An Oldie — But Not A Goodie

I’ve been away from eBay for a while, so I was a bit surprised to see this:



offered for sale on eBay, 12-25-2020, Merry Christmas!  Photo courtesy of generallee292.

I see the seller has learned his lesson and stopped fraudulently marking mid-twentieth-century Cloos fifes with “genuine Civil War” regimental imprints.  But now he is committing a different kind of fraud — marking what could very well be a genuine Civil-War-era fife with a fake “genuine Civil-War inscription” <<sigh>> To my mind, this is not only fraudulent, it is a mortal sin that distorts the historical record and ruins the value of what was, before he made his blocky incisions, true (and valuable) antiques. 

However, not all of us have learned to discourage this kind of historical destruction by scrolling past his eBay offerings, because with 4 days and 12 hours to go until this auction reaches its end, the bidding already exceeds $100.00 and dozens of bidders are watching.  


That’s the kind of patina that cannot be entirely scrubbed away. Photo courtesy of generallee292

The seller, identified only as generallee292, believes this instrument to be of museum quality, and he submits reasonably good photos as proof.  From these we can see that the gross characteristics point to a mid-19th-century origin for this instrument — even-size toneholes placed in 2 groups of 3, the oval-shaped embouchure with a slight swell, and a more-or-less straight body with cylindrical brass ferrules.  However, “mid-century” runs from  approximately 1840 to 1870, just sayin’. 

To me, this fife looks primarily machine-made, which would place it towards the end of that mid-century estimation and approach, if not fall right into, the 1870s.  However, the Civil War years cannot be entirely ruled out.  There is just enough gross evidence of handwork (in the application of the ferrule plus its decorative knurled-type strip) to indicate a careful attention to detail in performing tasks that machines could not yet perform, and I would further venture to guess that this was once a quality instrument.  I wonder, though, about the quality of the bore and whether the tone holes were undercut, but these are characteristics that demand personal inspection, which is obviously impossible here.  But one will never know unless one is the (lucky?) purchaser, because the seller has yet to answer my questions.   And he doesn’t accept returns, so. . .

He does, however, give an encouraging description of the fife:


This is not patina, this is polish. Photo courtesy of generallee292.

Unfortunately, generallee292 fails to disclose what to me is a glaring problem with his otherwise-detailed description:  Just when was “114TH PA INF  “carved” on the side near the finger holes”?

This had to have occurred relatively recently, such the day after the seller “purchased [it] from a private collection in Gettysburg, PA” or maybe the day after the day after that, simply because, if for no other reason, the instrument is too clean. 
The “outstanding rich patina throughout” should be a dark, subtle glow, but this fife actually shines as if it had been stripped, cleaned, and polished.  This kind of work, clearly, was done before the carving occurred; otherwise, traces of it would have remained within the exposed raw surfaces of the wood. 

This boxwood fife, ca 1850, retains its patina. #38779755,

By definition patina is “the sheen on a surface, such as one made of wood, produced by age and use.” There is no evidence of age or use in the finish of this instrument.   There are no wear patterns to indicate the countless number of times the fife had been inserted into and withdrawn from a pocket or a case, no wear or darkening to indicate the countless tunes that were fingered on its tone holes, no stains or spots to indicate where coffee spills, candle wax, tobacco juice, or dirt had been cleaned and re-cleaned from its surface.  There are no dings or gouges to indicate that this fife was ever dropped or knocked against a tin cup as it was stuffed into a knapsack — in fact, it looks as though it saw no use at all!  There is no evidence of the years of regular and repeated oiling that preserved this fife body from cracks and would have formed the “rich patina” he claims.  There is no accumulation of anything — dirt, oil, or cleaning agents — in the “carving” itself. 

And, speaking of “carving,” this particular example does not look like it was drawn freehand with a soldier’s penknife or bayonet tip.  It appears to have been “carved” by more sophisticated tooling — plus a template to ensure even height and depth of the lettering.

In my opinion, judging from evidence in the photos, the “carving” is new, period, and anyone from the 114th PA Inf who made it would have had to rise from his grave, sneak into generallee292’s workshop, plug in the router (or laser engraver), perform the dastardly deed, and then sneak back to his resting place.


This ferrule shows not only patina but also pincer marks. As the wood (naturally) shrunk with age, the ferrules would loosen. The pincer made sure they would remain securely in place. Photo courtesy of generallee292.

But there is some proof of age on this instrument that the General couldn’t destroy.  Take a close look at the ferrules, which the seller provides in two views.  There is patina evident in the dings and discolorations.  This is where the metal has resisted his efforts and thus remains as the sole sign of age.  Cleaning and polishing has diminished it, but neither effort could strip this patina away entirely.

Another glaring problem is this:  Why do all of the “army-carved” fifes I’ve seen on eBay sales come from Maryland?   Every one I’ve seen has a different regimental marking. . .and they’ve all been from Yankee regiments.  Of course I haven’t seen them all, and in truth I haven’t even been looking all that hard, so there may be others from other areas of the US; whether they (if they exist) and/or this seller has produced some Confederate marks, I don’t know.  All I know is that the ones I’ve seen are all from Maryland.  The clean, even block-type script seen here is a definite change — and an upgrade from the sans serif font he once imprinted on Cloos fakes — I mean fifes.
Just asking the questions here, because contacting the seller through eBay has still produced no response. 
So, while we await generallee292’s replies, let’s investigate the 114th PA Inf.  There is a great resource right here on WordPress, in this blog:
Here’s a photo of Company F reproduced on that blog, original at the Library of Congress. 

I see a single drum but no fifes.


Company H

Company H with no drums or fifes


No fifes in this company, either.

Of course, a single photo of a few companies of the 114th PA Inf doesn’t supplant a detailed review of the enlistment rolls, pay receipts, pension records, and the like, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are names of fifers listed therein. But even if the 114th had filled-up quotas of fifers all through the war, that would not excuse the historical exploitation that *someone* in Maryland has been getting away with for years.

Let’s not encourage it by sending him money.

Addendum:  Well, it might or might not be true that a sucker is born every minute, but I do believe that 21 of them bid on this fife, thus putting the tidy sum of $750.00 securely into generallee292’s pocket. 

Not bad for a few minutes’ work with a router (or a laser engraver), eh?


The famous showman, Phineas T. Barnum. Courtesy WikiImages.

And, no, while those words have often been associated with him, P.T. Barnum never really said them. . . or if he did, nobody actually heard him. 

In truth, it was the rather inglorious and previously unknown David Hannum, a banker from nearby Syracuse, who said it, and this after he himself had proved his own sucker propensities by purchasing the Cardiff Giant in 1869. 

Scott Tribble tells the story in A Colossal Hoax, the Giant from Cardiff that Fooled America (2008).  It’s a delightful read that is a whole lot cheaper than the musical hoax that prompted this discussion and much more entertaining (and much less disturbing) than any of the political hoaxes we’ve been warned about over the last 4 years. 


The Ancient Craft of Crime and Punishment

Crime has been around for centuries and, unfortunately, is still with us today.  Much like in decades past, crimes committed by soldiers within the military community are adjudicated in military tribunals or courts-martial while secular criminal courts serve the civil society.  The Ancients are among those who depend on public courts, since they are only quasi-military in nature and have no official tribunals of their own.  However, there is nonetheless an Ancient tradition of punishing community offenders, using simple but effective tactics with decidedly nonmilitary roots.  Instead, it’s something they share in common with such disparate groups as the Amish church and second-era Ku Klux Klan.

