Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drums

The recent appearance of an old toy drum on Ebay prompted some informal research into drums made by Noble & Cooley using a "decoupage" technique. This happened to coincide with the discovery of some decoupage drum panels found in the NCCHP archives and identified as being from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (also known as the 1893 Chicago World's Fair). The image on those drums was very similar to a Rand, McNally "bird's-eye" view of the fair (as always, you can click on any of the images below for a larger version):

World' Columbian Exposition, 1893, Chicago. Image courtesy of Library of Congress.
We have yet to locate records that would explain why this scene was chosen for use on a child's toy drum but one theory is that Noble & Cooley or it's Chicago agent had a display at the Fair and sold the drums on site as souvenirs.

A framed sample of the Columbian Exposition panel as well as others used for decoupage drums has been in the Noble & Cooley office for many (many) years:

Noble & Cooley decoupage drum panel display, est. 1890's. (NCCHP photo)
The label on the back of the framed decoupage panels is from Oscar Rudolph, Nos. 1, 3 and 5 Marion Street, New York City (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn). This suggests the panels were probably framed for display at Noble & Cooley's sales office at 545 Broadway and possibly at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition:
Framer's label (NCCHP photo)
The top two panels relate to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition:

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "Landing of Columbus, 1492" (NCCHP photo)
Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "World's Columbian Exposition, 1893" (NCCHP photo)
The middle panel on the left features the "Brownie Band" which is based on books and cartoons created by Palmer Cox (1840-1924). Brownies were mythical tiny men who were infamous for their mischievous behavior. Each Brownie had a unique character represented by the outfit they wore (a little like The Village People):

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "Brownie Band" (NCCHP photo)
The bottom two panels feature patriotic themes, for which Noble & Cooley had a long tradition:

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "Battle Scene" (NCCHP photo)
Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: Patriotic Theme (NCCHP photo)
The middle panel on the right is the decoupage panel that appears to have been used to make the drum that started this discussion:

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "Children's Procession" (NCCHP photo)

Decoupage "Ebay Drum" believed to be Noble & Cooley (Photo courtesy of Ebay seller bella1)
This drum also has a distinctive embossing pattern typical of Noble & Cooley drums of the era:

(Photo courtesy of Ebay seller bella1)
Below are images for the Line 20 drum from a Noble & Cooley catalog. These images appeared in known catalogs from the 1890's until about 1901. Most catalogs prior to 1890 were lost in the 1889 Noble & Cooley fire. Line 20 drum production likely began around or prior to 1890 and appears to have been discontinued some time prior to 1905. Note that the drum illustrated in the catalog uses the Brownie Band theme decoupage panel shown in the 1890's framed display:

Noble & Cooley catalog cover, 1890's (NCCHP photo)

Noble & Cooley catalog image for "Brownie Band" decoupage drum (NCCHP / Internet Archives image)

Line 20 drum description (NCCHP / Internet Archives image)
As can be seen in the catalog picture above, the hardware and cord used on both drums appears to be the same (allowing for the variables of the auction drum being many years old and the catalog being in black and white). The catalog description refers to the "embossed lines, flowers, etc." that also appear in the picture of the auction drum. Unfortunately we aren't able to inspect the wood drum in person and there is no makers mark on it, but all signs point to it being a Noble & Cooley drum probably from the 1890's, possibly a bit earlier. We may or may not uncover more details as we continue the Archives Project.

Thanks to NCCHP member Bob Watrous for bringing this interesting drum to NCCHP's attention and to Ebay seller bella1 for permission to use the auction images in this discussion of decoupage drums. If you've read this far you ARE a real historian! For more old Noble & Cooley catalogs and drum images, go to NCCHP's page on the Internet Archives by clicking here.

Please note: The material in this blog is correct to the best of our knowledge. It should not be relied upon for the purpose of placing a value on or making the purchase of property. It is not an endorsement of any seller. Researchers, merchants and hobbyists should always do their own due diligence in determining authenticity, provenance, valuation, and other matters relating to such property.