Marquetry in Drums of the Past (Redux)
19th Century Antique Marquetry Inlaid Music Room Snare Drum by Eisele
[This article originally appeared in this blog April 11, 2008. It's been updated and is republished here.]
eBay bidding (item no. 110265652909) on this drum went to $354 July 6, 2008, with 3 bidders bidding in excess of $200, but in the end the item did not sell because the seller's reserve was not met. I agree with the seller. I think the value of the drum shell is more than $354. However, the market determines fair market value ("FMV") which is the point at which a willing buyer and a willing seller will transact business. Evidently eBay bidding did not reach FMV for this item. Note that I have two drums of this type so my opinion could be somewhat biased in favor of a higher value. But, considering the intact label and the relatively manageable amount of work needed to make the drum functional (hooks, rope, flesh hoops, skin heads, snares, repair to counterhoop), I wouldn't wince at paying $500 for the drum as is and investing another $500 or so into bringing it up to playing condition.
Isn't about time that we started looking at these drums (I mean all the drums on this blog) as historic pieces of art? Look at the craftsmanship and the times in which the drums were made. $1,000 for a nice piece of art is, by any standards, still a bargain. Here I think the seller is right. Hold out for a better price. The drum warrants it.
On the inside of this mid 19th century Victorian Music Room Snare Drum is the original label that reads, “Henry Eisele, Successor to William Sempps, manufacturers of Base & Snare Drums, 209 & 211 Grand Street New York. N.B. Drum Heads, Sticks, Cords, ect.” As you can see this drum has a wonderful Marquetry Inlay on the front of Musical Instruments and the surface of this drum is original and untouched. The body measures 17 inches in diameter by 9 ½ inches tall and the two bands are 1 1/8” wide by 17 ½” in diameter. One band has a slight separation right where it laps over itself, but this will be a very easy repair. The high bidder will have to replace the skins and side ropes, but there are no other damages or repairs to the exceptional Music Room Snare Drum.
Rhode Island Internet Consignment & Sales Incp. (RIICS Inc.) PO Box 393 Lincoln RI 02865 401-475-1190
(Believed to have been inlaid as a panel)
Elaborate Inlaid Drum
Recently (rel. April 11, 2008) this ca. 1890s Lyon & Healey elaborately inlaid drum sold on eBay to a lucky winner who paid $890, outbidding me by a mere $10 -- the worst $10 I never spent. I was, however, able to salvage some photos before eBay made the listing go dark.
Compare a Similar 1890s Lyon & Healey Ornately Inlaid Drum at the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota:
"NMM 10142. Snare drum by Lyon & Healy, Chicago, ca. 1893. Ornately inlaid rosewood shell, 243mm (9-1/2") x 410mm (16-1/4"), utilizing seven different colors of wood. The large decoration features a natural horn, natural trumpet, and open musical score in the middle of a floral design which is inset on a darker section of wood. Ten leather tugs. Maple rims inlaid with a decorative pattern of interlocking lines in three colors of wood. Ten metal hooks through which the rope passes. Military strainer. According to William F. Ludwig, this drum was exhibited at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. William F. Ludwig II Collection, 2002. Lit.: Jayson Dobney, Innovations in American Snare Drums 1850-1920, M.M. Thesis (Vermillion: University of South Dakota, 2003), pp. 127-128."
Similar wood patterns are found on expensive music boxes.
by Porter Music Box Company, Inc.)Source
How was it done?
For a primer in marquetry see American Marquetry Society's Beginner's Guide. Another seminal site is the web home of The Marquetry Society.
For information on wood inlay with a "how-to" approach, see "Wood Inlay" by the Chicago Park District, MODERN RECREATION SERIES, 1937.
And, right on point, see this article in Thin Air Press concerning applying veneer on drum shells.
I have two drums with marquetry. The first is from C.F. Zimmermann of Philadelphia.
The eBay (#150214939180, sold 3/3/08) seller described it as:
"THIS IS A NICE OLD PIECE. IT'S AN OLD WOODEN MARCHING SNARE DRUM THAT WAS USED IN A TALL CEDARS(MAS0NIC) MARCHING BAND SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 1900 AND THE 1920s.
IT HAS A LABEL ON THE INSIDE THAT READS: BOUGHT OF C.F. ZIMMERMAN MANUFACTURER OF THE LATELY PATENTED UNION ACCORDEANS AND IMPORTER OF AND DEALER IN MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS. NO. 238 NORTH SECOND STREET, PHILADELPHIA
IT HAS A 17" DIAMETER, AND IS 10-1/2” DEEP. IT HAS 9 TUNING LUGS, WITH A TUNING KEY. THE SKINS OR HEADS LOOK LIKE THEY MAY BE MADE OF SHEEP OR CALF SKIN. BOTTOM SKIN IS BROKEN OUT AND NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. THE SNARES LOOK LIKE THEY ARE ANIMAL GUT, AND ARE INTACT. THE BOTTOM SKIN IS RUPTURED AND NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. IT'S DUSTY AND DIRTY AND PROBABLY COULD USE A GOOD CLEANING. EXCEPT FOR SOME EXPECTED WEAR DUE TO AGE AND USE, THE WOODEN FRAME APPEARS TO BE IN PRETTY GOOD CONDITION. THERE IS SOME MINOR RUSTING ON THE TUNING LUGS, BUT NOTHING THAT CAN'T BE CLEANED UP. IT HAS A LOOP TO ATTACH A SHOULDER HARNESS TO BE USED WHILE MARCHING, HOWEVER THE HARNESS AND STICKS ARE NOT INCLUDED."
The second is by Henry Eisele of New York City.
The Zimmermann drum has inlaid counterhoops, in addition to an inlaid marquetry panel on the shell of the drum.
This figure from the Chicago Park District's 1937 book on the subject illustrates how a strip with an inlaid pattern can be made (clever):
But inlay bandings can be purchased and applied. See, e.g., "Original Marquetry".
The Eisele drum's counterhoops are stenciled in a gold painted pattern on a red painted background.
On each drum can be seen a seam along the border of a panel (oval in the Eisele, and the union of two ovals in the Zimmermann) containing the marquetry, as if the fine marquetry work was done separately and carefully cut in and applied to the outer veneer of the drum shell as an entire pre-fabricated panel.
And, as with the marquetry bandings, marquetry ovals are available today for sale.
Apparently in an effort to mask the seam as well as further dress up the drum, the Eisele uses a gold,red and black leafy pattern.
The Zimmermann uses a gold leafy decal (note the outline of the decal can be seen just outside the leafy pattern).
The Zimmermann close-up:
Compare this virtually identical inlay from the back of a Dobson-type Banjo ca. 1880s (said to be believed to have been made by Buckbee):
The Eisele close-up: