Saturday, January 7, 2017

Coming Event: 9th Annual Ice Harvest on the Shop Pond on 2/4/2017

Join us at the shop pond at NCCHP, 42 Water St., Granville, MA. Saturday, Feb. 4 from 12 – 3.  Dennis Picard, director of Storrowton Village Museum, will organize the harvest and invite visitors to join him on the ice to use the ice saw and other tools to experience life before the days of refrigeration.  A video on ice harvesting in New England will also be shown continuously in the NCCHP Museum.  

The rescue horses from the Blue Star Equiculture Farm ( will be back for Ice Harvest again this year.   The museum will be open for tours that focus on Yankee Ingenuity from the 1850’s to current day. We hope to bring people together to rekindle the community spirit of the farm communities and industrial villages that were common in most of New England. The Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation invites everyone with an interest in “living history” to join us at the museum. 
There is no charge for the event or for refreshments but donations will be gratefully accepted. For last minute information on ice conditions and the status of the harvest check the website or call 413-357-6321 on February 3, 2015.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Deacon Allyn's Last Ride- January 4, 1860

Today we travel back 157 years to look in on James P. Cooley, co-founder of Noble & Cooley, as he recounts the day's events in his Journal. Typical daily entries make note of the weather, crops, Granville social events, and life as a local farmer/entrepreneur. But a quick glance out the window of his home on Maple Street (now Main Road) turned the day into anything but ordinary (transcript provided below the original image):

"Wednesday, January 4, 1860. 16 above zero... Snows some. About 3 PM Deac. Allen [Allyn] of Montgomery stopt at Rev. Mr. Mills a few moments and started for W. Granville. When he passed our house his head was leaned back over the sleigh. Horse was trotting along. The horse was stopt near the school house, the man taken out. Did not breath but once, was carried to Treats at 7 AM in morning."

"Thursday, January 5, 1860...Mr. Allen's [Allyn] corpse carried home today."

"Deacon Allen" referred to in James Cooley's Journal was Deacon David Allyn, Jr. (1791-1860) of Montgomery, Massachusetts. Married in 1813, he was a farmer and the head of a large family. Deacon Allyn owned over 200 acres of land and left an estate valued at nearly $4000 which was a goodly sum in 1860.

Deacon David Allyn, Jr.
(Photo from
The good deacon's father, David Allyn, Sr. (1759-1841) was a Sargent during the Revolutionary War, first serving as a Minuteman immediately after Lexington and Concord. His militia marched from Colchester, CT. in April 1775 to join in the Siege of Boston which eventually drove out the British forces. Allyn enlisted in the Continental Army when Washington arrived in Boston from Philadelphia with the news of the formation of the Army.

Allyn, Sr. was also serving under the traitor Benedict Arnold when Arnold betrayed his country and joined the British. According to his pension documents Allyn and his fellow soldiers received word from Washington of Arnold's act of treason, countermanding Arnold's battle plan. One can only imagine the shock, dismay and disgust Allyn and his fellow patriots felt at Arnold's despicable act of betrayal.

"History is a big bowl of spaghetti" (having just made that up) with so many stories and histories intertwined, and as if we need proof, consider that at the same time Deacon Allyn's father was marching from Colchester to Boston, Silas Noble (1733-1775, the great-grandfather of Noble & Cooley co-founder Silas Noble, 1824-1888), was also a Minuteman marching to Boston from the Westfield area of Massachusetts. Sadly, Silas Noble died in July, 1775 at the Siege of Boston shortly after Washington's arrival.

James P. Cooley continued writing in his Journals almost daily until his death in 1889. He died in the office at Noble & Cooley with his wife Celia by his side. His business partner and company co-founder Silas Noble died a year earlier in 1888.

