Monday, March 17, 2008

The Civil War Drums of Edward Baack

Drum maker, flute maker, politico, scoundrel? -- Who was Edward Baack?
Terry McGee reports in the "Chiff & Fipple" blog under the topic "Edward Baack Flute":"Edward Baack rates as one of the more interesting characters in flute making history. Born Hamburg in June 1809, died NY 14 Dec 1893. Flourished NY 1837-1893. According to an unsubstantiated family tradition, he went to the US as a deserter from the German army in 1832. Set up as an importer and dealer with Paulus from 1837, then listed as a maker 1864-1872. Then retired insolvent due to wartime debts and economic crises. His premises included the retail downstairs, manufactory upstairs, and his home, wife and 12 children."

The New York Times for June 23, 1858, p. 5, reported that an Edward Baack (possibly the same person as the drum and flute maker) was one of many supporters of Hon. John B. Haskin, Representative to Congress from the 9th Congressional District who met at the principal hall in Morrisania (now part of the Bronx) to support the congressman. And the Times for November 16, 1871, p. 1, reported that an Edward Baack, Jr. ran (but lost) for Receiver of Taxes as an Independent Democrat from the Town of West Farms (also now part of the Bronx but apparently part of Westchester County at the time).

Interestingly, the "Annual Report of the State Engineer & Surveyor of the State of New York", etc. for the year ending September 30, 1868 (p. 684) reports that Edward Baack was President of the Harlem Bridge, Morrisania and Fordham Railway Company as of December 15, 1868 and both Baack and the same John B. Haskin (both of Fordham, New York, now part of the Bronx), were listed among the directors.

And "Thomas" reports in his blog "I Wear Tight Genes":
"I've found a few obits so far, but this little bit from Jan 12, 1871, caught my eye:

'Judge Blatchford, of the United States Court, has granted the motion of the plantiffs in the case of the Manufacturer's National Bank of Chicago vs. EDWARD BAACK and EDWARD BAACK, Sr., of this City, for the appointment of a receiver and for an injunction, holding that the court had full jurisdiction in the case.'

"Interesting, eh? At the time, the Baack clan was living in West Farms, Westchester Co. (for the most part), and 2 years after this notice, Ed Jr. loses an election to become the county receiver of taxes. G.E. Valley Jr. did a lot of research regarding a family legend centering around the Baack dynasty: That H. Edward Sr. had gained quite a lot of money, but then lost most of it after the Civil War due to having sold bugles to the Confederates. His research eventually turned up nothing surrounding this legend, but this little hit in the NY Times may be some indication that the family was going through financial troubles anyway at around the same time period.

So, were there two Edward Baack's? Yes, father and son. Were there three? Who knows? Seems unlikely that the politico from West Farms (now part of the Bronx) would have been able to maintain a shop to make drums on Fulton Street (downtown Manhattan) and commute daily in pre-subway times. Also, the obit referred to above indicates that he lived with his family in the same building as his "manufactory" which appears to have been on Fulton Street (decidedly not West Farms). And although musical instrument makers are generally skilled people, the thought of Edward Baack the German-born drum-, flute- (and oboe-) maker moonlighting as (or becoming) President of a railway is just too far fetched to be probable. So, my conclusion is that Edward Baack the musical instrument maker and Edward Baack the railroad president were two different people, but possibly father and son.

Eric Totman ( generously posted photos of his 1860s restored Edward Baack drum for the world to see.

Another Baack Drum:

The Dec. 7, 2006 sale for $3,500 by Cowan's in its Fall Historic Americana and Militaria auction of another Baack drum (the eagle drum pictured above) was reported by and described as follows:

"121st Regiment U.S. Infantry Painted Snare Drum, brown wood drum with typical hand-painted patriotic eagle bearing a US shield and banner in its beak that reads 121st Reg. U.S. Infantry. Stylized sunrays with white painted stars scattered against the blue background. Red painted top and bottom wood rims. Nine brown leather tension mounts. Bottom drumhead with stenciled black letters D.C. Connely, Stewart's Run, PA. Green paper label on inside of drum reads Edward Baack No. 87 Fulton Street New York Manufacturers and Importers of Drums, Banjos and Tamborines and All Kinds of Brass and Wooden Instruments. Bands Supplied on the Most Reasonable Terms. 15" height, 16.5" diameter. Complete with pair of 17" black painted wood drumsticks. The generic eagle drum with regulation military symbols is not specifically identified to a particular state and the high-numbered 121st painted banner could pertain to a volunteer regiment from Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, or USCT. The cryptic reference to Steward's Run, PA is a good starting point for further research.
Condition report: Rope is a replacement. Both drumheads are in good condition, but soiled and showing water stains. Hand-painted eagle with numerous regions of severe paint loss. Rims retain ca 90% original red paint."

And a Baack Bass Drum:

Images on website courtesy of Garth's Auctions.

Described by Garth's as follows:

"CAMPAIGN DRUM FOR GROVER CLEVELAND. An early Civil War era drum by "Edward Baack, 87 Fulton St., New York" with worn original paint and an inlaid star on the side. The hand painted bust of Cleveland and banners, "Grover Cleveland", "Our Next President" are on one side only and have areas of wear. Cleveland was elected in 1884 and then again in 1892. Died in 1908. Restoration to one head and a tear on the other. 36 1/2"d. 18 1/4"h."

Also, Kovel's ( auctioneers lists having sold an Eagle Baack with red hoops and a New York label and stencil in 2000 for a mere $795.

In addition to making drums, Baack made flutes. See three examples in the Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection Here they are:

And Baack flutes (plus many Civil War drums) are reported to be part of the collection of the MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Maine History Gallery, Wadsworth-Longfellow House), 485 Congress Street, 04101 (207-879-0427) FAX (207-775-4301).

Wait, there's more -- Baaack oboes: "The Oboe", by Geoffrey Burgess and Bruce Haynes, Yale Musical Instrument Series, p. 169 refers to "[A]n oboe bearing the name of Edward Baack (1802 - p.1871), who ... operated out of New York ...."


  1. This may be slightly off-topic: I own an over-the-shoulder E-flat cornet marked "E. Baack / New York". Picture here:
    It probably dates to the immediate post-Civil-War period, and it is clearly an instrument imported from Europe and stenciled by Baack, not made by him. Still, it is the only brass instrument signed by Baack of which I'm aware. It is currently awaiting restoration to playing condition.

  2. I just acquired a 6 key Boxwood and Ivory flute made by Edward Baack, looks like it was made around 1850.

  3. The Baack OTS Eb cornet is now posted here:

  4. Hey, wow, I'm quoted.

    Ed. Baack Jr. was definitely the politician. I've only found out more about him recently due to him having married off on the "Catholic" side of the family.

    According to my great-grandmother, a rather devout anti-Catholic bigot, a few of her aunts and uncles went off and got themselves married into the "RCs" and were never heard from again -- that is, until the will had to be decided.


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P.R. Winn, Drummaker

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