top of page

Virginia's Cigar Box Fiddle, May 3, 1946

Cigar Box Violin / Fiddle from 1946

Several weeks ago, I received a message from fellow cigar box guitarist, Clint Herriman stating that he had discovered another historic cigar box instrument in Burnet, TX. What made this different than most was that it was signed and dated by the builder.

Herriman asked if he could donate it to my collection in order that more people would get to see it and promptly mailed it to me. I agreed, but I insisted on sending him a box full of shirts, books and stuff from

Article continued below...

The instrument is a crude, but impressive 4-string fiddle, featuring an Addison Tinsley Tobacco's Natural Leaf plug tobacco box. (This is the first instrument I've ever seen with a chewing tobacco box.) The box itself measures 13 x 7 x 2.75." The entire instrument is 24" long and sports a very thick neck, at almost 4" thick at the heel.

The builder left her signature on several places throughout the fiddle, with the most prominent one on the back. It says, "Virginia Lorraine Mather, Burnet Texas May 3 1946."

After digging around Google, I found a Virginia Lorraine Burnet who fits the location. If she is indeed the same person, I estimate her age to be 8 years old at the time this was built.

The tailpiece was made from a bent soup can lid. Four holes were drilled for the violin strings and three nails hold the tailpiece to the butt of the instrument. The bridge was fashioned from a piece of moulding and nailed into place.

The headstock features one remaining eyebolt that served as a tuner. Three other holes are visible, showing wear marks of where strings used to feed, especially on the first hole.

The plywood body has seen a lot of wear over the years. I'm amazed it's still intact.

The fiddle is currently in my private collection. It will someday be on display at the Cigar Box Guitar Museum inside Speal's Tavern in New Alexandria, PA.

Archived by Shane Speal, Sept. 22, 2020

609 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All


John McNair
John McNair
Mar 11, 2021

what a wonderful find and great photos!


Matt Borczon
Matt Borczon
Sep 22, 2020

that is just incredible!! So great that you have this now!

bottom of page