1961 Arturo Langelli Cigar Box Ukulele

Updated: Jan 10


Its very rare to find a fully documented, signed & dated cigar box instrument, but this cigar box ukulele is the exception. Peering into the left soundhole, a handwritten label can be easily read:


Arturo Langelli, Geigenmaker

Rue de La Fonaine,

Paris, Ill, 1961


This three-part photo shows closeups of the label. (I was unable to photograph the entire label in one picture due to the small soundhole.)

According to Google Translate, "geigenmaker" is German for violin maker. Why Langelli gives a French street name for his location in Paris, Ill is also unknown. Was he making a joke with the label? Post your theories in the comments.


Specs:

  • Corona Larks Extra Mild cigar box body, tax stamp dated 12-6-49.

  • May-Bell ukulele neck and tuners

  • hand carved tailpiece

  • 12.5" scale

  • Dimensions: 21.5 x 6.25 x 2.75" (54.5 x 16 x 6cm)

  • Repairs needed: soundboard crack to be repaired and a new floating bridge to be made.

  • Museum catalog # ACB.2021.001

  • Currently in private curation. To be eventually displayed at the Cigar Box Guitar Museum at Speal's Tavern

May Bell guitars, mandolins, and ukuleles were made by the Slingerland Musical Instrument Mfg. Company of Chicago, IL during the 1920's-1940's. This cigar box ukulele uses a May-Bell banjo ukulele neck. (Thank you to Larry Marcus for helping me to properly identify the neck as a banjo uke neck.)

Cedar was chosen for cigar boxes because it protected and enhanced the flavors of the cigars inside. DIY instrument builders soon learned that the cedar also provided a beautiful tone when the boxes were turned into instruments!

Dating cigar boxes can be tricky. However, this example features a tax stamp that has 12-6-49 stamped right into the label with a dot pattern! Usually an attempt is made to date cigar boxes to give a clue to when the cigar box instrument was built. (With this uke, it was unnecessary because of Arturo's convenient label inside the box!)


The instrument sports a crack on the soundboard. I will be getting this repaired so that the ukulele can be played again. As with all playable instruments in the Cigar Box Guitar Museum, recordings will eventually be made to give the public a glimpse into the tones of these forgotten instruments.


This body view shows the hand carved tailpiece that anchors the strings. The F-holes appear to be patterned after traditional violins. Two small wood piece are placed at the location of the bridge for extra support.


The original tuners are still on the neck. These are simple ukulele tuners, seen on most ukes of the 1920s-1940s.


Part of the Shane Speal Collection. Acquired 2021.

Photos (c) 2021 by Shane Speal



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