J. W. Pepper and Adolph Soistmann - Do the Stars Align?

What does the inlaid star on this J. W. Pepper drum have to do with the one on the  C. & F. Soistmann drum noted in our last post? We don't know for sure about the star, but the makers certainly have some interesting connections. C(onrad) & F(rederick) Soistmann were making drums in Philadelphia from about 1863; James W. Pepper founded his company there in 1876. By 1892 J. W. Pepper and Adolph Soistmann (son of Frederick) were in business together as Pepper acquired the factory and trade name of Adolph's Excelsior Drum company, with Adolph staying on as manager.

Note: For anyone as confused as I was about all the Soistmann family drum makers -  Adolph was the son of Frederick (the F in C&F) while Charles "Buck" Soistman was the great-grandson of Conrad (the C on C&F). To add to the confusion, many other Soistmann relatives were drum makers too, and the last "n" in Soistmann was dropped in the Buck Soistman generation.

This drum is dated to the period 1882-1909, when J. W. Pepper was manufacturing instruments at the address on this drum's label - Eighth and Locust Streets. (In 1910 the store was relocated, the name was changed to J. W. Pepper & Son, and the manufacturing of instruments ceased)

The 10-point inlaid star is very much, but not exactly, like the C. & F. Soistmann star mentioned in our last post. While not an unusual motif, could its appearance on the Pepper drum be influenced by the proximity of the Philadelphia Soistmann makers?

Lloyd Farrar (AMIS Journal cited below) notes that the “starburst” design in marquetry was a distinguishing feature of the Soistmann drums at that time; Caba states that Frederick Soistmann was the marquetry artist. Adolph Soistmann had several drum shops in Philadelphia over time, and was in business as Excelsior Drum Manufacturers in 1886. J. W. Pepper acquired the Excelsior Drum factory as well as that trade name in 1892; the company moved near the Pepper building at 8th & Locust with Adolph Soistmann as manager. In 1907, the Excelsior Drum Works was incorporated in Camden NJ with directors James W. Pepper, Howard E. Pepper, and Adolph Soistmann. Adolph went on to invent a number of patented drum systems, one patent being assigned to J. W. Pepper for a truss-type tensioning system, but ultimately left the drum-making business.

What do you think?

This drum is for sale on our web store

Farrar, Lloyd (1987). Under the Crown and Eagle. AMIS Vol. 16.1 1987, p 3.    https://docplayer.net/62522182-American-musical-instrument-society.html.

Music Trade Review, 1907, Vol 45 No 14. International Arcade Music Library.  https://elibrary.arcade-museum.com/Music-Trade-Review/1907-45-14/27

J. W. Pepper & Son Inc. (2024). The Music Lives On. https://www.jwpepper.com/since1876

Detwiler, Dave (2016). A Selective History of J. W. Pepper. Strictly Oompah. https://tubapastor.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-selective-history-of-j-w-pepper.html

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

Bazelon, Bruce and McGuinn, William F. American Military Goods Dealers and Makers 1785-1915 Combined Edition, 1999.



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