Saturday, July 11, 2009

Right-Facing Heraldic Eagle Drums

This post started as a discussion of one drum (the first discussed below). One element of that drum (the right-facing eagle) caught the Blogmaster's attention. Following an email response from Patrick Jones (below), we found a number of drums with right-facing eagles (the eagles on most/all Civil War Regimental drums we have seen have the eagle facing to the viewer's left). Our sense is that the right-facing eagle designs are all pre-Civil War and possibly linked to German designs for the reasons discussed below.

For some background on the heraldic eagle, see "The Heraldic Eagle: The Story Behind The Bird", Robert S. Koppelman & the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.

smilenandstylin4you( 1 ) is offering eBay item no. 180379954734 desribed as:
Civil War Drum beautifully painted with Eagle. Reburbished - new heads and ropes have been put on and body has been varnished. Came from Massachusetts.

I have never seen this drum before so it is unlikely that the photos were lifted from some website. The seller's low experience rating by eBay (1) causes me some concern.

The placement of a non-period, foreign (European) snare strainer directly on the eagel motif could have been an act of gross incompetence or a field repair done with available materials.

The use of modern machine-made nylon/polyester rope is a giant no-no demanding removal and replacement at the earliest opportunity.

The drum's darkened appearance might result from the varnish mentioned in the description. I wonder whether the varnish could be removed without damaging the underlying painting.

Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is that the eagle faces right. Almost every other eagle drum pictured in this blog has a left-facing eagle. The art work looks otherwise pretty good and possibly authentic/period.

Note, the drum could be pre-Civil War (as the other right-facing eagle drums discussed in this blog below are) and the regimental banner could have been painted on after the original painting was done to ready the drum for service in the Civil War. Just a hypothesis. The banner does look as though it was overlaid onto the eagle motif.


Blog reader Patrick Jones (Camp Chase Fifes and Drums) emailed this contribution about another very similar drum:

I have pictures of a drum very similar to the eagle drum [discussed above]. The eagles are almost identical including tack design and eagle decoration. The heads are turned in the "sub-heraldic" manner, meaning to the eagle's own left. I was told that this particular drum came from a maker in Germantown, PA. I'm not sure if he was referring to William Ent. He was known to have make drums there from 1856-1863.

I have also heard that eagle motifs displaying an eagle with their head turned to their left were pre civil war, I believe that is not true because I have seen some Elias Howe drums of the period with eagles facing that direction.

From what I remember, this particular drum was quite large and I thought it to be a pre-Civil War drum. Without a label or address though, who knows?


Patrick Jones

Another Heraldic Eagle Drum:

With the lead provided by Patrick Jones, we found the following similar drum:

"Important Drum With Heraldic Eagle Surmounted By 14 Stars, Tin Label "'Light Infanty'"

This drum (above) was reportedly sold at auction by Carlsen Gallery, Inc. of Greenville, New York on November 22, 2008 with a hammer price of $3,200 plus 15% buyer's premium.

Yet Another Heraldic Eagle:

Drum; War of 1812 Era, Militia, Eagle & Shield, Later Harrison Campaign Paint, 23 inch.

A circa 1790 to 1815 original ornately decorated War of 1812 era militia drum with stenciled and painted drum head for political use in the 1840 Harrison campaign. Original paint intact; the central face of the drum displays a wonderful red, white and blue painted American Heraldic Eagle with arrows and olive branch in its talons within a field of turquoise - blue. A white banner is held in its beak, having a fairly ornate arrangement of flowery branches above. Item no. A038577.

And this from Encyclopedia of Percussion By John Beck (p. 286):

See photo and discussion at p. 286.

1 comment:

  1. Email from Seller: "I am an individual not a company and have just started to use ebay. I did sell and deliver an item on Craigslist this past Tues. I acquired this drum from a relative, who asked me to sell it and split the money. I know that it was purchased at a yard sale over 20+ yrs. ago in MA. I also know that it was varnished and the heads and ropes were replaced. I cannot answer the other questions, probably poor restoration decision. About the eagle's direction, I don't know enough about the civil war drums.I am curious and have looked at several online. There are so many different types of paintings. I have never seen this particular one, either. However, I did (very securely) mail the drum to the Civil War Antiques Preservation Society,in MA for them to look at. I was told that it was a legitimate civil war drum, but that they don't buy drums that have been reburbished and varnished, as this has. There is no label inside, unfortunately, so its origin is not known. I hope that helps. Please feel free to send any additional questions. Thank you. N. Kashanski
    - smilenandstylin4you"


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