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.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Update on Archives Climate Monitoring

In July, 2016 NCCHP began monitoring the climate inside the archives facility (the 3rd floor of Building 15). The space is unheated so we knew the results would be enlightening. To see the original post CLICK HERE.

On December 15th we downloaded the first set of data for the July-December timeframe and sure learned a lot. Here's a graph showing temperature, humidity and dew point. You will definitely want to click on the image below to view a larger version:

The fascinating thing about this graph is how high the relative humidity is for the colder months. We posed the question to Rachel Onuf, Massachusetts SHRAB's Roving Archivist and NCCHP's guiding light in all matters relating to the archives project. Rachel points out:

"Consider the importance of dew point (DP), which is the temperature at which the air cannot hold all the moisture in it and water condenses. Unless it is mechanically humidified or dehumidified, the air circulating through the building will have the same absolute moisture content, or dew point, as the outdoor air. The dew point determines what combinations of temperature and relative humidity (RH) are possible in the storage environment. At a constant dew point, when the temperature goes up, the RH goes down and when the temperature goes down the RH goes up."

The Image Permanence Institute (IPI) has a great on line tool that allows the user to change one variable (temp, dew point or relative humidity) and solve for the other variables. It then provides a risk summary based on those outputs. To try out the model CLICK HERE It's fun and fascinating. For example, using the recent NCCHP temp of 30 and RH of 70, the model produces a dew point in the low 20's (matching our on site data logger) and the risk evaluation shows no mold risk but a metal corrosion risk (condensation).

Our graph is a textbook example, especially in December where the lower dew point drives humidity over 90%, higher than the muggiest days of August. When the dew point drops with the temperature the humidity percentage is driven up. Without dehumidification equipment there is no way to bring the humidity down to the 30% to 50% recommended humidity range for archives storage. As the IPI reinforces, " controlling dew point is the key to managing to managing material decay."

Setting aside the science, what it means is that one of our long term goals will need to be the achievement of a more stable archive environment. Things like insulation and heat are good starters, with humidity controls and dare we say "air conditioning"? On a day like today in Granville we'd settle just for some heat. So if you are planning on donating a large (or small) bundle of money this year, you still have time to donate to NCCHP!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Drums Part 1: Santa Claus Band

This holiday season the NCCHP Wayback Machine brings you a series of Noble & Cooley toy Christmas drums, beginning with the oldest Christmas drum in the collection, made during the early 20th century. This particular drum has spent its life at 42 Water Street in the Noble & Cooley main office. As you can see from the pictures the paint has checked with age but the original strap is still tucked neatly away as it has been for the past 100 or so years.

The 11" diameter drum shell shown below is actually made of two identically lithographed metal sheets attached end-to-end then formed into the shell. To see the Noble & Cooley catalog page for this drum with a picture and description of the drum sizes made, CLICK HERE. Long before the walrus was Paul, this was Santa and the Fab Four (you can click on any image for a full screen version):

(NCCHP photo,

(NCCHP photo,

(NCCHP photo,

(NCCHP photo,

(NCCHP photo,
(NCCHP photo,
Noble & Cooley "Santa Claus Band" drum (unused printed drum shell) showing another color scheme.
Click on image for a larger version. (NCCHP photo,

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Have You Checked out NCCHP's Web Site Pictures?

The NCCHP site ( has a wonderful photo collection of images taken by Carol Jones. The collection covers the early days of the museum and many of the more recent events held at the museum. It's a great collection to browse during the chilly weather ahead of us here in the Northeast and brings back reminders of pleasant days at NCCHP.

Here's the link: CLICK HERE

And by the way, it's getting to be time to mail in your 2017 dues!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

New Donations to the Equipment Collection (or, "More Restoration Projects")

NCCHP was pleased to accept two donations recently! The first is a vintage cordwood saw; the second is a mortising machine. The saw is from Will, a long time Granville resident and supporter of NCCHP; the mortising machine is from his daughter Sara, who has a very keen eye for spotting old machinery in need of a home.

NCCHP's "new" 1929 mortiser arrived in November, 2016. Thanks Sara! (NCCHP photo)
What does this thing do? How does it work? Cue the YouTube video to see a similar machine in action- CLICK HERE. Our machine needs the hollow chisel(s) in case you have any to donate to the cause.

This dangerous-looking thing is a belt-driven cordwood saw. It doesn't just look dangerous- it is. Thanks Will!
(NCCHP photo)
What does a thing like this look like in action? Put on your safety glasses, work gloves and ear protection, CLICK HERE and stand back!

As always, one thing has led to another. The cordwood saw was designed to attach to a three point tractor hitch, and then run off a large belt driven by the tractor's PTO (power take-off). This provided an excellent excuse for another NCCHP supporter to obtain a 1941 Ford 9N farm tractor which will be on long term loan to the museum beginning in 2017. The result should be a working example of farm ingenuity.

1941 Ford 9N tractor, estimated build date early December 1941 (NCCHP photo)
The 1941 Ford 9N tractor will be made more presentable and we are hoping it will join the NCCHP collection in the spring of 2017. This particular tractor has a serial number that indicates it was built around early December, 1941. The tractor is turning 75 years old, sharing that anniversary with the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) and the start of the United States' involvement in World War II.

NCCHP thanks it's generous supporters who have donated their time and/or artifacts to continue growing the museum collection. And just to show that we DO have standards, we turned down the offer of a free Studebaker pickup, which would be delightful if it hadn't already made significant progress in reuniting with the earth:

Some things are past saving. But kitty seems to think the trailer might have potential. (NCCHP photo)