Thursday, May 27, 2010

Elias Howe Drum, ca. 1861

Won yesterday on eBay (item no. 270580141924), sold by futurepast ( 640) for $461.78 is this remarkable piece of U.S. history:

Here’s some background on Elias Howe:

Chronological List of Fife Tutors after 1839
Compiled by Susan Cifaldi

1851 Howe, Elias Jr. Howe's School for the Fife. Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co., 1851. Pp. 56.
Advertisement for same title in Howe's School for the Flute. (Boston: 1843). X(Cifaldi); photocopy at Company of Fifers and Drummers, Ivoryton, CT.

1861 Howe, Elias. The Army and Navy Fife Instructor. Boston: Elias Howe, 1861. Pp. 64.

1862 Howe, Elias. Howe's United States Regulation Drum and Fife Instructor. Boston: Elias Howe, 1862. Pp. 93.

1863 Howe, Elias. Howe's New Fife Without a Master. Boston: Elias Howe, 1863. [pp 3-198 from Howe, Elias. The Musician's Omnibus No. 1. (1864) and The Musician's Omnibus No. 2. ca 1864]. X(Cifaldi), photocopy at Company of Fifers and Drummers, Ivoryton, CT.

1870 Howe, Elias. Howe's United States Regulation Drum and Fife Instructor. Boston: Elias Howe, [1870]. Pp. 72. X(Camus)

And, from

In 1851, Howe published his Howe's School for the Fife, a tutorial that also included over 150 tunes, many of which are commonly played today. Highly regarded in peacetime, this book was commonly used to teach fifers prior to the onset of hostilities in the War Between the States. It was also used to train fifers in the Civil War music schools at Newport Barracks, Kentucky and Governor's Island in New York harbor.

Howe is best known among our contemporaries for his United States Drum and Fife Instructor, published in 1862, which is often used by the various Civil War music schools conducted today. Unfortunately, the copies used were multi-generational photostatic copies from original manuscripts, significantly reduced in size, and of extremely poor quality. It has now been digitally restored to its original size (8 x 9-1/2 inches), distracting background removed, and has been digitally enhanced for clarity.


US 13181.28A
PP. 265,6


HOWE, ELIAS, born in Framingham in 1820, is one of the oldest living music-publishers in the United States, having issued his first music-book over fifty-one years ago [1841].

His parents were in humble circumstances and he early went to work. His first outside work was riding a neighbor's horse during ploughing, for the munificent remuneration of two cents a day. As a boy he was naturally musical, and, having obtained an apology for a violin, used to spend his spare hours fiddling the old tunes then popular. At that time there were few or no collections of music that could be bought, as it was only published singly or in sheet-music form, and sold at a high price per sheet; and as it was beyond his means to have a collection of printed music, he was in the habit of copying in a blank book every tune he heard played or could get hold of. In this way, in the course of time, he had gathered a large collection of music in his book, and it was in great demand by all the musicians the country round, who used frequently to borrow it to use at dances.

Early in 1840, when nineteen years old and working on a farm, it occurred to him that he might make some money if he could but get his book published. Accordingly, obtaining from his employer a few days' leave of absence, he came up to Boston to try his fortune here. Submitting his manuscript to Albert J. Wright, of the firm of music printers Wright & Kidder, then doing business in Cornhill, he was told that it would cost five hundred dollars to issue the first edition of a few hundred copies. Asked if he had any friends in Boston or at home who could help him with funds, he replied that he had none with money, but that he would " work his legs off to make the book a success, if they would only print it for him."

Finally Wright & Kidder agreed to make the plates and print the books at their own expense, allowing him to take the copies as fast as he was able to pay for them. The book thus published was "The Musician's Companion," and afterwards, when issued in three volumes, it ran through many editions, and an immense number were sold. Mr. Howe bought his first small stock from his publishers in borrowed money, and soon accumulated a little capital by peddling his books from door to door.

From this beginning sprang the immense number of music books at a popular price which are published in the United States. In 1842 Mr. Howe opened his first store in Providence, R.I., at No. 98 Westminster street. Here he carried on a small music-business, besides repairing accordeons and umbrellas, until 1843, when he sold out.

Afterwards, moving back to Boston, he published " Howe's Accordeon Preceptor," with an entirely original system of instruction, which soon reached the sale of one hundred thousand.

This was followed by " Howe's Violin School," the first of the cheap, selfmastering books, containing a large collection of graded popular music, of which over five hundred thousand copies have been sold.

Mr. Howe's first store in Boston was in the old Scollay Building, where he was associated with Henry Tolman, the only partner in business he ever had. Afterwards he successively occupied Nos. 5, 9, and 11 Cornhill.

About 1850 he sold out his entire business to Oliver Ditson and retired, buying the large estate in South Framingham of Seth B. Howes of circus fame. There he lived quietly, meanwhile acting as manager of the South Reading Ice Company several years, until about 1861, when he again entered his old business. Establishing himself at No. 33 Court street, moving from there to No. 61 Cornhill, and then to No. 103 Court street, he began making drums, and during the early years of the war he sold drums and fifes to nearly all the Massachusetts regiments and to many of the Western States.

He also published music, especially military band and drum and fife, for use in the armies. Much of this music was sent to Louisville, Ky., and after the war he was informed that it all went into the Confederate army and was played there. Since the war days Mr. Howe has continued publishing music, steadily enlarging his catalogue and issuing many notable books. His series of instruction books for all instruments, still popular, have reached a sale of over a million copies.

About twelve years ago [1880] he moved to his present warerooms, Nos. 88 and 90 Court street. In 1871, foreseeing the present great popularity of violins, he determined to have his choice in old violins before they had been picked over; and with this in view he made his first trip to Europe. Since that time he has made many trips abroad. scouring the Continent for bargains in old and new violins, violas, violoncellos, and double basses, rare and curious instruments, and now he has the largest and finest collection of old violins in the world.

1 comment:

  1. Comment from Susan Cifaldi:

    I've seen that label, er, what I "think" was that label, on a drum shell that had been tragically and terribly destroyed through some too-fervent sanding. It had to have been done with an electric sander because the shell was down to the bare wood with absolutely no trace of the old shellac.

    I say "think" because the label was quite large and out of proportion to the shell and looked to me more like a catalog page. As I recall it had no border (as yours does), which again raised my suspicions. I have the jpgs of it somewhere so I will look around for it and compare the language with yours.

    But you obviously have the real thing! And the drum sticks, too -- did they come with the drum? I love the wrapped-string repair, we often find that on old cracked (usually ebony) fifes.


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