Wednesday, October 1, 2008

1864 Tacked Bass Drum

Question: What has a painted 5-pointed star (painted-over, or varnished long ago but still barely shining through) around its bone-grommet vent hole, an 1864 handwritten label and a wonderful tack pattern, reminiscent of George Kilbourn (Albany, NY)?

Compare the Tack Pattern with that of a Known Kilbourn Drum:
The tack pattern on the drum pictured below which bears a label reading "George Kilbourn, Albany" is strikingly similar to that on the 1864 bass drum discussed in this article.

The Bass Drum:
A handwritten label inside the drum clearly bears the date May 24, 1864. And, partly legible from the photograph of the label is part of a word which appears to end in "burg" or "bury". Also, possibly the name "Smith", and possibly the word "Drum" followed by the word "Maker". (Tip: tap the CTLR and + keys on your keyboard at the same time, a number of times, to expand the image for better legibility.)

The counterhoops were painted while still on the drum, resulting in slight overpainting of the heads and ropes.

And the tacks, as well as what appears to be a small white (or light-colored) painted star, were overpainted (or varnished, which has discolored) at some point. (See also, "The Star Drums of the 12th Corps of the Army of the Potomac", this blog.) Also, note the partially overpainted (or varnished) bone grommet in the vent hole, as well as the substantial craquelure on the drum's surface -- characteristic cracking patterns determined by age, climatic conditions, shrinkage and the materials used.

These photos (above and below) provide a nice detail of what appears to be original twisted rope.

The earlier bidding for eBay item no. 110294568548 offered by seller bleeding_gums( 16971) indicates that this piece has attracted the attention of a number of field drum cognoscenti, with known collectors j***j( 450), a***a( 105), as well as myself weighing in at the start.

The seller wrote:
Wow! This auction is for an absolutely amazing and extremely rare antique Civil War drum. It was actually used by a Civil War marching band and was in storage since the 1800s up in an Illinois house attic. The drum is a very rare, and very large Bass size measuring about 30½" wide and 23" tall. It is made of wood and leather and has what appear to be the original coverings on each end. On the side of the drum there is a Civil War style eagle painted in yellow (might have been white originally) and someone wrote 1864 in the center. I saw a photo in this estate of a boy holding the drum in a Civil War anniversary ceremony in the 1880s, so they apparently took it out once in a while and used it. The family had a history of being in the war and many artifacts from that time. The drum has the original maker's label inside, which is hand written and mostly washed away, but I can see that it says 1864 and even give the month and day. It is guaranteed old and original to the Civil War. It is very well made and in great condition with some broken areas of rope and some damage to the drumming surface, but to find these large Bass drums in any condition is really a miracle! Amazing piece!

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