Friday, April 4, 2008

Brass CW Drum with Documents and Provenance Grabs $695 -- even though the drum at auction is not the drum in the photo

[Ed. Note: This eBay auction (item #250232602758) closed today at $695.00. My opinion: a lot of money for a book, a bit of provenance, and a drum that does not match the drum in the photo. But, evidently two experienced bidders (d***7 367 and cbi1944 59) who duked it out in the $535 to $695 range, disagree. For my part, frankly, I wouldn't have paid more than $50 (which is exactly where a real pro, j***j 331, a major collector and knowledgeable drum restorer, dropped out). The market value is the price at which a willing buyer and willing seller exchange a good for money. So, apparently the market value of these items was $695, but I just don't get it.]

[Ed. Note: Currently on eBay (item #250232602758) is a drum and associated documents described as below. I've posted this information here in order to preserve it on the Internet because the eBay listing will eventually be gone and, with it, this information which merits preservation.]

George W. Hayden
(The eBay seller confirmed in an email to me today that these are two different drums)

"Civil War brass snare drum carried by George W. Hayden, drummer boy for the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Army of the Potomac. It has been cut down and was likely altered around the turn of the 20th century with the rope tighteners replaced by eight brass tube lugs. A full size unaltered Civil War period brass snare drum can be seen on the web site of the National Music Museum of the University of South Dakota in the Ludwig collection.

[In response to my request for his opinion, a knowledgeable drum collector and accomplished drummer wrote: "Looks good to me. I can use the parts. It would be unusual to 'cut-down' a brass shell, -- not impossible in a good tinshop to cut it and roll new bearing surfaces, but why bother? The remainder of the shell (with unused strainer) could be original, so I am curious to compare it with a couple of my well-documented drums (Peter Guibert and an imported and beautifully decorated Boucher). Hoops & hoop mounted strainer are later 1800's, but an interesting object for an autopsy."]

"Written in pencil on one side of the skin drumhead is 'in the war 62-65 Geo W. Hayden George [with some indecipherable, smaller writing]'

"At the opposite end of the same side is written in pencil [is] 'in the war 1862-65'

"The 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was recruited in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, in late 1862. George W. Hayden, born in Easton in 1848, apparently joined up in 1862 as a drummer boy when the regiment was mustered. The 153rd saw action at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg and remained in service through the duration of the war.

"The drum itself measures 16 inches in diameter and is 8 inches in height. Many have looked at the drum and it is concluded that the wooden rims are original with the original paint; the drumheads are original; the brass shell is original, except for being cut down; the twisted gut cord snares may be original; and the brass snare tightener is original. Since this is a Pennsylvania drum it is very possible that it was manufactured by Horstmann Brothers of Philadelphia. However, [the seller] could not detect a label on the outside and could not see one looking inside through the vent hole. Overall the drum is in excellent condition without dents and with expected wear to the pain on the rims. The skin drumheads are also in very good condition except for expected discoloration and a small 2 inch long split, which can be seen in the photographs.

"Accompanying the drum are provenance documents, as seen in the photographs. The first item is an original letter written by George W. Hayden in Easton, December 15, 1863, likely when the regiment was in camp. The letter is transcribed verbatim as follows:

"Easton December 15th 1863

"Dear friend
"I now sit down to inform you that I am well, hoping that these few lines may find you in the same state of health. Bill we have moved to, I guess you aint the only one moves nowdays, for we moved down in the square in Whites Hotel where Heller used to keep we moved on the 7th and I like the place first [unrecognizable word]. Bill you talk about me coming down this winter for I would like to come very much I will try and get off in the Holidays if my Pah leaves me for I was never thier yet. Bill you need not come to the depot for me I may not be thier to meet you. Bill I wish I was tied to a tree again and stand in the snow nearly up to my knees. Bill do you remember how Doctor Youse to promise me to come over with his two bobtails and take me out a riding and what gay times we would have. Bill I can lick you on a sparr, a piching horse shoes, [unrecognizable word] or yucker or any other things of that sort. Bill over here they drawed a curtin write over Woodwards eyes and he is behind the curtin and they say no more about him. Bill I tell you what you may do for your brave Drummer Boy send him a chrismas present of a pair of skates and I will thank you very much. So no more at present from your friend

"George W. Hayden
"Easton Northampton County
"Pennsylvania Dec 15th 1863
"Hurrah for Uncle Abe

"The handwriting is very good, which originally led [the seller] to believe that George dictated it to someone. However, there are misspellings, punctuation errors and use of words such as ain’t, which leads [the seller] to believe that George wrote the letter.

