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Photos: Cigar Box Instruments from 1922 Book

A century ago, progressive music educator, Satis N. Coleman used cigar box guitars and other homemade instruments in children’s musical education to not just teach music, but also creativity, history, math and more. I recently acquired a first edition copy of her seminal book, Creative Music for Children (copyright 1922, G. P. Putnam’s Sons). I‘ve added a few pics of them to share with you all.

Many of the cigar box instruments are related to the cello and fall into the “Vaudeville Fiddle” tradition. (See “How to Make a Pre-Blues Vaudeville Fiddle“)

The author argues that children should not be given just music lessons, but that they should experience full musical training, including the creative element of building the instruments, too! Luckily for us, this book which is filled with photos and descriptions of these instruments.

In addition to the cigar box cellos above, others are actual cigar box violins as seen in the photo below.

More photos below…

Support the Cigar Box Guitar Museum

Unfortunately, the book does not have step-by-step plans or diagrams. However, it does include one great photo of a cigar box cello under construction:

“Coleman believed that it was important for Children to perform on instruments they made themselves, beginning with simple drums and then moving progressively from xylophones to keyboards and from lyres to fiddles.” -Music Educator’s Journal

These simple instruments are reflected in the book, with musical bows and even the traditional cornstalk fiddle.

I was able to acquire this historic book thanks to your donations. Needless to say, I am only scratching the surface of this 220 page book. I have yet to truly dive in and discover all the wonderful instruments contained in the pages. More blogs to follow! I will also be scanning each photo properly. (These images were captured by my phone.) Click here to donate:

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Mar 14, 2022

Thanks for sharing this Shane. Looking forward to seeing more from the book


Brian Q
Brian Q
Mar 13, 2022

I’ve seen this book, but never got a chance to see what was inside, thanx for sharing it with us!! Too bad kids are hypnotized by the blinking lights of smart devices these days…

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