The earliest Pyralin finishes were Marine Pearl and sparkle finishes. The most common were White Marine Pearl, Black Diamond Pearl and sparkle finishes in gold, green, silver and red. In a 1926 Leedy publication, the virtues of the new finishes is described: “The Marine Pearl gives forth a thousand shafts of sparkling light…”. Leedy sometimes referred to their Pyralin finishes as “Pyroxylin”.
Leedy appears to have offered sparkle finishes before the other companies. These sparkle finishes were made up of tiny irregular chips of metal encased in a layer of pyralin. Here is a quote from the Music Trade Review in February 1927 describing Leedy’s new Pyralin finishes:
“….The Sparkling Gold ….is a new addition to the beauty finishes produced by the Leedy Mfg Co. and is of the same high-grade Pyralin material as the Marine Pearl (a Du Pont product), which has met with such success during the past year….”
The early Sparkling Gold of the 1920’s and early 1930’s was a bit finer and had smaller chips than later versions. At left is a sample of Sparkling Gold from around 1939. At right is a catalog illustration from 1929.
A less expensive finish option was available in the form of Klondike Gold:
In the 1928 catalog page below, the virtues of pearl finishes are extolled.
Leedy also offered some very beautiful pearl finishes such as Jade Green Pearl…
Leedy catalog 1928
Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, several decorative options were available to drummers. “Nobby Gold” was a gold lacquer that was applied over the brass plating on hoops and hardware, simulating gold plating. This unique finish provided a great contrast to the black nickel shells of the Leedy Elite models. Often, the black shells were engraved with floral or “paisley” designs which showed through in gold. 1920’s and 30’s hoops were adorned with ornamental engraving, as well.
Photo by Dave Zima
In 1930, a different engraved, geometric motif was used for the Black Elite snare drums. Collectors today refer to it as the “Thunderbird”.
1930 Black Elite with the “Thunderbird” engraved shell (restored by AK Drums, Italy)
The practice of engraving shells had ended by 1935. However, the ornamental designs remained on hoops until around 1936.
Elegant simplicity could be achieved with the engraved Black Elite finish…
Leedy catalog 1928
The Nobby Gold finish was discontinued in 1936 due to the fact that it did not prove to be very durable over time. However, it could still be ordered.
The radiant beauty of White Saphire was possible with the White Elite finish
Leedy catalog 1928
The beauty of Topaz was recreated with the Tudor finish (1928):
Shown in the catalog page below are the various duco finishes as well as the plating options for 1928:
One of the most beautiful finishes ever offered by Leedy in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s was Rainbow Pearl.
Leedy catalog 1929
“TUDOR” FINISH CIRCA 1929
Below: Black Diamond Pearl, Sparkling Silver Pearl, Sparkling Green Pearl
Leedy catalog 1933
In the 1930’s Leedy offered the “Full Dress” finish option. Diamond shaped pieces of pearl in contrasting colors could be added to any drum for an additional cost.
FULL DRESS DIAMONDS
1939 LEEDY BASS DRUM WITH FULL DRESS DIAMONDS
Another unique finish offered in the 1920’s and 1930’s was Black Onyx Pearl. There was also a version called “Red Onyx”. Leedy also produced Onyx finishes in red, and green but they were never listed in catalogs. They are mentioned in broshures, however.
1920’s VERSION OF BLACK ONYX PEARL
1930’s BLACK ONYX PEARL ILLUSTRATIONS
1930 LEEDY DUAL FINISHED IN BLACK ONYX PEARL
Examples below are courtesy of Mike Curotto
In the early 1930’s, another strikingly beautiful finish offered by Leedy was Green Pearl. The finish was shown in the 1930 catalog but is not listed in the 1933 catalog.
1930 ORIENTAL PEARL (left), WHITE ELITE (center), and BLACK ELITE (right)
Finish choices of 1936
As the 1930’s came to a close, less color options were available. Gone were the more exotic finishes like Rainbow Pearl and Black Onyx Pearl in favor of less flamboyant finishes like White Marine and Black Pearl Diamond along with the common Duco colors.
1938 LEEDY BROADWAY PARALLEL IN BLACK DIAMOND PEARL
While solid Duco finishes like black, white, and other colors were common, the painted finishes were also offered in two tone combinations such as black and gold, cream and gold, blue and silver and many other combinations. Of course, special orders were always possible and older finishes can sometimes be seen on newer drums.
One very unusual finish introduced around 1941 was the Autograph Of The Stars finish. This unique covering had autographs of the drumming stars of the day printed over a blue pearl background mixed with white stars. This finish did not prove to be very popular and was eventually discontinued. Very few examples exist today. An even more rare version of this finish surfaced in 2013, which featured a White Marine Pearl background.
1941 LEEDY FINISHES, INCLUDING THE ULTRA RARE AUTOGRAPHS OF THE STARS FINISH
Photo courtesy of Mike Curotto
During World War Two, Leedy did not produce that many drums and very few finish choices were available. Natural wood and painted (Duco) finishes along with White Marine and Black Diamond were offered.
World War Two era Leedy Dreadnought in cream and gold Duco
After the war, Leedy drum finishes remained much as they were in the late 1930’s and early 40’s. However, a new addition for 1946 was “Marine Green Plastic”. Also, the “Autographs of the Stars” finish was still being offered that year. Oddly, no sparkle finishes were offered except on bass drum hoops as inlay material in combination with duco colors. Note the different descriptions in the catalog page below. “Pearl”, “Pyralin” and “Plastic” are mentioned separately.
Decorative pearl designs could still be ordered for extra Flash!
Marine White Pearl, Black Pearl, Sparkling Gold, Sparkling Silver, and Sparkling Green were listed as the available finishes for 1949. Below is an example of a 1949 Leedy drum finished in Sparkling Gold Pearl. Notice the almost “orange” color which differs from the Sparkling Gold Pearl of the 1930’s.
UN-CATALOGUED FINISH (1949 LEEDY RELIANCE MODEL)
Photos by Dave Zima
In 1950, the Leedy Drum Company was merged with Ludwig & Ludwig Drum Company to form Leedy and Ludwig. Below is a list of the available finishes for 1950. In addition to the Dupont Company, the Monsanto Plastics and Resins Company is credited in the 1950 Leedy & Ludwig catalog as a supplier of their Pyralin finishes.
On the left is a 1953 Leedy & Ludwig Sparkling Gold Pearl finish. On the right is a very rare Leedy & Ludwig Zebra finish from 1951. This finish was never listed in Leedy & Ludwig catalogs.
The Leedy & Ludwig Company was dissolved in 1954 and the Leedy division was sold to Slingerland Drum Company of Chicago, Illinois. By 1956, Slingerland-made Leedy drums were being offered as a second line and the drums were basically Slingerland drums with a few features that were unique to Leedy. The 1958 Leedy catalog does not specify which colors were available and states only that pearl and duco finishes are available. Most likely, only the basic colors were offered during the first few years, such as Black Pearl, White Marine and a few sparkle finishes. Many of the Leedy finishes offered were also available on Slingerland drums. However, by 1959, many new and exciting finishes were advertised.
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