The Original American Kazoo Company was established in 1916 and is now the only original metal kazoo factory in the world.
Did you know the Original Kazoo Company has been in operation for more than 100 years and is now the only original metal kazoo factory in the world? It’s true. The company was established as the Original American Kazoo Company in 1916 and has been in continuous operation since.
It all started back even further. In 1907, Harry Richardson opened a sheet metal workshop in this building. He produced stove and furnace parts, peanut vending machines, toys, and novelties. The kazoo didn’t arrive until 1915, when Emil Sorg and Michael McIntyre brought their wooden kazoo to Richardson and asked if he could manufacture a metal version. He certainly could. Together, the three men embarked on a venture that would outlast them all.
McIntyre moved to Eden in 1916, and the trio began producing about 1,000 “King Kazoos” a week. In 1919, McIntyre purchased Sorg’s interests and reapplied for the expiring patent. Three years later, in 1922, McIntyre bought out Richardson and became the sole owner of the Kazoo Company in Eden.
In 1923, McIntyre received a patent for the kazoo. In 1939, Samuel Whetzel, who was the key employee at the time and who later married the boss’s daughter, took over the business. After running the plant for many years, Whetzel sold the company to a group of Buffalo investors. Over the years, demand for kazoos became so great that the other metal operations ceased. In 1985, the company was sold to Brimms Inc., a local family business run by the father and son team of Robert and David Berghash.
In 2002, the Berghashes sold the Kazoo business to its largest distributor, Woodstock Percussion, Inc. of Skokan N.Y. Although the deal gave Woodstock the rights to manufacture the standard kazoos and have sole use of the “Original American Kazoo Company” trademark, it did not include the purchase of the Kazoo Company factory, museum and gift shop in Eden or the manufacturing of the specialty kazoos. The agreement also allowed for limited manufacturing and sales of the standard #D19 kazoos.
The Bergashes, in turn, donated the Eden facilities to two area non-profit organizations, sasi (Suburban Adult Services, Inc.) and the Claddagh Commission. Claddagh ran the gift shop, and sasi ran the rest of the operation.
In 2005, Karen Smith, a local Eden resident who was interested in preserving the Kazoo presence in the community, purchased the gift shop inventory and business from Claddagh and leased space from sasi for her new Kazoo Boutique. Claddagh sold their interest in the property to sasi in 2006.
In 2007, sasi procured grants from the Eden Community Foundation and the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning to renovate the museum repair the factory roof and replace the deteriorating exterior doors, gutters and exterior fascia. A new front door and new awnings completed the update.
As of 2021, sasi continues to operate the factory, while Smith runs the boutique and museum.