Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Historic Drum of the First Corps of Cadets, Massachusetts

[Note: A few pretty offerings emerged this week to be auctioned at Mike Kent Auctions' "Civil War & Military Artifacts" auction to be held March 29, 2008 in Dalton, Georgia. Among those items is the below-discussed drum of the First Corps of Cadets.

Post-Auction Follow-up: According to a telephone interview with the auctioneer, the auction of this drum drew substantial interest, including three eBay bidders, one floor bidder and two telephone bidders. See eBay for additional information.

First Corps of Cadets, Organized 1726:
18" x 17" drum with painted seal of the First Corps of Cadets organized in 1726 as a bodyguard unit to the royal governor of the Province of Massachusetts.

What is the First Corps of Cadets?
"The First Corps of Cadets is the oldest military unit in continuous existence in the United States; it was chartered in 1741 as the bodyguard of the Governor of the province of Massachusetts Bay and took active part in the War for Independence, the Civil War and both World Wars. *** As the personal bodyguard of the British governor, it was called upon to protect life and property during the Stamp Act upheavals and the Hutchinson Riots. When in 1774 a quarrel arose between Governor Gage and Corps Commander John Hancock, the unit severed its connection with the British government, and its members joined the American forces." Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. The First Corps of Cadets was organized in 1741 as an outgrowth of the Governor's Company of Cadets, part of the militia before and since the Revolution. "History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts", published by the Town, 1893, p. 373, digitized by Google.

The Armory of the First Corps of Cadets is an Historic Landmark (located at 97-105 Arlington St. and 130 Columbus Ave., Boston, Massachusetts). And the First Corps of Cadets Museum is located at 227 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Massachusetts. For an extensive history of the First Corps of Cadets see "History of Forty-Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, The Cadet Regiment", compiled by Albert W. Mann, Historian of the Regiment, 1908, digitized by Google.

"The First Corps of Cadets is now designated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 211th Military Police Battalion. It has been one of the premier organizations of the Massachusetts National Guard serving in five wars. Its primary contribution to the Commonwealth and nation has been as an officer producing institution for new regiments from the Revolutionary War through World War II." Source:

"A six-pointed mullet of rays, one point up charged with a bezant bearing a cross Gules encircled with a garter Azure inscribed 'MONSTRAT VIAM 1741' (It Points The Way) of the first." Source: The Institute of Heraldry, Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army.

Label Inside Attributes the Drum to Prentiss of Boston:
A label inside the drum reportedly reads: "M[possibly H?] Prentiss / 33 Court St / Boston" (we will soon have additional information on this label).

H. Prentiss was Henry H. Prentiss (b. Roxbury, 25 June 1801; d. Boston, 1860), per “The Keyed Bugle”, Second Edition, Dudgeon, Ralph T., Scarecrow Press, Inc.,1993, Chapter 8, “Keyed Bugle Makers and Sellers, p. 291.

Another Prentiss Drum Sits in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:
Another Prentiss drum is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The MFA describes the drum as "probably 1834", distributed by: Henry H. Prentiss, American, 1801–1860, Boston, Massachusetts, United States, height 35.5 cm, diameter 42 cm (height 14 in., diameter 16 9/16 in.), maple.

And, Who Knows Where This One (below) Went? Militaria and Americana by Northeast Auctions, sold this drum (below) of a similiar genre (no attribution, as far as I am aware, to a particular maker, but the artist is identified) as part of its sale of the Guthman Collection, but where is it now? [if you know, please email us]:

Photo Source: Antiques and Fine Art website.

Northeast Auctions' 2006 auction of the William H. Guthman Collection provides the following information:

"William H. Guthman Collection, Oct 12, 2006
"Lot # 612
"Sold: 29,250.00

"Painted with an adaptation of the Seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts within flags and trumpets, the banners inscribed 'City Guards' and "Instituted Sept. 1821,' the red and black striped sides within black bands, appears to retain its original skins and hoops, signed and dated beneath the shield "Chs. Hubbard./ Boston/ 1824.' Height 17 1/2 inches, diameter 17 inches. Charles Hubbard (1801-76) worked in Boston from the mid-1820's until 1869. In 1834 he advertised as a sign and ornamental painter, and painter of military standards and masonic regalia. This drum was painted for the volunteer militia regiment Boston City Guards, using their insignia adapted from the seal of Massachusetts as the decoration. Literature: Discussed and illustrated in William Guthman, 'American Militia Drums, 1775-1845,' THE MAGAZINE ANTIQUES, July 1982, p. 155, fig. 12.

See brochure from Guthman auction.

Guthman Articles:
If you have a copy of either of these articles written by William H. Guthman and published in The Magazine Antiques, I'd appreciate an email from you.:

July, 1982, Page 148-155. American militia drums, 1775-1845.
July, 1984, Page 124-133. Decorated American militia equipment.

And see October 22, 1881 New York Times article about the First Corps of Cadets escorting the Governor of Massachusetts in New York City en route home from the centenial celebration in Yorktown, Virginia.


  1. Greetings Ellis,

    I restored that First Corps drum for the seller, about 2 years ago. All they had were the shell (most important) and hoops, though one was in 2 pieces. The ears are Cooperman repro of Eli Brown. The customer "cooked" them in fireplace ash. The hoops were 2-ply, and I was able to sandwich a steel "mender" between them, where I replaced some of the wood. With new skins, hemp rope, and gut snares (no strainer) I made it into a player.

  2. To whom it may concern,

    I fully understand this webpage is dedicated to drums, but I am unable to find an email address so that I may inquire about the following microfilm that is located in the Archives in the First Corps of Cadets:

    Meunier, Hugues-Alexandre-Joseph (Général Bon). Évolutions par brigades, ou Instruction servant de développement aux manoeuvres de ligne, indiquées par les réglements, par le baron Meunier,... Paris: Magimel, 1814. vi, 79 p., 16 pl.; 8vo.

    Please do not confuse this with the 1805 edition.

    Could you please direct me to the correct department, so that I may buy a copy, perhaps through Library transfer...or some other means. I understand it is for Library use only...but is there some way to perhaps even get a photocopy of the book?

    Let me thank you in advance for your time and service.

    Best Regards,
    Mr. Arthur Pendragon

    I may be contacted at:


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