Side Drum

Maker: Attributed to Ernest Vogt (American)

Date: ca. 1864

Geography: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Culture: American

Medium: Wood, calf skin, rope

Dimensions: Shell height (head to head with rims): 15-3/8 inches (39.1 cm)
Head diameter: between 16-7/8 inches and 17 inches (43.1 cm)

Classification: Membranophone-double-headed / cylindrical drum

Credit Line: The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889

Accession Number: 89.4.2162


This side drum from the 1860s bears a stenciled eagle design that was typical of the thousands of instruments produced for use by the Union army during the Civil War. The eagle is painted on a blue field, which means it was used in the Infantry, and a banner held in the eagle's beak bears the words REG: U.S. INFANTRY.

This instrument is a rope-tension drum. Players adjust leather tugs, or "ears," to change the tension on the ropes that zigzag back and forth across the shell around the drum. The tension on the ropes changes the pitch of the skin drumhead.

To the right of the eagle painting is a tack design. Brass tacks were used to reinforce glued shells, and the tack designs became decorative elements for drum makers and also served as a kind of maker's mark. The tack design on this drum consists of a circle around the vent hole; above and below the circle are arrows pointing toward the rims. These geometric figures are framed by two parallel rows of tacks that are parallel with the shell seam. This design is the same one used by the prolific drum manufacturer Ernest Vogt, in Philadelphia, and allows attribution to his workshop.