In British military practice, much of which the Ancients inherited, punishment for a variety of crimes was both prescribed and proscribed.   Thus, while some criminals according to custom, merited flogging,


Image as well as a fascinating discussion of flogging as practiced in Irish garrison towns from

it was limited by regulation to the biblical 39 stripes, anything in excess being deemed unusually cruel.  Of note is that the punishments were meted out ceremoniously, and that ceremony, in the foot troops, at least, included music of the fife and drum.




Essay still under construction, stay tuned (I’m typing as fast as I can!!)

Continue reading

Two Drummers, Two Legacies


The Percival certificate, 1821. Note the second rule, which confirmed that old drummers’ joke “It starts with a seven…everything starts with a seven… Courtesy David Pear, Colchester, CT

On May 15, 1821, Hezekiah Percival of Moodus, Connecticut, was issued a certificate attesting to his proficiency on “the different Beats above named on the drum.” On it, his teacher, Samuel G. Willcox of Middletown’s Upper Houses [present-day Cromwell, CT], declared that the 20-year-old Percival “has been very diligent” and thereby “merits the approbation of his friends, and the recommendation of his Teacher.” Willcox had purchased the certificate from a local printer — a more or less generic form with blank spaces that allowed him to personalize it with date, name, and signature. Despite its fairly commonplace nature and easy availability, only one other such certificate has been discovered. It was prepared some 31 years later by another printer for another teacher who used a similar certificate and similar language to confirm the competence of his own student:

This is to certify that H.J.H. Thompson has been very diligent in attaining a knowledge of the above Rules and Beats, for which he merits the approbation of his friends and the public, and the recommendations of his teacher.

thompson cert

Courtesy the Connecticut Historical Society,

The certificates are quite similar, even though one is dated 1821 and the other 1852. Both were professionally and attractively printed, the latter by Patten’s Job Press in New Haven, CT. They clearly outline a basic and rather traditional repertory that any 19th-century student of military drumming would be expected to master; many of the rules and beats listed thereon are included in the teaching repertory of Massachusetts drummer Benjamin Clark (1797) and are found in a variety of early-to-mid 19th-century American drum instruction publications.

The rules (rudiments) are listed on both certificates in much the same order: Long Roll, Seven Roll, Double Dragg, Single Dragg, Flam, and Flam and a Half. Also included are the Compound dragg, Firing Strokes, Cease Firing Strokes, and Perediddle Strokes as well as the three, five, and eleven-stroke rolls. However, in 1852, Thompson was taught five rudimental combinations that Percival was not: the perididdle drag, 7 roll and 4 singles, 7 roll and 6 singles, the 3 roll and compound drag, and the 3 with 6 singles. He was also expected to master the Paying [poing] Stroke. These additional rudiments were not unknown in the 1820s; indeed, the poing stroke has a long albeit unclear history that was clarified and taught in the American repertory at least by 1810. Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain why they are missing from the 1821 certificate. It is entirely possible that the combination rudiments could represent developments that occurred in military drumming over time, but another likely hypothesis is that Percival, learning to drum in a small Connecticut village, did not need to master everything expected from a city drummer like Thompson. It might also be speculated that he already knew them or learned them by necessity later on in his career. This latter interpretation becomes more viable when perusing the list of Beats, three of which (British Grenadiers, Hail Columbia, and American Eagle) appear on the Thompson certificate but not on Percival’s, even though two of them are readily found in the 1820 military march repertory and one of them, British Grenadiers, has long been a continuous staple in the core Ancient repertory in general and in the Moodus Drum and Fife Corps specifically.

The lists of rules on each certificate would be unremarkable were it not for the annotation Willcox inserted regarding their performance.  He labeled every rule (except the Compound Dragg Strokes) with either “hand to hand,” “change,” or “change hands,”  emphasizing the importance of playing the rudiments “hand to hand.” That is, the drummer should begin the first rudiment with the right hand but should start the second with the left, the third with the right, and so on.  Thus, in executing the string of rudiments that comprise a beat, the drummer will play hand-to-hand,  starting with the right hand and alternating with the left as the beat continues (except, according to Willcox, when playing the compound dragg and, in practice, when performing the single stroke roll).  This is the basic tenet of rudimental drumming, so important that Willcox dared not leave it out of his written instructions but so common that Beach did not bother to write it into his.


Percussionist Robin Engleman writes that this is the earliest known drumming for the Reveille [Three Camps]. George Winters, 1777, Courtesy Robin Engleman,


Both Percival and Thompson were taught to beat Reveille in the sequence prescribed by their teachers:

Percival, 1821 Thompson, 1852
Three camps Three Camps
Hussion Hessian
French French
Double Dragg Compound drag
Single Dragg quick
    6 rolls
Scotch slow Scotch
    Three rolls
Scotch quick
    Three rolls
 Three Camps  Revelly [Three Camps]

Of note are the rolls that define the divisions in Percival’s Reveille, which are lacking in the 1852 certificate. Percival’s reveille also features a Single Dragg played quick as well as two versions of the Scotch. Even though both drummers learned their craft in Connecticut, these differences likely represent regional rather than chronological variations, especially when one realizes that it is the Percival version of the reveille, not Thompson’s, that more closely resembles what was in the mid-19th century air. (As an aside, the reveille was not standardized until 1869, when Strube’s Drum and Fife Instructor was officially recognized by the United States Army; even so, regional differences persisted beyond that date.)

ny militia 1812

Reenactors at Genessee Country Village (2006) dressed in uniforms of the NY State Militia, c, 1812. Their “tall hats” are called shakos.  Courtesy of the Village,

The 1820s-30’s did not offer much occasion for Percival to practice his craft. The federal army remained small following the War of 1812; however, enrollment in Connecticut’s militia companies was strong, thriving, and required. Training days, mandated by Connecticut law, were welcomed venues for the military drummer (and fifer) to demonstrate their skills:

In 1816, there was a general re-organization of the militia throughout the State, which was preserved till within a few years [of 1884]. It is within the memory of our young men that “Training Days” were great events in the history of the town, from which all other events were dated. Soldiers with their tall hats and taller plumes, dressed in showy uniforms, met in companies in the different societies in town, once a year, where they were drilled in the manual of arms-marched in sections, platoons, and by company, and dismissed after several general discharges of musketry. How the boys reverenced these famous soldiers! The greatest scalawag in town, upon these occasions, was transformed into a hero, in their eyes, as long as he wore the regimentals.

Indeed, it was in the militia that Percival’s teacher, Samuel Willcox, found opportunity to drum. He was so good at it that he was elected drum major in 1819, two years before he taught young Hezekiah.

I have yet to find Hezekiah Percival’s name listed as a member of the local militia; however, it would be an interesting but immaterial fact if it was. Regardless of where Percival practiced his craft, his unique and lasting contribution was made in what is known as “Ancient” (rudimental), not military drumming. That occurred in 1860, when he co-founded the Moodus Drum and Fife Corps. This was – and remains — significant in many ways. Moodus is not the earliest drum corps – there are several other candidates for that, most notably the long-defunct West Granby Fife and Drum Corps. However, it is the earliest drum corps to survive continuously (it is still active today) and, more importantly, it is the earliest drum corps to survive with its primary written documentation. Furthermore, its members retain a respect for the founders bordering on reverence; therefore, very little has changed over the years in the Moodus style of tempo, performance, dress, and drill. In fact, Moodus drumming is easily traced in a continuous line from the 1821 certificate right up until today, 2018.

