Well, given my oft-stated philosophy that “a fife (or anything else, for that matter) is worth whatever someone is willing to pay,” this fife is probably worth that much to someone, especially when you get this cool-looking piccolo with it:
And it comes with the name of a former Civil War era POW inscribed on it, too:
The problem is, said Civil War era POW didn’t own or play this fife (or the accompanying piccolo) until long after the war was over, simply because Geo Cloos, Inc, which mark is impressed upon the fife (not the piccolo), couldn’t have made or sold it until long after the war was over:
- The machinery to make the ferrules was a postwar invention and Cloos didn’t own any until long after the war was over, and
- Cloos didn’t know a thing about either Crosby or “Crosby Model” fifes (and therefore couldn’t possibly have made any) until long after the war was over, and (most importantly)
- Cloos could not have produced a “Crosby Model” fife without risk of a lawsuit, unless he waited for Crosby to either close up shop or die, both of which were accomplished in short succession but not until long after the war was over.
This is not to say that Ben W. Ash didn’t own a Crosby Model fife (long after the war was over) and play it as often as he liked — he was only one of the thousands of veterans (and sons of veterans and grandsons, even) who did just that — and there has got to be some value to that, just not enough to prompt this old Swamp Yankee to part with that much money and own this lovely piece of Ancient History.
Actually, listings like these sadden rather than frustrate me. The seller deserves commendation for finding the primary source documentation to support his theory on which “Ben W. Ash” might have owned this fife. His problems arose when he presented his vague and unsupportable “history” of the Cloos musical instrument manufactory, none of which he made up and none of which is intentionally misleading — after all, he relied upon a trusted museum for that information. Unfortunately, it is the Library of Congress, not the seller, who needs to do some homework.
For more information about this interesting set of woodwinds, see
And, for more information about the Cloos manufactory, see the entry “Everybody Loves a Cloos Fife” here on this blog.
P.S. Since writing this back in July, I note that today (October 28) the fife is still for sale, with a more reasonable buy-it-now price of $550. Let’s see what happens now!