Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Before and After: Rope Tensioned Nickel Plated Rim Drum with Bell

George Kubicek [AleBouquet@msn.com] recently completed a sympathetic restoration of this turn-of-the-century (19th to 20th) beauty. Here are some photos:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Just Returned from Vacation in Israel

Just returned from vacation and added a bunch of new posting based on information that has come in over the past month.


Ellis Mirsky

A Reader Asks About a French Drum

Dear Sir:

Actually, I am trying to research the history of (and the likley market value of) a drum in the possession of a good friend of mine. I have attached a picture or two.

The inscription on the side is this:

M. Boiste
16 Rue. GeorgeSands
LaVarenne St. Hillaire

which is of course an address (France, I think?) likely of the drum maker?

Any help? Any suggestions where I should inquire further?

I thank you in advance for your reply.

Minneapolis, MN 55411


Dear K.S.,

Looks like a nice drum. The leather ears look like they’ve been “painted” with white shoe polish to spruce them up. That should wear off in time.

The drum is French, possibly brought over to the U.S. during the Civil War time but I cannot be sure. The brass looks as if it has been cleaned (shiny).


I have one in my collection that is similar. Not a lot of demand for them.

I would not know anyone else to ask, frankly.

Good luck and thanks for writing.


Ellis Mirsky

George Lawrence Stone's Column in 1919 Jacob's Band Monthly Discusses a cache of 27 Eagle Drums

W. Lee Vinson of the Boston Philharmonic was kind enough to bring the below linked article to our attention recently.


A complete searchable transcription will be published here shortly. George Lawrence Stone, a recognized Boston-area drum and drumming expert, apparently published a regular column called "The Drummer" in Jacob's Band Monthly. This column from the October 1919 edition mentions his own "collection of historical drums" as well as the acquisition of "one of the famous 'Old Eagle' Civil War Drums".

Stone notes that his drum came from a lot that had been used in the Vermont Regiments during the Civil War. "After the demobilization of the troops at the end of the war, a lot of 'Old Eagles'[,] twenty-seven in number, were turned in to the arsenal. Being in varied states of repair, they were later condemned and sold at auction and nothing more was heard of them until fifty years later, when they were discovered hidden away in the dust and dirt of an old loft over a blacksmith's shop in Vermont by Mr. [Sherman N.] Parker ...."

The inscription inside the shell of Stone's drums is:

Manufactured by
A. Rogers
Flushing L.I.

Of note is a letter from Parker who raves about the tone of the drum ("the greatest toned drum I have ever heard") and notes that the counterhoops were drilled. Only the drum sent to Stone had a snare strainer ("an old style hand-forged snare stainer made of iron and tightened with a screw driver"). "The orignial way was just a few rawhide thongs with no way but your own hands to pull them up."

In a clipping published with the column, the drums are said to have been "the well known Whellock & Dawley collection of 18 snare drums that saw service in the Rebellion."

"Painted in a pigment of unmistakable colors on each drum are the national colors, and the belligerant eagle whence is derived the name of the drum."

"Mr. Parker has generously offered to place one of the drums in the historical room at the Barre City Hall, and some of the other drums will doubtless find their way into historical collections of some sort." [Does the Barre City Hall still have one of the drums?]

Others are reported to have gone to the Montpelier Military Band and to Sherman's Band in Burlington.

The article is accompanied by advertisements for Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co. (Brooklyn, NY), Ludwig & Ludwig (Chicago, IL), Carl Fischer (New York, NY), Dodge Drum School's "Elements of Rhythmic and Tonal Notation", Walberg & Auge (Worcester, MA) and, of course, George B. Stone & Son (Boston, MA).

Meacham (Albany, NY) Drum Stolen on eBay for $578

Sold by eBayer the_internet_auctioneer1( 2277) as item no. 290316702761 to an astute and avid collector for a steal price of only $578, and described as:

Genuine Decorated Civil War Drum Meacham Albany

This beautiful Civil War drum is in original, untouched conditon with no alterations or repairs. The drum measures approx 15.5" tall by 16.75" in diameter and features a unique stylized painted tulip decoration within the brass tacks. I have only seen this type of decoration on one other example. The original maker's label is still intact on the inside. The original calf skins are intact as well however the top skin is well torn as pictured.

