Cooper’s Vintage Drums
LUDWIG SNARE STRAINERS
While Ludwig & Ludwig had been making drum products since 1909, this identification guide starts with drums made between the years 1923 and 1965. By 1923, Ludwig was offering their “top of the line” snare drums with the strainer pictured below. During the 1920’s, this was known as the Professional Strainer and was used on their top models until around 1929. This strainer would later be known as the Pioneer strainer, being used on secondary models such as the Pioneer and the Universal snare drums.
1927 LUDWIG & LUDWIG PROFESSIONAL MODEL
In 1925-1926, Ludwig & Ludwig introduced a revolutionary snare mechanism called the Super-Ludwig. Patented in January 1924, it was quite a radical departure from the simple strainers previously available and offered individual snare adjustment. This was especially useful for gut snares which would loosen under certain humidity conditions. A drummer could change from a set of gut snares to a set of silk-wire snares in a matter of minutes if desired. The snares also remained under constant tension even when disengaged from the bottom head. Individual snare adjustment was possible by the use of a screw driver. The Super-Ludwig mechanism was available on wood and metal shell drums.
Photo by Harry Cangany
In 1926, a metal snare guard was offered that could be attached to a Super-Ludwig drum to protect the mechanism from damage. The guards could be ordered from Ludwig & Ludwig for one dollar along with instructions on how to attach them to the bottom tension rods. By 1928 the guards were standard equipment on all Super-Ludwig drums and various versions would see use over the next 50 years or so. Below is a photo of a snare guard from a 1920’s drum.
Snare guard as used on both Super-Ludwig and Super-Sensitive models
In the late 1930’s the snare guards were bolted to the bottom hoop.
1929 was a very important year for the Ludwig & Ludwig Drum Company. That was the year that owner William F. Ludwig made the decision to sell his company to the C.G. Conn Company of Indianapolis, Indiana (makers of Leedy drums). After the sale, the Ludwig & Ludwig company was moved to Elkhart, Indiana where the Leedy Manufacturing Company was now located. Both companies now had manufacturing operations in the Leedy factory building.
LUDWIG & LUDWIG FACTORY, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - CIRCA 1923 -
LEEDY MFG. CO. ELKHART, INDIANA CIRCA 1930
In the quest for the ultimate in snare drum response (and drum sales), the newly acquired Ludwig & Ludwig Drum Company offered even more snare strainer innovations to the drumming public. The company introduced three new snare drums in addition to the already popular Super-Ludwig model and Standard Model….
New for 1929:
The Super-Sensitive, The Standard-Sensitive, and The New Era Sensitive
The Super-Sensitive (1929-1937)
The new Super-Sensitive drum was identical to the Ludwig-Super model but it was given a second set of snares which ran along the underside of the top batter head. This second set of snares was controlled by a lever mounted on the side of the drum shell allowing the snares to be turned on or off for special snare effect and added “snap”. The Super-Sensitive model which featured two sets of snares was discontinued around 1937.
1920’s SUPER-SENSITIVE MODELS
(Photos courtesy of Mike Curotto)
The Standard-Sensitive (1929-1930)
The Standard-Sensitive drum also had this extra set of snares under the top head. In addition, it also received a newly designed strainer which was now called The Professional Strainer. This Professional strainer was also used on the Standard (Professional) model. It replaced the aforementioned Professional strainer of the early 1920’s which was now relegated to Ludwig & Ludwig’s lower line snare drums, like the Universal Model and Pioneer. The Standard-Sensitive drum did not appear to be very popular and was discontinued in 1930.
Professional Strainer (used on Standard and Standard-Sensitive models 1929-1937)
The New Era-Sensitive(1929-1930)
By far the most unusual of the three new snare drum models was the New Era-Sensitive drum. This innovative drum had two sets of internal snares! One set lay under the top head and the other along the inside of the bottom head, thus eliminating all external, visible snare wires. These two sets of snares were also operated with levers attached to the outside of the drum shell. Like the Standard-Sensitive model, The New Era-Sensitive model apparently did not catch on with the drummers of 1929 and appears to have been discontinued by 1930. Earliest models have hand engraving on the hoop, while the later models (1930) had the hoops stamped.
