Civil War-Era Side Drum, Made by George Kilbourn, 1859

Presented is an original Civil War-era side drum with a pair of wooden drumsticks. This is a rope tension drum with a wooden body, ropes, and leather tabs. An iron tack pattern surrounds the drum hole. The drum's hoops are painted a deep red. The paper maker's label within the instrument indicates it was manufactured for “George Kilbourn, at his premier drum factory, 119 Orange Street, Albany.” The label is inscribed “Made in 1859” and is numbered in brown ink, “2425.” 

Drum manufacturing was an established industry in America long before the Civil War. With very few exceptions, drums were made of ash or maple wood, had calfskin heads, and were rope tension. The design and construction of mid-19th century rope tension drums was based on established methods of drum manufacturing, more than three centuries old. In general, a cylindrical wooden shell was used, with calf skin drum heads stretched on wooden hoops over both ends. The edges of the skin were soaked and then tucked around the circular hoops. These hoops were held in place  by wooden counter hoops, with the tension on the counter hoops controlled by a rope laced through holes drilled into the hoops. Leather braces, each one surrounding two adjoining ropes, were used to adjust the tension of the heads.

The outbreak of the Civil War created an enormous demand for percussion instruments. Ordnance Department records indicate that the US Army purchased over 32,000 drums from April 1861 through December 1865. Many government and state contracts did not specify exact dimensions or designs for drums. The result was wide variances in size and dimension. 

George Kilbourn was a carpenter based in Albany, New York. He started making drums in 1847 and is listed as a drum maker in the Albany directory at various addresses until his death in 1860. His son, William  Kilbourn, continued the family business of making brass and snare drums for the next five decades, eventually expanding to include tambourines and banjos. 

Overall a good, displayable example. Original cords and leather tabs. Cords show wear and toning. A few leather tabs have detached. The top drum skin looks to have been replaced, while the bottom skin is original. Bottom skin has two 1 ¼” tears, one with an attempt at a repair. An iron tack pattern surrounds the drum hole.

Internal label (not visible) reads "George Kilbourn, at his premium drum factory, 119 Orange Street, Albany [NY]." Label is pencil inscribed, "Made in 1859," and numbered at bottom in brown ink with "2425." 

Presented with a pair of Civil War-era drumsticks. Two wooden drumsticks. Scratches to drumsticks and small nicks to surface. 

Drum Dimensions: 14 1/4” Tall,  16 1/2" Diameter. Drumsticks measure 16 ½” each.

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