Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day, nee Decoration Day

Memorial Day History

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.

There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920).

While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

General John A. Logan
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-B8172- 6403 DLC (b&w film neg.)]

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.

In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms. Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

Memorial Day - Origins
Memorial Day and the women behind its history
By Jone Johnson Lewis, Guide

On April 25, 1866, in Columbus, Mississippi, a women's association decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. In a nation trying to find a way to move on after a war that split the country, states, communities and even families, this gesture was welcomed as a way to lay the past to rest while honoring those who had fought on either side.

The first formal observance seems to have been on May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York -- President Lyndon Johnson recognized this as the "Birthplace of Memorial Day."

On May 30, 1870, General Logan gave an address in honor of the new commemorative holiday. In it he said: "This Memorial Day, on which we decorate their graves with the tokens of love and affection, is no idle ceremony with us, to pass away an hour; but it brings back to our minds in all their vividness the fearful conflicts of that terrible war in which they fell as victims.... Let us, then, all unite in the solemn feelings of the hour, and tender with our flowers the warmest sympathies of our souls! Let us revive our patriotism and love of country by this act, and strengthen our loyalty by the example of the noble dead around us...."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Elias Howe Drum, ca. 1861

Won yesterday on eBay (item no. 270580141924), sold by futurepast ( 640) for $461.78 is this remarkable piece of U.S. history:

Here’s some background on Elias Howe:

Chronological List of Fife Tutors after 1839
Compiled by Susan Cifaldi

1851 Howe, Elias Jr. Howe's School for the Fife. Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co., 1851. Pp. 56.
Advertisement for same title in Howe's School for the Flute. (Boston: 1843). X(Cifaldi); photocopy at Company of Fifers and Drummers, Ivoryton, CT.

1861 Howe, Elias. The Army and Navy Fife Instructor. Boston: Elias Howe, 1861. Pp. 64.

1862 Howe, Elias. Howe's United States Regulation Drum and Fife Instructor. Boston: Elias Howe, 1862. Pp. 93.

1863 Howe, Elias. Howe's New Fife Without a Master. Boston: Elias Howe, 1863. [pp 3-198 from Howe, Elias. The Musician's Omnibus No. 1. (1864) and The Musician's Omnibus No. 2. ca 1864]. X(Cifaldi), photocopy at Company of Fifers and Drummers, Ivoryton, CT.

1870 Howe, Elias. Howe's United States Regulation Drum and Fife Instructor. Boston: Elias Howe, [1870]. Pp. 72. X(Camus)

And, from

In 1851, Howe published his Howe's School for the Fife, a tutorial that also included over 150 tunes, many of which are commonly played today. Highly regarded in peacetime, this book was commonly used to teach fifers prior to the onset of hostilities in the War Between the States. It was also used to train fifers in the Civil War music schools at Newport Barracks, Kentucky and Governor's Island in New York harbor.

Howe is best known among our contemporaries for his United States Drum and Fife Instructor, published in 1862, which is often used by the various Civil War music schools conducted today. Unfortunately, the copies used were multi-generational photostatic copies from original manuscripts, significantly reduced in size, and of extremely poor quality. It has now been digitally restored to its original size (8 x 9-1/2 inches), distracting background removed, and has been digitally enhanced for clarity.


US 13181.28A
PP. 265,6


HOWE, ELIAS, born in Framingham in 1820, is one of the oldest living music-publishers in the United States, having issued his first music-book over fifty-one years ago [1841].

His parents were in humble circumstances and he early went to work. His first outside work was riding a neighbor's horse during ploughing, for the munificent remuneration of two cents a day. As a boy he was naturally musical, and, having obtained an apology for a violin, used to spend his spare hours fiddling the old tunes then popular. At that time there were few or no collections of music that could be bought, as it was only published singly or in sheet-music form, and sold at a high price per sheet; and as it was beyond his means to have a collection of printed music, he was in the habit of copying in a blank book every tune he heard played or could get hold of. In this way, in the course of time, he had gathered a large collection of music in his book, and it was in great demand by all the musicians the country round, who used frequently to borrow it to use at dances.

Early in 1840, when nineteen years old and working on a farm, it occurred to him that he might make some money if he could but get his book published. Accordingly, obtaining from his employer a few days' leave of absence, he came up to Boston to try his fortune here. Submitting his manuscript to Albert J. Wright, of the firm of music printers Wright & Kidder, then doing business in Cornhill, he was told that it would cost five hundred dollars to issue the first edition of a few hundred copies. Asked if he had any friends in Boston or at home who could help him with funds, he replied that he had none with money, but that he would " work his legs off to make the book a success, if they would only print it for him."

Finally Wright & Kidder agreed to make the plates and print the books at their own expense, allowing him to take the copies as fast as he was able to pay for them. The book thus published was "The Musician's Companion," and afterwards, when issued in three volumes, it ran through many editions, and an immense number were sold. Mr. Howe bought his first small stock from his publishers in borrowed money, and soon accumulated a little capital by peddling his books from door to door.

From this beginning sprang the immense number of music books at a popular price which are published in the United States. In 1842 Mr. Howe opened his first store in Providence, R.I., at No. 98 Westminster street. Here he carried on a small music-business, besides repairing accordeons and umbrellas, until 1843, when he sold out.

Afterwards, moving back to Boston, he published " Howe's Accordeon Preceptor," with an entirely original system of instruction, which soon reached the sale of one hundred thousand.

This was followed by " Howe's Violin School," the first of the cheap, selfmastering books, containing a large collection of graded popular music, of which over five hundred thousand copies have been sold.

Mr. Howe's first store in Boston was in the old Scollay Building, where he was associated with Henry Tolman, the only partner in business he ever had. Afterwards he successively occupied Nos. 5, 9, and 11 Cornhill.