6-First Uniforms, Moodus

Studio shot of the early Moodus Drum and Fife Corps sometime after acquiring their first uniforms. According to one old-timer, they marched in street clothes until they could afford to purchase uniforms. Original unlocated, copy from Author’s Collection.

The Moodus corps is in truth a sort of musical invention. The Percivals – and maybe the West Granby men – were among the very few who could envision music of the fife and drum outside their historically traditional military confines. The sheer volume of the drums coupled with the shrill, unrefined pitch of the even-hole, straight-bore fifes precluded their use as parlor instruments, but these same features made them perfect for transmitting military commands over the din of large groups of men, ordering their marching, and regulating the functions of the military camp. In fact, the general 19th century public did not regard either the fife or the snare drum as true musical instruments at all; to them, they were simply military signal instruments that belonged outdoors. And outdoors is exactly where the Moodus corps originated in 1860, at a picnic attended by Percival, his brother Orville, and a few family members and friends. However, it wasn’t until 1861, when these same participants began to gather on occasion at the local train station to provide a patriotic musical send-off to Civil War enlistees, that the concept of a marching band comprised solely of civilian fifers and drummers, unsupported by and disconnected from the military, jelled into reality. It took only a few years for the corps to become the pride of Moodus, as this confused but essentially correct memoir relates:

The band was organized in the autumn of 1864, under the tuition of the veteran drummer [Hezekiah] W. Percival. . .many changes have occurred during the 20 years existence of the corps, yet a goodly number of of the original members remain, and the leader, Mr. PERCIVAL, though he has long since laid aside the drum and sticks, finds pleasure, in his 85th summer, in listening to the practice of his boy[s].

The author of these words, who included them in a town history published in 1884, went on to say:

The style of their playing is that of the days when their teacher was in his prime, and their costume is of the old continental fashion. Their drums, too, are of the old style, and several are now more than 100 years old yet in a perfect state of preservation.

While not a perfectly accurate memory (the corps was founded before 1864, and the “several drums” would not approach 100 years of age until about 1920-25), the author did aptly describe what the Moodus corps so admirably did and continues to do today.

Percival died in 1888 but his legacy, embodied in the certificate of merit he earned in 1821, lives on not only in the Moodus Drum and Fife Corps, but also in the many other Ancient corps it inspired. His certificate of merit remains in private hands.

The course followed by Henry James H. Thompson differs markedly from Percival’s. He, too, was 20 years old when he successfully completed his course of drum instruction, but this was during the tumultuous antebellum years that would soon culminate in the War Between the States. While Percival and his musical companions were busy inventing the Moodus Drum and Fife Corps, Thompson was serving in the fife and drum corps of the 15th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers. The letters he wrote to his wife, Lucretia, have been preserved along with many of her replies; while these don’t reveal much about Henry Thompson the drummer, they do teach us a lot about Henry Thompson the man.

Civil War Thief

A thief in the 55th Masschusetts is paraded out of camp in 1863 to the tune of The Rogue’s March. Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress,

The letters are chatty and loving, albeit not necessarily grammatical. Thompson describes the weather, the countryside, and camp life to Lucretia; at one point she learns about the discovery and punishment of a camp thief, the musical ceremony for which her husband was well prepared. He writes of his hopes (although a strong “McClellan man,” he hoped that the election of 1864 would bring peace), and he writes of his disdain for the south (New Bern was a diseased city full of loose women), but mostly he writes of his worries, especially about the progression of the war. He was one of many who believed, in the words of historian Randall C. Jimerson, that the Civil War was a “white man’s war” fought to preserve the Union; to Thompson, slavery was an increasingly bothersome nonissue. Thompson took a dim view of the African American soldier and worried about recruiting them for the war effort. He was certain that they would be undependable in the field, and in May 1863 he told his wife, “they are all for getting out of the way when there is a battle afoot.” His negative suppositions turned into anger as the war dragged on into the summer of 1864, when his view of slaves and slavery worsened. Every freed slave, he complained, has “cost 4 thousand dollars & 1 white mans life thus far.” He fumed that, at that rate, “we shall loose 1 million of lives” and “4 million of dollars” to free a thousand slaves and concluded his rant with a dismal estimation of “3 million [slaves] yet to free.”

His opinion of white southerners was hardly better. Jimerson notes an incident that occurred in October 1862:

After returning from a raid into eastern North Carolina, [Thompson] reported that the inhabitants ‘dont know that there side have ever fired on Fort Sumpter we asked them if they didnt read it in the papers they said they never had any. they eat with their hands they have no knives & forks.’

He continued, “I dont know what you think about such an ignorant class of people in the United States but I know what I think And I am surprised & astonished!” He further assured a possibly incredulous Lucretia that “all I have wrote is true.”


Group of freed slaves in Richmond, VA. Copied from an 1865 stereocard. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress,

The brutality of the war, though, was what shocked Thompson the most. This is what echoes throughout the letters they wrote and saved. Early in his enlistment he confided that, “I have seen horible sights men with their heads blowed off and legs and armes and shot through the body.” It’s little wonder that he wrote even more somber thoughts to Lucretia only two days later, “We are all tired of the war the whole army we never shall whip them.” To him, the war was nothing but “a great slaughter of lives.”

Lucretia agreed. She missed her husband terribly and several of her letters urge him to “take a long step” and “return home to comfort and protect his family.” Jimerson, though, discovered that Lucretia lured her husband with more than just her desire for protection and comfort:

In closing one letter, Lucretia added. “3000 kisses PS if you was at home the[re] would [be] something done besides sending kisses.” Henry felt the same. “I shant tell you what I dreamed last night olney I was 2 home and we was 2 bed.”

They would have to wait until the summer of 1865 for Henry to complete his three-year enlistment and lawfully head home. The reunited family lived unpretentiously in the New Haven area for many years. In 1885 Thompson was awarded a pension for his wartime services, and by 1900 his name appears on the roster of the Admiral Foote Post No. 17 in New Haven, Department of Connecticut, G.A.R. But not for long. Thompson died in 1901 at the age of 69. His certificate is preserved in the archives of the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford.



Copyright January 2018, History of the Ancients Dot Org.  All rights reserved.

It’s Nice to Be Remembered


Olsen (right) enjoying the 2002 Westbrook Muster with Wally Fulton.

The ancient fife and drum community lost more than a fellow fifer, founder, and friend on July 13, 2009.  With the passing of Ed Olsen, we lost a living legend whose entire life united the ancients in music and good will.  It was Ed who as a child never learned to ride a bike because he was too busy fifing for Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn.  It was through Ed that we learned about Jack Clapp and the VCA and the Three Rips (all of whom, by the way, had the biggest feet Ed had ever seen).  It was Ed who moved to CT in 1953 to be closer to the hub of ancient music, and somehow the true golden years of the Ancients began.  He ran a “Committee of 12” (in truth comprised of himself, Cathy, and the late Carl Emmanuelson) who devised and held the very first Ancient Muster in 1953, based on a foundation of “no judging, no prizes, no unkind words.” The art of mustering hasn’t just survived the passing of 50+ years, it has molded the Ancients into a unique community and is what identifies and binds us together in friendship.


