Monday, November 1, 2021

Nokes & Nicolai All Metal Drum, ca. late 1910s

Boston's Nokes & Nicolai succeeded the F. E. Dodge Company in 1912 and operated until 1926 when they merged with string instrument maker Joseph Pancheco and the Liberty Rawhide Company of Chicago, Illinois to form the Liberty Musical Instrument Company. Nokes & Nicolai's primary metal shell snare drum offering, the No-Nic All Metal Drum, was introduced sometime in the mid to late 1910s and was produced into the mid 1920s.
ca. late 1910s Nokes & Nicolai All Metal Drum
No-Nic All Metal Drums are easily recognizable by their 1/8" thick aluminum shells, star shaped vent hole configuration, and logo stamped shell and hoops. Most examples are buffed to a high shine and then lacquered. This particular drum sports a black painted shell and faux gold hardware.
Antique Nokes & Nicolai Snare Drum
Nokes & Nicolai, Boston, Mass
Nokes & Nicolai's All Metal Drums, as well as their Separate Tension Orchestra Drums, are tuned by way of twelve separate tension lugs which are adjusted at the side of the drum using a wrench. Stamped metal hooks attach over the counterhoops and hold free-floating swivel nuts into which the tension rods feed. The posts are formed from milled brass and allow the rods to turn freely. Tight fitting stamped metal caps cover the posts providing a more finished appearance while keeping the rods in place when not under tension.
Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 5, ca. 1913
Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 5, ca. 1913

The snare mechanism present here is an evolved version of Dodge's "Combined Snare Strainer and Muffler". The original design (for which a patent was applied but apparently never granted) used a thin lever to engague and disengague the snares. Nokes & Nicolai's updated version used a thin metal tab positioned at the top of the mechanism to switch the snares on and off. Despite evolutions in other areas of drum making, a more modern snare butt never arrived at Nokes & Nicolai. The wires are held in place opposite of the strainer by a simple snare anchor.

Nokes & Nicolai Snare MechanismNokes & Nicolai Snare Anchor

Do you have an drum made by Nokes & Nicolai? 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.