“Build it and they will drum.” Dedicated to research, study and comparisons of field drums. Our purpose is to collect information about historical U.S. drums (manufacture, preservation, conservancy, repair, market) for use by scholars, collectors and others. Photographs of drums, and anything related, together with informative narratives, are welcome. Interested readers will find archived postings a good resource. Reach us at email@example.com.
"I came across your blog when researching information regarding a specific style drum and I hope you would be so good to share any information you may have regarding such.
"I am trying to ascertain what colors U.S. Army regimental drums would have been painted in 1803. I have a snare drum built by Nathan Carroll which is painted in the traditional blue body with red hoops. I purchased it for the 1812 bicentennial. However, now I am researching the army during the construction of the Natchez Trace road in the old southwest territory in the early 1800's.
"I have read that U.S. Army military drums during the early Federal period were painted with blue hoops, blue body, and thirteen federal style stars. So, my question is... when did the color change from the "Federal style" to the red/blue combination seen during the War of 1812 period? Additionally, the book 'Tailor Made, Trail Worn' illustrated by Michael Haynes shows a Lewis & Clark ca.1804 drummer with the red/blue design although he gives very few details on the drum. He does state that the emblem design on the drum is conjectural but I don't know if the colors of the drum are conjectural as well.
"If you have any information on this subject I would be greatly appreciative if you would share.
are storytellers. They connect us - to our past, to long-gone strangers
whom we’ve never met, to each other, and even to ourselves. To study an
artifact is powerful and necessary. It is a responsibility that we have
as human beings - and as drummers and percussionists - to preserve the
stories of our craft and to preserve the names, faces, and teachings of
those who came before us. Aaron and I find inspiration in those stories,
which is part of the reason why we so enjoy taking the time to help
protect that history and discover new editions of it, no matter how
is the story of one small artifact: a roughly 5"x7" glass negative
found (in its digital file form) in the Library of Congress Prints &
Photographs online database. It is one of about 70,000 glass and film
negatives given to the Library in 1955 by the Harris & Ewing
photography studio of Washington, D.C. When this particular negative was
digitized, Library staff gave it a simple title (“Drummers”) based on
the only information they could gather from the content of the photo
itself - that four of the five men pictured were carrying drums. There
was no accompanying title or caption and the smallest date range they
could gather was that it was taken between 1923–1929 (based on other
nearby negatives in the collection).
this image fascinated me. Clearly there was a reason this moment was
captured. I had to know what that reason was and why that reason didn’t
already travel with this negative. As always, discovery begins with
questions. And I had a ton of questions.
some logical reasoning and a little bit of research, I was able to
determine that the man receiving the award in the image was the one and
only Frank S. Fancher: renowned rudimental snare drummer, legendary
record-breaker, and all-around badass boundary pusher.
began my research on the guess that the non-uniformed man had to be a
relatively “big name” in rudimental drumming during the 1920s. I knew
that there were several powerhouse drummers during the ‘20s who would
regularly compete in drum corps contests held at American Legion posts
all around the country and that rudimental drumming, and these contests,
still had close ties to the military. After all, during the first two
decades of the 20th century, the snare drum in America was just starting
to see a shift from the battlefield to the concert hall. Many of the
most notable rudimental drum instructors during this era were veterans
of the Spanish-American war. Some of the greatest and most important
names in drumming flourished during the ’20s: J. Burns Moore, Sanford
Moeller, Dan English to name just a few. William F. Ludwig’s drum
company was still just becoming a household name in the percussion
There it was. Drum companies in the 20s were just starting to collect
endorsers - the best players they could get - and where else to
advertise their endorsements but in their catalogs? So off I went (one
tab over in my browser) to drumarchive.com. [Sidebar: If you haven’t
been to drumarchive.com, you really need to go there. Right now. It’s
amazing.] Anyway, I figured I would start with Ludwig, the biggest name
in drums at the time (and the company most contracted by the U.S.
government to manufacture service drums). I scrolled through a few
catalogs - 1922, nope…1923, no endorsers in that one either…1924,
nothing. Finally, as I’m scrolling through the 1927 catalog - debating
whether I’m even going in the right direction at all - there he is.
Frank S. Fancher. And he’s wearing a badge in this photo - an identical badge to the one being bestowed upon him in the LOC negative.
I had a name, and from there I was able to finish the story. Fancher’s
name appeared in a few Ludwig company histories (and one Slingerland
history). There were a couple web pages about his relationship with drum
craftsman Odell M. Chapman and Fancher’s time with Chapman’s
Continental Drum Corps of Willimantic, CT. I found the obituaries
published in a 1966 issue of the Bridgeport Telegram newspaper and
learned that Fancher, “a champion drummer many years ago”, died on
Tuesday, February 1st, 1966 - less than a month after his friend, Odell
Chapman, passed away at his home in Newport. I learned that Fancher’s
drum - the one crafted by Chapman himself - lives on at the Company of
Fifers and Drummers Museum in Ivoryton, CT.
