Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Follow-up on Recent Sales (and Non-Sales)

Well, to say that I was surprised to hear that the "Syracuse Daily Standard Presentation Drum" sold at auction at Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York, on Sunday for $2,000 would be an understatement (Telephone call, March 30, 2009). Shocked would be a better description. The drum is attractive but if all it takes to turn a $300 relic into a $2,000 collector's item is a slick paint job, a lot of underemployed artists will be brushing up their emblazonment and antiquing techniques and converting old junkers into next month's NYC rent payments. They will be spinning straw into gold.

Worth $2,000?

I am sorry but I really must speak out against this. This drum is NOT WORTH $2,000! But as long as there are people out there with more money than judgment, we will see more of this.

What's Wrong with This Drum? The basic drum looks fine -- market value $300 to $600 based on sales over the past year of basically similar drums (size, design, materials, etc.). Why did this drum draw attention? The painting. But that is also what's wrong with the drum. The painting is striking. In fact it's so striking that it can't be original. And the auction house confirmed in an email to me over the past weekend that the drum had been overpainted. Well, whether the new painting merely copied the old painting or is brand new makes little difference. The drum would have retained more value had there been only a visible old painting of an eagle with the flag burst motif, even if washed out and partially lost. The overpainting, however, destroyed any historic significance and value that the painting (and the drum) might have had. But, that's just my opinion. Some buyer evidently proved me wrong for in the marketplace, value is defined as the price that a willing seller and a willing buyer agree upon for the transfer of an asset. My concern, among others, is that with buyers willing to purchase adulterated goods, whatever stock that may remain of old fading chipped painted drums could be in jeopardy by financially motivated artists seeking to profit from a bit of sprucing up with a paintbrush and possibly anachronistic paint materials.

Fraud in the Drum Marketplace: First let me make it clear -- there is no evidence of which I am aware of any fraud in this auction. However, past examples of questionably high prices have been reported in this blog in the past and we will continue to offer our opinion when something strikes us a just not quite right. See, e.g., "Caveat Emptor -- 'Civil War' Drum Questioned by Reader", this blog, January 29, 2009. Also, see "IS IT AUTHENTIC OR BOGUS?: Brass Eagle Drum attributed to Spanish American War", this blog, November 30, 2008.

Leo Brennan's Drums Still Available: On a different note, Leo Brennan's large collection of modern and antique drum offerings, reported in various recent posts on this blog, has not sold. No bids even for any of the drums on eBay. So the eBay market is telling Leo that his starting prices were too high to get any action going. My advice is to start with a lower price but set a reserve. That way, at least some intelligence on the market's appetite for his drums will be received. Also, putting so many drums on eBay at the same time simply floods the market which is thin to begin with. Start with one good Cooperman drum, set a low entry price, keep your reserve wherever you want it and at least get some bidding action going.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What's Available This Week

Today, a "Syracuse Daily Standard Presentation Drum" will go on the auction block at Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York. The auction house confirmed in an email to me late last week that the drum's painting (the most interesting part of the drum) had been over-painted, which accounts for the painting's remarkable sharpness and contrasts. However, for the estimated price ($300-$500), this drum is worth a day's ride. The auction starts at 11:00 a.m. this morning and this item should hit the block at about 12:30 p.m. today. See Syracuse Daily Standard Presentation Drum.

And, for the arm-chair shopper, Leo Brennan has put eight rope drums on eBay, all in excellent condition, three of which are vintage. The others, although modern, have some recent history of interest as well.

The oldies are an 1889 J.H. Buckbee, a pre-1820 Abner Stevens and an 1837 Eli Brown. Folks, if you don't have one of these in your collection, here is an opportunity. Stevens and Brown drums do not come along every day, and virtually never on eBay. The Buckbee, with a starting price of $300, could be a steal (if no reserve). I have two Buckbees and they are unique for their unusual snare mechanism. See "Leo J. Brennan's J.H. Buckbee Drum"

Brennan's pre-1820 Stevens drum ("Leo J. Brennan's Abner Stevens Drum (pre-1820)" is a classic and shows characteristic aging surface finish as well as an elaborate tack pattern and hand-painted star design.

Finally, Brennan's "1837 Eli Brown and Son Field Drum with Label" is a fine example of Eli Brown and Son's work (shell only). Although the starting price is a bit steep ($4,500), it is a Brown drum and you just cannot get those drums.

