodman relocated to Boston where he first appears in city directories in 1884 as a drum maker at the Abattoir Grounds. At this advanced stage in life, aged more than sixty years, Woodman seems to have focused his attention fully on drum making. The culmination of these efforts can be seen in his 1890 patent for a drum which aimed to "dispense with the “skin" or “flush” hoops hitherto used in connection with the “cord-hoops" for securing the drum-heads in place upon the shell, whereby the construction of the drum is simplified, its cost reduced, and a greater clearness and brilliancy of tone secured."

Manson Woodman Drum Patent

Less than one year after his patent was issued, on May 8, 1891, Manson Woodman passed away in Boston at the age of 74. He was laid to rest in his native Farmington, ME.

Spinning forward several decades, a 1921 letter written to Boston's S. A. Woods Machine Company and later published as part of a 1922 advertisement in "The Wood-worker" discusses Woodman's planer which had recently been refurbished and was still in use. This same planer was purportedly used by Woodman to construct a mammoth 10 foot bass drum for the "Peace Jubilee in Boston in the '70s". The World's Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival was held in Boston in the Summer of 1872 and photographs from the well documented event indeed show a giant bass drum at the very center of the newly constructed Coliseum. The drum would have served as a grand centerpiece of the festival's musical offerings and a monument to Woodman's musical instrument building endeavors alike.



W. Lee Vinson is a classical percussionist, music educator, and snare drum historian. He is the author of BostonDrumBuilders.com, a website devoted to the late 19th and early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts.





Friday, January 26, 2018

1903 William F. McIntosh Parade Drum

Perhaps best known for his Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler, William F. McIntosh also built drums of his own including this parade drum dating from 1903.

1903 William F. McIntosh Drum

Interestingly, the drum predates McIntosh's patented snare strainer design. The shell bears witness marks indicating that the original snare mechanism was of a design by Charles A. Stromberg. Only later was it removed and replaced by a McIntosh snare strainer which mounts to the snare side counterhoop. The original Stromberg butt end, however, remains in place and is stamped with the wording "PAT PDG", or patent pending. Stromberg's patent was granted in April of 1904 so the piece installed here must have been produced before that date. This makes sense as the drum appears to have been built in 1903.


The label is nicely preserved and reads: "Made by / Wm. F. McINTOSH / Manufacturing Drummer / High Grade / Drums, Traps and Drum Findings / Professional Xylophones and Orchestra Bells a Specialty / 6 Elmwood St., Charlestown, Mass." Handwritten on the upper right hand corner of the label is the date May 18, 1903 and the name Harry Cade. The date is scribed again in bold ink on the drum shell just above the label. While the handwriting in both cases is less than official looking, the date does seem to correspond precisely with the point in time when the drum was likely produced.

The snare wires are of an unusual design. The end of each strand is made from linen cord while the length that contacts the snare side head is made from coiled wire. It is a clever combination of materials where the linen chord provides flexibility for easier mounting while the coiled wire offers a brighter sound quality. And unlike natural gut, the more commonly used material for snare wires on larger drums, McIntosh's snares are not susceptible to changes in temperature or humidity.

Harry Folsom Cade (b. April 5, 1879) figures to be the original owner owner of the drum. The 1910 Census lists Cade as an orchestra musician living at 4 Warwick Park in Cambridge, MA with a wife and son. It is entirely plausible that a 24 year old Cade would have purchased the drum new from McIntosh in 1903. And Cade very well may have taken the drum back to McIntosh a few years later to have the snare strainer replaced. The two men lived less than five miles apart.

Whatever use the drum served for Cade and successive owners, it is a powerful instrument which would have been ideal for parading down the avenue with a drum corp, or possibly keeping the beat behind a large concert band or orchestra when a military type sound was desired. The drum has held up well for more than 114 years with only minor repairs. A gentle cleaning and a new snare side head now have this drum in very good condition for display.

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