Fun with ebay:

Soliciting thoughts on this fife, its price, its provenance. . . [picture is gone, dang!]


Yikes, it went for how much???  ($398.00) This is what the seller said:


I purchased this fife in about 1985 at an auction in Bucks County, Penna., where I worked as an auctioneer. The family, the Hellyers, were selling antiques of their father’s estate  in which this fife was included. With the fife came a note written by one of the Hellyers (I beleive the deceased Mr. Hellyer). I have included a photo of the note which reads as follows.”This fife was played in the 1812 Second War with Great Britain by Alexander Hellyer, when 16 years old. Father of Myron B. Hellyer who died at the age of 91 in 1924, and Granfather to S. Helen Wismer Hellyer.”

I have no reason to question the legitimacy of it. As I remember, the Hellyers were fine, reasonable people who were selling a variety of quality items.Mr. Hellyer, dec’d, owned a garage in Willow Grove, Pa.  I have done a cursory family search and have found Hellyers in England as well as Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Perhaps you may want to do a more complete search.

Condition: Seems to me to be in very nice condition. I see no cracks in the wood. One ferrel is missing and, judgeing by the patina, has been missing for generations.I’m not sure of the wood. Looks a lot like maple but, I have found out that many early American fifes were of boxwood.I will leave it to you to decide. Patina looks just right throughout.

The fife measures appr. 16 3/8 inches in length. About 7/8 inch diameter at the blow hole, and 5/8 inch at the ferrel.

I am a French Horn player, not a fluteist or historian, but I have every belief that this fife to be an authentic piece of American military history and was ,indeed ,used in the 2nd War of 1812. And, this being the Bicentennial of that war, makes the timing fitting. Perhaps a Civil War reinactor could use a genuinely old fife for performances this season!

I offer this fife at ABSOLUTE AUCTION, with NO RESERVE! Included is the hand written, pencil on paper, note as quoted above.Please contact me for any reason. I will respond to the best of my ability. Thank you for your interest.”

Someone sent me a copy of the most recent Ancient Times, Published by The Company of Fifers & Drummers,. Inc., Winter 2012 Issue 135. . . smaller than I remember it.  Am I the only one to miss the center page-spread of photos?  I think most of us would turn to that first to see what’s going on and who’s making it happen (especially since there are only 3 events listed in the calendar). . .only nine-and-a-half fifers and drummers at Jaybird Day 2011? ? ?. . .but I am reminded it’s the quality, not the quantity that counts! . . . I see the First Michigan bypassed the calendar in favor of that impressive full-page ad. . .  lots of pages all about the Downfall. . . in case you haven’t already seen it on his website, it’s a nice piece of work by Robin Engleman. . . a couple of pages on Gettysburg, where the reenactors take a break from history to indulge in a kick-ass jollification, a custom borrowed from their Ancient cousins. . .

Here’s a good place to talk., the Art of the Jollification.  Is it an Ancient custom?  I am thinking of the “rummy parade” that followed the exhibitions and field days of the 19th century, and I want to say “yes indeed, it’s an Ancient thing.”  But musicians everywhere since time immemorial must have felt the need to congregate and share tunes.  What makes the jollification different than a jazz drummer’s jam or the Irish whistler’s session?  Your thoughts, please.