Whamdiddle Minstrel Style Bones
Historically Accurate Reproduction Musical Instruments
Check out our growing collection of Whamdiddle Minstrel-style Bones. These are perfect for Civil War reenactors and minstrel band living-history performers who want authentic reproduction instruments. They are also great for women, kids and players with small, medium or large hands. Don't see the wood you want? Let us know and we will try to get it for you.
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Historically Accurate Minstrel-style Bones
These instruments are patterned after a vintage set of three ebony minstrel-style bones we acquired at auction in 2007. The seller says he purchased them from an elderly lady in her 80s in Upstate New York. The bones are said to have been played by a veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The reproduction instruments are handcrafted by Rick Fogel, a luthier with a master's degree in physics.
Was the Original Vintage Set Owned by a Veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg?
Can't say for sure. There is not enough documentation to be certain. But the original set of vintage bones are associated with this old photograph that depicts a 1907 reunion of what looks like GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) veterans at the Little Round Top monument in Gettysburg National Military Park. The monument commemorates the 44th New York Infantry and the fierce fighting which took place there on July 2, 1863. The seller says "The lady told me that one of the men in the picture had played the 'bones' and they came to her along with the photograph."
The fine surface of the original vintage ebony set resembles vintage rosewood and ebony bones we have seen with a characteristic finish that appears scraped—not sanded. The combination of that fine finish plus the provenance data above makes us think the set might indeed date from the Civil War.
History Detectives In September of 2010 Scott Miller submitted the story of these bones to the popular PBS tv program, History Detectives. Below is what he asked them to find out.
1. Do these bones date back to the Civil War?
2. Was the original owner one of the Civil War veterans pictured in the photo? If so, who is he?
3. How can I determine if other vintage musical bones in my personal collection date back to the Civil War?
We have yet to hear from the History Detectives. This mystery might be too tough even for them to tackle. But no matter what the History Detectives might eventually reveal, the reproduction minstrel-style bones for sale on this page are remarkably fine playing instruments and we guarantee you will absolutely love them.
View the Original Vintage Bones in Action
Below is a video playlist that demonstrates the original vintage ebony set rattled in minstrel performances by Scott Miller. (5 videos, running time: 10:26)
1. First up is a bones duet with Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The scene is back stage at the Sheldon Concert Hall in Saint Louis in October 2010. On the banjo off camera is Rhiannon Giddens playing a minstrel medley of "Briggs' Corn Shucking Jig" and "Briggs' Breakdown," both tunes from the "Briggs' Banjo Instructor," published in 1855.
2. Next is "Coon Hunt Walk Around" and "Charleston Gals" with banjoist Carl Anderton at the historic Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop in Olathe, Kansas.
3. This is followed by "World Turned Upside Down" in an onstage performance at Bones Fest XI in Wisconsin using a recording by Martin Liebschner, Jr. from his "Songs from the Parlor" CD.
4. Fourth is a rousing rendition of "Jim Along Josey" during 2011 Champaign-Urbana Folk and Roots Fest lead by multi-instrumentalist and musical living legend, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton.
5. The playlist concludes with "Antietam Jig" and "Blue Eagle Jail" with Carl Anderton at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop.
You can also see the original vintage ebony set in a performance displayed at the Rhythm Bones Society Website with banjo historian Greg Adams on stage at Bones Fest XIV in Alexandria, VA.
Great Looks, Solid Design, Superior Tone
Take a close look at the marvelous color and fascinating wood grain of the reproduction minstrel-style bones pictured at the top of this page. The relatively thin oval-face design gives you a solid comfortable grip whether your hands are small, medium or large. Best of all, these minstrel-style bones enable you to produce a remarkably dynamic range of tones when you rattle them.
Crafted From Quartersawn Lumber, the Prime Working Stock for Quality Musical Instruments
Why do these minstrel-style bones reveal spectacular grain patterns, warp less, and generate better tone? "Because," says Rick Fogel who crafts them, "they are made from quartersawn lumber."
Rick described the technique to us but it is a bit complex. So we looked up the term in a technical report from the U.S. Forest Service. They indeed confirm that quartersawn lumber "shrinks and swells less...splits less...and figure patterns and wavy grain are brought out more conspicuously." Another source reports that quartersawn wood "helps prevent warping and also provides the best vibration patterns acoustically." And yet another source tells us "quartersawn wood helps ensure that an instrument's sound remains as invariable as possible."
So yes, minstrel-style bones made from quartersawn lumber are decidedly prime quality instruments. But the ultimate test, of course, is to try a pair and rattle them yourself.