Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Boy with [Toy?] Drum in 1865 CDV -- Is It a Field Drum?

A summer education intern at a southern fine arts museum doing research on field drums for a Fourth of July workshop sent us a photograph recently purchased by the museum's decorative arts curator who asked that she inquire about it.

The photo is of a young boy posed with a drum. They were wondering if it was an authentic field drum used in the Civil War (the photograph dates to 1865) or just a photographer’s prop.


We responded as follows:

Judging by the size of the drum in Mr. Brown’s photo, I would say that it looks like a real but toy children’s drum.

It’s real, in that it is built to very similar specifications to those of a field drum. It is a toy, in my opinion, because it is probably only 10 to 12 inches in diameter and about the same size in height. Civil War field drums generally went from 14” to 16” (and earlier drums went to 18” and even 21” in diameter).

Also, although it’s difficult to say for sure, the rope looks a bit thin for a field drum. And, importantly, there appear to be only 8, as opposed to 10 or more, drilled holes in each of the counterhoops (rims).

See, e.g., "J. C. Haynes & Co. Drum (Child Size)", this blog, Sep. 6, 2008.


See, also, this image (below) from the collection of the New York Public Library which looks very much like the drum in your photo. ("The Phenomenal Digital Collection of Prints of the New York Public Library", this blog, Jan. 3, 2009)

Image Title: The Infant Drummer, Wm. Henry Marsh. Aged 2½ Years.
Medium: Engravings
Specific Material Type: Prints
Source: Muller Collection / William Henry Marsh
Location: The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts / Music Division
Catalog Call Number: Muller Collection (Marsh, William Henry #1)
Digital ID: 1270440
Record ID: 624934
Digital Item Published: 10-24-2005; updated 7-31-2007


By comparison, this (below) is what a regulation drum would look like in comparison to the size of a young boy (probably a bit older than the boy in your photo):


Source: "Union Drummer Boy CDV", this blog, Nov. 25, 2008.

So, it looks pretty certain that the drum in your photo is not a regulation drum but a toy drum. Just as real but not for use in the field.

[Also see eBay item no. 120439356949. The drum looks very similar.

The above drum is described on eBay as:
A CHARMING AND DELIGHTFUL CIVIL WAR PERIOD IDENTIFIED CARTE-DE-VISITE BY J. KIRK OF NEWARK, NEW JERSEY SHOWING YOUNG WILLIE PEMBERTON ATWOOD HOLDING TWO DRUMSTICKS AND STANDING NEXT TO A LARGE PAINTED DECORATED DRUM. HE STANDS ON A CHAIR WITH THE DRUM UP ON A TABLE. BEARS KIRK'S IMPRINT LOGO ON VERSO. 1860s.

IN NEAR FINE CONDITION, ONE SMALL EMULSION TEAR OR ABRASION AT TOP CENTER EDGE, ELSE VERY FINE TONALITY AND SHARPNESS, SOME MINOR SPOTTING AS SEEN IN SCAN. 1860s.


And see eBay item no. 120442930383 which also looks dimensionally similar.


The above drum is described as: an antique wooden rope snare drum with leather tabs. ... It measures about 6 and 1/2" tall and is almost 10" in diameter. The wood looks mostly to be in good shape, and the top and bottom wooden bands have a light blue pinstripe that encircles the drum. The top of the drum does look like it has some pencil marks/doodle on it, and there are two very small tears just beginning on the outer edge as shown in the pictures. They are about 3/8" long. The bottom of the drum does have 3 strips that go across the diameter of it, and there are a couple of tears beginning around the edges of this side too. They measure about 1" to 1 and 1/4".]

Best regards.

Ellis Mirsky
BlogMaster@FieldDrums.com

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