Coming to the New York Historical Society, my background of knowledge lies primarily in opera and classical music. Once apprised of the project, to choose one of the museum’s objects to research in-depth, I was drawn to a musical instrument. In order to learn about the history of New York’s classical music culture I selected a drum belonging to Harvey B. Dodworth. The drum itself (pictured at left) was created in 1836, in Massachusetts. Harvey B. Dodworth was a pioneer of music in New York during the mid and late nineteenth century. In short, Harvey B. Dodworth was responsible for opening Central Park as a concert space, transforming Madison Square Garden from a sporting arena for “walking matches” into a musical venue, and founding the New York Philharmonic. Dodworth’s primary position was as the leader of the first all-white brass band in New York, second only to one in Boston. The entire Dodworth family was musical, beginning an empire of instrument shops, music schools, publishing companies, sheet music stores, dancing schools, and, most notably, the Dodworth Cornet Brass Band.
The drum itself is equally historically germane. Taken into battle during the Civil War and struck by two confederate bullets, one of the drum’s faces was replaced around 1864, putting it back into use at the Ford Theater on the night of Lincoln’s assassination and in his funeral procession. It was present at the inaugurations of presidents Van Buren, W. H. Harrison, Polk, Taylor, Buchanan, Lincoln, Grant, Garfield, Cleveland, and B. Harrison. The drum’s sale accompanied a portrait of Harvey B. Dodworth, of which the New York Historical Society is in possession. Dodworth is pictured in his band uniform, carrying his instrument of choice, the cornet, and holding the score to a cornet solo, composed by Harvey B. Dodworth (pictured above). Though the drum looks mundane, it is inextricably linked to the history of institutions fundamental to New York’s history. Furthermore, American music history was largely impacted by the advent of the brass band, allowing for the classic “American” sound, we know and hear every Fourth of July, to be distinct and recognizable. Above is a clip of a revival tribute band to Dodworth’s Cornet Brass Band playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. -Sonia