Brennan completes his current eBay offerings (he has more drums but only these are for sale at the moment) with a sampling of Cooperman, Gretsch/Soistmann, and Saum drums from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, all restored and playable, and most bearing the emblazonment of one or another fife and drum corps. The 1989 Frank "Swat" Saum drum bearing the Landcraft Fife and Drum Corps (North Haven, CT) painting is the most interesting and important contemporary drum in Brennan's current eBay collection.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Circa 1840 tack decorated snare drum 16-1/2" high

Artfact has this information but requires a subscription for more info. I'll try to find this drum elsewhere on the Internet.

Lot 679: Circa 1840 tack decorated snare drum 16-1/2" high by 16-1/2" diameter having a natural wood finish shell and red painted wood hoops. A paper label inside reads "Henry H. Guetter/Importer of every description of German and/French musical instruments./Bethlehem, PA/Instruments of all kinds/carefully repaired/Fresh violin strings". Henry H. Guetter was born in Germany in 1797, came to America in 1817, and died in 1847. Included are (2) drumsticks. The drum is in fine condition having both heads intact, a shell with no cracks, and old worn tensioning cords having leather ears that appear to be original.

Syracuse Daily Standard Presentation Drum

Inscribed, "Presented to the 149th from the Syracuse Daily Standard," painted with an eagle and shield of the Republic; 12 1/4 in., 16 1/2 in. diam. Provenance: The Estate of Fred F. and Lois K. Rogers.

Estimate : $300 - $500

Auction Date : Mar 29, 2009

Stair Galleries
549 Warren Street
Hudson, New York 12534
Phone: 518 751 1000
Fax: 518 751 1010
Email: information@stairgalleries.com

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Woodman Drum

MAINE CIVIL WAR PERIOD MILITIA DRUM. A fine example of a mid-19th C. tack decorated maple wood drum made by "M. Woodman". The drum body is of maple with two varnished maple wood rims. 16-xxx/xxx" in diameter. The rims are each 1-xxx/xxx" high and the assembled drum stands 15" tall. Visible through the eye hole is its original green paper label reading "M. Woodman, Manufacturer of/DRUMS, of all kinds. Farmington Falls, Me". Of particular interest is the tack decoration surrounding the eyehole, which forms a Maltese cross or 5th Corps badge. The maple body seam is tacked as well. An excellent, mostly orig, Civil War or earlier drum from Maine. The drum is accompanied by two rosewood drumsticks of the same period as the drum. CONDITION: Excellent. Ropes are replaced but the orig untouched finish of the drum remains. Both of its period heads are intact with the orig snare at the bottom and seven of its eight orig leather adjusters remain. Leather adjusters are dry and flexed. Top head is split about 8-xxx/xxx". Some shrinking and warping. Drumsticks are in good condition with the expected nicks, scratches and wear at the tips. Overall a very nice condition early Maine-made drum. 4-57369 CW111 (400-600). Source: Values4Antiques.com

3d Georgia Regiment Bass Drum

Blog reader ANONYMOUS wrote to us drawing our attention to this drum:

The 3rd Regiment was organized in April 1861 with companies from Burke, Clarke, Greene, Houston, Morgan, Newton, Putnam, Richmond, and Wilkinson counties. The 3rd served early in the war at Norfolk, Va., where it assisted in converting the Union ship Merrimac into the Confederate ironclad Virginia. A part of the regiment served in the famous battle against the Union ironclad Monitor on March 9, 1862.
This drum entered Confederate service with Seaborn Barnwell of the Dawson Grays from Greene County, the unit which became Company C of the 3rd Regiment. The drum beat all the calls from the regiment’s formation at Portsmouth, Va., April 26, 1861 to its surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. When the regiment stacked its guns, the drum was hung on the pile of rifles. Pvt. Minor Hobbs of Company C took the drum and brought it back to Greene County, Georgia. Capt. W. A. Wright, son of Gen. Ambrose Wright, preserved the drum until a survivor’s committee of the 3rd Georgia presented it to the State Capitol.
Source: 3rd Regiment Georgia Volunteers.

