Friday, October 1, 2021

ca. 1890s Blair & Baldwin Orchestra Drum

Snare drums of the late 1800s were only beginning to evolve towards the more standardized insturments of 20th century. Some of the earliest steps along this path of transformation can bee seen in this circa 1890s drum attributed to Boston's Blair & Baldwin.
1890s blair & baldwin snare drum
Though the makers label has faded to the point it can no longer be read, the lower counterhoop bears Blair & Baldwin's distinctive semicircular snare gate which was used later by their succesor, the F. E. Dodge Company, and Dodge's succesors Nokes & Nicolai. The drum also features a prominent "BB" imprint inside of the shell which presumably stands for "Blair & Baldwin".
blair & baldwin snare drum shell
antique blair & baldwin drum shell
The drum is formed around a single-ply, birds-eye maple shell with solid reinforcing rings. The shallow shell depth is a subtle forshadowing of the orchestra drums made in Boston during very early 1900s. Tensioning is accomplished via twelve prussian style rods, common in the 1880s and 1890s, and the snares are adjusted using a traditional snare strainer.
19th century snare drum strainer
antique blair & baldwin drum
Do you have a drum made by Blair & Baldwin? I would love to see it! Feel free to drop Lee a note at And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit or follow @old_boston_drums on instagram.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Early 1900s F. E. Dodge Street Drum

Preserving collector grade instruments is one way to honor Boston's drum building past. Another is to recondition and revive survivng examples as playable musical instruments giving voice to those makers who have been lost to time. The early 1900s F. E. Dodge Street Drum seen here is a case of the latter.
Early 1900s F. E. Dodge Snare Drum
F. E. Dodge Drum Label
Upon arrival, this drum was nothing but a shell. Bruised and crudely refinished, there was little remaining value from a collector standpoint other than the large makers label inside. Eventually a suitible conglomerate of parts was sourced and the drum was pieced back together breathing new life into a drum which had been silent for decades.

Rope Drum Ear 
Rope Drum Ear photo from 1907 Dodge Drum Catalogphoto:

Cooperman Fife and Drums supplied the leather ears which were then stamped and stained to emulate those typically seen on drums by Dodge and others in Boston around the late 19th and early 20th century. (See above photo from the 1907 Dodge catalog.) Calderwood Percussion supplied the faux hemp rope which provides the strength of modern synthetic rope while giving the visual impression of period correct materials. And the wooden counterhoops and calfskin batter head were taken from a donor drum built many years ago by Eames Drum Shells. The finishng touch, a custom lathed wooden grommet, was made up by Mattoon Drums and Percussion.

McIntosh Snare Strainer
McIntosh Snare Strainer and Muffler as pictured in Stone Catalog K
The hoop mounted snare mechanism is not one originally found on Dodge drums but is an intriguing bit of history in itself. Clearly this is an example of the snare strainer and muffler designed by William F. McIntosh, but there are several inconsistancies between this version and the one typically seen on McIntosh's own drums and those by George B. Stone & Son who used it widely through the 1910s and 1920s. The most obvious difference is the coarse, unbuffed exterior which is devoid of plating. The version present here also shows no signs of having ever had a lever installed.

Do you have an drum made by the F. E. Dodge Company? I would love to see it! Feel free to send Lee an email anytime at And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit or follow @old_boston_drums on instagram.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Not a Master-Model

You can't judge a book by its cover. And in this case, you can't judge a drum by its badge. Regardless of what it says, this is not a Master-Model.
The mid-1930s were a time of resourcefulness and transition for Boston's George B. Stone & Son. With vaudeville theaters converting over to movie houses and the Great Depression taking it's toll, George Lawrence Stone began pouring more energy into teaching and gradually moved away from manufacturing.

It was during this period that Stone & Son mailed out their last known catalog, a sixteen-page, black and white booklet of recycled photographs illustrating a significantly stripped down product line. The iconic Master-Model drum is still spotlighted on the cover and in the opening pages, and several varieties of military drums are also offered, but no Master-Model field drum is mentioned. Serial numbers in the 9300 range are known to have been in use in late 1935 meaning that the drum seen here was likely produced in 1936 - the same year 'Booklet L' was distrubuted.

