Friday, June 26, 2009

Letter from Reader: Looking for Drum Instructor Howard Reiff

This is probably not the forum for such a request but I don't see the harm. Let's see whether anyone out there can assist Paul Blaccard, a reader of this blog, who wrote recently:

Curious, I was searching for my old drum instructor Howard Reiff and came across your blog. What info do you have on him? I know he lived in Huntington Long Island ...

It was 1969 - 1974. Howard Reiff was the drum instructor for a Junior Corp called The Crusaders or formerly the St. Helena Cadets (Bronx NY). They had hired him because he was the best and known for producing points winning drum lines.

At the time I recall he also taught a drum line called the Blue Angels. They were right. Because of Howard's approach to teaching us grueling rudiment exercises and teaching us how to read music at a very young age, there was rarely a drum competition that we did not take 1st or 2nd place.

I'll have you also note that in this time frame NOBODY was using kit accessories such as high hats and ride cymbals on stands which we implemented into the routine.

As Howard said, "There are no rules saying we cannot". Of course this is quite common today. He knew many people and was instrumental in bringing us Senior Corps members from the Hawthorne Caballeros to mentor us. That led me with a short stint with Hawthorne but I had to leave in 1976 because my family moved out of state.

I'm still playing drums today and had and still have a great career playing drums. I can tell you the instruction I received from Mr. Reiff made me have rock solid meter and dexterity in my wrists. He was a real stickler for correct snare form. If your elbows did not fall properly or one side was not even with the other he'd tie pillows around your torso so your arms would not collapse. This is really true.



Well, Paul, I am sorry to say that I confirmed today with Jim Ellis of Cooperman Drum Company that Mr. Reiff passed away a couple of years ago.

We did an article on him and his drums last year. See "From the Drum Collection of Howard Reiff", this blog, July 23, 2008. I understand from Jim Ellis of Cooperman Drum Company that the drums are available for purchase from "A Candle in the Night" in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Also, see Stormy Knights Guest Book Entries, guest book of the Stormy Knights Drum & Bugle Corps for an entry that mentions Howard Reiff as the Stormy Knights' original drum instructor:

Date: 1/4/2001 Fred Petrone
Subject: Our Lady of the Snows
Comments: or just plain "Snows" as we where known, way way back. Hello, to everyone who was a part of OLS Stormy Knights, especially those who made the transition from standstill to M&M. Here are a few people places and things that I can still remember. Howard Reiff - original drum line instructor. Freddy Zoeller - who came on board as the drum instructor when we went M&M. St. Josephs Brigade, a major competitor during the standstill years. Quartet competitions. Mr. D, chewing on his cigar, the "7 stroke roll", and our big fife, drum and G bugle hit: Stars and stripes Forever. Keep, keeping in touch, This is fun.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

William F. Ludwig's 1864 Eagle Drum on eBay

Which William Ludwig? Well, William Ludwig, III currently, but it's the same drum owned and used by his father William Ludwig, Jr., the famous drum manufacturer and owner, from time to time, of the drum companies bearing his name.

We wrote about this drum previously in "Wm. F. Ludwig's 1864 Rogers Eagle Drum", March 2, 2009.

The drum is now being offered on eBay as item no. 360165243855 by Bill Ludwig, III through a surrogate, drum_experts( 507).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Brown Knock-Off by Ron Peeler Looks Great

Something like finding a brand new 1955 Corvette, Ron Peeler directed me to Jim Krause's "Fifer's Web Page" for a photo of a Brown-like drum that he made. He wrote:

As a former member of Moodus. I had the opportunity to work on some of these old drums. I even made a couple of drums using Keller Shells copying the brown tack pattern and fooled a couple of people. Even turned real Pre-Banned Elephant ivory for the vent hole liner. You can see on of these on Jim Kraise's web site

Ron Peeler
Peeler Fifes

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Story Behind the Last Soistman Drum Ever Built

(The story of this drum comes to us from Michael Jedd, a drummer and drum collector in Connecticut with a long history in drum corps, including having played with the Casper Troopers Drum & Bugle Corps as well as some of the finest fife and drum corps in Connecticut.)

Jedd reports that manufacture of the drum (see "Buck Soistman Shell Assembled by Reamer (1979)" was started by Buck Soistman and completed by Bill Reamer. As such, he says, it is the last GAR drum made by Buck Soistman and, even though it was completed by Bill Reamer, it is still the last Soistman ever made. Jedd said that Soistman/Moeller drums (birch shells) are considered by many drummers to be the Stradivarius of rope-tuned drums.