At the behest of Ed Olsen, Fred Fennell took time off from the Rochester Philharmonic to attend the Deep River Ancient Muster in 1959.

It was his lifelong collection of fifes, drums, uniforms, accouterments, ephemera, papers and other documents, and images that comprises The Drum Corps Archives located in the Museum of Fife and Drum in Ivoryton, CT.  His wit, sense of humor, personal charm, and most of all his dedication attracted a circle of close friends, now mostly gone — Freddie, Ken, Eddie Classey (no one ever really called him Eddie), Roy, Norm Ott (no one ever really called him Norm), Dave Boddie, the inimitable Bill Pace (who was called a lot of things,but no one ever called him Bill) — a long list that includes old timers that were even older than Ed himself–Charlie Miller, John Golet, Pete Mietzner, Ted Kurtze, Acton Ostling, Gus Moeller — a list that goes on and on.



Olsen marching with the Noah Webster Ancients in Manhattan, 1946. He is playing his $4 Cloos fife.

He gave us a lexicon—“jollification,” “muster,” “circle of friendship,” “tattoo,” “F-Troop,” “standpiece,” “sutler”— some of which he slyly slipped into the jargon of the Ancients and others that developed around it.  He conjured up images of “old New York,” which to him was nothing more (and nothing less) than the stories of Brooklyn neighborhood drum corps.  Thus, we learned of a once-young “Nicky” Attanasio trying to get his drum through the subway turnstile without the benefit of a nickel, the awesome bass drumming of Lexy Sinclair, who was gone too soon; the 1946 “drum corps party” held at Korczak’s home in West Hartford, CT (“we are so ancient, it heurts”), and another held at Alex Smith’s farm in Clinton, memorialized in a photo of  the original “Dreaded Drum Line.”  We learned about the 1939 World’s Fair Field Day and the ill will created between certain drum corps when it may or may not have been Olsen who made sure an ornery old Creeker heard a rumor about one of the judges.  We learned of the escapades of Eddy Breen an d Al Haggarty and the sorry situation of Haggarty’s mother, “who had a bad habit of believing everything I said,” through which we learned of Breen’s “bum foot.”  We learned how the only good fife was a Cloos fife and of Ed’s consternation when he had to pay the exorbitant sum of $4 to replace the one he lost.  He never lost that one, though!  We learned of Jeremiah T. Mahoney, who wondered out loud how his corps had lost a competition based on one-third of a poorly executed rudiment (“And I wan’ ter know,” he said in his best Irish brogue, “whether ‘twas the first t’ird, the second t’ird, or the t’ird t’ird?”)  and how Ed and his comrades left that drum corps meeting upon hearing of the bombing of Pearl Harbor to enlist in the armed forces — and through that, the escapades of Geronimo Field Music.  Thank God Ed came back—there were others who did not.

Jaybird 2004 002

Olsen and friends meet in the Drum Corps Archives to discuss the goings-on at the 2004 Jaybird Day.

When I think of Ed I see him sitting in a lawn chair under the tarp of Mo Schoos’s supercamper at the Westbrook Muster, an ice-cold ale in hand and regaling anyone who stopped by with these and other stories of days gone by. . . those of us who loved him best will never forget them, nor will we ever forget him.

Ed, if you can hear me, please! Save me a place right next to you!  It’s your job to keep me in line!


Copyright 2016, History of The Ancients Dot Org.  All rights reserved.

Moodus Muster, 2013

The best muster EVER!!!!  Weather was wonderful, friends were fantastic, libations were liberal, music was marvelous, jollification was truly AMAZING!  For the first time in a long time I saw real muster etiquette — people calling out tunes rather than bullying their way through them, none of those let’s-practice-our-corps-medley-here-at-the-jam intrusions, lively tempo, and a true feeling of camaraderie that was much welcomed. That’s they way I remember jollifications!

The only regret I have is that there wasn’t MORE MOODUS!  Not that we didn’t beg, plead, and nag them, but I guess they kind of had a good excuse, being busy running the party and all. . .

The corps performances were outstanding — just enough corps to keep you enthralled for the entire afternoon and the standpieces really made you wish they would play maybe just one more tune:

This is the most Mooduses (Moodae? Moodi?) I have ever seen assembled in one should've heard them!

Never saw so many Mooduses (Moodae? Moodi?) assembled in one place…you should’ve heard them!

Brown drums were in abundance.

Brown drums were in abundance.

"I don't wanna work, I just wanna bang on de drum all day..."

“I don’t wanna work, I just wanna bang on de drum all day…”

Don't know what was more awesome, the Irish medley that Westbrook played on stand or the 92? 95?-year-old Lee Zuidema belting it out on the fife. . .

Don’t know what was more awesome, the Irish medley that Westbrook played on stand or the 92? 95?-year-old Lee Zuidema belting it out on the fife. . .

Kentish Guards...reminding us that old standards never get old when they are well played...

Kentish Guards…reminding us that old standards never get old when they are well played…

It's the Adamsville Ancients!  No foolin'!

It’s the Adamsville Ancients! No foolin’!

The best thing about musters?  You can invite ALL your friends, no matter what they play...

The best thing about musters? You can invite ALL your friends, no matter what they play…

...because who could resist this face...

…because who could resist this face…

...or this one!

…or this one!

Olde Toga...who host a pretty nice muster of their own in Kinderhook, NY...

Olde Toga…who host a pretty nice muster of their own in Kinderhook, NY…

Warehouse Point Fifes and Drums...they get better and better every time I see them (and they were pretty darn good to begin with!)

Warehouse Point Fifes and Drums…they get better and better every time I see them (and they were pretty darn good to begin with!)

Deep River Juniors and Seniors making the ground shake...

Deep River Juniors and Seniors making the ground shake…

Sailing Masters of 1812...whose "Sailing Masters Quickstep" is an old Valley tune called "No Mistake." Which is exactly how they performed it.

Sailing Masters of 1812…whose “Sailing Masters Quickstep” is an old Valley tune called “No Mistake.” Which is exactly how they performed it.

Chester Drum Corps, 145 years old...sure beats (snicker) the Energizer Bunny!

Chester Drum Corps, 145 years old…sure beats (snicker) the Energizer Bunny!

They HAVE no last name, they're just June 'n Frenchy.   In fact, they've been June 'n Frenchy just about forever...

Address all mail to June ‘n Frenchy.  They have no last name, they’re just June ‘n Frenchy.

Stony Creek...still restricting 50% of their potential membership simply because of the location of the plumbing...maybe someone should tell them that inside plumbing is an improvement over the old outside stuff...

Stony Creek…still restricting 50% of their potential membership simply because of the location of the plumbing…maybe someone should tell them that inside plumbing is an improvement over the outside stuff…

Watering the kids...not a really bad job when you are with the Windsor kids!

Watering the kids…not a really bad job when you are with the Windsor kids!

Ameri-Clique...a/k/a The Swiss Chefs...or, to us old-timers, Young Dr. Kildare...

Ameri-Clique…a/k/a The Swiss Chefs…or, to us old-timers, Young Dr. Kildare…only kidding, folks!

