Odell M. Chapman was a musician and machinist active in the manufacturing and musical communities of Connecticut and Rhode Island. He was born in 1887 in Ledyard, Connecticut, and died in Newport on January 14, 1966.
He began a career in manufacturing in the silk and cotton mills of Connecticut, serving as the superintendent of the Atwood Machine Company in Willimantic, Connecticut, by 1920. In Willimantic, Chapman also became a longtime leader of local drum corps. Willimantic contained a number of fife and drum groups, notably the city wide Willimantic Fife and Drum Corps originally led by Lyman Maine, Jr. Odell M. Chapman’s involvement is dated to November 18, 1918 when he became manager and drum major of the Thread City Continental Fife and Drum Corps that either surpassed or replaced the Willimantic Corps. The Thread City Corps became well known throughout the state for their skill and presentation, earning a number of awards from the Connecticut Fifers and Drummers Association. In addition to managing the group, Odell M. Chapman made and maintained the corps’ instruments, a few of which were over one hundred years old at the time of his leadership.
With this experience and interest, he began manufacturing and selling drums, band equipment, and music. His business, Chapman Drums, held endorsements from a variety of drum, fife and drum, and other martial ensembles throughout the New England and across the United States. A scrapbook in the collection contains a many of these endorsements as well as numerous advertisements for Chapman Drums.
With the coming of the Second World War, Chapman moved to Newport, Rhode Island to work at the Naval Torpedo Station. According to his obituary, he served there for ten years as a leading machinist. Chapman continued collecting and restoring historic instruments throughout his life, eventually creating this sizable collection. At an evening event of martial music in his honor, Odell M. Chapman donated his collection to the Newport Historical Society in 1944.
“Newport Historical Society Receives the Odell M. Chapman Drum Collection as a Memorial to his Name.” From reprint of original article by Newport Herald dated February 9, 1944.
“Odell Chapman, Machinist, 78.” From news clipping dated January 15, 1966. In Newport Historical Society Obituary Files.
“Popular Amusements: Fife and Drum Corps.” In A Modern History of Windham County, Connecticut: A CountyTreasure Book Volume 2, edited by Allen B. Lincoln. Windham County, CT: S.J. Clark Publishing Company, 1920. Pages 964-965.
Scope and Content
Images, written and printed music, (instruments,) and documents relating to Odell M. Chapman, his musical pursuits, and martial musical ensembles of New England and the United States more broadly. The collection consists mainly of images of drum and band ensembles throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island as well as images of products manufactured by Odell M. Chapman’s musical supply business, such as drums, fifes, and drumsticks. The remainder of the collection is made of written material, including both handwritten and published books of music for drums and band instruments, a brief history of the Mattatuck Drum Band written by contemporary band leader Charles S. Miller, and transcripts of a weekly radio program featuring the music of Odell M. Chapman’s band.