In 1854, in the rural town of Granville Massachusetts, Silas Noble and James P Cooley set about the business of making toy drums. The company flourished and in a short time they were making thousands of drums a year. The call to war in 1861 shifted the production from toy drums to military snare and bass drums.
One hundred and fifty seven years later, the descendants of James Cooley are still in the business of making drums at Noble & Cooley Company in Granville. From millions of toy drums to production of high end steam-bent snare drums and custom drumsets, this little company has continued to make drums since 1854.
A few years ago the company decided to turn some of its factory space into a museum with a focus on “Yankee Ingenuity” and industrialism in rural New England. While gathering and assembling artifacts, they were approached by a Civil War memorabilia broker who was in possession of a drum made by the company and picked up off the battlefield at Gettysburg. The museum reached out to the community for support and was able to bring the drum home to Granville where it is prominently displayed along with its provenance.
This spurred interest in the role Noble & Cooley and the town of Granville played in the war efforts and also caused the owners and family to dig further into the archives. Jigs and tooling were found. A local logger was called in to identify the wood on the returned drum. Family diaries were read and re-read. And the decision was made that six generations later, the Noble & Cooley Drum Company would once again make a contract Civil War Drum to commemorate the Sesquicentennial in 2011.
The “contract drum” was the standard issue drum ordered for the Union Army. It was a single ply, steam-bent shell of either tulip wood or ash with oak hoops and calfskin heads. The reissue drum is 12” deep and 16” in diameter. The shell is of tulip wood from trees cut within a few miles of the factory. The wood is steam bent using the same steam chest and methods used 150 years ago.
Noble & Cooley plans to produce a limited number of this commemorative drum from 2011-2014. The drums will be sequentially numbered and will be shipped with a “certificate of authenticity” which will include a brief history of the company and the specifics of the drum.