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Nokes & Nicolai

Background   •   Product Line   •   Dating Guide   •   Badges and Labels   •   Examples  •   blog


Enes J. Nokes

Enes J. Nokes

Edward F. Nicolai

Edward F. Nicolai

Advertisement for E. J. Nokes & Company
Drum Manufacturers - February, 1911
Product Line
Nokes & Nicolai Advertisement - December, 1921
Nokes & Nicolai Solid Maple Shell Snare Drums

While product assembly and the forming of wooden shells and hoops would have taken place at the Nokes & Nicolai Appleton Street factory, hardware and other metal parts may have been fabricated for Nokes & Nicolai by outside sources. It was not uncommon in that era for music retailers, also referred to as jobbers, to carry instruments made by a third party and then brand them with their own name. Nokes & Nicolai was no stranger to this practice and produced drums for the Oliver Ditson Company at one time. Additionally, a Thompson & Odell Band Instrument Catalog dating from the 1910s while under Vega ownership clearly shares catalog artwork from Nokes & Nicolai's Catalog No. 6 demonstrating an agreement between those two firms.


When Nokes & Nicolai acquired the F. E. Dodge Company in 1912, the factory was located a 3 Appleton Street in Boston. In 1920, Nokes expanded and began operating from the address of 5 Appleton Street. It can therefore be assumed that Nokes & Nicolai instruments marked with the address of 3 Appleton Street date from between 1912 and 1920. Instruments marked with the 5 Appleton Street address must have been produced no earlier than 1920. Instruments labeled 5 - 7 Appleton Street are assumed to have been made very late in the company's existence, likely after 1922 but no later than 1926 when the company was absorbed into the Liberty Musical Instrument Company of Chicago. Instruments labeled "Enes J. Nokes & Co. " date to the brief period of time around 1911 just before Nokes partnered with Nicolai in 1912.

Dating Guide


Badges and Labels
Enes J. Nokes & Co. Drum Badge, ca. 1911

Enes J. Nokes & Co. Drum Label, ca. 1911

A paper label applied to the inside of a drum shell made by Enes. J. Nokes while at 44 Sudbury Street circa 1911. Nokes would partner with Edward F. Nicolai one year later to succeed the F. E. Dodge company.

Nokes & Nicolai Drum Badge

Nokes & Nicolai Badge, ca. 1912 - 1926

The most commonly seen and widely used Nokes & Nicolai badge appearing on snare drum and bass drum hoops, glockenspiel cases, and even small traps.

Nokes & Nicolai Drum Label - 3 Appleton Street, ca. 1912 - 1920

Nokes & Nicolai Label, ca. 1912 - 1920

The paper label frequently used inside of snare drums shells.

Nokes & Nicolai Drum Badge - 5 Appleton Street, ca. 1920 - 1926

Nokes & Nicolai Drum Badge, ca. 1920 - 1926

A later version of the rectangular badge, also appearing in a smaller size, listing the company's 5 Appleton Street address.

Nokes & Nicolai Drum Badge ca. 1912 - 1920

Nokes & Nicolai Badge, ca. 1912 - 1920

A larger and more detailed rectangular brass badge lists the company's address from 1912 until 1920. Instruments bearing badges and labels with this address most likely date to within that eight year period of time.

Nokes & Nicolai Drum Label, 5 - 7 Appleton Street, ca. 1920 - 1926

Nokes & Nicolai Drum Label, ca. 1922 - 1926

A paper label dating from very late in the company's history.

Nokes & Nicolai Stamp

Nokes & Nicolai Stamp, ca. 1910s - 1926

This stamp appears frequently on metal hardware including bass drum pedals and bass drum hoop mounted cymbal holders. It was also used on metal shell snare drums and some small 'traps' such as wood blocks.

Nokes & Nicolai 'NoNic' Stamp

Nokes & Nicolai 'NoNic' Stamp, ca. 1910s - 1926

Small stamp reading "NoNic", short for Nokes & Nicolai, sometimes used on snare drum strainers and banjo neck pieces.




Nokes & Nicolai was a Boston, Massachusetts based musical instrument manufacturing company from 1912 to 1926. Proprietors Enes J. Nokes and Edward F. Nicolai were direct successors to the company of Frank E. Dodge from whom they purchased the business in 1912. Prior to partnering with Nicolai, Nokes had a drum repair business of his own as early as 1911.

