August 7, 2012
Eden, New York (pop. 8,076) is home to The Original Kazoo Company, est. in 1916. The instrument's creation dates back to the 1840s when its inventor, Alabama Vest, a former slave from Macon, Ga., directed German clockmaker Thaddeus Von Clegg to make a wooden instrument to his specifications. The origin of the name kazoo, however, is unclear. But it was most definitely Emil Sorg, a traveling salesman, who brought the idea of manufacturing kazoos to western New York around 1912 when he teamed with Michael McIntyre, a tool and die maker. McIntyre later partnered with Harry Richardson, the owner of a metal forming plant, and added metal kazoos to the production line in 1916. McIntyre received a patent for the companys standard model No. D-19 kazoo in 1923.
Today, the factory is America's only metal kazoo manufacturer. Thanks to the industriousness of its 15 part-time employees, the company produces about 11,000 kazoos annually, using the very equipment installed by McIntyre and Richardson: 20 machines powered by a single 10-horsepower motor.