Thursday, July 3, 2008

Letters from Readers: Is this Drum a Werner Soistmann?

Ted Tweed, President, Heritage Music Foundation, Inc. (a division of which is the 1st Brigade Band wrote us about a drum in his collection.

"I have a drum (photo above) which has no label but which is similar to drums shown on the blog, especially among drums with inlaid stars. Can you help identify the maker and give me some idea of the value? Appreciate the help. Thanks. Ted"

Our response:

Beautiful drum. Who did the restoration? I'd like to get those stars punched into some of my tugs.

Your drum looks virtually identical to one in my collection by Werner Soistmann (Philadelphia). See the photos in "Drums with Inlaid Stars" in this blog. The points of identity/similarity are:

1. 10 pointed star;
2. vertical alignment of the star;
3. type of wood comprising the exterior veneer (looks like mahogany see; and
4. stenciled counter hoops.

Even though the coloration on your drum differs from mine, I cannot be certain that is [relevant]. I'd like to see the drums side-by-side, or a more complete set of photos, including metal hardware comprising the snare mechanism, if any.

Also, because the inlays are made of wood, the grains could reflect light differently (darker in the upper right in one drum than the other), and the inlays could have been inserted backwards (or it just might not have made a difference). The coloration pattern (e.g., lighter wood in the number 1 position, darker in the number 2 position) simply might not have been something anyone paid attention to from drum to drum. I would not necessarily differentiate [drum makers] on that basis.

Are the replacement leather tugs replicas of the originals or just period-like? And do you have any of the originals? Also, did the hooks come with the drum>? And, when and where did you acquire the drum? Finally, who did the restoration (Cooperman?).

My research suggests that inlays (e.g, the entire 10-pointed star) might have been purchased and simply inlaid intact into the veneer. See the article on marquetry in drums, "Marquetry in Drums of the Past", in this blog. And, I think that I recall reading somewhere that the stenciled hoops might have been imported from Europe, but I could be mistaken as to that.

The point would be that drums that look similar could have been made by different manufacturers [or retailers]. In the "Drums with Inlaid Stars", there is a drum by Sempf and another by Eisele (New York) that look very similar but neither looks like mahogany was used for the veneer. However, there is a nine-pointed star drum by Sempf in that article that does look like mahogany.

So, your drum bears the most similarities to my Werner Soistmann drum, and some similarities to a drum by Sempf. [I'd call it Werner Soistmann-like.]

I'll continue to watch for other drums from which we can learn. Also, ... I'd like to post your email and my response on the blog at for the information of others, as well as an example of the website's usefulness and to encourage such cooperation and communication among collectors and restorers.

Thanks for writing.



On 7/1/08 Ted wrote:
Ellis: Thanks for the reply. I have looked at the blog and find it to be most interesting and informative. I've looked at the inlaid star drums as well.

My son purchased the drum at an antique shop in Green Bay, WI several years ago -perhaps 10 or so. I have no idea what he paid for it.

The drum was in poor shape when I received it. Only a few of the original leather tugs were intact, rope had been replaced with a poor substitute, but all hooks were accounted for and intact but very dirty. The hoops were filthy. The cast brass snare strainer hardware was intact and consistent with others I've seen on CW era drums. I'll get a photo of it.

I did the restoration myself. I sent the flesh hoops to Cooperman where they put new calf heads on them. I purchased a set of leathers and rope from Cooperman. The original ears were imprinted with a star on each side of the tug. I located a star imprinting tool at Tandy Leather Co and used it imprint the leathers. It's not quite the same as the original star, but a star nontheless.

The shell was completely refinished, taking care to preserve the original color as much as possible, and to do so while preserving the beautiful star. The hoops were simply cleaned.

Incidently, the drum plays extremely well and has a wonderful sound. (I use a muffler to reduce ringing.) It does suffer from some warping of the hoops so has a tendency to come out of alignment. It must be babied.

I have one of the original leathers so will take a photo and send it to you. I also have made a number of slings and will include a photo of one just for the fun of it.

Feel free to use any of this correspondence and photos on the blog.

Thanks again for your prompt reply to my inquiry and the very helpful information.



On 7/1/08 Ellis wrote:

Very interesting. Thanks for the info. I play also (the last time I played seriously was in 1967 as a snare drummer with the Long Island Sunrisers Drum & Bugle Corps).

Tell [us] about your playing history and involvement.





On 7/1/08 Ted wrote:

I continue to play, although not as much anymore. I played snare, bass and cymbals (I was not a percussionist in the modern sense of the word) in grade school, high school and college. After a 30 year hiatus I joined the 1st Brigade Band, Watertown, WI as a snare dummer and have been there for the last 20 years. I sometimes play tenor horn, taken up get some relief from standing through our sometimes long shows.

I first saw your name in some correspondence you've had with Dan Woolpert, our bandmaster emeritus. I've served on the board of Directors of Heritage Military Music Foundation for many years, many as president. I currently am president once again. We sponsor the 1st Brigade Band. I'm sure that Dan told you of our outstanding WEB site - On that site you can see photos of all our instruments, some with significant history. One of our drums is one that I purchased on e-bay, restored and sold to HMMF. It is an outstanding player and has a shell of birds eye maple.

I have only the one rope drum. (I have a toy rope drum, no label, that uses similar but smaller cast hooks for the ropes.) The rest of my meager collection includes a couple of good field drums from the 40's and a fine Ludwig concert snare from the 20's or 30's.

I appreciate your interest. Thanks again.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please add to our knowledge by leaving a comment here.

P.R. Winn, Drummaker

An article by W. Lee Vinson, author and publisher of and . For Lee's story about ...