The drum is simple in construction featuring a thin, single ply maple shell with three reinforcing rings - one at each edge and a third underneath the tuning rod posts. The single-ply maple counterhoops and single tension thumbrods are virtually unchanged from those used two decades earlier. While single tension tuning systems and wooden counterhoops would remain in use into the mid 20th century, they were often indicative of lower priced models. Professional level drums dating from the same era commonly utilized separate tension tube lugs and metal counterhoops, features which had been in use since the 1920s.

Rather then evolve, Stone continued to equip drums with the 'Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler' patented in 1909 by William F. McIntosh. As is typical for Stone, the snares are held in place opposite the strainer by a simple anchor. More advanced snare mechanisms were certainly available by the mid 1930s, but Stone's decision not to modernize is again evident here. But the most obvious indication of where this instrument fits within the timeline of Stone's manufacturing prowess is the use of a Master-Model badge on a drum which is clearly NOT a Master-Model.

Do you have a drum made by Geo. B. Stone & Son? I would love to hear about it! Feel free to drop Lee an email at And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit or follow @old_boston_drums on instagram.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Who was I. E. White?

Boston native Ira Erving White (1839 - 1914) operated a musical instrument repair and manufacturing business for most of his life. Long overshadowed by his better-known father, Ira Johnson White (1813-1895), and uncle, Asa Warren White (1826-1894), very little has been written about Ira Erving.

The extent of Ira Erving White's training is unclear but he surely recieved an introduction to the trade from his large, musically inclined extended family. During Ira Erving's adolescent and teenage years, his father and uncle operated as "White Brothers" dealing in a wide range of musical instruments including drums but focused especially on stringed instruments. Ira Johnson and Asa Warren are best remembered as New England's earliest master violin makers.

The White Brothers storefront was known as the "Tremont Temple Music Store" as can be seen in advertising from the early 1850s. After 1863, Asa Warren continued alone at 86 Tremont Street later partnering with Louis P. Goullaud around 1870. The store would ultimately be succeeded by Thompson & Odell in 1876 with Asa Warren relocating to 50 Bromfield Street.

1853 White Brothers Ad
1853 White Brothers Ad from Dwight's Journal of Music
A. W. White makers label, ca. 1863 - 1870
A. W. White makers label, ca. 1863 - 1870

As for Ira Erving's assumed involvement in the family busines, the 1855 Census shows him working as a musical instrument maker when he was just 16 years old. Five years later, the 1860 Census lists his occupation more concisely as "music store". But perhaps the best evidence linking Ira Erving to White Brothers are directory listings showing him as a musician at 86 Tremont in 1861, and at 25 Tremont Temple in 1863 - the same address as his father and uncle's music store. By 1864, Ira Johnson departed White Brothers and Ira Erving, at age 24, opened his own shop at 83 Sudbury where directory listings describe him as a drum manufacturer.

By 1864, at the age of 24, Ira Erving White had opened his own shop at 83 Sudbury Street in Boston where directory listings describe him as a drum manufacturer.

If Ira Johnson and Asa Warren were more consumed with string instruments, Ira Erving may have learned drum making from others. Joseph B. Treat is thought to have worked for Asa Warren White in the 1860s and 1870s and shares a common address of 86 Tremont with A. W. White as early as 1863. Another little-known drum maker, George E. Rogers, is also listed at 86 Tremont Street in 1863. The Civil War era was a prosperous time for drum manufacturing and by starting his own business Ira Erving White was meeting a need for military drums while filling a void in the market left behind by the dissolution of White Brothers.