"Also, accompanying the drum is a book, History of the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, written by W.R. Kiefer. There is a bookmark, which appears to be a souvenir from a regimental reunion held after the war, as well as a pink card on which is written 'He was at Gettysburg. Drum brought back from Gettysburg by George Hayden'.

"The card is written in the same hand that wrote the words on the drum, but is definitely not the handwriting of the letter.

"On page 109 of the book is a cluster of photographs of the regimental drummer boys. George W. Hayden is pictured with his drum – possibly this same drum.

"This same picture of George is the final piece that accompanies the purchase – George’s framed photograph printed on what appears to be silk. The outside frame measurements of the picture are 12.75 inches by 9.75 inches. The photograph itself measures 5.5 inches by 8 inches."

Look at the strange device on the side of the drum above the butt end of the snares:

Now look at this example of a Swiss snare drum mechanism on a drum in the National Music Museum:

Also, note the proximity of the brass J-hook snare adjuster and its base to the vent hole on the Swiss drum. Compare the proximity of what could be the base of what once might have been a J-hook snare adjuster (now missing the J-hook) with the vent hole in the brass drum on eBay. On both drums the adjuster is directly in line with the vent hole. Not that that is meaningful, as they are unrelated.

But, for esthetic purposes, where better to conceal a hole in a drum than behind the snare adjuster or at least tucked away in what would have been the back of the drum, out of sight. (I am aware that many drum makers built patterns of tacks around vent holes, dressing them up with bone grommets, and even painted patterns emanating from vent holes. But that does not appear to have ever been the case on this brass drum.)

Also, note what could be a telling stain above the leather butt end of the snares just under what I believe is an old and no longer used J-hook snare adjuster base. That stain looks as if it was made by snares running over the flesh hoop and onto a J-hook that was attached to the base which remains on the drum. What other explanation is there for that piece of metal?

Also, note that the snares, as currently configured, do not touch the flesh hoop and so could not have made that stain (unless the head was installed 180 degrees rotated which is a possibility).

Add to this the fact that the drum is brass and I'm inclined to think that we're looking at a drum that once had a J-hook snare adjuster, and that it could be of German, Belgian or French manufacture where brass drums shells and where J-hook snare adjusters were popular.

As always, if you have an opinion, please feel free to post a comment or email me. I am always happy to hear from readers of this blog.

1 comment:

  1. I can tell you a story about this drum. In 1998 I was a member of the 96th PVI Living History Group and was in Gettysburg for the 135th reenactment. Having arrived a few days early, myself, our commander and our first sergeant went up to Barlow’s knoll on the battlefield on July 1, to search for the then missing 153rd right flank marker and to be on the ground where my great-great-grandfather was killed (Thomas Billiard, Co. D, 153rd PVI- MIA-Killed) on the first day of the battle. We arranged the trip so that I could be there 135 years to the day, hour, and minute he was killed on that soil. Upon walking up the grade from Rock creek to the 153rd PVI monument, I was hailed by the 1st Sgt. who was conversing with a gentleman whom had just pulled up to the parking area. “Show him what you got” he said to the new arrival. The newcomer proceeded to retrieve this drum and the accompanying silk photo, etc from his car. Turns out he had just purchased it from (I believe the Horse Soldier shop) in Gettysburg and knowing nothing about the unit decided find the monument. We chatted about what I knew about the unit and my ancestor and then he allowed me to handle the drum. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the piece, but it was ironic and a bit creepy that I might have held a relic (or portions of a relic) that was merely yards away from my great-great-grandfather at the time of his death on that anniversary. I took the experience as an affirmation that he knew I was there.
    The drum’s new owner took my name and number and said that if he ever sold it he would give me first crack at it—I guess he lost my information. Maybe it was a good thing he didn’t call me (in case it’s not what it’s held to be). But, had I known it was up for auction I would have paid the going price and more just based on my personal experience with the drum. I guess I’ll have to ask g-g-dad when I get to see him if it is authentic. LOL
    Jake Laubach
    1st Lt. 96th PVI, Co., Ret.
    Emmaus PA


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