As we return to January 4, 2017 it is worth reflecting on the expression, "May you live in interesting times," and consider what must have been truly amazing times. It makes a lot of what we consider "interesting" today look pretty tame. But there has been one constant since 1854: the presence of the descendants of James P. Cooley at the helm of Noble & Cooley.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Ghosts of Christmas Past

As Christmas 2016 winds down we take one last holiday trip in the NCCHP Wayback Machine to 1889 and 1903 to look in on two young people who had interesting connections to Granville, Noble & Cooley, and each other.

On Christmas Day 1889 in Granville, 21 year-old Mary E. Noble, received a Bible. Mary would soon wed John H. Rowley and move to Hartford where he became a successful builder. Mary and John's fathers, Edwin Noble and William Rowley, were both long time Noble & Cooley workers. Edwin Noble was the cousin of Noble & Cooley co-founder Silas Noble. Like many Granville children of the time Mary was well schooled and a competent artist and pianist. As a devout Methodist, her Bible was very well-worn by the time of her death on December 23, 1957 at the age of 89.

(Courtesy of the Rowley family. NCCHP photo,
Moving forward to Christmas 1903 we pause at the Holcomb household in Granville to visit 17 year old Harry Holcomb, who you may remember from our post describing Harry's racing adventures with the Springfield-based Knox Motorcar Company. Harry had worked on and off at Noble & Cooley during school breaks and eventually moved to Springfield to become part of the emerging automobile business. His uncle John Rowley was married to Mary Noble.

As with so many of Granville's young population, the opportunities presented in cities by the industrial revolution were a powerful attraction, especially coming from a town like Granville where Yankee ingenuity was such a highly valued trait. People like Harry, John and Mary understood where their futures lay and they had been brought up with a powerful work ethic. Along with many thousands of others like them, they established the foundation for the "middle class" that has been the backbone of our country during the 20th century and into the 21st.

But in 1903 Harry was an industrious student attending school in Westfield. A small collection of his books indicates he was an excellent student who took his education seriously and had a bright future. For 1903 he received two books for Christmas:

Courtesy of the Gilbert family. NCCHP photo,

Courtesy of the Gilbert family. NCCHP photo,

The mystery of these two books is the handwriting, which does not match that of Harry or either of his parents.

On that note we return to 2016, with a wish that everybody received a gift that mattered enough to be inscribed and which will still be with us (maybe not "us" but somebody) over 100 years from now.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Drums, Part 4: Line 207 13" Drum

The final Christmas drum for this year's holiday is the 13" line 207 drum. This was the largest toy snare drum of the series and unlike the drums in Parts 1-3, this drum is constructed with the more traditional twine securing the hoops and drum heads, and leather adjusting ears.

(NCCHP photo,
Line 207 was the production designation for this style drum, which was available in 6, 6 1/2, and 7 thru 13 inch diameters. The "0" in 207 indicated it had two fibre heads. Drums offered one fibre head and one sheepskin head had a "2" as the center digit, and drums with 2 sheepskin heads had a "4" as center digit.

The following pictures may be of use to collectors and restorers and show details of how the strap, twine and snares were attached.

The line 207 Christmas drum is listed at prices ranging from $3.34 for the 6" drum to $13.96 in an undated N&C price list. The drum is not shown as being available in the more expensive sheepskin head versions which would have added from $0.36 to $4.26 depending on the drum size.

Attachment of the original drum strap.

Knots used to attach original twine (NCCHP photo,
Knots used to attach original twine, bottom inside of drum hoop (NCCHP photo

The snares are pulled across the inside of the bottom drum head and secured between the hoop and shell
(NCCHP photo,
(NCCHP photo,

Drums were not marked with the line number so the marking on this particular drum indicates it was used as a sales sample. The N&C sales force travelled the country visiting retail outlets, typically department stores, with large trunks that were custom designed to fit and carry samples of the latest drum lines. Next time you watch "Miracle on 34th Street" consider that behind those Macy's doors are some Granville-made Noble & Cooley toy drums!
Hope the holidays are enjoyable for one and all.
HO, HO, HO!!!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Drums, Part 3: Two Color Drums

Noble & Cooley had a keen awareness of the need to make quality toy drums at a low price for those who couldn't afford N&C's higher end lines. In today's more affluent world most people find it hard to imagine that a 50 or 75 cent price difference might determine whether some parents could afford to buy their child a toy drum as a Christmas gift, but that used to be one of life's realities.

