December 26, 1917: Instrument Maker Harold Hayslett Born

Dec 26, 2017

One of Hayslett's cellos earned the society’s prestigious gold medal for tone. In 1996, filmmaker Robert Gates took an in-depth look at Hayslett’s life and work in the documentary Building a Cello with Harold.
Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Harold Hayslett was born in Putnam County on December 26, 1917. After serving in France during World War II, he worked as a pipefitter for Union Carbide in South Charleston. He retired in 1980 after 33 years of service.

While working at Carbide, he started a side hobby—making violins, cellos, and other instruments. His reputation spread quickly—first locally, and then worldwide. The Violin Society of America honored Hayslett on several occasions.

And one of his cellos earned the society’s prestigious gold medal for tone. In 1996, filmmaker Robert Gates took an in-depth look at Hayslett’s life and work in the documentary Building a Cello with Harold.

Hayslett continued making instruments well into his nineties. He finally closed his shop at the end of 2013—at the age of 96. During his career, he made 86 violins, 14 violas, 65 cellos, and one double bass.

Today, Hayslett instruments are played by some of the world’s great classical musicians as well as bluegrass and old-time fiddlers. They often compare his instruments to those made by Antonio Stradivari and other great instrument makers of the past.