Friday, April 10, 2009

Reader Seeks Information re Tacked Barrel Bass Drum

Reader and drum historian Susan Cifaldi writes:

Hi, I think I posted a similar message on your Tompkins drum blog. here is something I hope you can answer:

I'm looking to identify this tack design with a specific maker:

The drum is a barrel bass that has been cut down a bit, so the third vent hole with its tack/circle design is missing. Have you ever encountered anything similar to this tack design?

There is a snare/side drum pictured on page 46 of Carroll's _American Drums of War_ identified as "Tompkins Drum of 1839" with the caption "A unique drum with the shop of the maker painted on the shell." He further attributes the drum to "The New-York Historical Society, New York City" with the rather transparent source code of 1839WT08. However, I have a copy of Vol XIX Nos. 3 and 4 of _The New-York Historical Society Quarterly Bulletin (October 1935) that shows 2 Tompkins drums on p 66, one of which is the drum that has "the shop of the maker painted on the shell," and it is obviously an entirely different drum.

Here are my questions: 1) have you ever encountered a Tompkins drum with a tack design similar to what is seen on p. 46 of the CPC book? 2) if so, where is/are this/these drums? 3) is it possible that the "Tompkins" drum on GPC/p. 46 was inadvertently mislabeled? and 4) if so, who actually made the "Tompkins" drums pictured thereon?

Puzzling! Thanks for any help you can give.


Editor's Reply: Susan, of possible interest is this beauty, part of the 1st Brigade Band's (Wisconsin) instrument collection, described as "Wm. Horstmann & Son Rope Tension Barrel Drum". See that site for additional photos of drums which do not appear on this blog.


  1. Thank you for that reference, Ellis. I think the GPC caption was misplaced on the Tompkins drum and should have accompanied the drum on the following page. In any event, all evidence points to Horstmann, except that Horstmann did not have an in-house shop until 1847, and after the shop closed he sold some Zimmerman drums under his label. However, since he was a weaver and painter by training, I suspect he jobbed out the instrument business prior to '47. The question is, to whom? Ernest Vogt is one candidate, but while the tack pattern is similar to some of his designs it lacks the characteristic triangles. I don't have access to the Phila directories, but my hunch is that there was an enclave of local craftsmen supplying the military/musical retailers. P.S. My drum has a Klemm label, dated by Langwill as 1838. Thanks again!

  2. The "Langwill" that Susan refers to is "The New Langwill Index", the essential Dictionary of Musical Wind-Instrument Makers and Inventors by William Waterhouse. The definitive work on historical wind instrument makers. A must for every brass and woodwind collector and institution that has a musical library. Hardcover.

  3. As to "Klemm", use the search feature on this blog (see top left) for articles concerning other Klemm drums.

  4. I did that, Ellis, thanks for reminding me. The eagle painting on the Jordan Noble drum is very likely the same eagle that is on my bass. The 1876 drum was too degraded to tell me much and besides, the tack design is not pictured. The Wisconsin Horstmann drum suggests I am on the right tract thinking that whomever made drums for Horstmann was also making them for Klemm. Thank you for all your help!

  5. By the way, this drum tack seems pretty darn close to the Wm Horstmann:

    From: David Lingle []
    Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 6:31 PM
    To: ''
    Subject: Sue Cifaldi / Tack Design

    Hi Ellis. I saw a post in which you and Sue Cifaldi went back and forth about a specific tack design. I wanted to follow up with her to see if she ever solved the riddle of her drum.

    More particularly, I was interested in the tack design on the Wm. Horstmann & Son Rope Tension Barrel Drum you posted, which is exactly what I’m looking for…. My understanding is that Horstmann jobbed out the drums and the mark is by some subcontractor artisan. Anyone ever figure out who? Any idea how to get in touch with Sue?

    Thanks so much. David


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