Some might say that the kazoo is to music what Buffalo Wings are to haute cuisine, so perhaps it is fitting that the tiny metal music maker with the funny sound was first patented in Buffalo in 1902 by George D. Smith (patent #700986). WNY is still home to the only remaining U.S. manufacturer of kazoos, The Original Kazoo Company in Eden.
According to popular lore, the kazoo was invented by Alabama Vest in Macon Georgia circa 1840 in conjunction with Thaddeus von Clegg, a German clock manufacturer, and was named the “Clegghorn.” In 1883, a patent was issued to a Warren Herbert Frost for a new “instrument or toy, to which I propose to give the name ‘kazoo,’” the first documented appearance of the name kazoo, well before George D. Smith’s patent for the metal version of the instrument.
Today, the Eden Kazoo Factory in Eden, NY is the last metal kazoo maker in the world. Emil Sorg, a traveling salesman, reportedly brought the idea of mass producing metal kazoos to Western New York in 1912. He teamed up with Michael McIntyre, a Buffalo tool and die maker, and together they found a way to manufacture the first production kazoos. McIntyre soon moved to Eden, New York where he went into partnership with Harry Richardson, the owner of a metal forming plant. They began mass producing metal kazoos in 1915 employing the same die presses that were installed in 1907 when the building housed a sheet metal workshop. As the demand for kazoos grew, the other metal operations ceased. To this day the factory exclusively makes kazoos using the same century-old machines run by one 10-horsepower motor connected with overhead jack shafts and leather belts. The factory is now owned by SASI (Suburban Adult Services Inc.), a non-profit that supports those with developmental disabilities and you can still tour the kazoo factory, museum and gift shop there.