N&C's higher end toy drums were printed on an 8 color printing machine invented by Noble & Cooley. It was unique in the business and was a big competitive advantage. However N&C also made some 2 color Christmas drums with fabric drum heads. These were cheaper to make and we can surmise that thanks to these less expensive drums more than a few children unwrapped a toy drum on Christmas morning who might otherwise have gone without.

So far we have found only one complete 2 color Christmas drum in the collection. The basic graphic design is the same as the drums shown in Part 2 but as you can see white ink has been used in place of what was black in the 8 color drums, and the white is on a solid red background. The drum has a white silk strap with a red stripe, the hoops are held on with springs, and the drum is identified as "Made in the U.S.A. by Noble & Cooley" (as always, click on an image for a larger version):

The next 2 color drum is only the shell, with no hoops or heads. This was probably set aside during manufacturing due to flaws in the printing. In this case red was used in lieu of black, all other colors are omitted, and it is printed on a cream colored background. There is no manufacturer's mark::

Finally we have an unbent drum shell that was printed on flat metal stock but never completed. It is on a whiter background and printed with a slightly orangey red ink, with no manufacturer's mark::

And now you know all about the 2 color Christmas drums!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Drums, Part 2: A Tale of Two Drums

At first glance these two Noble & Cooley Christmas drums appear to be identical, other than minor variations in color due to the particular way in which each drum has aged. But a closer look reveals a significant difference, driven by major world events 75 years ago (click on the images for larger versions).

The drum on the left has a metal drum shell with metal hoops, while the drum on the right has a cardboard shell with the same color and style metal hoops. So, why make exactly the same drum but with a cardboard shell?

The drum on the left was made before or after World War II, whereas the drum on the right would date to the World War II era, during which metal was largely consumed by the wartime manufacturing of weaponry. Companies like Noble & Cooley had to come up with alternative materials, and cardboard had to suffice.

Aside from the cardboard shell, what makes the drum on the right interesting is that it has metal hoops. The drum may have been made early in the war and used metal hoops that were already on hand. Other World War II drums in the archive collection used cardboard hoops held on by springs. Over time the cardboard hoops would deform due to the spring tension, as has occurred with the cardboard hoop drums in the archives collection.

Let's take a look at the rest of the graphics on these old drums.

The only difference in the graphics on the war-era cardboard drum is that the country of manufacture is identified as "U.S.A." No such marking is on the metal drum. This is probably because both Japan and Germany were significant toy importers to the U.S. during the 1930's and Noble & Cooley wanted the country of origin clearly visible to customers.

Note in the picture above that the metal drum on the left has a joined seam where ends of the shell meet, while the cardboard drum has an overlapping seam held together by staples.

And that is the tale of the two Christmas drums!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Noble & Cooley Catalogs Now Digitized In Internet Archive

The NCCHP effort to make our archives available to researchers and collectors digitally is off to a successful start, with the digitization of many Noble & Cooley catalogs dating from the 1800's into the 20th century. Many, many more books and documents are yet to be done but this first step is an important one.

To view the material digitized so far CLICK HERE. We believe you'll be amazed. USER TIPS: To digitally "open" a catalog and to turn the pages, just click on the image. It's also a good idea to maximize/enlarge the image for easier viewing by clicking on the icon for fullscreen view (it is the icon with the 4 outward-pointing arrows).

One of the more interesting volumes is a collection of notes dating from around 1928 to 1932 documenting the exact specifications of N&C drums and drum sets. CLICK HERE to see that.

We wish to express our appreciation to everyone at the Boston Public Library, Massachusetts SHRAB, Digital Commonwealth and the Internet Archives who worked to make this first step a reality.