The Connecticut Yanks from Bristol, Connecticut (Around 1973-1976)

Jedd wrote that in 1977 he spoke with Bill Reamer at a rehearsal of the Connecticut Yankees Fife & Drum Corps. Reamer had then just acquired Soistman's drum-making equipment and inventory from Buck Soistman's wife Marie and was moving it to Pennsylvania (Bromall). Jedd arranged for the purchase of some remaining Soistman drum sticks.

Later Jedd spoke with Reamer about any remaining Soistman drums, including any left-over GAR shells, hoops, ears, hardware. Jedd learned in January, 1977 that there was one GAR shell left in inventory with hoops, ears, rope and hardware. The drum was finished in August 1979.

Jedd said that at the time that the Connecticut Yankees folded, they disoposed of six Soistman drums. He said that two of the drums went to corps officials, and that four were sold to the Connecticut Rebels of Danbury. "The hoops were re-painted solid red, but the Connecticut Yanks' name painted on the sides [was] left intact."

Jedd also reported that the first GAR drum totally built by Mr. Reamer is/was owned by Mr. Bill LaPort of Connecticut, a former executive with Connecticut General, now Cigna or ACE Insurance. The last GAR drums built by "Buck" Soistman were purchased by two former members of the Connecticut Yanks. Both drums are reportedly still in Connecticut.


Aug. 23, 2009 update: Jedd wrote today mentioning that he had just returned from the Westport (CT) Muster where Andrew Reamer (son of Bill, Principal Percussionist with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Chair of Percussion at Duquesne University)) and his wife (Ruth Ann) were selling drum sticks and taking orders for drums. Reamer reportedly had quite an inventory of drum sticks. Jedd noted that a GAR drum fully painted in the Moeller tradition is priced at $2,000.00. See Drummers Service.

Andrew Reamer has moved the drum manufacturing shop from his father's basement in Lancaster County closer to Andrew's home near Pittsburgh. And Andrew has hired a person to work in the shop. Jedd was not sure if that person is making sticks, drums, or both. Andrew was extremely busy selling drum sticks.

Inlaid Drum Attributed to Civil War Drummer

$685.50 was the winning bid that eBay seller antiquery49( 293) recently received for eBay item no. 370212638816, described as follows

AUTHENTIC CIVIL WAR SNARE DRUM with EBONY STICKS...inscribed inside "N Daniels 48 Iowa Co D"...papers indicate the 48th Battalion was organized at Davenport and mustered on July 13th,1864, with O.H.P. Scott of Farmington as lieutenant Colonel, company D being from Des Moines and Lee counties and mustered out at Rock Island Barrack Oct.21,1864...the drummer was Nathan D. Daniels age 18 - 5'2" joined 6/10/1864 until 10/20/1864.

Rudiments -- A Very Brief History

I found this on While not a scholarly dissertation, it is interesting:

Let’s get started at the beginning. The rudiments didn’t just appear one day. Rudiments evolved over time – a long time! They continue to evolve even today.

The history of rudimental drumming begins with the inventors of the coolest army knife known to mankind – the Swiss. Round about 1386 the Swiss troops at the Battle of Sempach used fifes and drums to signal troops in battle. The Swiss used this type of signaling more and more as time went on. Since Swiss troops were deployed throughout Western Europe as mercenaries, their signals were quickly adopted by the locals and thus spread the drums and fifes signaling system throughout Europe.

The first rudimental publication came in 1588. The tile of this work, Orchesographie. There were two rudiments in this publication: the Swiss Stroke and the Swiss Storm Stroke. The two strokes were shown in a number of combinations, but the author failed to indicate which hand was to play each stroke.

America’s first published basic rudiments came at the hand of Baron Friedrich von Steuben, who was at the time working for the Continental Congress. His 1778 publication, Regulations, specified drum signals for the Revolutionary Troops. While these weren’t technically rudiments, the evolution was evident.

Rudiments as we know them are said to originate with Charles Stewart Ashworth, AKA the Father of Rudimental Drumming. Ashworth, one of the first drum majors of the United States Marine Corps Band, published a list of traditional rudiments in his 1812 book, which arguably has the longest title of any drumming publication: A New Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating, Including the Reveille, Troop, Officers Call, Signals, Salutes and the Whole of the Camp Duty as Practiced At Headquarters, Washington City; Intended Particularly for the Use of the United States Army and Navy.