Below is a Peacock Pearl version of the New Era Sensitive. Special thanks to Australian drum collector Nick Worsthorne for the great photos of his beautiful snare drum!
1935-36 SILVER ANNIVERSARY
Ludwig & Ludwig strainers were relatively unchanged until around 1936. That year, the company celebrated its Twenty-Five year anniversary and in honor of this achievement, they unveiled the Silver Anniversary line of snare drums. The Super-Ludwig, Super-Sensitive, and Standard models all received a new look. In addition to newly designed tension cases (lugs) and metal shells, the Super-Ludwig and Super-Sensitive were given up-dated strainers and snare guards. The strainer levers were no longer adjustable and were given a unique hook shaped design. The Standard-Sensitive model with the second set of internal snares was no longer offered.
NOTE: While the year 1935 was actually the 25th anniversary of the Ludwig & Ludwig Drum Company (officially started in the Fall of 1910), the formal announcement took place in the Spring of 1936 in both the Ludwig Drummer magazine and the 1936 Ludwig & Ludwig Silver Anniversary Editio n product catalog. Below is the announcement in the 1936 product catalog. It is interesting to note that “Founder and President” William F. Ludwig left the company the following year.
SILVER ANNIVERSARY SUPER-SENSITIVE MODELS (1935 CATALOG)
1936 STANDARD MODELS
1938 saw yet another change in snare strainer design. The Ludwig & Ludwig Standard models were fitted with a “New Design Strainer” which is usually referred to as the Standard three point strainer. These new strainers replaced the previous Professional strainers which were now being used on the Ludwig Concert Model 8x15 snare drum. The old reliable Pioneer strainer was still seeing use on the Pioneer and Universal models.
The Super-Ludwig strainers were unchanged at this point in time. Below is a photo of a late 1930’s Solid Maple Swing Model.
1937 Super-Swing Model
The Standard strainer was improved in late 1940 with the addition of an extended snare capability. New extension brackets were added to both snare and butt sides of all Standard model snare drums. This allowed the snare strands to completely cover the entire diameter of the bottom snare head, similar to the very popular Slingerland Radio King snare drums of the same era.
In late 1941, a three position strike plate was added behind the strainer lever, giving the modern Swing drummer the option of tight snares, loose snares or no snare sound at all. Also that year, a rather novel snare drum called the Moderne-Bi-Tone snare drum, featuring plastic (Bakelite) lugs was introduced and the old Pioneer strainer was used on this model. The plastic lug design did not catch on and it was discontinued after 1941.
WORLD WAR TWO 1941-45
In late 1941, the United States entered World War Two and by 1942, drum production was severely limited as resources were being redirected to the war effort. Due to U.S. Government restrictions, very few metal parts were to be used for drum making. As a result, Ludwig & Ludwig produced a relatively small amount of Victory model drums. These unique instruments were made using wooden lugs and hoops. For more information on Ludwig drums and the war, click here: Ludwig Drums of WWII
The Victory snare borrowed a very old snare strainer that had been used on the Tango models of the early 1920’s.
1943 VICTORY DRUM
1943 LUDWIG & LUDWIG VICTORY DRUM STRAINER
World War Two ended in 1945 but new drum production did not really resume until 1947-48. However, there were really no new products and the old models of 1941 were being offered to the public during the period of 1948-50. The pre-war white enamel badge was modified slightly in design and for the first time, the Ludwig & Ludwig badge listed Elkhart, Indiana as its location. This was to be the end of Ludwig & Ludwig as an independent drum company. Pictured below is one of the last drums to be made with the Ludwig & Ludwig badge and is date stamped inside, August 1950 (0850).
