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Ludwig's Black Beauty Snare Drum, 1920-1925

NMM 7449. Snare Drum by Ludwig & Ludwig, Chicago, 

Side view of NMM 7449.  Snare drum by Ludwig & Ludwig, Chicago, 1920-1925. An early example of Ludwig's Deluxe Standard model No. 1c, popularly known as the Black Beauty model. Two-piece gunmetal shell, engraved in scroll pattern, 5" x 14". Separate (double) tension. Eight tube lugs. Flat metal rims (hoops) with hooks. Pioneer model strainer.Gift of Arlo Wirth, Hartington, Nebraska, 1999.

"A Vintage 'Black Beauty' Rolls Out of the Closet"

By Dr. Margaret Downie Banks, Curator of Musical Instruments
America's Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter, XXVII, No. 2 (May 2000), p. 5.

It was a lucky day for Arlo E. Wirth (July 25, 1919-March 4, 2000) of Hartington, Nebraska, when Chuck Stastny, of Mollet's Music Store in Yankton, South Dakota, recognized "an old snare drum" brought in for minor repairs, as an example of the so-called "Black Beauty" model made by Ludwig and Ludwig of Chicago between 1920-1925. Although Wirth had already sold the drum to a local family simply looking for a "used snare drum," the instrument was generously returned to Wirth when he suggested that he would like to donate it to National Music Museum.

Arlo's oldest brother, Bill, acquired the drum as a second-hand instrument "about 1929 or 1930." He played it in the Nebraska City High School Band and the Talmage, Nebraska, Town Band, "until sometime in the mid- to late 1930s." The drum languished for several years before it was passed down to his sister, Lois Ann (Wirth) Davia. Subsequently, she played it in the Dunbar, Nebraska, High School Band and the Syracuse, Nebraska, Town Band. With the latter group, Lois and the snare drum "accompanied Frank Sorrell of Syracuse on his unsuccessful campaign for the governorship of the State of Nebraska." Lois abandoned the "Black Beauty" for a "marching" snare drum when she played with the University of Nebraska Varsity Marching Band in the early 1940s. After spending some forty years in the William J. Wirth family closet in Dunbar, the drum was offered to Arlo and his wife, Anne (1926-February 7, 2000), who continued to preserve it in their closet for another twenty years, until discovering its value as an historic artifact late in 1999.

The snare drum was authenticated by vintage drum researcher, Rob Cook, of Alma, Michigan, who noted that "it features an engraving pattern referred to by collectors as the 'scroll' or 'ocean wave' pattern. This model is significantly rarer than the later models [appearing after 1925] which were catalogued as Black Beauties and featured the floral or leaf patterns." The drum shell is made of spun brass plated with a gunmetal finish of black nickel. It was lacquered after being engraved to protect the contrasting color of the brass against the black nickel background. The drum's fittings were originally finished with a simulated gold plating known as "Artgold."

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