Ira Erving White married Sarah Isabella Pearl in 1861 and by 1871 was residing in Wakefield, MA. Save for a brief absence during the early 1870s, Boston directories list White's business at 83 Sudbury Street well into the 1880s sometimes appearing under the name "Irving E. White". A simple explanation for the alternative name could be that he went by his middle name "Erving" in order to avoid confusion with his father Ira Johnson. (His Uncle Asa reportedly went by his middle name "Warren".) A less plausible thoery, offered by Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston, 1640-1936, posits that "Irving E." was Ira Erving's cousin. But "Irving" and "Ira" never appear in the same directory and the full name "Irving" appears only in the personal listings and never in the business listings which always use the initials "I. E. White". Further, no one by the name "Irving E. White" can be found in the White family tree.

I. E. White Drum, ca. 1870s
I. E. White Drum, ca. 1870s
I. E. White makers label, ca. 1870s
I. E. White makers label, ca. 1870s

Across more than five decades Ira Erving White built and repaired a wide variety of musical instruments but seems to have focused a considerable amount attention on drums. For much of the 1870s and 1880s, directories describe White's line of work as "drums and musical instruments" suggesting that drums in fact accounted for a major segment of his business during the middle part of his career. Yet considering how long White was active, very few surviving examples of his work have been documented. This raises the possibility that some of his manufacturing was done on contract for music stores who then applied their own labels. It could also be that repair work took up the bulk of White's time while his manufacturing efforts were less prolific. And, especially in his younger days, White was likely dividing time between performing and running his shop.

Around 1887 White relocated to 48 Hanover Street where he remained through the late 1890s. From 1900 through 1904 White was listed at 144 Friend Street and in 1905 the Boston Diretory places him at 15 Marshall Street. Beginning in 1906 White is listed at 44 Merrimac Street where he remained until he last appears in 1909. Apparently having never fully retired, Ira E. White was advertised as a musical instrument maker in the Wakefield Directory as late as 1913, a year before his death in 1914.

1887 Advertisement from Gatcomb's Banjo and Guitar Gazette
Gatcomb's Banjo and Guitar Gazette - January 1888
1887 Classified Ad from The Boston Globe
Boston Globe - July 20, 1887

A short death notice printed in the Boston Globe described White as "a well-known Boston musician and member of the old Boston Brass Band, Gilmore's Band and the Boston Cadet Band." A more humanizing obituary ran in the Boston Herald on Friday, February 13th, 1914 (which mispells his middle name and gives the wrong middle initial for his widow) and reads as follows:

Ira Irving White, for many years a manufacturer of musical instruments and former member of several Boston bands, died yesterday at his home on Spring street in the Boyntonville district of Wakefield as the result of a shock. He was 74 years old.

Mr. White was born in Boston but made Wakefield his home for 43 years. In earlier years he had belonged to the Boston Brass Band, the Cadet Band and Gilmore's Band. He belonged to the Unitarian church of Melrose and was a great nature lover. In his later years he devoted himself to the cultivation of flowers and plants.

He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Sarah J. White, and by four children, George E. and Louise G. White, and Mrs. Clara I. Haskell, all of Wakefield, and Mrs. Sarah E. Wilmarth of Jamaica Plain.

W. Lee Vinson is a classical percussionist, music educator, and snare drum historian. He is the author of, a website devoted to the late 19th and early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts. Lee can be contacted by email at

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum, ca. late 1910s

Featured here is an Invincible Orchestra Drum by Charles A. Stromberg of Boston, Massachusetts. Lacking a makers label, the drum cannot be precisely dated but is typical of Stromberg's work during the late 1910s.
1910s Charles A. Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum
The drum is complete and functional and, from a distance, looks to be in good cosmetic condition. Upon closer inspection however the shell shows signs of having been refinished and is significantly faded on one side likely from having been exposed to direct sunlight over a long period of time.
1910s Stromberg Snare Drum
Stromberg Snare Drum Badge
The drum is outfitted with twelve single post tube lugs, slotted tension rods and Stromberg's small two-pronged claws which fit over the three-ply maple counterhoops. The shell is also unusual for the era being formed of three staggered plies. The snare mechanism and butt seen here are a refined version of Stromberg's 1904 patent.
Stromberg Snare Drum Strainer
Stromberg Snare Drum Butt
Do you have a drum made by Charles A. Stromberg? I would love to hear about it! Feel free to drop Lee an email at And for more on the early 20th century snare drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts please visit or follow @old_boston_drums on instagram.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Stone Special Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum, early 1910s

