The Boston Drum Builders

F. E. Dodge Co.

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The F. E. Dodge Company was a Boston, Massachusetts based drum manufacturing company purportedly begun in 1868 and continuing until 1912 when the operation was succeeded by that of Nokes & Nicolai. By January of 1904 the F. E. Dodge Company was located at 3 Appleton Street in Boston and employed ten workmen in addition to the Dodge brothers. Company founder and owner Frank E. Dodge, along with younger brother Harry who served as the factory superintendent, took great pride in the fact that they and all of their employees were not only manufacturers, but performing musicians as well. In 1905 Dodge bought out William J. Blair, formerly of the firm Blair & Baldwin, who then continued to work for the Dodge Company.

Frank E. Dodge was both an accomplished rudimental drummer and an experienced classical musician performing with the Boston Opera Orchestra and as timpanist with the Boston Festival Orchestra. Interestingly, the percussion section of the Boston Opera Orchestra included Dodge's former pupil George Lawrence Stone who was to become well known as a performer, teacher, and manufacturer in his own right. In 1904, Dodge was offered a position with the John Philips Sousa band which he ultimately declined out of obligation to his business.

1909 F. E. Dodge Co. Ad

Dodge Drum School Cover, published 1909 Frank Dodge was also an active educator and author penning two widely used early 20th century resources, the "Dodge Drum Chart" in 1908 and the "Dodge Drum School" in 1909. While the earlier of the two texts dealt only with rudimental drumming, the "Dodge Drum School" was a more comprehensive method book containing introductory material for bells, xylophone, and timpani as well as musical examples for many of the drummer's 'traps' including tambourine, triangle, castanets, sleigh bells, whip, anvil, and even coconut shells. Dodge stopped short of writing a complete text for all of the instruments stating in his introduction that "It is quite impossible to go very far into the Bells, Xylophone, and Tympany in a Dollar Method, and for that reason I intend to publish methods for these instruments separately."

By 1919, the "Dodge Drum School" had been revised and enlarged by Carl E. Gardner, percussionist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and republished by the Columbia Music Company of Boston. The "Dodge Drum Chart" was later re-arranged, edited, and published by George Lawrence Stone of the George B. Stone and Son company in 1928, a testament to the worth of Dodge's systemization of rudimental patterns.

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Advertising material and other ephemera from the F. E. Dodge Company is quite scarce due to its age and the company's relatively small size. A few examples, however, do survive. The 1907 F. E. Dodge Company catalog lists a diverse array of percussion instruments ranging from timpani to orchestra bells to drums for all purposes in addition to all of the traps, small instruments, and accessories a drummer would have needed, regardless of his specific area of expertise. Various snare drum models ranging in size from as small as 3" x 14" up to 16" x 10" were listed.

dodge aluminum orchestra drum Snare drum shells were predominantly wooden, typically constructed of one ply maple with reinforcing rings. "Seamless Silver Aluminum" shells were available in small orchestra drum sizes as described in the 1909 printing of the "Dodge Drum School".

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Early F. E. Dodge Drum Label
(click to enlarge)
A pre-1904 F. E. Dodge drum shell label. While partially torn, the remaining text reads:

-- E. DODGE,
12 & 14 Winter St., Boston, Mass.

F. E. Dodge Drum Label
(click to enlarge)
This F. E. Dodge label is commonly seen on instruments from the first decade of the 1900s. The large version of this label, measuring 3" across, was used for larger instruments such as bass drums, and field drums. It was also sometimes fixed to the inside of xylophone and glockenspiel cases. Oddly, both the large and small round labels (seen below) are typically applied to the inside of snare drum shells upside down across from the air vent.
Small F. E. Dodge Drum Label Inc.
(click to enlarge)
The small version of the F. E. Dodge label, measuring only 1 1/8" across, was used on smaller instruments such as shallow depth snare drums. Note the lettering "(Inc.)" added to this label which is not present on the previous example. The F. E. Dodge Company was incorporated under Massachusetts law in 1903 and later dissolved in 1907. The handwritten "(Inc.)" notation may date instruments with this label to that period.
F. E. Dodge Drum Badge The F. E. Dodge Co. badge frequently appears mounted to the batter side hoops of snare and field drums. It was also used on the outside of bell and xylophone cases and even on some large traps such as boat whistles.

F. E. Dodge Timpani Badge
Photo: Jim Davey
This uncommonly seen badge was found on a pair of aluminum shell Dodge timpani dating from the early 1900s.

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Lee's F. E. Dodge Snare Drum F. E. Dodge Snare Drum
(Pre - 1904)

This is an early Dodge snare drum, predating at least 1904. The heads are tensioned by 18 single tension rods which adjust both heads simultaneously. While the top and bottom heads can not be tuned independently, the shell is a true free-floating design with only one hole lined with a rosewood grommet serving as an air vent.

Lee's F. E. Dodge Orchestra Drum F. E. Dodge Orchestra Drum
(circa 1908 - 1909)

The 1907 Dodge Drum catalog lists the Orchestra Drum in two sizes including the 4" x 15" model represented here. The shell is one ply maple with maple reinforcement rings and has a beautiful rosewood grommet. The strainer is stamped "PAT APL'D FOR" though it appears that no patent was ever granted for this particular design.

The claws connecting the tension rods to the wooden hoops are quite innovative and are unique to Dodge. Each claw utilizes a primitive swiveling design which allows the tension rods to float either slightly closer to or further from the shell. They are not true swivel nuts however as they do not allow for side to side movement.

F. E. Dodge Thumbscrew Model
Source: ebay
F. E. Dodge Thumbscrew Model Snare Drum
(circa 1909 - 1912)

This single tension thumbscrew model is simple by design but the way in which the tension rods attach to the top hoop are revolutionary. This is one of the earliest, if not the first, uses of a true swivel nut. Each top claw is hollow, formed from stamped metal and houses a free swiveling nut which accepts the tension rods and pulls against the hoops thus tuning the heads.

Drums using these swivel nut claw hooks are nowhere to be seen in the 1907 catalog but are depicted in the 1909 printing of the "Dodge Drum School" This presumably places the designing and introduction of this model and other drums using the same claw design to 1908 or later.     :     F. E. Dodge Company © 2012 -2013 by W. Lee Vinson