Saturday, March 10, 2012

John J. Pole - Kettledrums for the Army

Reader Jay Martin writes:


Do you have any information on a drum maker John J. Pole who was active circa 1900 in Geneva, NY? Apparently, he made some cavalry kettledrums for the Army, but I haven't found much on him yet. Came across your blog and thought you might be a resource. Thanks for your time. Jay

ANSWER: Well, we didn't have any information on our website about Pole, so we went to Google and found some. Here it is.



The kettledrums
John J. Pole, Geneva, New York, United States
circa 1890?
wood, metal, skin
70 cm (diam.),
35 cm (depth,
40 cm keys included),
65 cm (H on its feet)
St. Boniface Museum


Made of wooden planks put together with a hoop like a barrel, the body of this kettledrum is shaped like a dome. A metal band holds a stretched skin on the body. Seven metal screw keys are attached to the band and can be turned by hand to adjust the tension of the skin. This changes the pitch of the instrument's sound. The kettledrum is set on a simple metal tripod. It was manufactured by John J. Pole, Geneva, New York, around 1890.

Kettledrums are played with felt mallets in groups of two or three or even more. These percussion instruments were adopted by the symphony orchestra during the XVIIIth century.

This kettledrum came to the museum's collections through Marius Benoist of St. Boniface. A sometime historian, this musician, composer and orchestra conductor played a leading role on the musical scene in French Manitoba.

Marius Benoist was born in 1896 at Sainte-Anne-des-Chênes in Manitoba and studied the piano, organ and singing in St. Boniface and Montreal. In addition to being choirmaster of St. Boniface Cathedral for 40 years, he was the founder and director of a number of musical ensembles: the Sinfonietta symphony orchestra, the choir of the Gounod Lyric Society as well as the Calixa-Lavallée Society, a youth orchestra made up of his music students.

Benoist produced many musical compositions including one, "La légende du vent", that won the Etrog Award (today the Genie Award) of the Canadian Academy of Cinema and Television in 1973. He took up the baton for the last time in 1978 as the Sinfonietta celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

Also, see

For an overview of tympani, see


  1. Thanks for posting this info. Unfortunately, I did already have this information. But, hopefully it will be of interest to others, or inspire someone else to post on Pole and his drums. Thanks again, great blog.

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