Before separate tension snare drums became widely accepted in New England, single tension drums ruled the market. Highly common during the 1910s, particularly in the early part of the decade, were thumbscrew models such as the orchestra drum seen here from Boston's George B. Stone & Son.
1910s George B. Stone Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum
Early 1910s George B. Stone & Son Drum Catalog
The debate between single tension and separate tension was very much an open one around the time this drum was munufactured. George Burt Stone discussed the matter in a 1913 column for Jacobs' Orchestra Monthly and evidently found his own article relevant enough to republish it in George B. Stone & Son "Catalog H" (ca. 1915). Previously, Stone "Catalog G" (ca. 1912) lead off with the "Stone Special" Thumbscrew Rod Drum indicating its signifigance within the Stone product line.

Further inspection of Stone & Son's early catalogs reveal that badges first appeared around the mid 1910s. This characteristic, in addition to the early McIntosh strainer stamped with the inventor's name rather than Stone's, helps date this example to the early 1910s. A leather snare anchor holds the snare wires in place against the bottom counterhoop opposite of the strainer.

Early 1910s Geo. B. Stone Snare Strainer
Early 1910s Geo. B. Stone Snare Anchor
The single-ply maple counterhoops employed here feature a stained outer face recalling a motif often seen on late 19th century drums produced in and around Boston. This look gradually fell out of favor with Stone and others instead opting to use matching colored hoops and shells. A rapid move toward metal counterhoops followed, an evolution which Stone never embraced.

A diminutive makers label, not much larger than a postage stamp, is visible inside the drum. A larger label would not have fit inside the 3" deep, one-ply maple shell.

Upon arrival, the drum was outfitted with a Geo. B. Stone & Son 'Special Transparent' snare side head, a style last offered in Stone Catalog I (ca. 1919). Unfortunatly the head was split beyond repair, so a new skin was tucked onto the existing flesh hoop.

Early 1910s Geo. B. Stone Drum Label
1910s Geo. B. Stone & Son Drum Head
The drum is unfortunately highly out of round and when found was missing several tension rods and claws but is otherwise complete and in very good condition. A classy but simple overall appearance is offset by a polished rosewood grommet adorning the airvent.

The original 'flexible waterproof woven' snare wires are intact and in excellent working order. The sound achieved is something brighter than traditional gut, but darker and drier than coiled wire.

Early 1910s Geo. B. Stone & Son Snare Drum Grommet
Early 1910s Geo. B. Stone & Son Flexible Waterproof Woven Snare Wires

Do you have a Stone & Son drum? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at And for more on George B. Stone & Son and the other turn of the century Boston-based drum makers, please visit or follow us on Instagram: @old_boston_drums.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

1921 Harry A. Bower Snare Drum

One hundred years ago today this Harry A. Bower snare drum was individually numbered and dated. Handwriting found inside the shell reads "Apr 1/21". The oversized makers label humbly states:

The "BOWER" Drum / TRADE MARK / The "BOWER" DRUM is a new creation. Invented and manufactured by the world's authority on drums and drumming, and the author and publisher of the "Harry A. Bower System." / No. 577 / Harry A. Bower / Boston, MA"

Bower was a well-traveled performer on the Vaudeville circuit, a one-time member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the author of two widely used method books in the early part of the 20th century. He was also prolific inventor having been granted no fewer than thirteen patents, seven of which pertained to the snare drum. His designs were odd even for their time commonly utilizing hollow, tubular counterhoops which doubled as flesh hoops for the drumheads. Shells were often made from an unusual composite material as is the case with this example.
Bower's patented snare system was also highly unique in that the wires remained under tension via a frame which could be engaged with or disengaged from the bottom head using a simple but efficient throw-off mechanism.
Do you have a Bower drum? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at And for more on Harry A. Bower and the other early 20th century drum manufacturers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit or follow us on Instagram: @old_boston_drums.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Orchestra Drum - Part 2: Dating Guide

General Overview | Dating Guide

Boston's George B. Stone & Son manufactured hundreds of "Separate Tension Drums" during the 1910s and 1920s. Not all examples can be precisely dated, but there are several defining characteristics of these instruments which evolved over time making it possible to approximate the age of many drums.

