Unique Hillbilly Pitchfork Instrument Patent with Cigar Box Slide/Resonator – circa. 1934

Pitchfork Instrument Patent Screenshot
Click the image above to view the full PDF of the patent.

Here’s something a bit different – a patent that was granted by the U. S. Patent Office in 1936, to one Grant C. Haium of Wisconsin, for a musical instrument formed (according to the drawing) from a pitchfork, tightened string, resonator drum and an interesting slide/resonator box. He even even states that he prefers to use a cigar box as his unique slide/resonator (see quote below)

Here is how the patentee described his creation:

“Being an innovation, and in fact somewhat of a rustic revelation, the structure will be found notable as a unique contribution to the art and trade in that it may be justly accredited as possessing the attributes of an irregular yet practicable stringed musical instrument which though of a limited tone compass is nevertheless usable, in teh hands of an artist, to promote achievement not of a renowned type, but rather of a captivating and humorous character calculated to appeal to a listener moved by the efforts of a humble performer.”

Later, he writes: “The slide [the box with the hole in it shown in the drawing] has an additional function, however, and is in the nature of a sound wave amplifying unit. Under the circumstances, I have found it expedient and practical to use an ordinary cigar box and to fasten the lid closed and to form an opening or outlet in the top thereof. This enables the box to serve somewhat in the capacity of the “body” on a violin or equivalent instrument.”

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4 thoughts on “Unique Hillbilly Pitchfork Instrument Patent with Cigar Box Slide/Resonator – circa. 1934”

  1. It is entirely possible. This was posted here because it is the only patent we have found so far for a cigar box instrument.

    I appreciate you took the time to share your findings on the history of the instrument itself!

  2. Folksongs of Another America of James P. Leary, p. 86-87: «In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Grant and Bernice Haium of Clayton […] exploited the [Viking cello’s] comic possibilities by performing as rustic rubes for the ‘Sunset Valley Barn Dance’ on St. Paul’s KSTP station: “Father, Grant, affixed a sound box and an oversized violin bridge to a pitchfork which he held upwards from the floor near an over-turned washtub. As he bowed a string attached fiddle-fashion to the fork, he thumped the tub with his foot while his daughter, Bernice, accompanying on guitar, sang with him.» I suppose with his patent he was just exploiting the instruments comic possibilities in another way…

  3. Thanks for the information Mortiz!

    This article is about the patent for a custom version of the instrument devised by Haium. It was not intended to declare that he was the inventor of the instrument.

    We do appreciate the time and effort you put into researching this subject and for sharing your findings. I am very interested in finding out more and will definitely check out what you have.

    Until then, I raise my glass to Orben Sime!

  4. Grant Haium didn’t invent the pitchfork instrument, the first attribution to it I found is to Orben Sime, a Norwegian immigrant, but Haium patented an instrument which was around in Northern Wisconsin since the twenties, later known from the instruments played by the «Wisconsin Lumberjacks», check http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/wda/id/796. In «Folksongs of Another America» of James P. Leary, p. 86-87, you will find some data about Grant Haium and this instrument, on occasion of Iva Kundert Rindlisbacher playing «The River in the Pines» on a «Wiking cello» which can be listened to on an accompanying CD.

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