Monday, November 14, 2011

Old Guard - "Thoughts From The Fringe"

Thoughts From the Fringe
written by SSG R.Andrews, SSG R. Ruddle
edited by SFC Reilly, SSG Jamison, SSG Waterman


Read through a solo from one of the most unique marching percussion ensembles in the world. Steeped in tradition, the Old Guard Drumline is a living example of the origins of modern rudimental drumming. The drumline employs a conglomerate of styles to include traditional American rudimental drumming of the 18th & 19th centuries, Swiss, Scottish, and some modern rudimental concepts. The ensemble has been influenced by some of the great names of traditional rudimental drumming to include: Earl Sturtze, Bobby Thompson, Les Parks, John S. Pratt and Nick Attanasio, and it has also been influenced by some of the modern greats as well. Likewise the writing style of the drumline has been influenced by a wide variety of concepts. Whether it be a Swiss rudimental pattern followed by a Latin groove, or a Scottish roll passage with a contemporary flair, the Old Guard Drumline still remains a place where "Tradition Lives."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wm. S. Tompkins Drum, July 4th, 1865

Historic 19th Century American Snare Drum. Very attractive drum in superb overall untouched condition, accompanied by a 4 7/8" X 6 3/4" period ink script note bearing the following information, headed "Green (Unable to decipher) Island / May 30, 1870, This drum was used by me (Wm Denice) in the first Memorial Day observation May 30th 1869, by order of J. A .Logan Commander G. A. R. I was Drummer boy in State of New York 1st Vol, in the Army of the Potomac '61 - '63. Wm Denice".

The drum itself is of a form normally encountered C. 1865 1870. 17 1/2" diameter, 14 1/2" high. Overall wonderful untouched condition. The heavy hoops, which utilize iron hooks for the ropes to pass through, are decorated with alternating painted red and black stripes. The body of the drum actually appears to be of veneered mahogany, with a few hairlines in the veneering but no loss and very sound. The area around the ivory air hole is decorated with inlaid light colored wood stars, diamonds and leaves. Visible through the air hole is the following in period ink script, "Wm. S. Tompkins & Sons / Makers / Yonkers, N. Y. / Drums of all Sizes Made to Order / July 4th / 1865." Most unusual as an ink script 'lable' but absolutely authentic. Retains what appears to be the original rope including decorative woven section. Also retains all of the original leather tighteners, although three are missing the bottom portions. Both heads also appear to be original with a small hole, with no loss, in the top, and an old repaired crack in the bottom. Retains the original snares. The first Memorial Day was observed at Arlington National Cemetery by Logan's order in 1868, however beginning in 1869 the observance began to spread throughout the northern states. A great drum with a superb history. Estimate: $6,000 - $8,000.

Heritage Auctions
Lot no. 52105.

CW Field Drum

Civil War Infantry Snare Drum. 12 1/2" high, 15" diameter. Possibly slightly shortened during the period of use, as there are no interior reinforcing rims. Retains original heads including snares, top head break, with no loss, but shrunken. Light colored body, probably maple, with dark red hoops. The top hoop is missing a a 1/2" X 4" piece where one of the rope holes was drilled. The rope at that point is now held in place with a supplemental piece of wire attached to the adjacent ropes. The drum actually appears to have been struck, and continued in use after the 'field' repair. Body is decorated with narrow red and white vertical stripes flanking the air hole. The air hole is decorated with a red and white star with small brass tacks at each tip of the star. Drum is overall completely untouched and doubtless bears an interesting, but unknown, Civil War history. Estimate: $750 - $950.

