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Name of Instrument: machete

Maker / Brand: Augusto M. da Costa

Stearns Catalog #: 1380

Country of Origin: Madeira, Portugal

Region of Origin: Europe

Instrument Category: Chordophone

Date of Fabrication: mid-19th C.

Description: This bird-shaped, guitar-like musical instrument is probably from Madeira, Portugal. Played with a plectrum, the instrument features ten pairs of wire strings. It is said that Portuguese sailors took the machete to Hawaii, where it was developed into the ukelele. This instrument was made by Augusto M. da Costa who crafted numerous other instruments in the Stearns Collection holdings. The spruce table is oval-shaped like the body portion of a bird. It has a large circular sound hole that is partially filled with a “man-in-the-moon” figure and rimmed with elaborate purfling. The form is made of one large piece of wood that is rounded, thick, and heavy. The mahogany fingerboard has inlaid wood frets that are flush with the neck surface to mark the position of tied frets (or finger positions if tied frets are not used). The peg boards utilize the same tuning system as Stearns #1082 and #1083. It has twenty-four strings arranged in eight courses; all attach to pegs, cross a flat, fixed, prism-shaped rosewood bridge and then attach to a pin bridge held to the lower table by nine brass screws. Just below the sound hole on the table is a crescent-shaped piece of wood with eleven curved, nickel-silver string shields.

Research: Dr. Bruce Mitchell Smith

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower