© 2012 - 2019 by W. Lee Vinson

Charles A. Stromberg


Background   •   Patents  •   Labels and Badges   •   Examples  •   blog


 

BACKGROUND


Published in 1937, Christine Merrick Ayars' Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston 1640 - 1936 (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1937) describes the business of Charles A. Stromberg & Son as follows:

"Charles A. Stromberg, a cabinet maker, came to Boston from Sweden in 1887. He worked for Thompson & Odell eighteen years, and as foreman in their banjo, mandolin and guitar factory, supervised the manufacture of some 3500 of these instruments. He started in business for himself about 1905, producing custom-made guitars, banjos, and snare, bass band and orchestra drums for professional and amateur players. In 1910 he took his son Elmer into the business with him. The manufacturing is done at 40 Hanover St.

 

To date they have produced about 1000 banjos, 200 mandolins, 100 guitars all custom made and 400 drums which have been shipped all over the United States, and into Canada until a high tariff on musical instruments was put into effect there.

 

This firm also repairs all kinds of stringed instruments including harps. Since Mr. Stromberg owns pattern molds for casting the ornaments of harps, these instruments are sent to him from Canada and from as far west as California for rebuilding and restoring the ornaments and for repairing.

 

Mr. Stromberg and his son, being skilled mechanics, make their own tools for manufacturing. They have also developed several innovations and patents."

Charles A. Stromberg & Son would ultimately become best known for their large archtop guitars, but also manufactured banjos, harps, and a small number of professional level drums. Though much less ornate in appearance than their intricately carved and inlaid string instrument headstocks, Stromberg's drums were fine examples of craftsmanship and ingenuity.

PATENTS

Charles A. Stromberg was awarded two patents pertaining to snare drum construction. Both were applied for in July of 1903 and were granted in the Spring of 1904.


The first design was for a unique separate tension lug which affixed to the shell using two mounting screws. But rather than accepting two tension rods into a single tube (as was the more common separate tension tube lug design), the two rods tensioned into separate threaded portions of the same bracket positioned side by side. Stromberg explains: "This is a great advantage over the usual devices for this purpose, in which the tightening-screws are arranged in alignment with each other, causing the ends of the tightening-screws to come in contact with each other and preventing a proper tightening of the beater and snare heads."

The second patent is for a "Snare Tightening Device for Drums". Stromberg lauded the benefits of a shell mounted snare strainer versus the common hoop mounted versions of the day. "It will be noticed that this my snare-strainer device is attached directly to the outside of the drum-shell at opposite places independent of the hoops, by which the drum is prevented from becoming what is termed "snare-bound," a condition liable to happen with ordinary devices for this purpose, in which the strainer is attached to the hoops, causing the snares to be bound between the head and hoop at the junction of the shell when the head is stretched by the adjustment of the hoop. In my device the snares are caused to be held closer to the head and can be more easily adjusted, causing them to vibrate more freely and evenly, thereby producing the sharp, bright quality of tone so essential to a perfect drum."

1904 Charles A. Stromberg Patent Illustration
1904 Charles A. Stromberg Patent Illustration

A version of Stromberg's second patent, with an added release lever which could engage or completely disengage the snares from the bottom head, was used on Stromberg's drums through the 1910s. The butt end included in this patent was used on George B. Stone Master-Model drums into the mid 1920s.

Stromberg Orchestra Drum Label ca. 1906 - 1910
Charles A. Stromberg & Sons Drum Label, ca. late 1910s
Charles A. Stromberg & Son Drum Badge, ca. 1920s
Stromberg Artist Drum Label ca. 1905
Charles A. Stromberg & Sons Drum Label, ca. early 1920s
Charles A. Stromberg & Son Drum Label, ca. early 1920s
1927 Charles A. Stromberg & Sons Label
1938 Charles A. Stromberg & Sons Label
Charles A. Stromberg & Sons Drum Label, ca. early 1920s
Charles A. Stromberg & Son Drum Label, ca. late 1910s
Charles A. Stromberg Drum Label ca. 1910
Stromberg Drum Label ca. 1902 - 1905
1906 Stromberg Snare Drum Label

LABELS and BADGES

Stromberg's earliest snare drums were made for Thompson & Odell while at 523 Washington Street in the 1890s. "Artist Drum" labels from this period are typically stamped with Stromberg's name. By 1902, Thompson & Odell had moved to 749 Washington Street where they would remain until going bankrupt in 1905.

Stromberg designed his "Invincible Orchestra Drum" in 1903 while still at Thompson & Odell. Stromberg continued to produce this patented model at 767 Washington Street after going into business for himself in 1905.

Borrowing the "Artist Drum" moniker from his previous employer, Stromberg continued to build some lower end models alongside his professional level drums during his early years as an independent maker.