The drum is now located in the Georgia Capitol Museum, Hall of Valor.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Horstmann Eagle Drum Raises Questions

Horstman eagle drum sold recently for $2,350:

Compare with another Horstmann eagle drum sold in 2005 for $13,225:

Blog reader ANONYMOUS wrote drawing our attention to the above (top) very attractive Horstmann eagle drum that has obviously seen some refurbishment. However, why did it sell for only $2,350 when another Horstmann Eagle drum (immediately above) sold four years ago for $13,225? Is it the market or are the drums different? It could be a bit of both.

James D. Julia auctioneers described the top drum above as follows in its Gun Spring 2009 catalog:

CIVIL WAR-ERA U.S. INFANTRY DECORATED EAGLE DRUM. This Civil War period labeled drum has a paper label affixed on the interior from Horstmann Brothers & Company of Philadelphia. The drum, with hand-painted eagle decoration on the side, depicts an American eagle with outstretched wings having a shield belly and a banner in its mouth reading “U.S. INFANTRY”. The drum features its original decoration on the side of the drum and much of the original paint decoration on the bands. Both the drum heads and the roping recently replaced in the appropriate and authentic style of the original. SIZE: 16-3/4” dia. X 15”h. CONDITION: Red paint on bands worn and overall wear to decoration on side; most of image still present and strong. 8-87531 JJ (3,000-4,000)

Catalog no. 2392J
Gun Spring 09

Will's correspondence with me follows:


Hi Ellis,

I have never seen a Horstmann like this one. The eagle has a yellow head, and the banner reads "U.S. Infantry" instead of "Reg. U.S. Infantry" and is also painted yellow instead of white. A nice drum for a good price.




Cf. price for the other Horstmann drum sold in 2005 -- much different. The new sales involved a refurbished drum, with possibly some overpainting as well. That might account for the difference. And the economy might account for some of the difference also.




Hmmm...If it was repainted, they did a good job matching the yellow to the original paint. I wonder if Jim Smith has seen a Horstmann eagle with a yellow head before. The "U.S. Infantry" is definitely suspicous.



The other Horstmann drum sold by James D. Julia in 2005 for $13,225 was described as follows:

CIVIL WAR REGULATION REGIMENTAL EAGLE DRUM. 15-1/2” tall with 16-1/2” diameter. Painted ribbon reads “__ REG. U.S. INFANTRY” held in beak of painted eagle with patriotic shield. Maker’s label inside reads “MANUFACTURED BY HORSTMANN & BROTHERS & CO. MILITARY FURNISHERS. FIFTH & CHERRY STREETS, PHILADELPHIA”. This is a fine, untouched drum and it would be hard to find a better one. CONDITION: Drum overall very good, all parts appear original. Painting is very good with some crazing. 4-56226 JS179 (4,000-8,000)

Catalog No. 2371
GUN Fall 05

John Robbins' Bunker Hill Drum at Old State House, Boston

Drum used by John Robbins at Battle of Bunker Hill, per Flickr post (search www.flickr.com for "boston" and "drum").

A "John Robbins" is listed as wounded at Lexington, Frothingham, R., History of the Siege of Boston, and of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, etc., p. 80.

John Robbins, Esq. (1762-1836) ... was a prominent figure in Acton's town affairs and social life. His record of public service began at the age of 13 when, as the son of the Captain of Acton's East Militia Company, he was the messenger who carried the alarm of the British march to Concord, 19 April 1775, to the Captain of Acton's Minutemen Company and to the acting Captain of the West Militia Company. From 1793 to 1830 he filled various town offices: Town Treasurer for 15 years; Town Clerk, 1 year; Selectman, 12 years; and for 8 years Town Meeting Moderator, a position for which his stentorian voice seemed admirably suited. He was also a Justice of the Peace, the Treasurer of the Town's private Social Library in the early nineteenth century and active in the preparation for the Town's centennial celebration in 1835. His wife Sally (Jones) and daughters were active in the organization of Acton's Evangelical (now Congregational) Church in 1832. John Robbins House, Great Road Acton, MA, By Robert H. Nylander, 1989.


Compare the Robbins drum with another drum from that era with emblazonment by Charles Hubbard, discussed in a post in this blog, "William H. Guthman's Incredible Drum Collection", January 7, 2009. Given the time periods involved and the similarity of the emblazonments, one wonders whether Hubbard, who did the painting on Guthman's Boston City Guards drum (photo below) was also responsible for the Robbins' drum's painting:

612 IMPORTANT “BOSTON CITY GUARDS” MILITIA DRUM, PAINTED BY CHARLES HUBBARD, CIRCA 1824. 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 ½ 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.

