Friday, March 6, 2015

Charles Hubbard, Drum Emblazonment Artist

Charles Hubbard is credited with painting the emblazonments on several drums discussed in this blog:
But who was Charles Hubbard?  (Images from

The National Lancers with the Reviewing Officers on the Boston Common. 1837. Charles Hubbard, American, 1801–1876. Lithograph, hand-colored. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

And there is an article on Wikipedia.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cleaning an Old Drum

This is likely to draw a storm of comments, agreeing and disagreeing, about the best way to clean an old drum.  But here goes:

A reader emailed saying that he'd been asked to restore this Civil War era drum for a local historical association.  The drum carries a label "H. Deming" of Ohio.

"I just returned from Cooperman up in Bellows Falls, VT.  I spent the PM of the 22nd working with Jim Ellis, and we made major progress toward an appropriate restoration.

"The drum came to me with two sets of rope hooks(of 3 mixed designs, including a carry hook); snare strainer with wire snares, one skin head mounted to one flesh hoop (punctured & badly warped), the other flesh hoop (broken & distorted, but no skin), heart-shaped leather ears (each stamped twice with a circular star design), and two different styles of threaded metal tensioners.

"The drum now has two new flesh hoops and Pakistani goat skins (the extant pcs. will be archived), and I am now about to add some minor finishing touches.  We restored it as a rope-tension drum despite its rather short stature (to utilize the leather ears); both sets of metal tensioners--perhaps one or both used in later modifications of the drum--will also be archived.

"There is a brass grommet that fits the vent hole, though I think bone might have been more often used for this purpose."

Here are a few photos:

I wrote: "There is a restorer's wood cleaning product called "What I Use".  I've used it on old, dried out wood drums with much success."  See

He replied: "Thanks, hadn't heard of this product.  But, I never use any oil-based cleaning product on anything of value; the oil component always darkens with oxidation over time.  It is very difficult (actually, nearly impossible) to safely remove or rejuvenate in the future.  For general cleaning, I most often use an alkaline soap named Vulpex, in only a 1-2% conc. solution.  It is miscible in both water and mineral spirits, and rinses cleanly.

Then, all I do is apply a paste wax (or, if the finish is real bad, a mineral spirits soluble varnish such as Gamar Picture Varnish (see link, below)."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Drumming Champions Part 1

Courtesy of the great Larry McCormick: The beginnings of drumming in America, the icons, and masters of the system for teaching drumming skills. The heritage they passed on dating from the 1930's. This is part 1 of a series of interviews and discussions with those greats, who were Champions, and laid the groundwork those of us who followed.

Interviews Robert ("Bobby") Redican, and discusses J. Burns Moore, Frank Arsenault and others.

Reposted here to give the video more exposure.  Thank you Larry.  Looking forward to part 2 when Larry posts it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Busiel's Brass Drum

From a reader of our blog:

Hi thanks so much!  I will give you the shortest version I can to tell the story of this drum.  I bought it at an estate auction about a week ago and it came with no information and the three old sticks as shown.  From the estate of Mr Dennison.  As I also purchased a huge box lot if books there I happened upon a request of military documents for one Albert L. Busiel.  Apparently a relative.  I ripped this into tiny pieces and threw the paper away.  Upon inspecting the drum I found a peep hole and shined my light in it.  To my surprise under the drum skin was written: 

George W Busiel
East Andover NH
May 29th 1879

I quickly recalled the Busiel name, got the papers glued back together and researched Albert L. Busiel.  It's a sad story and I'll let the pics I send tell it.  I'm wondering if he is holding the drum I have, left to his brother or if the drum is altogether different.

Drum details: approximately 12 inches high by 16 inches across.  Looks to be a brass body.  Skins are slightly warped.  No holes.  Eagle says Maker on the left and Boston on the right of his feet.  Drumsticks came with it.  One is stamped HDS.

I know the New Hampshire Militia was activated for the Spanish War in 1879 so it's possible George was the drummer for that time.  I guess the date of the drum will tell all.  Thank you so much I hope you enjoy the history.  

Sincerely-Patrick Marks
(Pics to follow)


On Feb 12, 2015, at 7:59 AM, Ellis Mirsky <> wrote:
Absolutely.  Please send as much info as you can.  The more photos the better.  Details of hardware and and inscriptions, writings, interior labels would be helpful.
(Sent from my iPhone)
Ellis R. Mirsky

On Feb 11, 2015, at 11:08 PM, Patrick Marks <> wrote:
Hi there.  If I sent you some pictures of my drum could you help me identify the maker?  Thanks in advance for your consideration.  I looked thru all your drum pictures but couldn't find a match.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

1890 Lyon & Healy Snare Drum on Exhibit at Musical Instrument Museum, Scottsdale, Arizona

The Musical Instrument Museum (Scottsdale, Arizona) is running a special exhibition on drums of the world through June 21, 2015.  An elaborately inlaid 1890 Lyon & Healy snare drum donated to the museum by the publisher of FieldDrums blog is part of the exhibit.  See Musical Instrument Museum Receives Two 1890 Lyon & Healy Drums, this blog, October 30, 2009.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Drumheads - What You Need to Know

For a good, short article on the characteristics and suitable uses of various kinds of drumheads, see "What You Need to Know About ... Drumheads," written by Frank Azzarto, in the Oct. 27, 2011 edition of Modern Drummer.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tree Planting at Marine Corps Veterans’ Home – Iwo Jima Style

Happened in front of the house that Mom (Sgt., USMC retired) and Dad (Sgt., USMC retired) called home in the Bronx.

