Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Painted William S. Tompkins Drum Shows Up

Don Sorensen, a reader of this blog, wrote and sent photos of this unique drum:

Hi, I don't think the lettering will show up. The gilt banner at the lower center of the painting has W S TOMPKINS MAKER and then what looks like 60 WATTS S N Y. It is red lettering on the gold and is very faint. The hoops seem to fit exactly with wear patterns matching the drum. There is a pewter type tube attached that was part of the snare. The ghost of the snare is very visible on the bottom skin. The drum body appears to be birdseye maple, with no label inside. The top skin is broken, and the ring used to hold it on is tight and won't slide off. The patina is really great, and the painting is very detailed. One shield is the federal shield, haven't figured the other one out yet. Thanks, Don

I sent you 11 photos. I found this exact motif on a patriotic Civil War token. I don't know if it's clear enough, but there is a pole in the center of the drum painting with a liberty cap on top. The grommet hole appears to be ivory or bone. One drum skin is broken, the other is intact with the shadow of the snare visible on the skin. The hoops fit the drum exactly and also appear to be hand painted. That's about all I know except what I read on your website.

If anyone can shed some light on the painted emblazonment or any other aspect of this drum, please write to us at

This drum is the first Tompkins drum we have found that lacks the signature inlay designs and that carries only a painted emblazonment.

Editor's Note: The painted hoops with their repeating design might be later than the CW period. We've seen black stenciled designs on drums of the late 19th century.

See "Tompkins 1860-1863 Masterpiece Drums -- Where Are They Now?", this blog, Feb. 27, 2008. And see other articles on this blog re Tompkins drums by searching (upper left search box) for Wm. S. Tompkins.

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