"Who Took The Drum Out of Drum Corps?"

"Who Took The Drum Out of Drum Corps?" by Ken Mazur (from RAMD Virtual Symposium 1997: Crossroads). See http://www.rudimentaldrumming.com/tips.html for Ken's lengthy (very) exposition of a lot of fascinating drum corps history.

The following clips are metaphors for what's happened to drum corps. We've gone from this (acoustic drums):

to this (not acoustic drums, not drums but electronic pick-ups attached to a drum head):

Vogt Eagle Drum in Smithsonian Collection

Blog reader, drum mechanic, drummer and Fashnacht enthusiast George Kubicek wrote this morning alerting us to this rare beauty.

Union drum

This 1864 military-issue rope-tension snare drum was made by Ernest Vogt of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The drum was used in the Civil War by Samuel Kyle, who served as a private in Captain James Christie’s Company K, 22nd New Jersey Volunteers. The eagle embellishment on the side of the drum was a common design but varied from manufacturer to manufacturer. Many of the field drummers were young boys, age twelve to sixteen. A drummer sounded the morning and evening camp duties and also sounded the field maneuvers. Most field drummers would have been accompanied by fifers.

Division of Cultural History, Musical History
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Behring Center
Gift of John S. Kyle

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Morss Drum in Vermont Virtual Museum

"Vermont in the Civil War" is a virtual museum* located online.

From the John Gibson Collection in the Virtual Museum of Vermont in the Civil War:

Richard H. Morse [Note: the drum says "Morss"], age 19(?), credited to Wolcott, Lamoille County, Vermont, enlisted on June 26, 1862 and mustered in as a private in Co. H, 9th Vermont Volunteer Infantry. On December 26, 1864, he was promoted to Principal Musician of the regiment, and he mustered out with the regiment on June 13, 1865. Morse was born on February 2, 1846 (if correct, this makes him only 16 when he enlisted), and died on July 6, 1910. He is buried in the McLaren cemetery, in Greensboro, Orleans County, Vermont.

John Gibson is a Montpelier, Vermont native, currently residing in Maryland. He is an artisan, specializing in applied decorative finishes, a historian of American made toys from the Golden Age of Toymaking, and a Civil War collector and dealer specializing in Vermont related items with a fondness for the 2nd Vermont Infantry. Vermont in the Civil War.

Also in the "Vermont in the Civil War" virtual museum: Postwar Grand Army of the Republic, Rutland GAR Photograph, Collection of Francis Guber:

Click on photo to enlarge

See also Virtual Museum Music Room by David Niles.
*A virtual museum does not have any real treasures, but simply scans or transcripts of historical material. Source: VermontCivilWar.Org Database; Creator/Webmaster: Tom Ledoux

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Slingerland Cloud Label Military Rod Drum

This Slingerland scalloped cloud badge/label (1928 to 1941 according to Vintage Drum Guide) single tension military rod drum was in just too good condition to let it pass me by, so I bought it on eBay (item no. 170309559326) this evening for $157.50 (plus $25 shipping). To me it represents a point in time, probably 1930s, before double tension and after rope. The snare strainer lacks a quick throw-off lever so this baby is probably on the older side. The seller is andrewofgeorgia803( 10).

Slingerland offered a double tension snare drum as early as 1928. See Vintage Drum Center's historic 1928 Slingerland 4 pc. circa 1928 Sea Green Pearl drum set.

When the drum is delivered, I'll see whether any more specific information concerning date of manufacture appears on the drum.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Signed 1860's (J.W. Pepper) Civil War Drum

eBay seller bran419( 146) describes item no. 110360236425, "Signed 1860's (J.W. Pepper) Civil War Drum", as follows:

This rare civil war drum features fine wide oak veneer wood with top and bottom trims around the head in dark mahogany. All pieces of this drum are original including strings, metal hooks, leather, original drum tightening key and original drum heads on top and bottom. Inside this drum is signed J.W. Pepper Drums - Musical Instruments - Music and Musical Merchandise. Eighth and Locust street - Philadelphia - Pennsylvania. Size is 15 1/2" in diameter and 13 1/2" in height. No damage to drum heads on top or bottom. Mint condition for a drum of this age. Great piece for Civil War memoribillia collector.