Milford Volunteers...with more D'Amico's per square foot than any other place on earth...

Milford Volunteers…with more D’Amico’s per square inch than any other place on earth…

Another good reason to attend the Moodus Muster...the Higganum-Haddam Fifes and Drums...

Another good reason to attend the Moodus Muster…the Higganum-Haddam Fifes and Drums…

Leading CVFM in grand style -- General Newsense and Half-A-Mike!!!

Leading CVFM in grand style — General Newsense and Half-A-Mike!!!

"...the overall effect was less one of watching perfection than of watching folk musicians having a very good time playing well." (pp. 75-76)  Right, Dr. Jim?

“…the overall effect was less one of watching perfection than of watching folk musicians having a very good time playing well.” (pp. 75-76) Right, Dr. Jim?

Black River Ancients, the only drum corps whose friends have super powers...

Black River Ancients, the only drum corps whose friends have super powers…

MIA, through no fault of their own (had to change the batteries in the camera):

  • The Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps, who did their usual fine performance ending with the Rudimenter.
  • A contingent of Ancient Mariners, who didn’t march the parade but formed a pick-up corps for the stand…nice to see Neil-The-Lazy-Drummer in line, though, instead of goofing off in the color guard
  • The Colchester Continentals, who deserve special mention:  This corps  is comprised of ex-Marlborough Juniors, all grown up.   Every time I see them on the street, I am struck by how admirably (and easily!) they prove “the juniors are our future.”  You don’t have to do stick-wheels or play fancy tunes once a summer to be “our future.”  You don’t have to dominate the muster field with large numbers.  You don’t have to resurrect music from corps long gone.  You don’t even need a special T-shirt!.  All you have to do is continue doing what you’ve done every summer since you were nine to the best of your ability with a smile on your face and a tune in your fife (and drum), and then share it with others — THAT is our future!   Thanks, ex-kids!!!!

If I left anybody else out it’s only because I made the 14-hour round trip in one day and am working on two hours of sleep. . . most of it obtained while driving on the Thruway. . .

I think the best part of the day was when someone discovered their three-year-old was missing.  An emergency announcement, stopped the Mariners in mid-selection while everyone looked for the little girl.  The fact that a dense woods ringed the field made us all look that much harder, and within minutes the little girl was found and returned to her worried parents, and the standpiece picked up just where it had left off.  Way to go, Ancients!

P.S.  All that mustering wreaked havoc with local traffic, causing widespread delays:

It was only three cars, but the problem was one of them stalled.  Thankfully, the driver was prepared and got the thing going after just a few turns.

It was only three cars, but the problem was one of them stalled. Thankfully, the driver was prepared and got the thing going after just a few turns.

No cows were injured during the course of this muster.

No cows were injured during the course of this muster.

When is a fife worth $3000?

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:


Image courtesy of eBay seller, kenlindsey382012 (see link, below).

And it comes with the name of a former Civil War era POW inscribed on it, too:

3000 Cloos fife-1

Image courtesy of eBay seller, kenlindsey382012 (see link, below).

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:

  1. The machinery to make the ferrules was a postwar invention and Cloos didn’t own any until long after the war was over, and
  2. 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)
  3. 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!

The Hammond Silver Drum Corps — An Excursion? or the First Ancient Muster?

The Hammond Silver Drum Corps Takes a Trip to Rocky Point

The year 1953 heralded a new era of Ancient history when, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Ed Olsen and Carl Emmanuelson, the Deep River Drum Corps hosted the first ancient muster.   At the event they conceptualized, music would be the feature of the day and “no trophies, no prizes, and no unkind words” would be tolerated.   And, with 10 corps in attendance, the first Ancient muster was indeed a grand success.  But was DRAM 1953 the first of its kind?  One candidate for that honor might be the long-defunct Hammond Silver Drum Corps of Rockville, CT.  Their 1878 excursion to Rocky Point, Rhode Island was an event that offered neither prize-winning contests nor the ill will they could sometimes produce but instead featured a parade, libations, stand pieces, a commemorative button, and many other characteristics of our now well-established practice of Ancient mustering.

The Hammond Silver Drum Corps posing for newspaper reporters below St. Bernard’s Terrace in Rockville, Connecticut. Led by Rockville’s much-liked and “tallest colored man,” William Nelson (left), they are carrying their signature metal drums with silver-colored shells. Willie, leftmost in the drum line, eventually became a church organist of some renown. Detail from 1877 photo.

The Hammond Silver Drum Corps began in the late 1860s with Joe C. Hammond, a leading citizen of Rockville, Connecticut.  With Joe on fife, wife Catherine on bass drum, and their two sons on snares, the family entertained their friends and neighbors with patriotic music whenever the occasional arose.  At first they played informally, sometimes as the Elm Street Drum Corps and at least once as the Lilliputian Drum Corps, no doubt in deference to the youthful snare line consisting of 12-year-old Willie and 9-year-old Charles.  By 1876, however, Joe was busy with another group, the Veteran Field Music of Tolland County, and the Hammond Silver Drum Corps officially became a junior (“juvenile”) corps.

It was at the great Jubilee held in Rockville in 1877 that a trip to the Rocky Point was discussed.  At that time the Hammond corps consisted of 10 boys led by the well-known William Nelson.  Among their duties that day was greeting the visiting corps at the train station as they arrived to participate in the festivities.  Moodus won the prize that day for best drumming, a silk banner made by the ladies of Rockville, but the performances by all the corps, including Hammond’s, were impressive.  By day’s end, all agreed that another event should be held the following year, and the date was set for Friday, August 30, 1878, at the Rocky Point amusement park, Rhode Island’s premier tourist attraction.  The Hammond corps made plans to be there, too.

Several newspapers memorialized the Rocky Point affair, including The Rockville Journal and The Providence Evening Press. Undeterred by the 4-hour train ride to Providence, the Connecticut contingent filled 19 cars with musicians, spectators, and newspaper reporters, some of whom sported what might be considered the first “muster button” in the form of a wooden nutmeg set off with a red ribbon, “an emblem of times past,” according to one reporter.   The trip was completed by steamer, which brought them from Providence to Rocky Point.  Following a dinner of Rhode Island clams (a  Rocky Point specialty) and fueled by an enthusiastic throng of onlookers, the corps paraded to the bandstand where the festivities commenced in earnest.

The Crystal Wave was one of many steamers running passengers to and from Rocky Point during the summer season. The park buildings are seen in the background. Detail of albumin print, 1878.

The stand pieces began with the Tolland County Veterans, who received “hearty applause” for their efforts.  They were followed by the “excellent music” of Suffield’s Remington Drum Band.  Next, the Tunxis Valley Band played with “much spirit and vigor,” followed by the well-known and much-admired “gentleman drummers of Moodus,” who were “handsomely attired in red jackets barred with white.”  The Mansfield Drum Corps played “creditably,” given that they were “a country band and have not the opportunity for practice which city bands have.”  Polite encouragement returned to enthusiastic applause with the “the careful practice and confidence” exhibited by the St. James Band of Manchester.

