J. Tom Butler of Palo Pinto County TX, ca. 1900s and his Cello

Every December the past few years, my band has played in Palo Pinto TX, about 70 mi west of Ft Worth.  It's county seat for the county of same name even though it's unincorporated.   But it has quite a history as you can see from this small sample here.   J. Tom Butler must have been some musician.  This "cello" he built from scrap wood and what seems to be bailing wire (or piano strings) is a gem of Americana folk art and cigar box greatness.  The bridge is flat, not rounded, so I doubt he played it with a bow.  Note too he did not use any sort of bridge pins or anchoring method--he just twisted the ends about the string after passing through the tin tailpiece.  The tuners look to be the same type used by autoharps or hammer dulcimers, he must have used a wrench to tune the strings.   Neck has a nice bunch of little worm holes as you can see...and had to be braced in back with another length of wire to keep the neck from warping forward or caving in the face of the instrument.  Wonder how it sounded 100 years ago?

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