Past Event

Historic Instruments of Illinois

A Road Scholar Program by Chris Vallillo

From homemade dulcimers and fiddles to mass produced guitars, banjo’s, mandolins and pianos, Illinois and specifically Chicago has been deeply involved in the creation and production of stringed musical instruments. After the Great Fire of 1871, as Chicago began to re-build, it quickly became a national center in musical instrument manufacturing, sales and distribution, particularly with the introduction of the mail order catalogs like Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Wards.

From well known name brands like Lyon and Healey, Washburn, Regal, Kay and Harmony to a wealth of small but influential shops such as the Larson Brothers, it was Chicago, more than any other city in the world, that put musical instruments in the hands of players of all levels.

Image of Chris Vallillo with String Instrument

Roots Musician and Folklorist Chris Vallillo has restored and collected Illinois stringed instruments for over 30 years and will discuss the development of Illinois Instrument building as he performs period music on over a dozen historic examples of these important instruments, from handmade masterpieces to $3.00 mail order gems.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Sarah Stasukewicz at

Learn more about Chris Vallillo, this program, and how to book it.