Source: Heritage Auctions
Lot no. 52103

CW Field Drum by E. Hopkins, Troy, NY

Very Nice Civil War Snare Drum With Interesting History 16 3/4" diameter, 15" high. Oak body with ivory air hole and nicely decorated with brass tacks. Black painted hoops. The drum is overall in excellent condition with nice untouched patina. Both heads are original and perfect. The ropes, while clearly quite old, are likely slightly later replacements, while the nicely decorated leather tighteners are period, all present, one torn, else all in excellent condition. Written in brown ink at two places on the bottom head, which retains the original snares, is the name "Albert Bates" with one of the names accompanied by "Weston". There is also a name applied in ink with a very small stencil to the top head. There is no interior lable. The drum is accompanied by a 5 3/8" X 6 5/8" heavy oil cloth covered music book with original orange paper lable on the inside cover, "Manufactured / By / E. Hopkins / 244 / River Street, Troy, N. Y." The book is printed with blank staffs which are then filled in with ink script drum beats to accompany identified pieces of music such as "Gen. Grant's Quick Step, Red, White and Blue, Funeral March" etc. An old shipping tag is also attached to the drum with "FROM Lester Farnum / Manchester Depot, Vt. TO Lester Farnum 245 Cottage St., So., Salem, Oregon." Very nice Civil War drum with a potentially very interesting history. Estimate: $1,600 - $1,800. Sold for $2,390.00 Nov. 12, 2011.

Source: Heritage Auctions
Lot no. 52100

Regulation U.S. Marines Eagle Drum, ca. 1859

Exceptional Condition C.1859 Regulation US Marine Corps Eagle Drum. Certainly one of the finest specimens known of the handful of specimens extant. 14 1/2" diameter, 14" high. All paint correct and original and in superb condition. Retains what appear to be the original heads with just a couple of small holes at the edges. Ivory air hole, brass tack decoration, the body appears to be of maple. Original inner hoops, some pencil markings opposite the air hole, but no label. The ropes and tighteners are clearly an old restoration but extremely well done and detracts nothing. Generically probably the rarest of all US military regulation issue drums, this being a truly remarkable example. Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000.

Source: Heritage Auctions, Lot 52096.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2-Ply Drum Shells -- When Did They Begin?

Martin Johncox of Boise, Idaho writes:

I am an avid drummer and would like to settle a disagreement. I think people were playing plywood-construction drums soon after the technology was developed in the 1850s, but some of my colleagues say Gretsch invented ply construction in the 1920s and before then, drums were solid shell or steambent.

I have looked online but there really isn’t much discussion about this kind of thing. Can you please clarify?

So, readers, any thoughts? Please email me at

Hint: I have two drums by Wm. S. Tompkins (ca. 1860) and they are definitely 2-ply cross-grain laminate shells.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Noble & Cooley Bass Drum

Civil War Militia Bass Drum
Painted vignette with Patrotic Spreadwing Eagle clutching flag with unknows number of stars, (appears to be 20+ stars). Although the year 1812 is indicated thorough the peep hole, there is no maker's label. This drum was probably made in Granville Mass by Noble and Cooley C. 1860; replaced ropes and tension pulls; otherwise original. A very hard to find 24.25-inches tall x 33-inch diameter.
Price: $3,950

From website of Antique Associates of West Townsend, Inc.

Meacham Drum Sells for $475

American Furniture & Decorative Arts - Sale 2337 - Lot 897

Military Drum, Meacham and Company, Albany New York, probably third quarter 19th century, bentwood Civil War era drum with brass tack decoration and monograms "J.V.D.H.B.," red-painted rims, with rope and leather mounts, the interior with printed maker's label (probable old restring, bottom head replaced with wood), ht. 16 1/4, dia. 16 3/4 in.
Estimate $400-600
Sold for $475 by Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers

Thursday, August 25, 2011

William Shute Tompkins - Biographical Information


More than two centuries and a half ago, in the year 1640, three brothers, Abraham, Joseph and John, came from England to America, braving the dangers incident to ocean voyages in those days when primitive methods of navigation were in vogue. One of the brothers was the father of Governor Daniel D. Tompkins, of New York. Abraham, the great-great-grandfather of our subject, located in Massachusetts, and had ason, also named Abraham, who was born in the town of Greenburg, Westchester county. New York. He became the owner of a large tract of land here, and at his death was buried in the cemetery at White Plains. He was loyal to the crown.

