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Old 03-24-2020, 05:50 PM
Pedal_Pusher Pedal_Pusher is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Huntsville, Alabama
Posts: 121
Default Cornelius Ward 1837 Patent snare drum

I bought this drum on eBay from a gentleman in Kentucky named Jimmy Moore. He purchased it from a unidentified wealthy lady in 2012 and it was discussed on various online drum forums in 2012 and 2017. Mr. Moore believed the drum was used in the 1815 battle of Waterloo based on incomplete pencil markings written on the underneath of the batter head. I have been researching Cornelius Ward for the purposes of the first known bass drum pedal and discovered Jayson Dobney’s article titled “Development of the Orchestral Snare Drum in the United States” from the June 2004 issue (volume 42 number 3) of the Percussive Arts Society’s “Percussive Notes” magazine. Mr. Dobney’s article explained the mysterious hole patterns found in the brass shell. The drum was evidently made to demonstrate both a patented rope tensioning system with an internal turnbuckle and the first patented rod tensioned snare drum. The British patent covering both tensioning methods was titled “Improvements on the Musical Instruments Designated Drums”, British patent office number 7505, dated December 9, 1837. Based on this information I don’t think the drum was used at Waterloo.
The drum measures almost twelve inches in diameter by twelve inches tall, plus hoops. A modern twelve inch drum head would fit but not allow for the four tension rods to properly fit. It is slightly undersize for modern heads. The drum arrived in very poor condition with a thick coating of black dirt but was functionally complete. Both heads and the gut snares were broken and there was some damage to the batter side wooden counter hoop. I determined to clean the brass shell and hoops and not try to restore any of the once beautiful painted artwork. The only distinctly visible portion of the artwork that I can see is two draped British Union Jack flags underneath two of the rods. The shell is embossed with “C. Ward Inventor & Patentee 36 Gt. Titchfield St. London”. The “Gt.” Stands for Great. There were no other markings on the drum other than slash marks (none, one, two, and three slashes) on the rod tension parts and the connecting brackets on the batter counter hoop to match the rods and brackets. There is a small notch carved out of the bottom of the snare side flesh hoop to receive the curved bottom end of the tension rods and keep them straight and in position. The brackets on the batter side counter hoop are permanently attached to the counter hoop and are also covered in the “worm” painting scheme with unpainted brass wing tops. The batter counter hoop is scalloped to allow the wing brackets to turn. The gut snare is a continuous loop and is rounded on a bar attached to the bottom counter hoop to act as a snare butt. The snare jack has a simple black iron “J” hook and square nut. We added a small washer to the hook. The curve of the J hook is not very large and the snare strands almost don’t stay in place. The brass shell has indentations to serve as a snare bed. There are two curved metal pieces similar in shape to the snare butt attached to the bottom counter hoop for the purposes of attaching a drag rope. An identical curved metal piece is attached to the batter side counter hoop to serve as a drum sling attachment.
I assume from the design and decorations that the drum was intended to sell to the military but is surely smaller than the normal sized military drums of the period. Perhaps it functioned as some sort of “salesman’s sample”. My good friend and partner in crime Terry Cornett soaked the original heads off to use the wooden flesh hoops for reheading the drum. The original heads turned to a consistency of molasses and could not be salvaged. The heads and new snares function very well and the drum is playable with an appropriate calf head and gut snare sound. The hole pattern for the turnbuckle tuning system has a total of twelve holes arranged in diagonal groups of three between each tension rod (including over the painting). The external handle for the turnbuckle was evidently in a slightly larger center hole above the snare jack. There is no separate vent hole. The rod tensioning system is what we would consider the first “thumb” tension and has no drum key. I would be interested to see when the first drum keyed tension system was patented. I assume key tensioning was first used with timpani and then spread to snare drums. I have had almost no luck obtaining a PDF file of the British patents. If you have a source or suggestions on how to generate them, I would love to hear from you.
We intend to donate the drum to the Percussive Arts Society’s Rhythm Center museum in Indianapolis. Thanks for reading my wordy description and please let me know if you have any questions.
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