About 1850 he sold out his entire business to Oliver Ditson and retired, buying the large estate in South Framingham of Seth B. Howes of circus fame. There he lived quietly, meanwhile acting as manager of the South Reading Ice Company several years, until about 1861, when he again entered his old business. Establishing himself at No. 33 Court street, moving from there to No. 61 Cornhill, and then to No. 103 Court street, he began making drums, and during the early years of the war he sold drums and fifes to nearly all the Massachusetts regiments and to many of the Western States.

He also published music, especially military band and drum and fife, for use in the armies. Much of this music was sent to Louisville, Ky., and after the war he was informed that it all went into the Confederate army and was played there. Since the war days Mr. Howe has continued publishing music, steadily enlarging his catalogue and issuing many notable books. His series of instruction books for all instruments, still popular, have reached a sale of over a million copies.

About twelve years ago [1880] he moved to his present warerooms, Nos. 88 and 90 Court street. In 1871, foreseeing the present great popularity of violins, he determined to have his choice in old violins before they had been picked over; and with this in view he made his first trip to Europe. Since that time he has made many trips abroad. scouring the Continent for bargains in old and new violins, violas, violoncellos, and double basses, rare and curious instruments, and now he has the largest and finest collection of old violins in the world.

Monday, May 24, 2010

African American Civil War Drummer Boy in Watercolor

Appearing in Cowan's auction "2010, American History, Including the Civil War, June 11":

Folk art watercolor and graphite on board, 15.75 x 19.5 in. Artist Frederick Rolty in lower right. Above the right shoulder Negro Drummer Boy Willie Simpson and above left, 1863 Morristown N.J.V. Co. 42. We have been unable to locate this individual, apparently since he served New Jersey rather than the USCT. Musician records do not seem to have been as carefully kept as soldiers' records in any state, and as an African American, the record just may not exist. There was a 42nd USCT, but they were not organized until April 1864.

Condition: Indentations around edges and some paint missing at top where the painting was apparently matted or framed. Board is thin and has bowed slightly.

(EST $500-$700)

1886-87 Minnesota Militia Drummer

Appearing on Cowan's website without further description:

(EST $50-$100)
Price Realized: $998.75
Price includes buyer's premium.

Note, the print is reversed (not uncommon), the drum is held together by 8 rods rather than by ropes. And the drum has a bell strategically located to the drummer's left where it could be struck with the right hand reaching over the drum and remain conveniently out of reach when the drum was played normally. The bell strike must have looked pretty too as the drummer's right hand moved across the drum to strike the bell at the top of the upper counterhoop.

Finally, the drum looks to be reflecting light on the part of the shell facing the floor suggesting that it might have been made of metal. And, the drum appears to be relatively shallow which is consistent with its steep angle from the suspension point. A deeper drum would have hung more upright.

The card reads, "Overland & Holand, Fergus Falls, Minn. That photography shop is listed in the Minnesota Historical Society's "Directory of Minnesota Photographers" to have been in operation during 1886-1887.

Civil War Tintype of 8th Maine Drum Corps

Mislabeled "8th Main Drum and Bugle Corps", I believe that this is a drum corps only, no bugles. Also, Note that the print is reversed left to right (drummers wore their drums on their left knee, not the right as shown here). And, there might be one fifer in the front line next to the sergeant.

Appearing in Cowan's auction "2010, American History, Including the Civil War, June 11":

Lot of 2, including half-plate tintype, probably copied from an outdoor albumen showing the full Drum and Bugle Corps of the 8th Maine said to have been taken at the surrender of Gen. Lee at Appomattox. Drummer Weeks appears in the back row, dead center. This panoramic image captures the seven snare and one base drum of the corps together with the Bandmaster-Sergeant and his assistant who wear unusual non-regulation chevrons. The entire group stood for the photograph uniformed in shell jackets trimmed in white, rectangular belt plates, and kepis. All wear the regulation drum sling, except the base drummer. Several young black boys mill in the background, including one who is wearing a kepi and is probably informally attached to the corps. A brick building stands to the left rear while a tree in full bloom provides a canopy of shade suggesting that this could be Virginia in April. Lot also includes glass negative, 3.25 x 3.75 in., and modern silver gelatin print of a drummer boy from the 8th Maine.

Condition: Plate in very good condition with minor bends in corners; once probably framed, with oval mat line evident.

(EST $1000-$1500)

Pre-Civil War Militia Snare Drum

Appearing in Cowan's auction "2010, American History, Including the Civil War, June 11":

A pre-Civil War regimental militia drum with painted patriotic eagle and inscription E. Pluribus Unum on body, interior of drum features maker's label Binney & Ellis / Umbrella, Parasol, and Cane Manufacturers / Boston, which also includes a list of the various instruments Binney & Ellis manufacture; 16.5 in. dia., 17.5 in. tall.

Condition: Tear in bottom head; expected wear to surface; top and bottom rims have shifted.

(EST $3000-$4000)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Early-Mid 19th Century Snare Drum with ID'ed CW Soldier's Name

eBay seller jcmtin ( 2840) describes item no. 370374872052 as follows:

[G]reat early drum estate fresh, [k]no[w] very little on it, see pics, [I']m sure the rope was a replacement at some point, leather parts are still there, see pics, skin has some worm holes, see pics for overall condition, [I] googled [S]anford [B]ennett, he was in the 40th [W]isconsin [V]ol, [C]ivil [W]ar, and later wrote a song ["I]n the [S]weet [B]y and [B]y" after the [C]ivil [W]ar which was a big hit, maybe a [GAR] drum , [I] don['] know you be the judge approx, 15in tall and 16in across.