I found the last piece of the puzzle in Rob Cook’s The Ludwig Book: A Business History and Dating Guide Book. In
that text, Mr. Cook shares a postcard depicting two men - Frank Fancher
and William F. Ludwig wearing U.S. Army Band uniforms and carrying
Ludwig field drums - with the title “In the Inaugural Parade.
Washington, D.C. March 4th, 1925.” There was text on the back of the
postcard, too. It reads:
Fancher and William F. Ludwig were honorary members of the United
States Army Band in the inauguration of President Coolidge on March 4th,
1925. Permission to play in the band, and honorary membership, was
conferred upon them by Captain Sherman for services rendered [to] the
U.S. School of Music and the U.S. Army Band in connection with the
promotion of rudimental drumming. On March 3rd, Frank Fancher won the
U.S. National Rudimental contest held at the Washington Barracks, DC.”
there you have it. One story told by one small artifact. And though
this story is but a pinpoint in a much larger and more illustrative
narrative, it still matters. It mattered to Frank Fancher. It matters to
me. And I’m sure it means something to anybody who has ever held a pair
of snare drum sticks and felt the weight of a drum on their shoulders,
or heard the sound of their instrument resonate through the concert
hall, surrounded by other musicians who love their craft.
me its the journey of the artifact itself. Ninety-two years ago, a
photographer with Harris & Ewing, Inc. saw fit to imprint this
moment onto a glass plate. He was probably a freelance photographer with
the news service and took the photo with the idea of it being sold to a
local newspaper - these were two of the biggest names in drumming, in
town for the inaugural parade. But, for one reason or another, that
never happened. So there it sat, unpublished, in a storage room in the
studio at 1313 F Street NW, until George Harris retired in 1955 and gave
his entire collection of negatives to the Library of Congress. And
somehow, out of 70,000 negatives, this one was one of the 28,000 that
were turned into a digital file directly from the original. So thanks to
the preservation work by the Prints & Photographs Division staff, I
was able to stumble upon it while hanging out with my dog on a Sunday
afternoon. (Yeah. The internet is magic.)
that negative could just as easily have been destroyed. Just like so
many one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted snare drums that were thrown away by
unknowing grandchildren of Civil War veterans. Or beautiful,
hundred-year-old tambourines - with another hundred years of life left
in them, at least - that are “upcycled” into primitive wall decorations,
never to see a concert hall again. We all collectively, as
percussionists, need to preserve these artifacts and the stories they
carry with them.
go explore and go discover and cherish each detail you find. Find the
missing pieces of our past and bring them to light. Share them with each
other and pass them on to our future generation.
And remember that one day, an artifact will tell your story, too.
was the first edition of our new, weekly Sunday percussive-history hang
out. If you dig it, feel free to share with a friend who may also dig
it. If you have any questions, please shoot us an email at www.artifactpercussion.com/contact
back next week to learn about one our favorite artifacts in our
collection: a one-of-a-kind WFL tambourine that jingle-jangled for
Description: Remarkable Antique Civil War Drum |
This very rare Drum has the original stenciled decoration | The Drum is
of folk art militia style and bears manufacturer label of John G. Pike
of New York, circa 1860-80 | Drum is made of Rosewood and Birdseye Maple
and is in excellent condition for its age | Has original straps |
Measures 15″ high and 16 3/4″ diameter | A militia drum labeled by John
G. Pike [purportedly] is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is
illustrated at page 63 of American Musical Instruments in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lawrence Lubin, W.W. Norton & Co, 1985,
which states: “John G. Pike made one of the few attributable American
drums in the collection (Fig. 43). Inside its shell is Pike’s printed
label, listing his stock in trade: Premium Drums. Bass Drums! for brass
and martial bands-2 to 3 feet Head. SNARE DRUMS, the double or lined
stave drums, Made of Rosewood and Birdseye Maple, also the common maple
and Boy’s drums, of all sizes, kept constantly on hand. Repairing Done
on Short Notice. JOHN G. PIKE, Mitchell Street, Norwich, N. Y. Pike
(b. Plymouth, Chenango County, N.Y., December 23, 1815; d. Norwich,
N.Y., July 1, 1884) married Sarah D. Haight of neighboring Smyrna. It
was after their fifteen-year-old son’s death in 1853 that the couple
moved to Norwich, where they subsequently bought and sold several
parcels of land. On November 4, 1854, the Chenango Union reported the
opening in Norwich of the John A. King & Co. piano factory; Pike, a
leading partner, owned the building. The factory did not prosper for
