George Cloos Civil War Fifes

When is a fife marked Geo. Cloos (or any marking of Cloos/GC/GC Crosby/etc…) a Civil War Fife?

The answer……..


How can this be?

Didn’t George Cloos make 1000’s of fifes for the Union Army during the Civil War?

Wasn’t the Cloos Company founded in 1862, thus showing they were in business at that time?

Maybe this is true according to the myths, but not according to the facts.

First let me state, this is not an essay on the Cloos Company entire history, or an essay on the Cloos fifes, it is an essay dealing with the beginnings of the Cloos Company and nothing more.

I will be dealing with the Cloos/Crosby model fife in another essay, but not here.

This essay will be dealing mainly with the time period from 1853 to 1869.

When I started my research regarding George Cloos I found much misinformation that has been passed down over the years.  Some from people who had nothing to do with the company, some from the company itself, but I knew that there must be a trail that I could follow and determine if Cloos did indeed supply fifes for the Union Army from “large government contracts” awarded to his firm.

Let’s start the journey by having a look when the Cloos (if that’s what we want to call them) family arrived here in the United States:

Note: I am not here to confuse you with what was happening in Germany or what was happening here in the United States at that time, I am just concerned with 2 brothers who came to be known as Cloos.

1853 Gottleib Klass arrives in NY on Dec 6 1853/New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957

1854 Georg Claas Reich (?) arrives in NY Aug 4th/New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957

1855 Goturd Lewis (Brother. How they got Lewis, I’ll never know but the birth date was consistent, and he was living near William Bauer, a person I will deal with in another essay.)/ 1855 NY Census

1858 Gotthardt Cloos (Brother)/Brooklyn Dir 1858

1860 George Close/Brother is listed as Closs/1860 Census

1860 Brother is Closs/1860 Census

1860 Sept 24 Brother becomes citizen/Signs name Closs/ William Bauer stands up for him/ US Nat Records

1860 G Closs/Became a citizen Oct 12/William Bauer stands up for him/US Nat Records

1862 George Closs/Brother is listed as Closs/ Brooklyn Dir 1862

1863 George Closs/Brooklyn Dir 1862

1863 Gotthard Kloss (Brother) CW draft papers June 1863/ US Civil War Draft 1863-65

1864 George Close/ Brooklyn Dir 1864

1865 George Closs/1865 NY Census

1866 George Closs/Brother is listed as Closs/ Brooklyn Dir 1866

1867 No listing for George/Brother is listed as Closs

1868 No listings

1869 Cloos/ Brooklyn Dir 1869

1870 Close/Census 1870

So, to break this information down into a simple format:

1853 Klass

1854 Claas

1855 Lewis (?)

1858 Cloos (Brother)

1860 Close/Closs

1860 Both brothers sign their names Closs on their citizenship papers.

1862 Closs/Closs

1863 Closs/Kloss

1864 Close

1865 Closs

1866 Closs/Closs

1867 Closs (Brother)

1869 Cloos/Cloos

1870 Close/Close

Now to total the findings:

Klass 1, Claas 1, Lewis 1, Cloos 3, Close 3, Closs 8, Kloss 1

What does all this tell us?

It tells us that the Cloos brothers were not starting to use the name Cloos until toward the 1870’s, thus any fife made at that time would not have been marked Cloos!

It seems that they were mainly using the name Closs and even used that to become citizens.

George Closs

Gotthard Closs/Brother

Why they would have changed their name?

 I have no idea at this time, but I am confident to state that no instrument marked Cloos came from this period.

Now wait a minute you say: didn’t they start in 1862? 

Didn’t they make fifes for the Union Army?


How do I know this?

Because Cloos tells us from a statement in 1884 in the “History of Kings County” that his business stated in 1865.


How did 1865 become 1862?

Did Cloos lie?

Most likely not.

I will give myself as an example of how this might have happened:

I state that Dillon Music started in 1992, but I was sending out mailing lists of instruments as early as 1987.  Furthermore, my “first” deal really could be traced to 8th grade when I traded 2 clarinets for a Sousaphone and then traded the Sousaphone for another Sousaphone and a helicon.  That would put the start of my business somewhere in the mid 70’s.  Depending on which date I use I could increase the age of my business by almost 17 years.

The same could be said for George Cloos.

Cloos could have made his first instrument under his own name in 1862, or this could have been the time he finished his apprenticeship, or he could have been dealing on the side in musical instruments as of this date. It could have been many things.

It also could be that as the century wore on he wanted to identify with the Civil War, and thus felt it better to use the earlier date as the start of his business. This would be a good business move if you wanted to sell fifes to many of the Civil War fife and drum groups.

As with myself, Cloos could have been dealing/making in a small manner while working for someone else, and thus at a later point in his life decided to change the date to then.

I will be addressing this matter in another essay, but for now this is my conclusion, based on the facts, regarding the George Cloos Company and the 1862 date:

Cloos wasn’t Cloos in 1862 and he wasn’t in business in 1862.

So, if you have any fife marked Geo Cloos/Crosby GC/Cloos, or any other marking as such, sorry, you DO NOT have a Civil War instrument!

Or to restate the opening:

When is a fife made by George Cloos a Civil War fife?