|PATRIOTIC, PAINT-DECORATED BASE DRUM, WITH EXTRAORDINARY COLOR AND BOLD IMAGERY THAT INCLUDES AN EAGLE AND CROSSED FLAGS; FROM THE GENESEO CORONET BAND [LATER C.C.G. CORONET BAND], ACTIVE AT LEAST 1862 – 1901
|Frame Size (H x L):||n/a|
|Flag Size (H x L):||15.5" tall x 26" diameter|
|This beautiful, paint-decorated bass drum is without equal in my experience, in the world of American folk art, with the most bold and spectacular colors and imagery that I've ever encountered on such an example. The graphics feature a spread winged eagle, perched on crossed American flags, above a rocky outcrop. Above this are the words “Cornet Band,” and at the top, within a pink and red, swallow-tailed streamer that stretches almost all the way around, are the letters “C.C.G.”
Beneath the present initials, the name “Geneseo” is painted. The earliest documentation I can find on the Geneseo Coronet Band of New York,1 appeared in the Buffalo Commercial newspaper on the 26th of November, the day before Thanksgiving, during the second year of the Civil War, 1862. This reprints an article from the Rochester Express of the previous day. Entitled “Gen. Wadsworth at Home—And Serenaded Last Night,” it reads as follows:
“General Wadsworth2 arrived at his home in Geneseo yesterday morning, and last night, at about ten o’clock, the Geneseo Coronet Band, with blazing torch-lights and a vast concourse of the citizens of the village, wended its way down the beautiful pathway through the grove, to the mansion of their well-beloved neighbor and friend. The General and his family were first apprised of the visit by the bugle notes and the drum beat at his very doorway. He of course very soon responded to such a call, by personal appearance among those friends—and he was received by a cheer that awoke that echoes among the hills and valleys of the Genesee [River].”
It continues to report that “Major Handle [apparently the leader of the band], made a short, pithy and patriotic speech to the general, explanatory of the call, and the General as happily responded, thanking his friends for their attention and renewed assurances…”
Articles about the Geneseo Coronet Band of New York appear frequently in the 1880’s. The last I could locate appeared in 1901. It is likely that the “C.C.G.” lettering was added at that time. The Wadsworth Normal School, (now the State University of New York at Geneseo,) named after the general that the band serenaded, opened its doors in 1871. The “G” is distinctly like those that appeared on school letterman sweaters at the turn-of-the-century. Though I could not match the initials to any coronet band by that name, it is very likely that drum ownership transferred to the school or an entity within. With the pink color, I have to wonder if the new recipient may have been a girl’s band. Many girl’s coronet bands were present in both the 19th and early 20th centuries. The drum itself likely dates anywhere between the 1861 and the 1870’s. The shell and rims appear to be ash. The leather tabs are original. The brass hooks are early, if not also original. The surface is almost entirely original except as noted below in the condition notes.
The flag to the left is a U.S. Navy jack (just a blue field with stars), with an indeterminable star count, due to the fact that the flag image trails off the drum. The flag that appears to the right has 37 crosshatch style stars. Because the entire canton is visible, and because the flag does not appear to be especially creased in the folds that the artist included, and because there are 6 stars in each row until the last, in which there are 7, I’d suggest that this number was included intentionally. That would reflect the period between 1867 and 1876, when there were 37 states in the Union.3 My guess is that this date window was meaningful to the band in some way, possibly referencing Wadsworth Normal School’s 1871 origin. It may also be that the eagle and flags were added for a parade in 1876 for parades or celebrations surrounding our nation’s 1876 centennial of independence. During the Civil War (1861-65), bass drums most often had very simple lettering. The original advertising, consistent with other 1860’s drums, was probably limited to “Geneseo Coronet Band” or even “Geneseo Band.” The reverse of the drum appears to have been plain, or else was replaced very early on. In shadowed letters, this reads “C.C.G. Coronet Band.”
The obverse is, hands-down, the most beautifully painted drum head that I have ever had the pleasure of owning.
Condition: The ropes have been replaced. There is no label, though there may have been at one time. Some of the hardware originally present to hold the rope is absent. I shortened the top rim to accommodate shrinkage of the case, using early wire to create three stitches at the seam. The head with the painting of the eagle had split for some distance at the outer edge and sagged. I removed the head, hydrated it, added and underlay of canvas where needed to support the skin, and re stretched the original head. Some paint restoration was needed along the edge, losses had occurred.
1 While coronet bands by the same name existed in the towns of Geneseo, Illinois (active at least 1884 – 1941), and Geneseo, Kansas (active at least 1889 - 1911), the drum was found in the Northeast and the 37 star count on the flag, if accurate, would tend to support Geneseo, New York origin. Author Gavin Holman, in a work called “Brass Bands & Cornet Bands of the U.S.A.: A Historical Directory,” notes that the Illinois “Geneseo Coronet Band” was active as early as 1872, which would coincide with the 37 star count, but I have not been able to substantiate this information.
Holman also notes that the “Geneseo Brass Band” was active in 1861, stating that: “In September 1861 it went to St. Louis to join the Missouri 14th Regiment, but due to various hinderances, it returned home, only to set off to join Colonel White's New Mexico expedition.” The 14th Missouri, a.k.a. “Birge’s Western Sharpshooters,” organized in February of 1862 as the 14th Missouri Infantry, and was comprised almost entirely of Illinois men. It was re-assigned to Illinois in 1862 as the 66th Illinois, which mustered in on November 23rd, 1862, and had no band. That much is known, and information on the Geneseo, Illinois Brass Band seems logical, even though I could not locate anything further concerning Colonel White or a New Mexico Expedition. I found no other record of the Geneseo, Illinois Coronet band prior to 1884.
2 Wadsworth was a very important figure during the war. He owned more cultivated farmland than anyone in the state of New York and was a generous philanthropist. Despite a complete lack of military experience, he was commissioned Major General in the New York State Militia in 1861. He led forces at numerous major engagements with increasing success and his men were instrumental at Gettysburg. Almost 10 years older than any of Grant’s divisional commanders, he was shot and killed at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864.
3 Technically the 37 star count remained official until July 4th, 1877, but no one cared what was official when producing American flags. As soon or even before Colorado became the 38th state, on August 1st, 1876, a 38th star would have been added.
|Collector Level:||Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1861|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1871|
|War Association:||1861-1865 Civil War|