WFL Rope-Tensioned Field Drum
From the website of the Percussive Arts Society's Museum:
During the Second World War, restrictions were placed on the manufacture of musical instruments and other objects considered non-essential to the war effort in the United States. The metal components in these objects could constitute no more than 10% of the total weight.
In response to this law, Cecil Strupe, of the WFL Drum Company, revived an age-old design for tensioning parade drums using woven rope and leather ears. The single rope was strung through holes drilled in the solid maple counterhoops, which allowed the player to tune both heads simultaneously by pulling on the leather ears. The simplicity of the design and ease of use resulted in WFL being awarded a bid to the United States Army in 1942 for 4,000 drums—the largest single order for drums ever awarded to a manufacturer by the United States military.
This 15 x 14-inch drum is constructed with a lacquered, maple shell, two solid maple counterhoops, calfskin drumheads, woven rope, and leather tuning ears. A knurled-knob snare strainer, which lacks an instant “on/off” mechanism, is mounted by means of a wood bracket and used to tension the 12 gut snares. The drum features a gray aluminum badge: “W.F.L. DRUM CO. / Wm. F. LUDWIG / PRESIDENT / 1728 N. DAMEN AVE / CHICAGO.” Stamped inside the drum are the numbers “5 69 6,” the meaning or significance of which is unknown at present.
Acquisition of this unique drum was made possible through the Ralph Pace Museum Acquisition Fund. It was purchased from an organization that had received the drum as a fund-raising donation from a private collector who had rescued it from a “second-hand” shop.
Detail showing the aluminum badge. Picture of workers assembling rope drums at the WFL factory in 1942 (from The Ludwig Book, courtesy of Rebeats Publishing).
—James A. Strain, PAS Historian, and Otice C. Sircy, PAS Museum Curator and Librarian, with contributions by Rob Cook and Harry J. Cangany, Jr. We are grateful for the assistance of James Ellis of the Cooperman Fife & Drum Company, who donated the replacement batter head.