Historical Inspirations for Our Inlaid Star Drum

We recently posted a drum for sale that referenced a C. & F. Soistmann drum ca. 1864 as inspiration for the star, or compass rose, pattern that was hand-inlaid on the shell. This Soistmann drum is shown on p. 68 of Caba’s book; on p. 67, Caba says that  "Francis" (should be Frederick) Soistmann was the inlay artist while he was working with his brother, "Charles" (should be Conrad).

We’ll be posting for sale in a day or so another drum with an inlaid star pattern much like this Soistmann drum. It’s a J. W. Pepper snare drum which coincidentally also visually matches up with a drum in the Caba book on p.64, except that the drum for sale has a simple rod tensioning system. The address on the label would place our Pepper drum as being made between 1883 and 1910. We will also have a J. W. Pepper & Son drum for sale, this one a piccolo snare drum, rod tension. Its label and writing inside the shell indicate a date of around 1912. More to come on the Pepper drums, and the relationship of Pepper to another branch of the Soistmann drum making family.

G. Craig Caba. United States Military Drums 1845-1865, Civil War Antquities 1977.

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  • e. c. on

    It looks like a Moravian star, which is very much a Pennsylvania thing. The original Moravian star lanterns were a geometry class exercise developed in Moravian schools. In Bethlehem, PA, Moravians began hanging them outdoors at Christmastime as representations of the Star of Bethlehem. They caught on with non-Moravians, and now people all over the country hang them at Christmastime.

    There are also designs like the one above in fraktur – a Pennsylvania German style of decorative work (similar to manuscript illuminations) on birth and marriage certificates from the 19th c., also on some 18th and 19th c. painted furniture made in some of the easternmost counties of PA.

    In my part of Central PA, there are antique barns with star-shaped decorative motifs up in the hayloft area, below the peak of the roof. They’re not windows per se, as they’re cut into the planks in a screen-like manner.

    Since this drum was made in Gettysburg, odds are that the star is an adaptation of a fraktur-type pattern. Gettysburg is very close to the MD state line, and the Germans who moved down there were fond of all sorts of cutout geometric shapes in barns and in the decorative gingerbread common in many Victorian houses on both sides of the PA-MD line.

    I’d recommend getting hold of some books on historical PA Dutch design, also looking for info. and images online. There are several historical societies in and around Bethlehem that clearly explain the origins of the Moravian star. Some include instructions for making them.

    I hope this is helpful!

  • Patsy on

    At first this looked a lot like a compass rose, but I believe it’s meant to be a star or starburst. The points don’t align with the cardinal points of a compass, and the 10 points are not in sync with the 8/8/16 wind points for a compass rose. Why did the makers of the drum chose a 10 point star? We don’t know.

  • Frame Drum Patrick on

    Is the design a star or a compass rose?

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