Historic Folk Toys: Music, 'Kazoo'

Historic Folk Toys: Music, 'Kazoo'

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Kazoo
Our Kazoo is a popular folk instrument that anyone can play! Made today of metal, just as they have been since the mid-1800s. Kazoo comes with instructions on how to play. These kazoos are made in the same manner as original instruments produced at the beginning of the 20th century.

Historical Background: The kazoo is a simple musical instrument (membranophone) that produces tonal qualities when a player hums into it. The kazoo is also a type of vibrating membrane instrument known as "mirlitons." The kazoo dates back hundreds of years to its oldest known relative, the horn-mirliton, an African version of the mirliton. Horn-mirlitons' tubes were made from cow horns, and the eggshells of spiders were used for the membranes. African horn-mirlitons were often used at tribal gatherings to distort or mask voices.

The first European mirlitons were created in the 17th century and were called "eunuk flutes." During the 1800s, various forms of kazoos could be found throughout North America. And even though these instruments varied in construction, they were all similar to the kazoo. These early American mirlitons were based on the African version and primarily used for folk music.

By the mid-18th century, the kazoo began to become popular and make its mark on music history. The first kazoo as we know it today came as an idea in the 1840s to Alabama Vest of Macon, Georgia, and was made with the help of a German clock manufacturer, Thaddeus von Glegg. The kazoos they made were soon adopted by musicians in Jazz, Jug, and Hillbilly bands.

A traveling salesman by the name of Emil Sorg chanced upon Vests and von Glegg's kazoo. Sorg was so impressed with the market potential for this instrument, he went to New York to produce his own kazoos. Sorg eventually partnered with a Buffalo tool and die maker by the name of Michael McIntyre. The first production run of kazoos occurred in 1912.

A year later, McIntyre had obtained the knowledge necessary to manage kazoo production by himself. What he lacked was a larger factory. To solve this problem, McIntyre partnered with Harry Richardson, the owner of a large metal factory in Eden, New York, and they began mass producing kazoos in 1914. Soon, sales of kazoos increased as their popularity grew. These two men renamed their partnership in 1916 and called it The Original American Kazoo Company.

As the popularity and sales of kazoos continued to grow in the 1920s and 1930s, so did the competition. Others thought making and selling kazoos was a smart idea. To stave off this competition, McIntyre applied for and was granted a U.S. patent in 1923. The Original American Kazoo Company continued to produce kazoos the same way they did in 1916 until the factory closed in 2003. The company also maintains a working museum housed in the original factory that tells the history of kazoos, provides amusing trivia, and demonstrates the manufacturing process.

Our metal kazoos (5001) are made according to the historical specifications established by The Original American Kazoo Company in 1916.

Fun Fact: The Kazoo was exhibited at the 1852 Georgia State Fair and was later manufactured under the name "Down South Submarine" because of its shape.

Fun Fact: Although the origin of the kazoo is African, it has since become as American as apple pie and considered by some to be the "most democratic musical instrument" since anyone who can hum a tune can also play a kazoo!

Fun Fact: König Ludwig von Bayern had a 2.13-meter-long mirliton made for an opera by Wagner. This instrument was constructed with extremely "fat" eunuks that were imported from the Ottoman kingdom.

Fun Fact: You can "make" a kazoo by wrapping a tissue paper or piece of wax paper around a hair comb. Try it if you have not already!

PACKAGE DIMENSIONS - 3.75 x 6.5 x 1.5"