It seems the best performances were saved for last.  The Hammond Silver Drum Corps “played with self possession and vigor, and were very heartily applauded.”  Next came the G.L. Belden [Bolden] Drum Corps of Hartford, “composed of colored youths” whose expert drummers would grow into adulthood and dominate the competition circuit.  Last but far from least was Steele’s Independent Fife and Drum Corps, also from Hartford.  We are told by the observers that this “very excellent band had some of the best performers in the State including Joseph Heck.”  Two years earlier, it was Heck, “the boss fifer of Connecticut,” who had won the coveted gold-tipped fife as “Best Fifer” at a contest held in Rockville.

The G.L. Bolden [Drum Corps, ca. 1906, a participant in the Excursion to Rocky Point some 30 years earlier. Author’s Collection.

True to a tradition that cannot be improved, the festivities concluded with—what else—a jollification.  It was reported that the music, which had kept up until the steamers arrived, continued for the entire 45-minute boat trip back to Providence.   While one reporter feared that “to those whose nerves were weak, the noise must have been very annoying” another worried not a bit.  Speaking of the Hammond Silver Drum Corps specifically, his words might have applied to all.  “The boys found admirers wherever they had listeners,” he bragged, “nor were the words of praise in any sense unworthily bestowed.

Copyright 2001, 2011 HistoryOfTheAncientsDotOrg.  All rights reserved.

A Tale of Two Fifes: The War of 1812

“Mr. Madison’s War.” From, accessed August 3, 2012.

To some Americans, it was a fiery necessity, the Second War for Independence.  To others, it was “Mr. Madison’s War,” a terrible inconvenience that disrupted profitable New England trade.  To the British, it was just another military headache; they were already fully involved in the Napoleonic Wars.  No matter who called it what, men from both sides of the Atlantic were summoned to fight this war, and once the regiments were assembled they marched off to it with music from  their own fifers and drummers.

Some American fifers – probably a large number of them – were equipped with fifes made by Heinrich Christian Eisenbrandt (b. 1790, Gottengen, d. 1860), a young German immigrant who at age 18 had fled his native Germany and the wars raging there.  He arrived in New Perth [DE] and shortly thereafter made his way to Philadelphia, where he taught flute-playing and also made woodwinds, a trade he had learned from his father in Gottengen.  Heinrich’s son, Henry, recalled how so many fifers ended up with Eisenbrandt fifes during the war:

. . . At this time (1811) America was preparing for war & Father immediately got work at good wages at making fifes.  He was a quick worker, but worked in the old German way & could only make 1/2 doz each day, whereas an American alongside of him made a doz.  Papa bored his from 2 sides; figuring this too slow, he studied out a plan to bore them from one.  Soon equaled the Americans & determined to succeed, surpassed [them] and made 2 doz a day. . .

Fife rather carelessly marked “H.E.,” likely Heinrich Eisenbrandt, Philadelphia, ca 1811. Author’s Collection.

It is not clear whether “Papa” and the “Americans working alongside him” were employed by any one of the Philadelphia instrument makers active at that time or in Eisenbrandt’s own shop, which he later claimed to have founded in 1811, but in any event, Eisenbrandt did not stay in Philadelphia very long.  His biographer tells us of a short stint in Baltimore and another in New York before returning to Germany in 1816. He worked in the family woodwind business before winning appointment as “court instrument maker in Hanover.”  However, in 1819 he was back in Baltimore and this time established a musical instrument business that would flourish for 130 years.

Metzler fife, London, 1788-1815 (top), Eisenbrandt fife, Philadelphia, ca 1811 (bottom). According to The New Langwill, Eisenbrandt was in Baltimore (at the battle of North Point) in 1812 and in New York in 1815. Author’s Collection.

The British side of the story is also dominated by a German whose woodwind-making enterprise lasted even longer than Eisenbrandt’s.  Valentine Metzler (b.?, Bingen am Rhein, d. 1833) began his career in London in 1788 and eventually opened a “music warehouse” as well.  When his son, George (b. 1797, d. 1867) joined the business in 1816, the name was changed to Metzler & Son.  It then became Metzler & Co. in 1833, upon the death of the elder Metzler.  In 1931 Metzler & Co. was assumed by J.B. Cramer, under whose name and leadership the company continued until about 1950.

Despite their German heritage, both Metzler and Eisenbrandt turned fifes that were characteristic of their adopted countries.  In fact, were it not for their brand marks, they would be nearly identical to any other contemporary British- and American-made fife respectively, less so in the case of Eisenbrandt, though, because the outstanding feature that distinguishes his work from any other is his use of rosewood.

Throughout the eighteenth century and extending well into the nineteenth, the tonewood of choice in both London and America was boxwood. Turkish boxwood was preferred, as it was thought that the dry climate might produce wood less susceptible to warping, but in truth, all boxwood, unless perfectly seasoned and used in extremely short pieces, tends to warp.  The dark, dense hardwoods did not, and by the 1820s-30s American makers had virtually abandoned the use of boxwood in favor of the tropical tonewoods.  However, British makers continued to use it (for fifes, at least) even as they produced flutes, clarinets, oboes, and other woodwinds from rosewood, cocus wood, cocobolo, and ebony.   Eisenbrandt was unique in his use of rosewood a full 10-15 years before its adoption by other woodwind makers.  In fact, according to Henry, his father’s skill in producing fine rosewood instruments guaranteed the success of his second Baltimore venture in 1819:

. . . he became famous for his work.  The Americans at that time knew nothing of polishing hard woods & he often received double the amount of his price when a piece of work was completed; this in fact had been the case frequently, from the very first, in Phila[delphia]. . .

Foot end of Metzler fife (left) compared to foot end of Eisenbrandt fife (right). The bores are well centered. Enlarging the image demonstrates loosened areas of the Metzler ferrule. Author’s Collection.

Otherwise, the straight, narrow bore and the thin-walled, tapered body with upper body swell found on Eisenbrandt fifes were typical of American fife design.  Eisenbrandt drilled the bore and turned his fife with care, probably on a foot-powered lathe.  The small, even tone holes are also typical of the time period.  Of note, though, is Eisenbrandt’s careful undercutting of only some of the tone holes.  Undercutting was a subtle way of enlarging the tone hole on the inside of the body without disturbing its appearance on the outside.  When left uncovered by the fifer’s finger (“open”), the widened tone hole would effectively shorten the sounding length of any pitch dependent upon that open hole, resulting in slightly sharper intonation.  By choosing which tone holes to undercut, Eisenbrandt improved specific pitches that, on other fifes, were noticeably flat.

Ferrule, foot end of Eisenbrandt fife. A pincer device was used to make two equidistant indentations that would prevent ferrule loss should it loosen from its seating. However, these ferrules are so well toleranced that they show no sign of loosening even now, 200 years later. Author’s Collection.

Certain other characteristics, however, show where Eisenbrandt cut corners in order to complete his 2 dozen fifes per day.  The brass ferrules are nicely fitted but without decoration.  He snipped them from seamless metal tubing, which took a lot less time than cutting up brass sheets, hand-rolling each ferrule to fit the fife, and then finishing with a burnished seam, which is what other makers did.  Both ferrules are the same size (3/4”), thus eliminating the necessity of turning different seating lengths at each end of the fife, even though it was standard practice at this time to apply a longer ferrule at the foot end.   On this particular instrument, his brand mark, a seriffed “H.E.,” missed the midline entirely and is only partially visible despite being double-struck.  Perhaps he excused his haste or inattention to such details, which did not affect either intonation or gross appearance, because it allowed him to tend more carefully to other characteristics that did, the overall result being a well-constructed instrument that exceeds the standards of its day.

