Sunday, June 2, 2019

Ditson Special Orchestra Drum, ca. 1904 - 1910

As of January 1st, 1904, Boston's Oliver Ditson Company officially absorbed their former musical instrument manufacturing department, John C. Haynes Company, and began dealing musical instruments under the Ditson name. The Special Orchestra Drum featured here may or may not have been manufactured in Boston but is representative of Ditson's high end offerings during the first decade of the 1900s.

Oliver Ditson Special Orchestra Drum, ca. 1904 - 1910

The makers label present inside the drum lists Ditson branches in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. In 1910 the Philadelphia was discontinued ergo this drum most likely dates to between 1904 and 1910. The snare mechanism is a simple one which does an effective job of tensioning the wires but lacks the ability to quickly disengage the snares from the bottom head.

After a journey across eBay, the drum arrived missing half of its hardware so another set of six tension rods and claws was needed to reassemble the drum. The result is a subtle two-faced appearance where a different set of claws is visible depending on which side of the drum is in view.

The drum measures four inches deep and nearly sixteen inches across and is constructed not of solid maple, but of veneer. Advertising is careful to omit this fact as multi-ply shells were at the time seen as inferior. The outward appearance, however, is quite striking.

Other than the dimensions, the drum is a very close match for model #610 described in Ditson Wonderbook Number Four (1910) as "14 inch, bird's-eye maple shell, 3 inches high, rosewood veneered hoops, with metal top bands, 12 nickel plated rods and trimmings, 8 woven silk waterproof snares, 2 calfskin heads." The listed price was $15.00

Do you have a drum made by or for Oliver Ditson & Co.? I'd like to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at And for more on Ditson and their fellow drum makers of early 20th century Boston, please visit