LEEDY & LUDWIG
In 1950, C.G. Conn merged their two drum companies (Ludwig & Ludwig and the Leedy Manufacturing Company) into one interest and named it Leedy & Ludwig. This new company would utilize the best features of both and managed to produce some beautiful and quite unique instruments in its relatively short life. The new drum company published their exciting new product catalog in 1951. It featured Leedy & Ludwig’s revolutionary new line of drums called the Knob Tension Drums. These unique drums were tensioned from inside the drum shells by a series of knobs. When turned like a radio dial, the knobs caused several levers inside the shell to exert pressure on a metal rims upon which the heads rested.
1951 KNOB TENSION SNARE DRUM WITH “FEATHER TOUCH” STRAINER
The Leedy & Ludwig company also offered a more standard line of drums which were basically combinations of pre-war Leedy drums with a new badge and some Ludwig components. The 1930’s-40’s Ludwig Standard extended snare strainer was used in combination with the old Leedy butt side bracket for the Broadway snare drum. Ludwig & Ludwig’s old reliable Pioneer strainer was used on the New Era snare drums as well as other lower line drums like the Reliance model. Various combinations were used during Leedy & Ludwig’s three year existance.
THE LUDWIG DRUM COMPANY
C.G. Conn decided to get out of the drum making business entirely and in 1954 they sold the Leedy name to the Slingerland Drum Company and the Ludwig name to William F. Ludwig (Ludwig & Ludwig founder and current owner of the W.F.L. Drum Company). Thus, the Ludwig Drum Company was “born”- again- replacing the W.F.L. name. Slingerland chose to offer the Leedy drums as a second and separate line of drums. Around 1955-56, both companies were in business and published their first catalogs.
The new Ludwig drums were mainly W.F.L. drums with the name “Ludwig Drum Company” on the old keystone badge. Between 1956 and 1959, Ludwig offered a few different snare strainers on their top line drums. The “Classic” strainer was carried over from the W.F.L. period.
Ludwig Super Classic Snare Drum
In 1959, Ludwig introduced a new snare strainer called the P-83 which was used on their new Supra Phonic 400 metal snare drum, as well as other wood shell drums. It would continue to see use all through the 1960’s and 1970’s, although the throw-off lever was slightly modified (note the difference between the strainer in the photo below and the strainer in the illustrations). A variation of this durable snare strainer is still in use today!
Ludwig Supra Phonic
Ludwig Jazz Festival Snare Drum
The new Ludwig Drum Company offered two Pioneer strainers. The P-85 Large Pioneer strainer and the P-84 Small Pioneer strainer. Below are catalog illustrations of the various strainers from the 1959 catalog and the snare drums that used them.
P-85 Large Pioneer
P-84 Small Pioneer
3x13 Jazz Combo Model
4x13 Las Vegas Model
4x14 Downbeat Model
5x14 Pioneer Model
5x13 Super Porto-Pak Model
For some reason, the “Supra Phonic 400” snare drum was changed to the “Super-Ludwig 400” in 1961. Also that year, the Ludwig Super-Sensitive model was again offered after almost a twenty year absence. While the snare mechanism was very much as it was in the 1940’s, an updated snare guard was added. Of course, the Super-Sensitive no longer had a second set of interior snares as in the past this new version was really a Super-Ludwig. This was somewhat confusing!
Around 1963, the Super-Sensitive snare strainer received some new plastic components, making this the first time that a plastic material was utilized in a snare strainer*. Also, the name “Supra Phonic 400” returned, forever replacing the name “Super-Ludwig”. This snare drum would become one of the most played and recorded snare drums of all time and is still available today! A new aluminum shell snare drum debuted in 1962-63 called the Acrolite. It featured the P-83 strainer. As of 1963, the P-85 Large Pioneer strainer was no longer offered.
*In 1941, Ludwig & Ludwig offered plastic lugs on their Moderne Bi-Tone snare drum (see “Ludwig Lugs” in this article).
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