Photo credit: Steve Mirsky

You can't make these things up.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Confederate Drum

The drum was found in Blaine, Tennessee, twenty miles east of Knoxville, in a former Confederate camp. Drummer boys on both sides could be as young as nine years old. Drums communicated group activities in camp as well as orders on the march and in battle. At the Battle of Fort Sanders, the youngest person killed was Charles Gardner, a 14-year-old drummer, from the 2nd Michigan.


The McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, aims to advance the understanding of natural history and culture through our collections, exhibitions, research, and outreach programming. The McClung Museum, which was opened in 1963, has strong collections in anthropology, archaeology, material and visual culture, and natural history.

Exhibits at the museum showcase the geologic, historical, and artistic past of Tennessee, as well as cultures from around the globe. In doing so, the museum seeks to promote a better understanding and respect for the world’s cultural heritage.

As a part of the university, the McClung supports and participates in the mission to serve the state, region, and nation through scholarship, teaching, artistic creation, professional practice, and public service. The McClung is one of only eighteen museums in Tennessee to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, reflecting the institution’s commitment to excellence.

Wurlitzer Bass Drum, Model 1460

The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company was established in 1856 in Cincinnati, Ohio by Rudolph Wurlitzer (1831–1941), a German immigrant whose family had manufactured and sold musical instruments for over a century before his birth. Wurlitzer’s Catalog Number 118, dated 1921, states that Wurlitzer is the “Largest General Musical House in the World,” and as such, manufactured and sold all types of drums and percussion instruments.

Page 75 of the catalog bears the heading “The Unrivaled Wurlitzer Bass Drums” and includes the Model No. 1460 Bass Drum, a rope-tuned drum available in ten different sizes, ranging from 12 to 14 inches in depth and from 24 to 36 inches in width. The drum was available in either maple or mahogany shells, and it had detachable leather ears with “improved type cord hooks.” Twelve ears, each with a pair of hooks, are shown on the catalog picture.

This 12 x 26-inch drum was part of a collection belonging to Tom Lonardo, Sr., who owned Lonardo Piano Co. in Paris, Tennessee from 1963 to 1991. It features a 3-ply mahogany shell—reinforced inside by two maple hoops—and natural-finished maple counterhoops. Though originally manufactured with twelve leather tuning ears, only eleven decorated, leather tuning ears remain. These ears, in conjunction with the eleven “improved” cord hooks on each side of the drum, provide tension on the rope for tuning the two calfskin heads. Inside, a prominent paper label identifies the maker: “The Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. Manufacturers of Drums, Band Instruments. Cincinnati, O. Send for Catalogue.”

Source: Rhythm Discovery Center website at

Monday, December 22, 2014

Early American Patriotic Painted Drum

Early American Patriotic Painted Drum

Lot #: 20
Ca 1795. 15.75" height x 16" diameter. Void of maker's label. Black stenciled letters Liberty and initials AJF. "Chicken head" eagle with patriotic shield. The eagle is clutching a 16-star American flag in one talon and olive branches in the other. Body of drum is secured together at the seam with rivets.
Price Realized $6,325


Sanford Augustus "Gus" Moeller Wooden Polychrome Painted Field Drum

Sanford Augustus "Gus" Moeller Wooden Polychrome Painted Field Drum

Lot #: 454
Sanford Augustus "Gus" Moeller Wooden Polychrome Painted Field Drum, c. 1957, for the "Sons of the American Legion Post," Manhasset, New York, impressed mark, with a pair of drumsticks, related books and pamphlets.  
Estimate $300-500
Price Realized $356


Union Manufacturing Co. Civil War Eagle Drum

Civil War Era Hand-Painted Drum with Eagle Motif

Lot #: 203
17" width x 14" height. Body of drum with a worn image of an eagle and patriotic shield with motto E. Pluribus Unum in a riband. Label inside drum reads, Drum materials of all kinds major staffs, flag staffs, ornaments, fife and drum sticks. Union Manufacturing Co., West Baltimore St.  Baltimore, M.  
An almost identical drum is located in the Maryland Historical Society was owned by Union drummer boy James W. Sank. It bears a silver plaque that reads, James W. Sank, by the officers and men of Camp A Purnell Legion May 1863. Sank was one of the many young men who were drummers marching beside the ranks and often facing the most fire during battles.
Price Realized $1,725