John Tompkins, his son, and the grandfather of our subject, was born in New York city and throughout his business career engaged in contracting and building. His political support was given the Whig party. He married Thama Shute, and they became parents of Abraham, William Shute and Mary Jones. The mother died, after which the father was married again, to Kathrine Yule, the children of the second union being John and Catherine, the latter the wife of Colonel Weeds, who is still living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Abraham Tompkins, the great-grandfather, was a very zealous church man of the Methodist Episcopal faith. He died in Westchester county and was laid to rest in White Plains.

William Shute Tompkins, father of our subject, was born August 22, 1812, in Sullivan street. New York city, and obtained his education in the


public schools there. He learned the trade of cracker manufacturing and afterward that of cabinet-making. Later he added to the latter trade the conducting of furniture stores in different parts of the city, and at one time the celebrated W. M. Tweed, of political fame, was in his employ. Subsequently he engaged in the manufacture of drums at No. 69 Wall street, and soon took the leadership in that line. He became especially famous for the superior quality of his drums, some of which sold for as much as five hundred dollars. He had the monopoly on high-grade bass and tenor drums and made the first orchestra drum used in this country. He also took up the study of music and was able to play almost any kind of wind instrument.

In his youth it was a fondly cherished dream that he might some day become the leader of a fine band, and that dream was ultimately realized. He was chosen the leader of the old New York Band and was one of the most celebrated musical directors of the country.

His place of business became known as " The College," and was the most popular rendezvous for the musical fraternity of the city. For several years he led P. T. Barnum's band, and after his removal to Yonkers he organized the Yonkers Cornet Band.

He also engaged in the manufacture of drums in the city until within a short time prior to his death.

In his political views he was first a Whig and afterward a Republican. He took an active interest in public affairs, served as a member of the Irving Hose Company, and socially was connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

William Shute Tompkins married Martha A. Hatfield and to them were born six children: Gilbert H., who was born March 11, 1812; William E.; Frances H., wife of John H. Tremper; Mary A., wife of J. Henry Andrews, a wealthy builder of New York city and commodore of the New Rochelle Yacht Club; Abraham H.: and Mercy M., wife of Captain J. A. Sartorious, of the United States Armory of New York city. The mother of these children died in 1855, and Mr. Tompkins afterward married Louisa Walls, of Westchester county. They had two children: Vivian S., a graduate of the University of New York, who is now taking a post-graduate course preparatory to practicing medicine; and Martha. The father died in November, 1884, and by his side in the Sparta burying-ground [Scarborough, part of southern Ossining, New York, along Route 9] rests his wife, who died in 1855.

Of the maternal ancestry of Abraham H. Tompkins we have the following account. Gilbert Hatfield, the great-grandfather of our subject, had a son, Gilbert, who was born in New York city, but became a gentleman farmer at Scarboro, in the town of Ossining, Westchester county. He traced his descent back to Arthur Hatfield, who crossed the Atlantic to America and purchased lands at North Castle, in October, 1763. The old homestead, which is still standing, and which is called the Mansion House, was erected


in 1795 and was used as an inn during the war of the Revolution. The barn, on account of its superiority over others of that day, was significantly styled "None Such." The farm comprised five hundred acres of land, and was one of the best in that section of the country. The owner, Arthur Hatfield, went to Nova Scotia, where he was appointed a firstlieutenant in the English army in 1744.

Gilbert Hatfield, the great-grandfather of our subject, married and had five children: William, John, Anna Townsend, ThamaSearles and Phoebe Tompkins, one of whose sons, Gilbert, married Martha Williams, who was of Holland Dutch extraction and held valid claims to the Holland throne but relinquished all such on coming to America. Her father, Arthur Williams, was born May 27, 1740, and on emigrating from Holland to America located in the town of Ossining, Westchester county.