Abner D. Stevens Drum from Finney Family

eBay seller cjetti( 225) describes this Abner Stevens drum, eBay item no. 220374723734, as follows:

Up for auction is an Authentic Civil War Military Drum that has been passed down through one family. This is a beautiful U.S. Regulation drum that is in nice condition. [cjetti( 225)] purchased this from the descendants of Colonel William Finney, a Confederate Officer from the Civil War and a co-founder of the Western Portion of the Pony Express. It has the original makers label inside of “A.D. Stevens Pittsfield Drum Factory” from Massachusetts. ...

This Civil War drum was owned by Colonel William Wood Finney of the Confederate States of America of Virginia. It was passed down through his family and has been in the possession of the Finney Family continuously from Col. Finney’s death in 1910 until 2008 when [cjetti( 225)] purchased it. The original owner was Colonel Finney, a Civil War Confederate Officer, and a co-founder of the Western Portion of the Pony Express. His estate was located in Powhatan County Virginia and named Elioch. Colonel Finney was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute in the class of 1848. He was the son of Captain William Finney and Elizabeth Crichton Wood and was born at "Prospect Hill," in Powhatan County, on May 16, 1829. During the American Civil War he served under Colonel Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson at Harper's Ferry, and later under his successor, General Joseph E. Johnston. He was later commissioned by President Davis a Lieutenant-Colonel and was assigned to the 50th Regiment of Virginia Infantry. He participated in the battle of Lewisburg West Virginia where he was taken prisoner and three months later he was exchanged at Vicksburg and returned to Richmond Virginia. He passed away January 26th 1910 and is buried at Saint Luke’s Cemetery in Powhatan County Virginia with his wife Constance Williams Finney. [cjetti( 225)] will provide a notarized letter of provenance signed by me stating the history of ownership of this drum including the direct lineage of family members the drum was passed down through starting with Colonel Finney CSA. The Great, Great, Granddaughter of Colonel Finney did not know for sure if the drum was used in her Great, Great, Grandfather’s Rebel Army or if it was a war relic Colonel Finney acquired.

Abner D. Stevens started business in 1794 in Massachusetts and his company produced drums at least through the Civil War years. He made Bass, Military and children’s drums. He sold military drums to the U.S. Government during the war years and “made a handsome fortune”. According to a book titled “THE HISTORY OF PITTSFIELD MASS.” “Mr. Stevens made a good rattling instrument”. In 1809 Abner Stevens moved his drum making business from Hancock Massachusetts to a shop he built on North Street in Pittsfield Massachusetts. Several of his drums are in museums and collections across the country with dates in the early 1800s going through 1864. [cjetti( 225) has] never seen any of his drums that were dated after the Civil War.

The drum itself could not be nicer! It was made by A.D. Stevens, address 103 North Street Pittsfield Massachusetts and bears his label inside the body of the drum. It measures 14 ¾ inches high and is 16 ½ inches wide with red painted rim hoops on both ends. It still has the rope that keeps tension on the heads of the drum and has 9 original leather tensioners still attached to the tension rope. Both heads are still intact but show much wear and age but no rips or tears. It is all original and has had no repairs or alterations to my knowledge. It has the standard military colors for a drum for the War. The body appears to be made of ash or maple and is stained a tan color. It has a “lap’ joint to it where it is secured by about a dozen tacks or nails per hoop. It also has the vent hole in it’s side that you can look through to see the original makers label. Both rims have a “lap” joint where they come together and two little tacks to hold it secure. They are both painted the military red color and when examined closely you can see the original paint has a crackled look to it. Tuning adjustments were made using the 5-string snare strainer on the bottom head. The original strainer is still in place and one end is still secured with two little wooden pegs that [cjetti( 225)] tried to show in the pics. [cjetti( 225)] can not tell for sure if the tension rope is original or a very, very old replacement. The wear pattern on the rope conforms to the rest of the drum but someone with more knowledge than me on drums would have to say for sure. It still has 9 of it’s original leather tensioners on the rope that were used to pull the two heads together when playing the drum and would be loosened up when the drum was not in use. That way it spared the heads from unnecessary strain. It is only missing one leather tensioner. The drum has all of the wear marks and dings and stains that you would expect to see on a drum from the Civil War era and it sure displays [w]onderfully!

P.R. Winn, Drummaker

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