9221 South Kilpatrick Avenue, Oak Lawn Illinois. A sad end and a new beginning.
The beginnings of Camco drums are built upon the unfortunate end of the George Way drum company. George Way lost control over his namesake drum company in a hostile takeover. After helping stakeholder John Rochon acquire 51% of the shares, he was almost immediately pushed out of the company he founded. Camco up until then was a hardware and accessory company, but with the acquisition of the George Way drum company, the drums were rebranded "Camco".
(for more info on George Way drums see http://waydrums.com/)
George Way's distinctive designs became synonymous with Camco drums from then on. The earliest drums that the new Camco drum company produced were quite close to those the George Way company had been making. These early examples featured the same Jasper shells with reinforcing rings and heavy rolled-over chrome-plated brass hoops. Reflecting the switch that George Way had made from a three-ply to a four-ply shell, the oldest Camcos can be found with both shell types. Perhaps they were using up existing stock of shells because shortly thereafter Camco started exclusively using the four-ply shell construction (also with four-ply reinforcing rings). Camco offered a limited number of wrapped and lacquered finishes. The wrapped drums were painted white inside and the lacquered ones typically were left clear maple inside.
In the middle 1960's the company switched to a six-ply (and six-ply rings) shell construction. In the "transition" time from the four-ply era, we still see early six-ply kits with the heavy rolled-over brass hoops. The next hoops Camco used were also brass but did not have the rolled-over top edge. Most commonly referred to as "2nd generation brass hoops", they were only available for a short time and we see them much less than the other styles. After that, Camco no longer used brass hoops and switched to a distinct triple flange design that had rounded "ears" where the tension rods inserted.
There are many anomalies throughout the years in regards to Camco drums, and their modest sales as well as lack of serial numbers* or date stamps leaves a lot to speculation. Catalogs were undated and rarely or accurately updated. Although it's more or less impossible to put precise dates on when a specific drum might have been made - unlike some of the other US brands of the era - a close look at the badges, shells, hardware and other identifying features can generally narrow it down to a two to three year period with some certainty.
*(The serial number exception is that many though not all LA Camco shells have handwritten or stamped serial numbers. See LA section for more info!)
In the early period, Camco used rail consolettes made by Walberg & Auge (in common with many other drum companies of the era including Gretsch.) These were most commonly paired with a diamond plate mount on the rack tom or toms. Less commonly (rarely in fact) you see the Camco part 856 (floor tom bracket and cymbal arm bracket) used as a tom mount.
At some point during the mid-60's, the company finally created a proprietary tom mounting system. It is often called the "triangle" mount (not unreasonably) because of the support plate's triangular base footprint on the bass drum shell. Officially called the "swivel" mount, this came in single, double and even triple versions, the latter famously displayed with an almost unplayable triple rack tom set-up on the cover of one of the catalogs. Rail mounts were still offered as an option even with the addition of the triangle mount.
The cloud badge was used throughout most all of the Oaklawn years with the exception of the sparsely used oval badge.
The earliest Camco kits shipped with a badge that read "Camco Drum Co., Oaklawn, Illinois". This was soon replaced with a badge that read "Camco Drum Co., Oaklawn, Illinois, U.S.A." which was used up until the end of the Oaklawn era.
As for the oval badge, conventional wisdom has stated it was used briefly towards the end of the Oaklawn era. However, many drums have turned up that call this logic into question and which correspond to much earlier years of production. Drums with four ply shells, older style throwoffs, COB hoops, etc. The oval badge could've been a "failed experiment" that they decided to use up here and there rather than throw away, or an error from the badge maker. These are purely speculations of course!
The location of the factory was the double-barrelled Oak Lawn, an outer industrial suburb of Chicago - though became one word on the badges - maybe a case of the guys in the artwork department not being able to fit in all the letters on the badge unless they dropped a space.
From the early to mid 1960's wrapped finishes dominated the offerings when compared to stain/lacquer finishes. For example, a 1960's catalog shows 19 options for wraps and 5 choices of stains. As far as customer preference, in early years it seems we find mostly wrapped finishes and then in later years we see the popularity of stains gain traction. Without accurate record keeping and due to the scarcity of Camco as compared to other brands, these are purely anecdotal observations.
By 1971 the Camco drum company was sold to Kustom and production was moved to Chanute, Kansas.