Thursday, November 5, 2020

An Obituary for Frank E. Dodge

Note: The following was written by referencing historical records including newspapers, trade publications, directory listings, and census records. While Dodge was memorialized at the time of his death (Musical America offered about 150 words while a brief mention in the Boston Globe totaled only 35), this reconstructed obituary offers a more complete remembrance of his life than anything previously published.

November 5, 1918

Frank Dodge, one of New England's leading orchestra drummers and timpanists who authored two widely used method books and built Boston's largest drum manufacturing company, died on November 5th. He was 41.

Dodge fell ill during the recent epidemic of influenza and died after a stay of five days in Peter Bent Brigham Hospital according to his brother Harry Dodge.

In recent years, Mr. Dodge worked extensively as an orchestra manager supplying musicians to the Maine Music Festival and the Boston Opera Orchestra where he also performed as timpanist. Lately, during the war effort, he had been serving as an instructor for the Army and Navy band school at the New England Conservatory.

Besides his brother Harry, survivors include his wife, Eugenia Metzger Dodge, and daughters Florence and Dorothy.

Frank Edward Dodge was born on July 10th, 1877 in Wenham to Frank and Maria (McCarthy) Dodge. The family moved during the 1880s to Boston where Dodge graduated from English High School in 1896. He furthered his formal schooling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he completed studies in Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry. Serving as treasurer of the freshman orchestra while at MIT foretold of his career over the next two decades.

By his early twenties, Dodge had become in demand as a xylophone soloist appearing regularly at some of the city's grandest venues including the Boston Theatre, with the acclaimed First Regiment Band, and the Colonial Theatre on Boylston Street. There were performances with the Boston Festival Orchestra and a trip to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis with Stewart's Boston Band too. He was reported to be joining John Philip Sousa's band soon after, but instead turned his attention to drum manufacturing where he would merge his musical talent with his technical training.

The F. E. Dodge Company was incorporated in 1903 with a capital of $50,000 and with the help of Mr. William J. Blair, formerly of Boston's Blair & Baldwin, quickly became the largest and most innovative percussion instrument maker in New England. The firm operated for eight years along Appleton Street manufacturing drums, traps, xylophones, orchestra bells, and timpani. In 1912, Dodge's business was succeeded by Nokes & Nicolai who continue to catalogue many products branded with the Dodge name.

Mr. Dodge was the author of two widely used instruction books for drums. "The Dodge Drum Chart", published in 1908, offered a systematic approach to rudimental drumming patterns. The "Dodge Drum School", released in 1909, was a more comprehensive method book containing material for bells, xylophone, and timpani as well as musical examples for many of the drummer's traps.

A devoted teacher, Mr. Dodge taught privately from the Boston Opera House and lately had been instructing the Mrs. Oliver Ames, Sr., Band at North Easton. Dodge's best known pupil is George Lawrence Stone of Boston's Geo. B. Stone & Son. Messrs. Dodge and Stone shared the stage many times over the years including for five seasons with the now defunct Boston Opera Orchestra.

An active member of the American Federation of Musicians,  Mr. Dodge was chosen by Union President Joseph N. Weber to represent the American Federation of Musicians at the Convention of the League to Enforce Peace at Philadelphia in 1917. Also last year, Dodge was appointed by Andrew James Peters, the Mayor of Boston, to the Music Commission of the City of Boston.

Funeral services will be hosted by the McCarthy family at 48 Saint Stephen Street on Friday, November 8th at 10 A.M. Interment will follow at Waterside Cemetery in Marblehead.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

P. R. Winn, Drummaker

Depending on which citation is used, Peter R. Winn was born in either 1805 (according to the Annual Report of the Town of Quincy which records his death in 1886 at age 81), 1807 (according to the 1850 Census which lists Winn, then with the Marine Corps in Charlestown, as 43 years old), or 1810 (according to the 1855 Massachusetts Census which describes Winn as a 45 year old musician living in Boston). Whichever the case, by 1827 Winn had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where dozens of muster roll reports over the next three decades included him as a drummer or musician. Winn reenlisted with the Marines as late as 1857 and mustered as late as 1859 at Boston Station though it is unclear whether or not his military service was continuous.

Further documenting his military involvement, the 1858 Massachusetts Annual Report lists Peter R. Winn as Drum Major for the Sixth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. He appears there again in 1860. And the National Park Service's Soldiers and Sailors Database lists Peter R. Winn as a musician with Company B of the 1st Regiment of the Maine Militia State Guards during the Civil War although no specific dates are given.

Winn is also known to have been an active drummaker in Boston as early as the mid 1850s, a trade he was evidently able to balance with his military duties. The 1855 and 1856 Boston City Directories list Winn at 69 Court Street in conjunction with home addresses of 3 Snowhill and 23 Salem respectively. From 1857 through 1861 Winn's occupation is described as "drummer and drummaker" at the address of 21 Salem. The 1862 Boston Directory shows Peter R. Winn as a drummaker at 11 Noyes Place while in 1864 he is again listed as a musician at 21 Salem.

Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston, 1640-1936 offers only a passing mention of Peter Winn reporting that he "made drums in the Civil War days". Perhaps the strongest supporting evidence to be found of Winn having produced drums for the war effort is the inclusion of "P. R. Winn" in the 1861 Massachusetts Treasurer's Report however there is no record of exactly what goods or services were provided.

Later Boston directories show P. R. Winn as a drummaker at 159 1/2 Hanover Street (1868) and 121 Court Street (1869 - 1873). He is not listed in 1874, 1875 or 1876. According to the Annual Report of the Town of Quincy, "Peter R. Winn" died September 13th, 1886 aged 81 years, 4 months and 15 days.

The drum featured here dates from between 1869 and 1873 while Winn was operating at 121 Court Street in Boston. It is roughly the size of a 'regulation drum' measuring 16 1/2" across by about 11" deep. A large crest shaped decal or painting frames the air vent and lists Winn's name and address surrounded by images of an eagle, two uniformed soldiers, stacks of cannon balls and a military drum. The single-ply maple shell and 1/4 sawn oak hoops are held together at the seams with the help of a series of nails or tacks which was common for the era. A simple snare mechanism holds the gut strands in place and allows for tightening or loosening while a leather snare anchor holds the gut in place from the other side of the bottom counterhoop.

An incredibly rare piece of surviving ephemera, now kept in a private collection, is a business card used by Winn to promote himself. It reads:

"P. R. Winn,
No. 2[3] 1[/2] Salem Street,
Is prepared to furnish Fife and Drum for Military and Fire-
men's Parades; also, to Beat the Snare or Muffled Drum for
Balls, Cotillon Parties, etc.etc.
All orders left at Henry Prentiss' Music Store, 33 Court Street,
will be promptly attended to.
Instruction given on the Drum, including all Camp duty."

Prentiss operated at 33 Court Street from 1939 until 1859 and Winn is first listed at a Salem Street address in 1856. So Winn's business card likely dates to sometime between 1856 and 1860 when Elias Howe took over for Prentiss at 33 Court Street.

Do you have a drum made by P. R. Winn? I would love to see it! Send Lee an email at And for more on the early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit

Saturday, May 23, 2020

1910s George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Band Drum

This drum has been in the collection since before the days of the blog and is long overdue for a feature here. It's a nicely restored Separate Tension Band Drum from Boston's George B. Stone & Son. The before and after photos depict the dramatic overhaul.

1910s Stone & Son Band Drum Before RestorationLee's Stone Field Drum After Restoration

The drum was found in southern New Hampshire in 2009 and had been neglected for many years. A poorly applied aftermarket paint job masked the original shellac finish and a crack had developed running a third of the way around the shell. Several pieces of hardware were missing and the slotted tension rods on the bottom side of the drum were caked in mud where the drum had recently been placed on the ground. A thorough restoration was in order.

Paint was stripped from the shell, hoops, and hardware. The shell was sent to Joe McSweeney at Eames Drum Company in Saugus, Massachusetts who repaired the crack. After a light sanding on the wheel at Eames, the very same equipment used by Stone & Son generations ago, the shell and hoops were refinished to closely emulate what would have been the original color. The tube lugs were polished by hand and reinstalled with new mounting hardware as the original screws were badly stripped and rusted. New calfskins were sourced from America's last remaining drumhead tannery, Stern Tanning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and tucked onto the existing flesh hoops. The end result is a drum which may not hold as much collector value as an unmolested one, but is highly playable and remains a visually accurate representation of George B. Stone & Son's work.

George B. Stone & Son Drum BadgeGeorge B. Stone & Son Drum Label

Stone's Separate Tension Band Drums were constructed around thin single-ply shells, typically maple, and utilized four reinforcing rings - one at each bearing edge and one underneath each row of tube lug posts. Slotted tension rods attached to single-ply counterhoops using hooks cast from brass or bronze. A simple but functional Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler allowed for the gut snares to be quickly engaged or disengaged from the bottom head.

William F. McIntosh Snare Strainer and MufflerBottom View of Stone Field Drum and Gut Snares

Stone & Son's Catalog K (1925) listed several models aimed at the band and drum corps market but the use of double post tube lugs is unique to the Separate Tension Band Drums. Far more common for this style of drum in the 1910s was the use of thumbscrew rods adjusted by hand from the underside of the drum thereby tuning both heads simultaneously. Catalogued by Stone under many different monikers through the years, sometimes with center posts and sometimes without, the design of these single tension models remained essentially unchanged from the early 1900s through the 1920s and even into the 1930s.

Stone & Son Catalog K - page 9Stone & Son Catalog K - page 13

Do you have a drum made by Geo. B. Stone & Son? 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