“The English March” is the first notated piece of drum music, the first printed version of which appeared in Thomas Fisher’s Warlike Directions: Or The Souldiers Practice, published in 1634. Fisher based his notation on a warrant from King Charles I, who demanded its “re-establishment.”
Though first seen on these shores in the years leading up to the American Revolution, traditional grip is actually an import from Europe in the mid-1600s, when fife-and-drum corps of Swiss mercenary soldiers as well as English troops used the technique.
Established in 1854, this Massachusetts manufacturer experienced major growth supplying Northern regiments with snare drums. N&C cranked out a record 100,000 drums a year by 1873, long after the end of the Civil War. It still makes its drums on the same steam-bending machines from that era.
The drum set is an outgrowth of “double drumming,” a technique started in the late 1800s in New Orleans (hitting the snare with one hand and a marching bass with the other). In the early part of the 20th century, various music shops built “consolettes,” also called “contraption trays” (later shortened to traps), onto which smaller drums, cymbals, and percussion could be fastened.
Starting out in an Indianapolis apartment at the end of the 19th century, the Leedy Drum Company soon expanded with a major factory in the city. During the Great Depression, Leedy and Chicago-based Ludwig, a distributor of Leedy products, merged with CG Conn in Elkhart, Indiana, where the brands were manufactured as separate lines. (Unhappy with the arrangement, William F. Ludwig returned to Chicago and started WFL.) In 1951 the companies were combined into Leedy & Ludwig, but it lasted four years. In the 1960s, Conn sold Leedy to Slingerland where the brand fizzled. After new owner Gretsch sold Slingerland, it retained the Leedy rights and resurrected the brand in the early 2000s. Today Ludwig is owned by Conn-Selmer, and is still based in Elkhart.
Circa 1893, Ulysses Leedy made the first folding drum stand (before that, players improvised by hanging the drums from straps fastened to furniture such as chairs). By the 1920s, Leedy expanded into percussion, drumheads, and in the late ’30s another innovation: double-flanged hoops. The company also had early production versions of self-adjusting lugs and laminate wraps. When the company was briefly known as Leedy & Ludwig, it created the Knob Tension line only to discontinue it a year later, in 1951.