Ashworth’s book laid the foundation for a drumming style known as the Ashworth System of Drum Beating. In A Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating…, Ashworth describes the basic rudiments in detail along with other rules and regulations for young drummers. The book included the reveille and all major duty calls. It continued selections and tunes for fifers.

Even with Ashworth’s book available, most drummers were still learning by good old fashioned rote method. That is, they simply memorized the rudiments, calls, and fife accompaniments by listening to someone else play. For all you young hotshot drummers out there, this would be known as the Nick Cannon Style.

The second great drumming manual was influenced by Ashworth’s work 50 years earlier. In 1862 and 1865 George B. Bruce coauthored a book called Dixie. Other early drumming titles included: 1869 Drum and Fife Instructor (Strube), 1886 Trumpet and Drum (Sousa).


And this from the Be A Fifer website:

Ashworth System of Drum Beating

Less than a decade after Stephen Decatur quelled the pirates of the Mediterranean in the "Halls of Tripoli" and long before Messrs. Bruce, Emmett, Hart, Howe and Strube took their very first music lessons, there was Ashworth. Drum Major of the newly founded United States Marine Corps Band, Charles Stewart Ashworth established the methods by which most rudimental drummers learned their craft. The band itself was only 14 years in being, but already it had earned a reputation for the very highest quality musical performance.

In his "A Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating," Ashworth set up Rules to be Observed by Young Drummers. He describes basic rudiments in detail, the Reveille and the major Duty Calls, then continues with 36 duty calls and tunes for the fifers. It was published on January 14, 1812. This book is not just a tutor; it is 40 pages of history. Many say that it was the nucleus of Bruce & Emmett's Drummers' and Fifers' Guide, published 50 years later.

Digitally enhanced from the original and with the original layout, this book is available from Be A Fifer for $14.95 plus shipping.


And this:

Ever since it was originally published in 1863, the Bruce & Emmett Drummers' and Fifer's Guide has been an indispensable reference for fifers and drummers who want to "do it right."

George B. Bruce was the Drum Major and Principal Drum Instructor for the U.S. Army at the School of Practice on Governor's Island in New York Harbor.

Daniel D. Emmett, the composer of "Dixie," was the Principal Fifer of the 6th Infantry, U.S. Army.

Few, if any, would argue that B&E is one of the most valuable resources for fifers and drummers alike, regardless of period...American Revolution or Civil War.

Please note: Some parties have insisted for quite some time that this book was in fact published late in the Civil War, in 1865, suggesting that it was too late to have played any important role in that conflict. John Carfizzi has provided [the blogmaster of with the following reference from the Yale University library, which has an 1862 copy in their collection. The contents of the 1862 and 1865 editions are identical.

The drummer's and fifer's guide: or self-instructor; containing a plain and... Author: Bruce, George B. Title: The drummer’s and fifer’s guide: or self-instructor; containing a plain and easy introduction of the rudimental principles for the drum and fife; to which are added, marches, quicksteps, side-beats, troops, retreats, signals, calls, &c ... also, the duty for the garrison or camp ... as used in the U. S. Army, the drum major’s duty ... &c ... by George B. Bruce. Published: New York, Firth, Pond & co., 1862. Description: 96 p. 29 cm. Location: MUSIC LIBRARY, SML, Special Collections (Non-Circulating) Call Number: MT735 B886 D7+ Oversize Status: Not Checked Out Subjects (Library of Congress): Drum --Methods --Self-instruction. Fife --Methods --Self-instruction. Military music. Database: Yale University Library.

Plastic "comb" bound so it lays flat, Bruce & Emmett is available from Be A Fifer! for $15.95 plus shipping.

Aut Vincere Aut Mori -- Do or Die Motto on Boston Drum

There is a better photo of the John Robbins drum discussed at "John Robbins' Bunker Hill Drum at Old State House, Boston", this blog, March 20, 2009. The photo is on flikr:

That photo shows the drum's painted emblazonment which is reminiscent of the work of American landscape artist Charles Hubbard (ca. 1834) whose work is discussed on several other drums (at least one by H. Prentiss of Boston) discussed in these blog postings:

William H. Guthman's Incredible Drum Collection, January 7, 2009;

Rope Drums in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, February 29, 2009; and

Historic Drum of the First Corps of Cadets, Massachusetts, March 19, 2008.

Aut Vincere Aut Mori (Latin: "either to conquer or to die"). Also, a traditional macabre motto: "do or die".

Photo of Civil War Drummer (from The National Archives)

Marbury, Gilbert A., drummer, Company H, 22d New York Infantry; posing with drum. 111-B-5497.

1814 Abner Stevens Drum

We are writing to you on the recommendation of Jim Ellis (Cooperman) of Vermont .... We have a drum which descended in our family which has a paper label inside reading "Abner Stevens, 1814, Pittsfield, Mass Fifes Tamboreens & Bass & Military Drums, All sizes and prices made at his American Drum & Factory"; also written in pencil on the inside is a note saying "New heads put on by Albert H. Fruman (or Truman), Sept. 7th 1891".

It is in otherwise original condition with red painted rims, approximately 16" tall with tackhead design of a spokestar surrounded by a circle with diamond design above and below and banded by two vertical tackhead borders. It was taken apart for a move and the rope is no longer usable. There are 3-4 leather ears?

We are interested in selling it and have been advised not to attempt to put it back together as a collector would prefer to do it him or herself.


With kindest regards,

D.C. Hall/A.W. White (Boston) Drum for Robert F. Morss

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.

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

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blue Drum in Army Museum in Stockholm

From "Wargaming the Great Northern War", a blog, published by legatus hedlius, 26 January 2008.

Certificate for Jordan B. Noble

eBay seller cwbadges( 8967) received a winning bid of $102.50 for eBay item no. 370181689937


Saturday, June 20, 2009

1809 Brown Drum Hits the Market

eBay Seller barryglick( 2 ) has opened bidding on this beauty at $3,000. (See eBay item no. 120436923419.) If you've ever wanted a genuine Brown drum in your collection, you know that these babies don't come along every day. Glick's starting price is not unreasonable. (Note: The above photos are exclusive to They are not, as of the time of this posting, posted on eBay.)

Glick described the drum as follows:

"The drum is manufactured by B. E. and M. of Windsor Conn. It was made in 1809 and numbered 26 on the label. As you can see from the notes inside it was used by a soldier from 1861 to 1864 which of course is the period of the Civil War. The Drum is in execlent condition. It is 16 inches in diameter and 16 inches high."

Glick reports (see photos) that there are notes inside attributed to a Civil War soldier. That's a major plus in valuing this drum which Glock reports dates from 1809 (that's only 30 something years after the Revolution and 50 something years before the Civil War).

So, my thinking on this one is to break out the piggy bank, mortgage the house, and borrow from your friends if you have to, but get this drum.

Here's the real deal folks.

The printed and partially handwritten label reads:


Manufactured and Sold


B.E. and M. BROWN,

Windsor, Conn.

[then in handwriting] No. 26 ~ 1809

Also in handwriting is:


CO. N ["N" somewhat illegible]

1861 1st VT. VOL 1864

And, attesting to the drum's continued use:

[illegible] Goodspeed

[illegible], Vermont


Note: no record could be found of a Vermont Civil War soldier named Posnet, Posner, Pusnet, Pusner, Osnet or Osner. Also, The First Regiment Vermont volunteer Infantry comprised militia companies from Bradford, Brandon, Burlington, Cavendish, Middlebury, Northfield, Rutland, St. Albans, Swanton and Woodstock. They were selected from the uniformed militia of the State at Burlington, April 19, 1861. Vermont in the Civil War. The 1st Regiment Vt. Volunteers was mustered into the service of the United States May 2d, 1861. Vermont in the Civil War.

It appears, however, that the 1st Vermont served three months and almost a full fourth month (less four days) until approximately August 15, 1861. Vermont in the Civil War. Some soldiers who served with that unit later re-enlisted with other Vermont units. Thus the second date on the drum, 1864, could be the date that the drummer who inscribed his name and service record, was mustered out, but not from the same Vermont unit.

Susan Cifaldi, who has studied and written about Brown drums, emailed this afternoon with the following comment:

For what it's worth, I think it says "Wallace B. Goodspeed / Wells [Rutland Co] Vermont. The "drumer Posnet" could be a corruption of Pownal, which is also in Rutland County but about 60 miles south of Wells. As you note, there is no "Posnet" in Vermont.

The 1st VT Regiment was a 3-months regiment raised in April 1861 (CoK came from Rutland County). I could not find a regimental roster for the 1st VT, but I did find Wallace Goodspeed listed in the 17th, but it, too, saw only short service, from March 1864 until July 1865. If he served in 1862 and 1863, it escaped my notice.

Hope this helps.


The tack pattern is classic Brown. See, e.g., 1837 Eli Brown and Son Field Drum with Label for something comparable:

Also see "Leo J. Brennan's Eli Brown Drum (1829)".

