Date: c. 1780
About this artifact

The fife is a six-holed simple flute. Metal bands around the end called "ferules" protected this American-made military fife from damage. Small and easy to carry, fifes became common in European armies during the 1500s and remained in use for the next three centuries. The extremely loud and piercing tone the fife produces made it an effective instrument in combination with drums for communicating orders and rallying troops on the battlefield and in camp. By the 18th century, military regulations included specific fife calls and drum beats. American armies and militias used fifers and drummers from the colonial period through the 19th century. By the late 1800s, military tactics and technologies had evolved and fifes fell into disuse as a battlefield instrument. Modern fife and drum corps in the United States preserve and share the fife's military history and music through performances, parades and musters.