By 1910 Stromberg was operating at 61 Hanover Street offering "Orchestra, Street and Bass Drums, and Drummers' Traps" along with "repairing of musical instruments of every description".

By the late 1910s, Stromberg labels include an address of 40 Sudbury Street. Both the 1916 and 1918 Boston Directories list Stromberg at this address.

By the early 1920s Stromberg had relocated to 19 Washington Street. Both the 1922 & 1925 Boston Directories list him at this address.

By the Spring of 1927, Stromberg was operating at 40 Hanover Street, an address he would keep for many years.

Many Stromberg drums produced from the 1910s onward bear a small rectangular badge reading "CHAS. A. STROMBERG & SON / DRUMS, HARPS AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MFRS. / BOSTON, MASS". The badge also sometimes appears on other instruments including glockenspiels and banjos.

EXAMPLES

1906 Charles A. Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum

The Celebrated Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum

March 30th, 1906

 

The drum seen here dates from March of 1906 and employs both of Stromberg's 1904 patents. The fully functioning snare throw-off and separate tension lugs were revolutionary at the time this drum was produced. The highly figured bird's-eye maple shell and etched faux rosewood counterhoops are wonderful examples of Stromberg's early craftsmanship.

For more on this beautiful instrument, please see: http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2015/04/the-celebrated-stromberg-invincible.html


 

Stromberg Orchestra Drum, ca. 1906 - 1910

Stromberg Orchestra Drum
ca. 1906 - 1910

This drum utilizes the so called 'double tension' method where the rods are adjusted from the side of the drum using a wrench. The heads are tightened simultaneously, however, meaning that it is still a single tension drum.

For more on this drum, please visit:
http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2016/05/ca-1906-1910-stromberg-orchestra-drum.html

Stromberg Artist Drum ca. 1905

Stromberg Artist Drum
ca. 1905

In addition to producing custom-made guitars, banjos, and professional level snare and bass drums, Stromberg also built instruments aimed at amateur players. Such was the case with this "Artist Drum" dating from about 1905. Note that while this drum was produced at roughly the same time as the one pictured above, it is a single tension drum which does not allow for the heads to be tuned independently.

For more on this drum, please visit:
http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2015/11/ca-1905-stromberg-artist-drum.html

Charles A. Stromberg & Sons Street Drum, ca. 1920

Stromberg Street Drum
ca. 1920

While not as common, Stromberg did produce some large street drums to be used for military style purposes. This example is tensioned using the traditional rope tension method and is outfitted with a Stone Patent Snare Strainer and Muffler.

For more on this drum, please visit:
http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2012/09/charles-stromberg-sons-rope-tension.html

Stromberg Orchestra Bells
ca. late 1910s - 1920s

Charles Stromberg along with his sons were capable of producing or repairing any and every instrument needed by Boston's Vaudeville era percussionists including drums, traps, and keyboard instruments such as xylophones or glockenspiels.

Charles A. Stromberg & Sons Orchestra Bells, ca. 1920
photo: eBay
Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum, ca. late 1910s

Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum
ca. late 1910s


This drum bares a label stating that it was produced for a musical instrument retailer in Rhode Island. The Stromberg snare strainer and butt are both stamped with a patent date of March 8th, 1904. Note the updated lugs relative to the earlier Invincible Orchestra Drums.
 
Upon arrival this drum was in abysmal condition so a full restoration was undertaken. The missing hardware was fabricated by Italian master craftsman Adrian Kirchler who then replated all of the parts in nickel as they were originally. The shell and hoops were faithfully restored in using period correct materials and techniques by Will Tillman, a.k.a. Drummers Dream.

Stromberg Supertone Orchestra Drum, ca. late 1920s

Stromberg Supertone Orchestra Drum

ca. late 1920s

The later generation of Stromberg Supertone drums featured an updated, more streamlined lug design which in effect was just an elaborate tube lug. Examples are also known to exist in wrapped finishes including sparkling gold and marine pearl.

 

In many ways these drums represents the pinnacle of drum building in Boston during the early 20th Century. Stromberg would ultimately move away from building drums and along with his youngest son Elmer become best known for their big-body archtop guitars of the 1940s and 1950s.

Stromberg Supertone Orchestra Drum, ca. early 1920s

Supertone Stromberg Orchestra Drum
ca. early - mid 1920s


With a redesigned snare throw-off and aluminum counterhoops, Stromberg's "Supertone" model was a truly modern drum in its day. The low profile hoops were intended to not interfere with the drummers sticks. The snare mechanism kept the wires under tension even when not engaged with the bottom head.

 
 
 
 
Stromberg Supertone Orchestra Drum, ca. late 1920s