And, finally, see "When is a brown drum a Brown drum?".

Old Snare Drum with an 1882 Patent

eBay Seller svenskaboy( 2449)'s eBay posting guru musta been smokin' some of dat weed when (s)he posted this relatively unremarkable metal drum with a starting price of $1,960.00 as eBay item no. 220438415484.

But, in fairness, it's a free country and a seller can ask whatever (s)he wants. Sometimes a fish comes along and takes the bait. See, e.g., "Caveat Emptor -- 'Civil War' Drum Questioned by Reader", this blog, January 29, 2009, reporting the sale of what is believed to be a $100 Pakistani-made Eagle knock-off for $1,350. Barnum said it best, something about a certain type of person being "... born every minute".

This drum, at least, appears to be the real thing, probably about 100 years old.

The label is interesting too. Named "The New Departure Drum", it bears a partial label from "[missing' Music Co." with a Detroit street address (missing).


This antique snare drum was found in a pile of discarded items in the garage at a Kansas City estate sale. The shell measures 15 [inches] in diameter and is 6 [inches] deep. The shell is made of roll formed steel. The rims are wood. It has six tensioning lugs made of iron rod and copper rim clamps and a copper tensioning center nut. The snares are of twisted cow or horse hide. There are remnants of both cowhide heads. The snare adjustment is by a raised thumb screw (see closeup photos). Inside the shell are two original paper labels. The first reads "THE NEW DEPARTURE DRUM, Patented by C. S. Knapp, February 28, 1882". The second paper label is incomplete, but it appears to be from a music store in Detroit. The only online reference I can find for "The New Departure Drum" is from a 1893 newspaper article [see link below] pertaining to Lyon & Healy's (music company) exhibition awards at the Chicago World's Fair.

Considering this drum 125 +/- age, it remains in very good, restorable condition. A great project for a serious collector of percussion instruments.

Because this drum is such a rare example of the transition from rope to metal rod tensioning, I canít find any guidelines to suggest its value, however the lack of information also supports the notion of it be rare.

The New Departures Drum is referred to in a newspaper article in the New York Times, LYON & HEALY'S TRIUMPH.; The Big Chicago Music House Given Twelve World's Fair Diplomas", page 8, September 28, 1893.

And an illustrated advertisement (not available) was accompanied by this descriptive information "*THE NEW DEPARTURE DRUMS* are made with patent double acting rods and folding knee rest. Light, substantial and handsome. Used in the best Bands and Orchestras. Unequaled for tone, surpass all others in finish and appearance. If nearest Music dealer does not keep them, write to us for Illustrated Catalogue.
*LYON & HEALY, Chicago, Ill.*

From that, and from the fact that the labels with the drum's name and the seller are separate, it appears that the drum was made by Lyon & Healy (Chicago) and sold by a musical instruments retailer in Detroit which affixed its own label to the inside of the drum directly under the manufacturer's label.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Civil War Ebony Drumsticks with Leather Beltloop Carrier

eBayer eds541( 443) is offering this beautiful pair of hardwood drumsticks as eBay item no. 200348069356 and describes them as follows:

I picked these beauties up several years back from an older couple. They said that they bought them, and I believe they said a canteen, at an antique shop many years ago, on a trip to Gettysburg.

At any rate this is a beautiful pair of Civil War Drum Sticks in their original leather carrier.

As you can tell from the photos, the sticks perfectly form to the leather, thus being carried and stored there for quite some time. The patina on the brass ferrules is very nice as they have not been touched.

Notice the green tint where they were cradled in the leather! If one chose, they would polish up nicely with no effort, but that would be a shame.

The ebony sticks are in excellent condition, no cracks or chips. As you can see from the photos, the color is superb. Their length is 15 inches end to end.

The carrier has a repair or a reinforcing piece of leather sewn to the back, directly under the belt loop.

As it doesn't look quite look period it certainly isn't contemporary. It takes nothing away from the looks, and adds tremendously to the function.

I did hand rub a thin layer of Pecards Leather Conditioner to it as it does not deplete the antiquity value, but keeps the leather pliable. It is plenty sturdy enough to use in reenacting.

I can't say anything more than the pictures won't show. I more than welcome any questions that you might have, and please ask for more pictures if needed.

Note: The blue green discoloration appears to coincide with the depth to which the brass ferrules on the sticks were inserted in the leather carrier.

P.R. Winn, Drummaker

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