Mission Valley Music
History of the Cigar Box Guitar
Mission Valley Guitars is a one man shop located in the heart of the Mission Valley, in Polson Montana. Hello, my name is Nathan Eyre. I build custom one of a kind Cigar Box Guitars.

My dad is a custom wood worker and guitar player, so I was surrounded by music and wood working from an early age. While building a standard electric guitar, I stumbled upon this unique style of guitar dating back to civil war times.

Prior to 1840, cigar box manufacturers shipped cigars in cases of 100 or more. Demand for smaller quantities gave rise to the smaller cigar boxes we see today, which hold 20-50 cigars. As early as 1876, these instruments found themselves being played around camp fires and back porches. People made banjos, violins and guitars out of these new boxes. 

Plans for a cigar box banjo were published by Daniel Carter Beard, co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America, in 1884 as part of ‘Christmas Eve With Uncle Enos.’ The plans, eventually re-titled ‘How to Build an Uncle Enos Banjo’ as part of Beard’s American Boy’s Handy Book in the 1890 release as supplementary material in the rear of the book. (Beard, Daniel Carter (1882). The American Boy’s Handy Book. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0879234490..
The Great Depression gave new rise to these instruments out of necessity. Black slaves and plantation workers were too broke to buy a so called “Real Guitars”, like a Gibson or Martin, so they used what they had. Old thrown away cigar boxes with broom handles for necks, or any old fence post. For strings they used bailing wire, screen door wire and wire from the brooms they took apart. The ones that did have frets, used nails or coat hanger wire. If you didn’t have a cigar box, then an old piece of barn wood with two nails and a wire would do. They put two empty beer bottles at either end to create tension and used a third bottle as a slide. Others used spoons, knives and medicine bottles to create their slide. Some even skipped the board entirely and used the side of a shed to build their instruments. Of course, no going on the road for those folks .

These seemingly simple guitars sound like no other. I have played and owned many guitars throughout my career, and none come close to recreating the sound one of my hand crafted cigar box guitars of yester year. Of course, these instruments would not have had an electric guitar pickup in them, but you can always turn it off. Unplugged, they resemble a banjo, but plugged in, these bad boys really shine. They create such a haunting sound; you can’t help but be whisked away to the Deep South.

All of my Cigar Box and Wine Box guitars are hand crafted and one of a kind. I mainly use vintage and antique cigar boxes, therefore, some may have minor wear or scuff marks on them due to their age. I think this is a plus and adds to the uniqueness of each instrument. If you are looking for a perfect intonated instrument, you are missing the point. These guitars are may look simple, but once plugged in, you won't believe your ears. Scroll down and have a listen. 

In my opinion they are meant to be played as an electric guitar plugged into an amp. I know that is not how they were originally played, but due to their size, there is not much of a resonating body. Just like an electric hollow body guitar, yes you can play them acoustically, but the magic really happens when they are plugged in.
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