Brand mark used by Valentine Metzler, 1788-1815. Author’s Collection.

The Valentine Metzler fife is a typical British instrument.  He, too, was a talented woodwind maker, but unlike Eisenbrandt, whose fifes equaled the quality of his other woodwinds, Metzler viewed fifes as a secondary product.  Rather than improve upon them, his fifes were simply “little flutes” that were hastily assembled from leftover pieces of boxwood.  They feature a thick-walled, straight body with a slightly conical bore.  In this particular fife, there is an obvious warp running up the middle portion of the body which, combined with a large knot in the upper lateral area, rendered this piece of wood unsuitable for use in flutes or other woodwinds.  Metzler, too, utilized small, even tone holes that were somewhat larger than Eisenbrandt’s but not as carefully placed.  They are smoothed but do not appear to be undercut, although the embouchure is (this improves volume, an important feature of the military fife).  The ferrules are made from sheet brass, each decorated with two sets of scored parallel lines.  Both are loose; while this can occur with age as the wood dries out, it can also result from a poorly rolled ferrule.  Metzler evidently doubted the integrity of these ferrules, as he pinced the upper ferrule twice (4 indentations) and the lower 3 times (6 indentations), thus doubly and triply ensuring that a loosened ferrule would not slip off (Eisenbrandt pinced his only once).  The foot ferrule measures a full inch, the head ferrule an 1/8” less.  The brand mark, “V METZLER / LONDON” is  inscribed within a customized banner and carefully placed low on the body in the midline.  It is this mark that verifies construction well within the period of the War of 1812, before the company became Metzler & Son and thus dropped the “V” from the maker’s mark.

While well constructed according to the standards of its day, the Metzler fife, with its inferior wood, loosened ferrules, and indifferently placed tone holes, reveals the London makers’ typical disdain for the fife as a true musical instrument worthy of their time and trouble; to them, fifes were simply military signal instruments whose small market held little profit potential.  Therefore, they conducted fife-making with only minimal professional investment, often using damaged wood pieces that would otherwise be discarded.  Things began to change, though, around mid-century with the development of the keyed fife, this in response to a larger and more profitable demand for a more flute-like fife from the “corps of ‘drums” market.  In America, where professional woodwind makers were joined by cabinetmakers and just about anybody else with a lathe in making fifes, the disdain was less intense but present nonetheless.  Here the military fife remained the flute’s poor relation until about 1880, when Geo Cloos, Inc of Brooklyn, NY introduced the Crosby Model fife.

The Metzler fife, left compared to an unmarked British fife, ca 1775-1800, possibly Longman & Broderip, London. Both instruments lack the quality of the flutes, clarinets, and other woodwinds produced by these makers. Author’s Collection.

The value of the Metzler and Eisenbrandt fifes lies not only in their presumed use during the War of 1812.  Their brand marks allow us to date them as definitive examples from this specific period with equally specific construction characteristics that can be compared to other, unmarked instruments so that these, too, might be dated with a fair degree of certainty.

Copyright, August 2012,  History of the Ancients Dot Org.  All rights reserved.

DRAM 2012: The Parade

The Deep River Ancient Muster was one to be proud of this year.   Only 55 corps (and 1 pipe band) — smaller than I remember it — but nonetheless they all descended upon this small CT River Valley town, as they do every third weekend in July, to enjoy two days of good music with fine friends.  Friday’s rain, which made setting up difficult and threatened the weekend’s activities, gave way on Saturday to fine, sunny weather — a welcome change from the usual midsummer heat and humidity.  And thus the festivities began.

A little background for those who may not know:  A muster is simply a weekend gathering of fife and drum corps and friends of same.  While some musters are bigger than others, they all more of less follow a prescribed structure, which may include pre-muster events held on Friday night but always include a Saturday parade through the town led by the host corps, which is followed by an afternoon of performances by each corps in attendance (“on stand”).  The last one to take the stand is a rather free-form en mass group (“F-Troop”) whose stand piece is a spontaneously chosen rousing rendition of a traditionally favored muster tune, after which it devolves into a jam session (“jollification”) lasting into the wee hours of the morn or as long as there are at least 1 fifer and 1 drummer still standing (or until the cops shut us down).  Either way, it’s all good.  Here is the parade, just before turning onto Devitt Field.



The Fyfes and Drumms of Olde Saratoga, listed as from “Upstate New York”. . . hey, you can’t get away without doing the parade — we know where you live!!!

Second Company Governor’s Footguard, New Haven, CT —  Where were you, and where did you hide all those bearskins????

Warehouse Point, I *know* I saw you, but not in the parade. . . ?

East Hampton Fifes and Drums?  Village Volunteers?  Germantown?  Marlborough?   Menotomy?  Where were you?

Our hosts, the Deep River Drum Corps, Deep River, CT, founded 1878.

Deep River Juniors. . .The Ancients believe that we ought to keep our kids ON the streets, where they belong. . .

Connecticut Blues, Durham, CT

Color guard of the Stony Creek Ancient Fife and Drum Corps (near Branford, CT). . . counted a few of the Tobacco Valley Gang in there — congrats to their Little Lawyer Jackie, who made it all the way from California!.

Bethpage Colonials, LI, NY, with friends from the Troopers, NY Ancients, and Coldenham (all of NY)

New Jersey Field Music, once home to the Duke and the Doc. . . if you don’t know who they are, ask an old-timer.

Bluff Point Quahog Diggers Band. . . none of whom are from Bluff Point, because if they were they couldn’t dig clams (aren’t any out there in the Finger Lakes. . . ), mostly from Massachusetts

The Connecticut Patriots Senior Ancients, Plainville, CT. New uniforms!

Grand Republic Fife and Drum Corps from Southbury, CT. Note the first line of fifers, balanced by a Benoit at each end. . .bookends?

Westbrook [CT] Drum Corps, founded in 1910. They have their own great muster every 4th weekend in August, don’t miss it!


Yankee Volunteers, Seekonk, MA

Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps, North Haven, founded 1888, who *almost* lost their Moeller drums some 50ish years ago. . .

No coats???? Is it *that* hot??? . . . but they did indeed don their continentals on stand, playing Sturtze’s Rudimenter.

Color Guard of the Ancient Mariners, Guilford, CT. . .missing so many of their founding members — Classy, Ott, Watrous — and so many others, but most of all Ed Olsen, without whose foresight there would be no Mariners and certainly no DRAM. . .

. . .so when I first saw him break ranks and start jumping up and down, waving his arms, and yelling, I thought it was just part of The Mariner’s Show. . . turns out he parked his car in the tow zone. . .

. . . surprised he didn’t talk himself right into a ticket for disorderly on top of the tow charges. . .nicest cop EVER!

Chester Fife and Drum Corps, Chester, CT, founded 1868. Its leader, Dan Silliman, is said to have been taught to drum by a freed slave. Playing the part of Dan Silliman, Drum Major, today is Frenchy. . . don’t ask “Frenchy who,” it’s just Frenchy.

Adamsville Ancients from Delmar, NY.

Milford Volunteers from Milford, CT, just a few weeks out from their own muster in June.

Camden Continentals, Camden NY. Have to say, missed the sweet, off-pitch sounds of our old friend, Frank N. Fife, but maybe we can coax him to make a cameo appearance come October. . .

Say what?? We’re next????

Yes you are, so beat feet, boy, and get in line! Moodus Drum and Fife Corps, founded 1860. . .

. . . playing the same drums in the same way as did their founders so many years ago.

Taggart Pipe Band, Deep River, CT. Always at DRAM. . . and Westbrook. . .

Yalesville Senior Fife and Drum Corps, Yalesville [Wallingford] CT, founded 1879.

Westbrook Juniors, Westbrook, CT

Colonial Musketeers Senior Ancient Fife and Drum Corps, Hackettstown, NJ. . looks like a few juniors are helping out, too. . . seniors??? You mean there IS life after age 18??? Who’da thunk it!

Black River Fife and Drum Corps. . . they say they’re from New England and New York, which is a nice way of saying their members come from just about anywhere. . . and how would you expect anything but “nice” from David and Kathy? Love you two!

Windsor Fife and Drum Corps, Windsor, CT. . . Fran, these kids did you proud today!

Colonial Navy of Massachusetts, Fall River, MA. Counted 2 Bill Harts and at least 1 Walt Sweet in the lines. . .

You can always tell where Jim Smith has been from the drum corps he has left behind. . . Tippecanoe Ancient Fife and Drum Corps, Lafayette, IN. Led admirably by Malcolm Duncan.

Sailing Masters of 1812, Essex, CT

Colonel John Chester Fife and Drum Corps from Wethersfield, CT. . . home to a pile of Masons, until they all grew up and joined the Patriots. . .

Looks like AA Sherman Field Music, Uxbridge, MA. Pay no attention to the Tobacco Valley Gang fifer who snuck in there, anything from Uxbridge means it’s unique Emerick combination of history and quality. . . miss you, Benny!

Kentish Guards, Greenwich, RI. A little out of the Valley, but in an area rich in musical history. . .heard some of that today on stand. . .

3rd Maine Infantry, Yarmouth, ME, with a little help from friend Bruce Syarto, ex-Lincoln Street School and now sunny Florida.

Marquis of Granby, Granby, CT. . . the only fife and drum corps that can say “we were founded by The Pope!”

Totoket Ancients (and friends), Branford, CT

Uniforms from the Civil War, hats from the Quaker Oat Man. . . CT Valley Fifes and Drums, Middletownish, CT.

Speaking of Jim Smith, here he is leading the Monumental City Ancients, Baltimore, MD.

Fifes and Drums of Yorktown [VA]


William Diamond Juniors Fife and Drum Corps, Lexington, MA. . . aptly named, I think!

Ah, the skillful baton-work of the one and only Billy Pierpont leading the Mattatuck Drum Band from Waterbury, CT

Lovely group, interesting uniforms, all the way from Colorado.

Have no clue. . .some type of alumni corps?

Chefs? Admirers of Young Dr. Kildare? Nope, it’s the Ameri-Clique of New Britain, CT

Looks like Sudbury Ancients to me.

From way up north by Middletown. . . yes, a state as small at CT does indeed have a “north,” it just takes less time to get there.

Vic’s Kids all grown up and keeping the spirit alive.

Another one of those northern corps, the Higganum-Haddam Fifes and Drums. . . for whom the trip to Deep River is, oh, I’d say maybe 10 minutes. . .

Don’t know who they are, but their drums look nice, don’t they?

Color guard leading the Colchester Continentals from Colchester, CT. Lots of old Marlborough in here!

Connecticut Rebels, Danbury (or thereabouts) CT.

The 4-Her’s, helped out by their Quahog friends. Not sure exactly where they are from, somewhere around Boston’s North Shore, I think.

Fifes and Drums of the Delaware Militia. Newark, DE.

What looks like a butt-view of people taking pictures is actually the approach of F-Troop. It was huge this year, extending down the road as far as one can see. . .

. . . getting closer, but they still extend down the road as far as one can see. . .

. . . if you look to the left of the speed limit sign past the trees, you can see the ambulance marking the end of F-Troop. . . if you haven’t heard “Downfall” or “Jaybird” or “Rally” played by about 500 fifers and drummers, then you simply must make it to the next DRAM, my friend!

No Foolin’ Jam, 2012

What better place to be on a sunny spring Saturday than the Hibernian Club in Albany surrounded by fifes, drums, and the fine players thereof: Image





Village Volunteers abounded, in various states of membership:





Western NY was well represented, too, by the fine fifers of Towpath Volunteers and Excelsior Brigade…




..and even some Camden Continental drummers:




More Yorkers:   Old Man Vinny with his Old Man Drum, and Old Man George, Maker of Old Man Drum. . .”Hey George!  When are ya gonna make some Old Lady Drums?”


N.B. Let it be known that someone who may or may not be associated with this blog took pity upon St. Patrick (seen here in the background attempting to cover his ears). . . just sayin'. . .in case anybody finds bright yellow earplugs stuck in his ears. . .



Everyone knows these famous Sons and Daughters:




I hear they are changing the name to the Sons, Daughters, and Granddaughters of Liberty (said namesake seen here dozing off despite a rousing Paddy O’Toole):




With the jollification in full swing:


I hear that a few years ago one of these drummers, who may or may not be a rocket scientist, traded an original Gus Moeller drum for a Cooperman and actually thought *he* got the better of the deal!


Watching fingers, a sure-fire way to learn new tunes, Ancient style.


“Excuse me, I hafta go to the bathroom!”







The Lone Drummer from Warehouse Point, proving that yes, indeed, there IS life after Robin!


In fact, Warehouse Point has never sounded better!



More Warehouse Point, and a New York Ancient, just for fun 🙂




The Troopers may be taking a year off, but not *these* Troopers:





A candidate for the Corps of Invalids and Wounded:


LOVE his Sue-sized drum, I want me one of those!



There were plenty of Peeler Product showing up in the fife line (Patricia and Sabrina, making those Firth&Pond Model Peelers sing):





Peeler Squealer, the Pretty-In-Pink model:




But the Swirly Acrylics were the hit of the day, available in Brilliant Blue, Radiant Red, Gorgeous Green, Pretty Pumpkin, Boring Black, and Hideous Gray:


Blue is my favorite, but I'm still waiting for one in Pretty Purple. . .



Ron Peeler, President of the World-Famous Peeler Fife Manufactory headquartered in beautiful downtown Moooooooooodus, ready to make a deal:


What??? Do I see one in Bordello Yellow????



A pause for refreshment. . . mmmmm, beer. . .




And don’t forget the muster meal. . . yum!




It was great to see Shippin’ George, that sumbitch:




Buy your raffle tickets here!




Raffle Goodies:




Something for everyone, even Shippin’ George:




Genuine Handcrafted Persimmon Fife destined for the Moodus 2012 Muster bonfire,  until saved by this sweet child, who promises to play Yankee Doodle on it at NoFoolin’ 2013:


"Yes, it does!


More jammin’…












"and it stopped / short / never to run again..."










Uh, no, he lies.  I can, with 100% certainty, say that that is NOT Sue:  Too much facial hair, for one thing, and definitely not enough Diet Coke, those are dead give-aways.


Thanks, Adamsville, for a wonderful day!!