He was very wealthy. He held a lieutenant's commission in the British army and was sent to Nova Scotia to drill Englishsoldiers. When twenty-two years of age he married a lady of eighteen, the wedding taking place in 1762. He died in the town of Ossining, in 1819, and his wife passed away in 1821. Their daughter, Martha Williams, became the wife of Gilbert Hatfield, and one of their daughters, Martha A., married William Shute Tompkins, father of our subject. The children of Gilbert and Martha (Williams) Hatfield, were Tamna Ann, Arthur, John and Martha A. Their father was the owner of a farm in the town of Sparta, and also on Sullivan street, New York city, but selling the latter property he removed to Sing Sing [about a mile north of the Sparta Cemetery], this state.

Abraham H. Tompkins, whose name introduces this sketch, was born in Bleecker street, New York city, January 2, 1844, moved to Sing Sing when seven years of age, then moved to Yonkers, at the age of ten, and has lived here ever since. He was engaged in music until the war, when he enlisted at Newburg, New York, as drum major of the One Hundred and Sixty-eighth Regiment of New York Volunteers, being discharged at Newburg, October 31, 1863, at the expiration of his term of service. He was the youngest drum major in the war. He participated in the skirmish at Fort Magruder: in June, 1863, the engagements at Yorktown and Greenwich settlements.

In July the regiment was attacked by General Mosby, who after a short struggle was repulsed. Twenty of his men were captured, while the Union loss was only five. The regiment then left Yorktown to join the Army of the Potomac, and reached Gettysburg, July 6, 1863. In August, the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps were consolidated as the Twentieth Corps and sent to Georgetown, Alabama, whence the One Hundred and Sixty-eighth New York went to Newburg and was mustered out. From twenty to thirty-five years of age he was considered one of the best snare drummers in the world, if not the best.

Upon returning from the war Mr. Tompkins engaged in the butchering


business, continuing in that line until 1896, when a horse falling upon him injured him so seriously that he was obliged to withdraw, and has since practically lived retired. He was a reliable, enterprising business man who won the public confidence and received a liberal patronage. He has always taken a zealous and active interest in everything pertaining to the welfare of the city, and is now serving as alderman from the fifth ward, to which position he was first elected in 1892. By re-election he is now serving his fourth term and as an alderman he has been aggressive and enterprising, always favoring improvement and reform. The erection of the public drinking fountains of Yonkers is credited to him, also the widening of the aqueduct arch; he is a strong advocate of public parks, and always advocated the equalization of water rates. In politics he has always been aRepublican, and belongs to the Lincoln Legion, a political organization, and the Young Men's Republican Club.

Mr. Tompkins is a charter member and one of the organizers of Retching Post, No. 60, G.A.R., which is now the fifteenth post on the roll. He was chairman of the memorial committee, G.A.R., May 30, 1895, and he has filled all of its offices, and is now serving his second term as commander.

He was chosen delegate to the state encampment at Syracuse in 1899. He is also a member of the Westchester County Association of Grand Army Posts, and was a member of Company H, Seventeenth Regiment, and afterward the Third Regiment of the state militia. Subsequently this became the Sixteenth Battalion, and of both he served as drum major. It is now known as the Fourth Separate Company, and Mr. Tompkins is still connected therewith,having for twenty years been a member of the state militia. He is a valued member of the Patriotic Order Sons of America, formerly belonged to the Knights of Pythias fraternity and also the United American Mechanics, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and was the department commander.

He served as aide on the staff of Charles Freeman and Jack Adams, and as aide-de-camp on the staff of Thomas Lawler, commander in chief. He took an early interest in the movement toward securing the Yonkers soldiers' monument, and served as chairman of the committee from Retching Post, No. 60, G.A.R.; on the entertainment committee at the unveiling ceremonies.Also he is a member of the Veteran Association of the national guard, S.N.G. In religion he is a member of the Methodist church.

