Tag Archives: Alabama Vest

Big Blue Kazoo

My brother recently (as in a week and a half ago) decided to quit smoking and is vaping to ease the transition. His vape pen looks like a big blue kazoo.

Kazoo (noun): a small, simple musical instrument consisting of a hollow pipe with a hole in it, over which is a thin covering that vibrates and produces a buzzing sound when the player sings or hums into the pipe.

 

Simple toy, assorted history:

– As the story goes, the kazoo in its North American form was the brainchild of one Alabama Vest, a black man from Macon, Georgia. To bring his idea to fruition, Vest eventually teamed up with German-American watchmaker, Thaddeus Von Clegg, though the circumstances of their meeting remain murky. At the 1852 Georgia State Fair, Vest’s “down south submarine” was purportedly introduced to the world.

– The first documented invention of what we now call the “kazoo” appears in 1883 via a patent application undertaken by American inventor Warren Herbert Frost.

– However, mass production of the kazoo did not occur until 1916, and is said to have come about after a traveling salesman, Emil Sorg, happened upon the down south submarine at the 1852 State Fair. Or so the story goes.

– And from here on, Vest and Von Clegg disappear from the narrative. No documentation of their collaboration has yet surfaced. It’s not certain if Vest attended the fair alone, or if he had partnered up with Von Clegg for the event. It is unclear whether Von Clegg only helped to create the prototype for Vest’s invention, or whether the two worked together to come up with the first ever “kazoo.” It’s difficult to say what that first kazoo even looked like.

– There is no proof that Vest and Sorg ever met, least of all at the 1852 State Fair.

– “Alabama Vest” and “Thaddeus Von Clegg” may or may not have ever existed at all. There is only no proof that they didn’t exist.

Which leaves us with our kazoo lore. And “down south submarine.”

 

So, then: my brother recently (as in a week and a half ago) decided to quit smoking and is vaping to ease the transition. His vape pen looks like a big blue down south submarine, which is about as descriptive as I feel like being on this particular item.

 

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