Saturday, October 1, 2022

J. B. Treat Drum, ca. 1879

Joseph B. Treat was a well-known drummer and drum maker in Boston during the mid to late 19th century. A native of Connecticut, Treat arrived in Massachusetts by 1860 and briefly served as a drummer in Boston's Independent Corps of Cadets during the Civil War. A musician by vocation, he worked extensively in the musical instrument trade as well. Treat's most recognizable work as a maker was for Thompson & Odell during the 1880s and early 1890s.

Through much of the 1860s and 1870s, directory listings place Treat at addresses corresponding to the workplace of Asa Warren White suggesting that Treat worked alongside or was employed by White during these years. Signed makers labels offer further evidence that the two men were affiliated in some capacity well into the 1870s though they diverged shortly thereafter. Directories list Treat independently under 'Musical Instrument Makers' in 1879, and both Treat and White are absent from the Boston Business Directory in 1880 before reappearing at separate addresses the following year. Beginning in 1881 Treat's place work was 177 Washington Street confirming that he was by then employed by Thompson & Odell.

Treat likely produced the drum seen here during the narrow window of time after leaving White's shop, before landing at Thompson & Odell.

ca. 1879 J. B. Treat Drum
ca. 1879 J. B. Treat Drum Label
A large makers label inside the drum reads: "CIRCULAR / Having located at 50 Bromfield Street, Room 24, I am prepared to furnish Drums of any, and all descriptions, of the best materials throughout, also Rodger's Drum Heads, and Drum Findings of all descriptions, at the lowest possible prices. / Uniform sets of Drums, for Corps, made at the shortest notice. Old Drums remodelled and repaired in the best manner. / J. B. TREAT, / 50 BROMFIELD ST., ROOM 24 / I invite my old friends and customers to / "CALL ROUND." / Pin this up in the Band Room."
ca. 1879 J. B. Treat Drum
ca. 1879 J. B. Treat Drum
The drum is straightforward in construction, typical of military style drums manufactured in Boston during the decades following the Civil War. Formed from a single ply of maple, the shell is held at the seam by a line of small brass tacks. Slightly unusual is the orientation of the air vent and snare beds which are often placed further around the shell from the seam.

Do you have a drum made by J. B. Treat? I would love to hear from you! Email Lee 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.