This prize appeared recently on eBay as item no. 110265642553. The ornate inlay design is reminiscent of the early 1860's work of Wm. S. Tompkins (Yonkers) featured elsewhere on this blog at "Tompkins 1860-1863 Masterpiece Drums -- Where Are They Now?", February 27, 2008.
Is it a Tompkins?: Not Sure:
The drum is beautiful. Of that there is no doubt. But, is it a Wm. S. Tompkins drum? Possibly an early Tompkins drum (possibly number 2, which may be the only pencil marking on the interior). Although the hooks look authentic and identical to those on Tompkins drums, and there is no mention of a snare mechanishm (quite possible, as many early drums had snares merely pressed into their bottom heads without any tightening mechanism other than a good pull during installation of the drum head -- see, e.g., the 1862 Tompkins from my collection featured in "Tompkins 1860-1863 Masterpiece Drums -- Where Are They Now?"), many or all of the 8 or so Tompkins drums we have previously written about on this blog bear Tompkins' signature, drum number and date of manufacture by hand in pencil on the interior, directly opposite the vent hole. There is no mention of such markings on this drum, merely the number "2".
However, that does raise the intriguing possibility that this is an early, possibly a bit crude (Tompkins' work that we know of appears to be a few degrees more subtle; the inlay on this drum is big and bold), work from Tompkins' Yonkers shop -- perhaps his second attempt. That's entirely speculation, but a fascinating possibility nonetheless.
The Number "2":
The "2" written in pencil on the inside of the Tompkins-like drum has a certain calligraphic style to it:
I do not claim to have any skills or expertise at handwriting analysis. If you do or know someone who does, it would be appreciated if we could receive some expert analysis of the foregoing and the following examples of the number 2 written on the Tompkins-like drum (above) and a known Tompkins drum (below) in my collection:
The number "2" looks very similar in both drums. The known Tompkins drum's three examples of number "2" ("1862" and "22" in pencil) compare very favorably with the number "2" in the Tompkins-like drum.
The seller (tootahorn) describes the drum as follows: "Original Civil War drum. Everything is very solid and is in amazing shape. There is no fading. This has been in a collectors home in a dry place for many, many years. I may have taken the pictures upside down - I apologize for that.
This has handsome inlaid wood work for the design. The ropes are in terrific shape. They are intact and they seem original . Comes with two original drumsticks. Does not come with a case. There aren't any drum heads. The leather holds the rope in place. The leather is worn with some cracking. The wood design has 8 stars on the outside circle, 8 stars on the inside circle.
Each individual leather crest has 7 [sic., 7 raised and 9 depressed] stripes and 13 stars. There are only three of the leather tassles that have the leather crest. One of the leather tassles is missing completely and two of the leather tassles are partials. There are 10 "hooks" on the top and 10 hooks on the bottom rim that hold the rope. The wood itself is in good shape that has hairline cracks.
There is a minor stain that goes around in the inside middle of the drum. Cannot see it from the outside - it may have been there since it was originally made. The rims are in good shape with some edges worn. There is the number '2' written in pencil on the inside of the drum. No mold or mildew - great for museum or collector. This comes from a widows estate. She said it has been with the family for as long as she remembers. Height of drum - 13.5 inches. Width - approx. 16.25 inches."
The "leather crests" (as the seller describes them) [possibly darkened metal union shields] are of great interest. Like the brass shields pictured on a drum in my collection [the originals were brass; the refurbished replacements were done in pewter but will be replaced with brass] discussed in "Drum by John Lowell of Bangor, Maine", March 5, 2008, they display 15 stripes. However, unlike the shields on the Lowell drum's tugs, these shields have 13 stars (the Lowell drum's shields have only 12 stars). [We have no explanation for that.]
15 Stripes a Mistake? Maybe, Maybe Not:
The official flag of the United States until 1818 had 15 stripes. The following 1914 letter to the New York Times(transcribed below) sums up the history of the stars and stripes up until the firing on Fort McHenry:
Had 15 Stars and 15 Stripes When National Anthem Was Written.
To the Editor of The New York Times:
Referring to the article in last Sunday's TIMES in regard to the centenary of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the writer of the article has made a slip of the pen in referring to "the original flag with its 18 stars." The picture which you show displays 15 stars and 15 stripes, which is the correct representation of the official United States Flag at that time, (1814.) The stars are arranged in five rows of three stars each so spaced that the stars of one row are opposite the spaces in the adjacent row. the flag of 15 stars and stripes was established by act of Congress approved by President Washington Jan. 13, 1794. That was the official flag until 1818.
On April 4, 1815, Congress enacted that from and after July 4, 1818, the flag should consist of thirteen stripes and twenty stars and that a star should be added for each new State. Tennessee, Ohio, and Louisiana were admitted to the Union after the act of 1794 and before the writing of "The Star Spangled Banner," but while they were entitled to stars in the flag Congress made no change in the flag until 1818, as above stated, and the flag on Fort McHenry which was fired on, contained 15 stars and 15 stripes. As prior to 1818, the United States Flag contained the same number of stars as it had stripes, there can be no mistake about the number of stars in the flag represented in the Sunday TIMES, which contains 15 stripes. E.H. Hall, Secretary The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society.
New York, June 8, 1914
The New York Times
Published: June 13, 1914
Copyright © The New York Times