The Moeller Drums of the Mount Kisco Fire Department Ancient Fife & Drum Corps
Ancient Fife & Drum Corps
Mount Kisco, New York
One of the exceptional sights, even to untrained eyes and unskilled ears is the Grand Republic Drum set made by the renowned Sanford Augustus Moeller. “Gus” is widely considered to have been one of the foremost ancient drum makers in the country. He passed away in 1960 at the age of 82. His legacy of drums, particularly in the fife and drum community, can unquestionably be seen in the Mount Kisco Ancient Fife and Drum Corps. The 10 snare, 3 bass, hand painted set is believed to be, and is recognized as, the largest complete Moeller set still in tact in the United States. The Ancients are very proud and thankful that Gus Moeller was, and will forever be, an integral part of the Corps history.
The drums possess unique hand painted images of Native Americans, of which no two figures are alike, with stylistic and artistic nuances attributed to the individual drum. Gus handcrafted the set using ash with calfskin heads, linen rope and leather ears to tighten the drum head down. The delivery of the set took place between 1950-1953. Moeller took great pride in each drum he made, often delivering them in person. This enabled him to witness the enjoyment of the first play by the new owner. Moeller also invited buyers to come to his workshop in Mt. Vernon, NY to observe the handcrafting and love he put into each drum.
In a letter Mr. Moeller wrote to Mr. Hugh Quiqley of Wallingford, CT in 1954, who had just taken home a Moeller Grand Republic Drum, Gus pointed out that “There have been only three organizations given Grand Republic Drums and happily they have been organizations of EXCELLENT character and reputations…The three Corps now owning them are the Chas. T. Kirk, F.D. Corps of Brooklyn, The North Branford, CT. Fife and Drum Corps of North Branford, CT and The Mount Kisco Fife and Drum Corp. These organizations are certainly all HONORABLE.”
Howard F. Reiff wrote an obituary on Mr. Moeller, revealing several attributes that those who had dealings with Gus were certainly aware:
“The man himself was a phenomenon, known for his eccentricities and straight from the shoulder remarks. To purchase Moeller Drums was a chore in itself. One had to go through a third degree…for you had to be able to play well to qualify! I remember when a Corps placed an order for a whole set of these drums and was told that Gus would accept the order only after he had attended one of their rehearsals to make sure the drums would be used properly. I refer to the original Mt. Kisco Corps. The drums were delivered and are still used today…they are as good as the day they were delivered some years ago.”
Ed. Note: Thanks go to George Kubicek for finding this information on the World Wide Web.