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“U.S.” MARKED “CROSBY” CLOOS ROSEWOOD FIFE – VERY ATTRACTIVE INSTRUMENT:  This is a very attractive 19TH Century Rosewood Fife with the added attraction of being stamped “U.S.” on one of the nickel silver ferrules.  The barrel of the fife is maker stamped “CROSBY GC”, indicating it was manufactured by George Cloos of Brooklyn, New York.   

There is simply not enough room here to fully delve into the history of the fifes manufactured by Cloos and Crosby.  Suffice it to say that through more research than I thought would be necessary for even the most obscure US military artifact, I am satisfied that this fife is a “Crosby Model Fife” which was manufactured by George Cloos of Brooklyn, New York.  While there are a number of web sites dedicated to the history of fifes in North America, the most scholarly, and the one which provided the most useful and well documented information is titled www.fifemuseum.comIf US military fifes are of interest to you, I strongly recommend you visit the site and take the time to digest their work.   

Depending on the criteria one uses to determine the business life of a company, there is some room for interpretation in determining when Cloos began to manufacture fifes.  The absolute fact is that he was not in business prior to 1865 and it is equally certain that he did not manufacture fifes during the years of the American Civil War, what you have been told to the contrary notwithstanding.   

That possibility put to rest, again relying on the in depth research provided on the Fife Museum web site, for a number of factors related to Cloos’s professional life, it seems most likely that this particular fife was manufactured no earlier than the mid-1880’s.   

The lilting tune of the fife is firmly engrained in the history of U.S. Military music.  Even to this day, the ceremonial band of the U.S. Army’s Old Guard is a drum and fife corps.  The “U.S.” stamp on the lower ferrule of this fife appears to have been applied contemporary with the use of the instrument and not some embellishment which was added after it passed into the collector market.  The characters were applied individually which is consistent with the sets of stamps issued at the unit level for marking the soldier’s equipment.  Based on a number of Indian Wars era photographs of US Army bands, fifes remained in the army’s inventory through at least the end of the 19TH Century, so a production date from the mid-1880’s as described above would still fall within the years the army bands continued to use the fife. 

This fife, measuring 15 ½” long, appears to be made of rosewood.  The fife is full form with no damage, no cracks or splits, and it retains a pleasing aged patina with no serious handling or storage marks.  Both nickel silver ferrules are present and firmly attached.  [NOTE:  A new digital camera and I are still coming to terms and its anyone's bet who's going to win.  In the photographs below, the ferrules appear to be brass, having a yellow cast to the color.  Trust me, they're nickel silver. There is a limit to the number of times I'm willing to retake a photo.]

The maker’s stamp is fully legible, as is the “U.S.” stamp on the ferrule.  No stretch of imagination could ever credit me with any musical talent… fact, truth be known, the band director at my high school volunteered to pay me not to try out for the band after hearing my first audition.  Even at that young age I could take a hint.  That being said, I did manage to torture enough of a whisper of a tune out of this fife to be able to state that it is fully functional.  There is a cork inserted into the upper end of the fife – the end that would be closest to the face when the fife is positioned at the player’s lips – and while I cannot determine from research why the cork would have been inserted in the barrel, it does appear to be as old as the fife and I’m sure there was a good reason for it.   

This is an attractive example of a 19TH Century Fife with the added value of being marked “U.S.”.  (0365)  $250



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