long, and by 1867 Pike was pursuing the drum maker’s trade. This
occupation was not unrelated to another local industry, the making of
cylindrical wooden cheese boxes. New York was the nation’s leading
cheese-producing state after 1851, when Jesse Williams established
America’s first cheese factory in Rome, Herkimer County, forty-seven
miles north of Norwich. Upstate dairies used great quantities of
drum-like cheese boxes, and it is probable that more than a few “white
coopers” produced drums. At any rate, the front room of Pike’s East
Main Street house was furnished as a salesroom, with walls full of drums
hung from nails. As late as 1883 the Norwich directory listed Pike as a
drum maker, though failing health and poor vision had forced him to
curtail manufacture some years earlier. A respected Republican and
member of the Congregational church, Pike was known throughout town as
an able mechanic. The Museum’s Pike bass drum measures about
twenty-eight inches in diameter, a standard small size convenient for
parades. Its mahogany-colored hardwood shell has red hoops, and
blue-shaded gold decoration instead of tacks around the air hole. Pike
could have purchased ready-made the calfskin or cheaper sheepskin heads
he used, as well as the standard Italian hemp cords, tinned iron hooks,
and leather “ears,” but the shell and hoops he surely made himself,
carefully lapping the joints and reinforcing the laminated, stavebuilt
cylinder with internal ribs at top and bottom. James Robb, drummer of
Johnson’s Band in Norwich, had a Pike bass drum like this one, which he
claimed was the best he ever played.”
Per Frank Dorritie, "These recordings are remarkable and the playing is state of the art for the context. You may be interested that the bugles used herein are in the Key of F, meaning they are the Cavalry type, or possibly, Regulation G's with the tuning slides pulled out to the F line, though this is less likely given the superb intonation and tone here.
"Also attached a pic of my own fully restored Edison Cylinder Player."
"Civil War Eagle Snare Drum of the 78th New York Infantry, 1st
Regiment Eagle Brigade, Cameron Highlanders. The regiment left
for the "seat of war" in April 1862, and was engaged at Antietam,
Chancellorsville and Gettysburg and, later, through heavy fighting
in Georgia, being consolidated with the 112th New York in July
1864. The drum is 10" high with a 17" diameter, doubtless being
slightly shortened during the period of use, which is not uncommon
with the diminutive size of many drummers. Both heads intact,
retaining most of the original rope, now broken, and one of the
original tighteners, only remnants of the label remain. Brass tack
decoration around the air hole, classic painted eagle decoration
with the number 78 deeply carved preceding Reg. Original red
painted hoops. The drum is in as found/ untouched condition, having
surfaced a number of years ago with other artifacts related to this
and other New York state regiments. The drum retains about 80% of
the original paint decoration, with no imminent signs of further
deterioration. Hoops retain 95% of the original red paint with
demonstrable wear from the ropes. The drum is accompanied by the
original fine condition sticks, with artificially grained
decoration, the first example we've seen and the original cloth
storage bag, black cotton with gray silk lining, a few holes, but
very good and sound."
FieldDrums.com Blogmaster's Note: Probably cut-down based on three reasons (the 10" height; the emblazonment is cut-off top and bottom; the tack pattern appears also to have been cut off at the top and the bottom of the shell).
Description: Regulation Civil War Infantry
drum. The drum gives every appearance of being very well used since the
war, with restoration to the leather hoop tighteners and replaced cords.
Brass tacking looks to be original on drum air hole. Drum head of
bottom is torn. The paint on both the red hoops and the eagle decorated
panel is worn but retains vibrancy.
Experts in the drum community, please feel free to comment. Share your comments on this drum. If it's original, was it simply not finished (even to the point of not painting in the usual information on the banner)? The emblazonment looks so clean and the counterhoops so fresh as to suggest that if it is original, it's never been used. But, is it CW?
War Era Sewell Morse Brattleboro Vermont Snare drum in excellent
overall condition - drum retains early leather, bindings and gut snares.
Minor marks, dings and wear to drum but appropriate for an object of
this age, 8" high 18" diameter.
9th Vermont infantry drum. An unusual tenor drum dating from 1830-1840 most likely from milita use prior to war. Drum is marked with 9 VT INF in blue pain on old red surface. It has been repaired and restored by Charles Soistman of "The Rolling Drum Shop"- Drum retains early paint, one original hoop (now damaged) and canvas hanger with two period correct drumsticks. 17 in High x 16 diameter.