1922 George B. Stone & Son Separate Tension Orchestra Drum advertisement
George B. Stone & Son Catalog I Supplement, 1922


The overwhelming majority of Stone & Son's Separate Tension Drums were formed around maple shells. Exceptions do exist, however, and catalogs from the early 1910s offer walnut and mahgony for an additional price. Before 1922, the Separate Tension Drums were built from thin, single-ply shells with solid maple reinforcing rings at the outer edges as well as underneath each row of tube lug posts. Depending on shell depth and the number of tube lug posts, drums typically had a total of three or four reinfocing rings.

Shortly after the Master-Model Drum was introduced, Stone & Son began using the same three-ply, 5/8" thick maple shells on Separate Tension Orchestra Drums. Larger 'Band Drums' continued to feature a thinner, lighter one-ply shell with solid maple reinforcing rings.

1910s Stone snare drum shell interior
1910s - 1923
1920s Stone drum shell interior
1923 - 1930s

Geo. B. Stone & Son commonly lined each drum's air vent with a grommet. Before 1924 these grommets were always formed from wood. Grommets found on drums built in the early and mid 1910s are sometimes formed from lighter colored woods and can be bulkier in appearance. Wooden grommets used during late 1910s and early 1920s were commonly made from highly polished rosewood and often have a thinner outerfacing lip. Sometime in 1924, Stone began installing ridged, black synthetic grommets which screwed into a threaded vent hole. These threaded grommets remained in use on Stone & Son's higher end drums, including the Separate Tension models, for the rest of the company's existence.

wooden grommet
early 1900s - 1924
synthetic grommet
1924 - 1930s

Stone & Son began applying badges to their drums sometime in the early to mid 1910s. Drums built before this time had no badges at all. It was standard practice by about 1915 to mount a metal, oval shaped badge to the batter side counterhoop of each snare drum, oriented on the panel above the air grommet. Some mid 1910s examples have a second badge applied inside of the shell instead of a label. By autumn of 1922, new badges began appearing with the letters "INC" added to denote the company's legal incorporation a few years prior.

1910s George B. Stone & Son Drum Badge
Geo. B. Stone & Son Drum Badge, mid 1910s - 1922
1920s George B. Stone & Son Drum Bagde
Geo. B. Stone & Son Drum Badge, 1922 - early 1930s


A variety of different makers labels were applied inside of Geo. B. Stone & Son's Separate Tension Drums through the years. Some examples from the mid 1910s, however, instead had a second badge fixed to the inside of the shell. (example 1) One commonly seen label from the late 1910s featured the company name in an ornate, old-fashioned font (example 2) and is sometimes trimmed to fit inside of narrow shells or between mounting hardware. This label reappears in the mid 1930s with stamped serial numbers in the 9000 range.

Labels from the very late 1910s and early 1920s tout Stone's newly published Catalog I. (example 3) New serial numbered labels began appearing in January of 1922. (example 4) The serial numbers began at 5000 and were initially accompanied by date stamps. While serial numbers climbed into the upper 9000 range by the mid 1930s, date stamping ended sometime in 1925.

Stone & Son Drum Badge, circa mid 1910s
ex. 1 - circa mid 1910s
Stone & Son Drum Label, circa mid to late 1910s
ex. 2 - circa mid to late 1910s
Stone & Son Drum Label, ca. 1919 to 1921
ex. 3 - ca. 1919 to 1921
Stone & Son Drum Label, 1922 to early 1930s
ex. 4 - 1922 to early 1930s

The Seperate Tension drums were manufactured in dwindling quantities through the late 1920s and were included in Stone & Son pricelists as late as 1932.

Do you have a Stone Separate Tension drum? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send Lee an email at And for more on George B. Stone & Son and the other turn of the century Boston-based drum makers, please visit