Cooper’s Vintage Drums
A GUIDE TO VINTAGE DRUMS
(An “unofficial” guide to Vintage Drum identification)
By Mark Cooper
If you have ever found yourself looking at an old vintage drum and wondering, “What year was this made?”, or “When did they first use this type of snare strainer?”, or “What’s the name of this unusual finish?”, then this Vintage Drum Guide may be of interest to you. The purpose of this guide is to help identify the various types, models, and features of vintage drums during the years 1923 to 1965. I consider this era to be the “Golden Age” of American drum manufacturing. This article mainly applies to the three major companies that operated during that period. While there were several other important drum companies operating during this era, I chose Leedy, Slingerland*, and Ludwig & Ludwig as the focus of this article, although others will be mentioned when necessary.
*For more detailed information on Slingerland drums, please see the Slingerland History section of this web site.
This guide will look at the various types of drum hardware such as strainers, lugs, hoops, badges, accessories and other identifying features. Drum finishes will also be discussed.
While I have made every effort to be as accurate as possible, there are some “gray areas” when it comes to attaching exact dates to the many different vintage drum components. Drum companies were notorious for using older parts on newer shells, out of date photos in new catalogs, and general mixing of parts and drum shells, making the job of the modern day drum historian quite difficult. I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies or misinformation that you may find. If you see something that is incorrect, please let me know!
I have been collecting, playing, studying, and living with vintage drums for almost thirty years and during that time, I have seen quite a few interesting and rare instruments. Over the years, I have read every book or magazine article I could get my hands on that concerned vintage drums. I have spent countless hours perusing old drum catalogs and literature, as well as repairing and restoring hundreds of vintage drums. From these experiences I have attempted to compile the contents of this very “unofficial” vintage drum guide. Some of the information offered here concerning dates, model names, evolution of drum hardware and the like may be speculation or guesswork as there are always difficulties when trying to interpret historical data. Even after almost three decades devoted to vintage drums and their history, I am still learning something new almost every day. This Guide To Vintage Drums is a “work in progress” and from time to time, I will be adding to it or correcting it. As I said, I’m still learning!
From the first time I removed a drum head from an old Radio King snare drum and gazed in wonder at the beautiful wooden shell, smelled the intoxicating aroma of the old growth American maple wood, tinkered with a rusty strainer, or attempted to decipher the mysterious pencil marks written inside, I knew my association with vintage drums would be a long and exciting one. I hope you enjoy viewing this guide as much as I enjoyed putting it together!
NOTE: DUE TO THE AMOUNT OF PHOTOS AND CATALOG IMAGES, LOADING TIME MAY BE LONG DEPENDING ON YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION.
YOUR PATIENCE IS APPRECIATED!
THANKS! I would like to thank Dave Brown for all of his help. He has provided me with many beautiful photos and vintage catalog images from his amazing personal collection. Thanks also to Mike Curotto, Rich Kalinsky, and Dave Zima for the use of their photos. And special thanks to my friend and mentor, drum historian and author, Harry Cangany. I don’t know how many times over the years I have asked Mr. Cangany questions concerning drums and their history and he has never been too busy to enlighten me. His numerous magazine articles, newsletters, and DCI Drum Forum played a huge role in my vintage drum education.
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