On the 7th of April, 1867, Mr. Tompkins married Miss Eliza L. Nuskey, a daughter of Captain Alfred Nuskey, captain of the Lockwood Guards. Her mother bore the maiden name of Susan Tillottson and was a daughter of Rachel Lambert, whose father, William Lambert, belonged to a prominent old Knickerbocker family, and served for seven years as a sergeant in the American Revolution. He was married October 11, 1790, to Elizabeth Cypher.


who was born April 21, 1761, and was of Scotch descent. They were very aristocratic people and possessed considerable wealth, living in very luxurious style for those days. They were also very charitable, and generous in their giving. Their daughter, Rachel, was born October 3, 1790, and married William Tillottson, by whom she had the following children: Susanna, Lavinia, James, Catherine, Nancy, Benjamin and Nathaniel. Mr. Tillottson died October 6, 1865, and his wife in January, 1874. He had served in the operations along Lake Ontario in the war of 1812, was taken prisoner and sent to Boston, where he was exchanged after peace was declared. His daughter, Susan, was born April 2, 1816, and married Alfred Nuskey, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in August, 181 5. Their children were Mrs. Catherine Knapp; Clorinda W.; Mrs. Rachel Ward; Eliza; Abraham H. T.; Emma,deceased; and Granville. The mother of these children died December 15, 1888, but Mr. Nuskey is still living at the age of eighty-four years. He makes his home in Sing Sing, New York, where for many years he served as foreman of the Brand nith Mills. He is a very zealous member of the Methodist Episcopal church, is a local preacher of that denomination and is very popular in church circles. His life has been well spent and 'all esteem him highly for his sterling worth. His daughter, now Mrs. Tompkins, was born June 22, 1848. By the marriage of our subject and his wife have been born three children: Gertrude I.; William N., who married Miss Jennie Stainsby, of Brooklyn, and resides in Yonkers with his wife and daughter, Gertrude E. ; and Abraham H., Jr. The family is one of prominence in the community and its members occupy social positions of distinction.

Biographical Sketch of Westchester County, Illustrated, Vol. II, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, Cornell University Library.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Drum No. 1 of the Old Guard

Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
Drum Number One, 1960

When the Corps was activated as part of Company H in 1960, Buck Soistman made a set of twenty-two traditional wooden rope-tension drums for it. The drums were in regular use until they were retired to the Old Guard Museum in 1989. Each drum is hand painted with the arms of the regiment and battle honors.

Source: The Old Guard Museum website.

Repurposing Antique Drums

Here's a creative (or sacrilegious) use of antique rope drums by Hudson Goods.

Drum End Tables
Visit our on-line store at

Who would have thought that you could turn a drum into an end table or even a hanging lamp? Well, now you can. These drums come in bright decorative colors with real leather straps and thick rope. So if you are musically inclined or always wanted to be in a marching band, check out these cool drums that are now being used for home furnishings.

These drums can be stacked in a corner, used as an end table by the sofa or even hung over the table for drum light dining. So go ahead and march to the beat of a different drummer!


Civil War regimental drum, 13" high by 14.5" in diameter. Inside label reads: Drums of all descriptions made and kept constantly on hand, for sale by William Mixer, Orleans, Jefferson County, N.Y. Drum is rope tensioned with leather keepers. Wood has a pleasing reddish tone. The top of the drum was signed by members of the regiment. Most of the penciled signatures are faint but legible. A unique bit of history. 14.5"W x 13"H.
Estimate $1,500 - 2,500.
Realized $1,725.00
August 15, 2009
Fontaine's Antique Auction Gallery online

George B. Stone Drum

Civil War Style Marching Snare Drum, matching Leather Drum Sling and antique Rosewood drumsticks.

Beautiful Drum with Twenty-four (24) Rope Hooks, 12 Leather Ears, 17” Diameter Drum Heads and
Gut Snares. Original hemp rope. The drum heads are definitely 17" measuring across the heads from inside the rim.

The drum appears to be 100% original.

Gorgeous condition; the drum has a maple drum shell measuring 17” diameter by 12” deep, with original lacquered finish. Drum hoops maple are painted black on the outside and natural stain on the inside.

