Thompson Artillery Shell Banjo

Thompson Artillery Shell Banjo

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This banjo was made by Elmer Thompson of Staten Island, New York around 1917-1919 while waiting to be discharged from the U.S. Army during World War I. It is a Four-String Banjo, with a body made from the base of a German Howitzer shell, the neck from the stock of a rifle, with 12 frets, and the tuning pegs from French machine-gun bullets.

After the War Thompson continued to play this banjo in Staten Island working as an electronics engineer with the Philco Corporation of America. Retiring in 1959, he played this banjo in a seven-piece dance orchestra in Debary, Florida known as the Dee Dee Beehive. He was an active inventor, with 30 patents to his credit recorded in the U.S. Patent Office.

Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Thompson, Elmer
place made
United States: New York, Staten Island
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 33 1/2 in x 9 1/4 in x 3 1/4 in; 85.09 cm x 23.495 cm x 8.255 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Eileen A. Achilles and John G. Anderson
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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