1930's Cigar Box Guitar with Half Moon Sound Hole

Updated: Jan 10


This small and very primitive cigar box guitar was found in East Troy, Wisconsin and features a cigar box dating back to the 1930's. It's neck is made from the side of a Breakstone's Cream Cheese box. At just 18" long, it might have been built for a child.

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 18 x 5.25 x 2.5" (40 x 3.5 x 6.5cm)

  • Scale length: Approx 14"

Materials:

  • Mutual Superiores cigar box (dated 1927-1939 through tax stamp and box style identification),

  • Breakstone's Cream Cheese box,

  • salvaged wood,

  • hand carved tuners,

  • remnants of a steel wire guitar string

Cigar Box Guitar Museum catalog # ACB.2021.003

Currently under curation. Slated to be displayed at the Cigar Box Guitar Museum at Speal's Tavern, New Alexandria, PA at a future date.

A back view of the instrument shows the lettering for a Breakstone's cream cheese box. The neck is very thin and would not hold very much string tension. A white painted block of salvaged wood serves as the neck heel.



An additional piece of the Breakstone's wooden box was used as a string tailpiece. Strings were anchored with small brad nails.


The cigar box guitar originally had four strings, with tension held in place by hand-carved tuners. Two tuners remain. A small bolt is also affixed to the top of the headstock.


Faint pencil marks show the builder's design of the soundhole: a full circle was drawn and then a horizontal line through it. This created the half moon shape.


It is uncertain when this guitar was built. However, we can date the materials that were used to get a well educated guess. I used the Handbook of American Cigar Boxes by Dr. Tony Hyman to date the box around the 1930's. I'm still trying to date the Breakstone's crate.

The photo above is a colorized version of an original snapshot from the Cigar Box Guitar Museum collection. Pictured are four children playing their own cigar box guitars. It gives a glimpse of what may have been this particular guitar's childlike origins.

Another interesting note is that this cigar box guitar was discovered in the state of Wisconsin, which is a hotbed of cigar box guitar history. (In a future blog, I'll tell the story of immigrant lumberjacks who would make their own instruments while staying at logging camps.) The photo above is a postcard of Otto Rindlisbacher and his collection of lumberjack instruments that used to be displayed at the Friendly Buckhorn Tavern in Rice Lake, WI. Rindlisbacher played cigar box fiddle and many other DIY instruments and was even recorded by the Library of Congress.


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