Sunday, May 5, 2019

Stone's Last Catalog

Booklet "L" from George B. Stone & Son was in many ways a last hurrah. In fact, it was quite likely the last drum catalog ever published by Stone & Son or any of the once proud drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts.

A decade had passed since Stone's Catalog K was printed in December of 1924 and for all the heights it had represented, the luster had faded completely by the time Booklet "L" was mailed out in 1935 or 1936. Catalog K was circulated for a full decade without any changes other than regularly updated pricelists. And while there were smaller advertisements printed and distributed in the intervening years, Booklet "L" was a clearly intended as a follow-up to Catalog K as indicated by the consecutively lettered title. At the same time, calling the 1935 publication a booklet and not a catalog was a subtle admission that Booklet "L" had inherent shortcomings. When measured against drum catalogs from other companies and even Stone & Son's own past, Booklet "L" was underwhelming.

In terms of wow factor, there was none. Spanning only sixteen pages, there was no color to be found, only repurposed black and white photos from previous Stone catalogs and advertisements. There were no new products in sight, only a greatly scaled down listing of what the company once offered. Most of the more notable snare drums previously manufactured by Stone were now absent including the handsome separate tension drums which had been a mainstay since the 1910s, the short lived all-metal Master-Model of the mid 1920s, and the ill-conceived Mastercraft drums of the early 1930s. The only metal shell snare drum included is a six lug, lower level model which appears to be from the Leedy Drum Company of Elkhart, Indiana.

Stone's last drum standing was the noble Master-Model, already a relic of technology past. Pyralin wrapped finishes and chrome plated hardware were available for an additional charge, though judging by surviving examples, black de-luxe and natural maple with nickel hardware endured as the most popular choices. The most interesting drum pictured in the entire catalog appears on the front cover - a Master-Model in "white and black de-luxe finish".

George B. Stone & Son Booklet L, 1935George B. Stone & Son Booklet L, 1935

Included in the booklet were bugles, fifes, and drum major's batons, a clear indication that Stone was actively marketing to school bands and drum corps. Stone's music publications occupy a full page as well. In 1928 George Lawrence Stone had released editions of The Dodge Drum School for Drums, Bells, Xylophone and Tympani and The Dodge Drum Chart for Reading Drum Music. The timing of these publications is notable in that Nokes & Nicolai, who had succeeded the F. E. Dodge Company in 1912, had been recently sold to the Liberty Rawhide Company of Chicago who likely had no interest in Dodge's old method books. Stone, a one-time student of Frank E. Dodge, must have held his former mentor's books in greater esteem. Further, the re-releases were signs of Stone moving away from manufacturing and towards other forms of revenue. It was likely no coincidence that Booklet "L" was distributed just as Stone's soon to be famous Stick Control for the Snare Drummer was published in 1935.

George B. Stone & Son Booklet L, 1935George B. Stone & Son Booklet L, 1935

Absent from Booklet "L" are the xylophones, orchestra bells, timpani and traps which occupied a great deal of space in Stone's catalogs from the 1910s and 1920s. But this isn't to say these instruments were no longer available from Stone. The next to last page of Booklet "L" holds this enlightening wording:

"IN ADDITION TO THE FOREGOING we carry a complete line of xylophones, bells, marimbas, tympani, chimes, trap tables, temple blocks, hi-hat cymbal afterbeaters, sticks and mallets (turned to order if desired), holders, stands, xylophone solos, text-books, methods, etc. Prices Upon request.

"FOR THE CONVENIENCE OF OUR CUSTOMERS we carry and sell the Leedy, Ludwig and Deagan instruments and accessories and are prepared to take orders for any of the items manufactured by the above firms."

Most revealing is the final sentence which tells us in plain language that by this time George B. Stone & Son was content to sell their competitors instruments instead of their own. This was a far cry from Stone & Son's business practices of decades before. At their peak during the late 1910s and early 1920s, George B. Stone & Son had been capable of building almost every instrument or accessory a drummer could have possibly needed for any line of work. But times had changed. The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties had come and gone. Percussion instruments, especially snare drums, had evolved. Drum companies had consolidated and modernized while Stone had done neither.

This isn't to say that all was lost, but the end of Stone's manufacturing days were near. George Lawrence Stone would of course go on to be a highly successful teacher, an active drum corps adjudicator, and a prolific writer in his later years. But there would be no more drum catalogs. Booklet "L" was Stone & Son's final gasp for air, the last chapter in the story of a once great drum maker.



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.