Congratulations Yankee Drummer.

EBayer powervein( 470) is offering item no. 120423320099, described as follows:

[A] 15" old marching snare drum with cymbal and cymbal arm attaches to wood hoop, chrome over brass which has worn on most of the drum. Brass fist strainer. 8 lugs. Calf heads. Good condition other than the chrome. Seamed shell with rivets. Rigid wire belt hook. Nice drum.

Mid-20th Century Slingerland Single Tension Double-Claw

eBayer dmckinlay( 138) of Bluffton, SC is offering item no. 110391936803 for a starting bid of $195 (get real) described as follows:

This is a very cool old marching snare. Slingerland out of Chicago, IL on badge. From 1948-1950
Pretty good condition. All of the parts are there. Wood hopes.
Also has a very cool "America" insigne on the side.
12" tall and has a 14" shell. It has an old Rogers bottom head and an old Ludwig top head

The item appears here for its comprehensive photo essay of this specimen.

Buck Soistman Shell Assembled by Reamer (1979)

A Seller from Watertown, CT is offering eBay item no. 180360356867 for a Buy-it-Now price of $6,750 (or make an offer) with this description:

This is the last Grand Army of the Republic field drum built by the famous drum maker Charles "Buck" Soistman of Baltimore, MD. The original shell, ears, and hoops, were all made by Mr. Soistman prior to his passing in I believe 1975. It measures 17x21. The shell and parts were passed on to W.H. Reamer of Bromall, PA by Mr. Soistman's widow Marie in 1976. Mr. Reamer continued Mr. Soistman's tradition of producing high quality drums until his recent passing. I'm not sure if his son or anyone else intends to carry on the tradition of making these fine quality instruments. I know the Cooperman Fife and Drum Corps of Bellows Falls, VT makes a fine reproduction of this drum, but it is not an original Soistman/Reamer. It's much like playing on a piano. A Yamaha is a Yamaha, but a Steinway is in a class all by itself. In 1977 I notified Mr. Reamer of my interest in obtaining a Grand Army of the Republic drum. I asked Mr. Reamer if Soistman had any remaining shells or parts in his inventory. Mr. Reamer stated to me that Mr. Soistman left one remaining Grand Army shell, some matching hoops, ears, strainer, and original four strand Irish linen rope. I immediately asked Mr. Reamer to build me a drum from those exact parts. It took Mr. Reamer two years to complete the project, and I took possession of this instrument in August of 1979. The drum also has the original calf skin heads and cat-gut snares. I never converted it over to plastic heads, because I wanted to retain the sound quality of an authentic Army field drum. Inside the drum are two builders labels. The first is from Soistman's Rolling Drum Shop. It states "This shell was made by Buck Soistman and came to me when his wife Marie passed the shop on to me in 1976." The second builders label is from Drummers Service. It states "This original Soistman shell was finished and assembled. The basic artwork was done by me with (name deleted) completing the eagle's head, and applying the intricate detailing and shading. Throughout the design assisted by (name deleted) Signed W.H. Reamer. This is the same style drum used by the U.S. Army Band (Pershings Own), U.S. Army Band Herald Trumpet & Drums, and the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps in Washington, D.C. Prior to "Buck" Soistman the Grand Army Drum was made for the Army Band by Gus Moeller. It was his drums that were played in JFK's funeral. One of the drums played during the funeral is on display at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History. The traditional Grand Army of the Republic Drum used by the Army Band has red hoops with a white scroll work. This drum has solid "Bristol" blue hoops. I chose this style hoop because it was used by the Connecticut Yanks Fife and Drum Corps of Bristol, Connecticut which folded in 1976. I was a member of this corps and tried to obtain a drum but one was not offered to me. That is how I came in contact with Mr. Reamer and obtained this drum from him. If the buyer of this fine instrument decides to paint the hoops red with white scroll work, I can arrange to place them in contact with artists who can perform this work. I am not firm on the price, and will consider all offers.Thanks for looking and sharing this story.

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 ...