National Music Museum Logo   National Music Museum  
Home  Collections
Virtual Tour
Calendar Gift Shop FAQ Site Index Maker Index


Images from the Everist Gallery

NMM 5917.  Electric lap-steel guitar by Electro String Instrument Company, ca. 1935-1939.
Model A-22. Serial no. B232.
Board of Trustees, 1995.

Front of frying-pan guitar Bass side of guitar Treble side of guitar Back of guitar

Click on any image on this page to see a larger image.

Often cited as the first commercially produced electric guitar, the so-called "frying-pan" electric lap-steel guitar (model A-22), was also known as the "panhandle," "pancake," or "Electro Hawaiian model." The body, made of cast aluminum by the Aluminum Alloy Casting Company, is covered with a "lacquer wash," remnants of which can be seen on the fingerboard and back. The Electro String Instrument Company, founded by Adolph Rickenbacker (1892-1976), was responsible for the electric pickup—a pair of horseshoe-shaped magnets surrounding a coil of wire which itself surrounds six individual magnets (one at each string). This pickup was designed by George Beauchamp, Rickenbacker's partner, who filed a patent application for his invention on June 2, 1934. The patent was awarded three years later, on August 10, 1937 (#2,089,171).

Inscriptions:  On a metal nameplate screwed to upper end of front of headstock:  RICKENBACHER / ELECTRO / RE [in flaming circle] / LOS ANGELES.

Adolphe Rickenbacher changed the spelling of his name to Rickenbacker, in honor of his distant relationship with the W.W. I flying ace, Eddie Rickenbacker. Although company literature and advertising spelled his name with a "k," the headstock nameplates, such as the one on this instrument, used the original spelling, with an "h," until the 1950s.

Signature text

Views of Peghead

Front of peghead Back of peghead

Front and Back Views of Body, Bridge, Pickup, and Rear String Attachment

Front of body
Back of body

Bottom of guitar Pickup


String attachment at back



Total guitar length:  730 mm
Neck length (nut to ribs):  415 mm
Neck width, nut:  45 mm
Diameter of body: 177 mm

Lit.:  Timothy D. Miller, The Origins and Development of the Pedal Steel Guitar, M.M. Thesis (Vermillion: University of South Dakota, 2007), p. 31.

"Instrumental Innovations," Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2007, p. W4.

  Click arrow to continue Everist Gallery Tour

Go to Everist Gallery Tour Index

Go to Virtual Tour Index

National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069

©National Music Museum, 2009
Most recent update: September 15, 2009

The University of South Dakota
Return to Top of Page