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!