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Kazoo factory an original

June 09, 2008|Carolyn Thompson | Associated Press

EDEN, N.Y. -- The name of the place says it all: the Original Kazoo Co. And, boy, do its owners mean original.

The same belt and pulley machines that stamped and shaped the world's first metal kazoos circa 1900 still stamp and shape kazoos today. The machines are still in the same building, making the same ker-thwunk sound as they perforate, fold and shape.

The finished product hasn't changed either. The palm-sized, submarine-shaped musical instrument still makes a tinny vibration when someone hums into it.

If there was ever the temptation to modernize the kazoo-making operation as the business changed hands over the years, it didn't last.

"It really would kind of spoil the fun of coming here if you couldn't see things as they were," Karen Smith said as she scanned the factory floor, now more working museum than manufacturing facility. "It's wonderful for our country to know that long ago, they invented this way of manufacturing and it still works today."

The kazoo is believed to be the only musical instrument to be invented and produced in the United States. Today, the Eden factory produces the only American-made metal version.

The Original Kazoo Co. operates on Main Street in a farm town southwest of Buffalo. The plant opened in 1907 as a sheet metal workshop, producing stove and furnace parts and peanut vending machines. It began making kazoos in 1916 after its owner was approached about creating a metal version of the wooden instrument that had been around since the 1840s.

Inside her gift shop, Smith demonstrates the songs heard most often when adult visitors get hold of a kazoo: "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" and "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

Children?

" 'Jingle Bells,' " she said. "It doesn't matter if it's July or August, they're all playing 'Jingle Bells.' It's amazing."

The place gets its share of tours by students and senior citizens, all eager to try out the product. To say it gets pretty noisy is "putting it mildly," shop forewoman Sue Cruz said.

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