The famous George B. Stone and Son, Manufacturing Drummers, Boston Mass. metal badge affixed.

Hardware appears to be nickel plated; drum heads are in very good condition, drum plays amazing crisp and loud. Beatiful Rosewood drumsticks are antique, measuring 17-1/8" inches long.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Early Federal Period Painted Militia Snare Drum (1795-1818)

Painted Militia Snare Drum
Possibly 1795-1818 (15-stars)
Painted with a gilt eagle clutching a brace of arrows and branches bearing an American shield surrounded by leafy decoration...all beneath 15-gilt stars having red highlighting all in strong color within a red border with off-white sunburst centering the decoration. The body of this wood drum with faux graining resembling rosewood remains in fine condition as do the red painted bands. The drum is accompanied by a conforming glass insert accommodating use as a table; roping appears to be period and possible original. We note that the bottom skin is torn with all else fine. (Height: 18 inches; diameter: 16.5 inches.)
Price: $11,685

From website of Antique Associates of West Townsend, Inc.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Civil War Drum and Sword

Civil War Drum and Sword
Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 3:23PM
By Charles T. Russell
The Airtight Garage

This civil war drum was carried by my great, great grandfather Charles T. Russell from 1861 through 1865. He enlisted in the Maryland Fifth Volunteer infantry with his father Walter Russell. Walter Russell rose to the rank of Sergeant Major and carried the sword pictured below.

The Sword was manufactured in Philadelphia by Horstman and Sons. The model 1850 foot officer sword was intended for officers up to captain, these officers received a pay allowance but made their own purchase decision, hence there is a great deal of variation in officer swords. The model 1850 guard is adorned but does not bear US. The regulation specified a steel scabbard but most including this one are made of leather, with brass mountings, a throat, middle ring, and drag. Handle is sharkskin wrapped with wire. Blade is etched with "US" and various patriotic symbolism

A Brief History of the Maryland Fifth Volunteer Infantry
The 5th Md. Infantry was organized in Baltimore in September, 1861 for three years of service. Co. A. was recruited from North East, in Cecil County, while Co. I. was recruited in Elkton, Cecil County. Co. E. was recruited in Frederick County and Baltimore City. Companies B, C, D, F, G, H & K were all recruited in Baltimore.

The regiment trained at Layfayette Square in Baltimore until March of 1862, then proceeded to Fortress Monroe, where it was assigned to General Dix's command. Soon after the 5th's arrival in Virginia, the Union war effort shifted from the penninsula to Northern Virginia. Assigned to 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, the 5th Md. marched back north into Maryland with the Army of the Potomac to fend off Lee's invasion of Maryland. On September 17th, the 5th participated in the bloodiest day of warfare in American history, the Battle of Antietam. The regiment was involved in the gallant contest both sides made over the sunken road, that has become known as "Bloody Lane." The 5th suffered 39 dead, 100 wounded during the contest, as well as two commanding officers in one day.

After the Battle of Antietam the 5th was assigned to General Milroy's command in the Shenandoah, and remained there until June of 1863. The regiment was at Winchester in June of 1863 when that city was besieged by the entire 2nd Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, as it advanced toward Maryland. The 5th Md. was among the units which managed to cut it's way through Confederate lines at a high cost in dead and wounded.

The regiment was so badly beaten up at Winchester, it was forced to return to Baltimore to recruit and refit, not rejoining the Army of the Potomac until early 1864. Of those new recruits, nearly 100 men deserted immedately after receiving their enlistment bounty.

The 5th rejoined the Army of the Potomac in time to particpate in the siege of Petersburg, June to September, 1864; Battle of the Crater, July 30th 1864; Siege of Richmond, October, 1864 to April 1865; the Second Battle of Fair Oaks, October 27th, 1864; and the occupation of Richmond, April, 1865.

Regiment lost during service 1 Officer and 63 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 6 Officers and 91 Enlisted men by disease. Total 161.

P.R. Winn, Drummaker

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