Both Nokes and his business associate Nicolai came from backgrounds in music. Nokes, originally from Canada, took up drumming at the age of twelve and went on to an eighteen year performing career with Boston's Tremont Theatre Orchestra.   Nicolai, originally from Lawrence, MA, was also a professional drummer in Boston.




In 1922 Nokes & Nicolai acquired the banjo business of Boston's F. E. Cole Company.   This may have lead to the company's expansion from their 5 Appleton street address to include 7 Appleton Street as well. The same building also housed the Poole Piano Company and the Morris Noiseless Pedal Action Company.

In 1926 Nokes & Nicolai merged with the Liberty Rawhide Company of Chicago, which had previously made only calfskin drumheads, to form the Liberty Musical Instrument Company.   E. J. Nokes moved to Chicago at the time of the merger but soon resigned from the failing company and in 1927 went to work for the Novak Drum Company, also of Chicago, as General Sales Manager.   In 1928 Nokes returned to Boston where for a short time he restarted his own manufacturing firm known as the Nokes Manufacturing Company which located at 97 Haverhill Street.   He would later go to work for C. G. Conn Ltd. as a repairman and drum corps specialist.   By 1928 the Liberty Company was bankrupt and it's drum building equipment was sold at auction to the Slingerland Company of Chicago.


The Nokes & Nicolai company offered a wide variety of instruments in their catalogs including snare drums, bass drums, timpani, orchestra bells, xylophones, bass drum pedals, and a myriad of traps and sound effects. They were able to supply everything that the drummer would need for work in a virtually any performance setting. The popular music scene was thriving in Boston at that time with musical theater, vaudeville acts, variety shows, and silent films crowding the city's entertainment landscape. Opera orchestras, symphony orchestras, dance orchestras, and drum and bugle corps also would have accounted for a significant segment of the company's business.







Nokes & Nicolai's product line was very similar to that of their immediate predecessor, F. E. Dodge. Dodge, who had been in business since 1868, reportedly acquired the early patents of Harry A. Bower including those for a snare strainer, drum holders, and a timpani tuning device.   These designs would presumably  become the property of Nokes & Nicolai who continued to operate out of the same facilities at 3 Appleton Street beginning in 1912.



Of note among the many models offered by Nokes & Nicolai were the single headed and trap door bass drums. For the pit orchestra drummer of the day these were easier to transport and created extra storage space for other drums, traps, and hardware. The vast selection of snare drums available from Nokes & Nicolai included solid wooden shell drums made from maple, mahogany, rosewood, or bird's-eye maple, an all metal snare drum, both single and separate tension models, single headed snare drums, and field drums built either with rod tensioning or in the more traditional rope tension style.   The most innovative of their snare drum designs featured a separate tension lug that adjusted at the lug using a small wrench while self aligning swivel nuts were housed in the claws which fitted over the wooden drum hoops.



The following examples are from the authors collection. The corresponding catalog pages and descriptions are taken from Nokes & Nicolai "American Drummer No. 6", ca. 1918.

Separate Tension Orchestra Drum

Double Tension Orchestra Drum

Thumbscrew Rod Orchestra Drum

The No-Nic All Metal Drum

All Metal Folding, Piano-Action Pedal Bass Drum and Cymbal Beater

Trap Door Bass Drum

1. E. J. Nokes & Company. Advertisement. Program Booklet from the Seventh Annual Grand Concert, Benefit of the Boston Musicians' Relief Society. February 19, 1911.
2. Christine Merrick Ayars, Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston 1640 to 1936. (New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1937), 272.
3. "Cole Business Sold." Music Trade Review April 8, 1922: p. 37.
4. "With Novak Drum Co." Music Trade Review June 11, 1927: p. 33.
5. "Nokes Again Making Drums." Music Trade Review February 11, 1928: p. 17.
6. Christine Merrick Ayars, Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston 1640 to 1936. (New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1937), 271.
7. F. E. Dodge Co. Catalog. (Boston, F. E. Dodge Co., 1907)
8. Nokes & Nicolai, The American Drummer, No. 6. (Boston: Nokes & Nicolai, ca. 1918)

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