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Harold Hayslett


Instrument maker Harold M. Hayslett (December 26, 1917 – February 14, 2018) was born in Putnam County. After serving in France during World War II, he worked as a pipefitter for Union Carbide in South Charleston. While working at Carbide, he started a side hobby making violins, cellos, and other instruments. He established Hayslett Violins in 1954, and his reputation spread quickly—first locally, and then worldwide. At the international competition and exhibition sponsored by the Violin Society of America, Hayslett received several certificates for tone and workmanship. He was awarded the prestigious gold medal for cello tone in 1980. Hayslett is listed in The Violin Makers of the United States, by Thomas James Wenberg, and he was included in the Governor’s Arts and Letters Series in 1991. Hayslett closed his shop at the end of 2013. During his career he made 86 violins, 14 violas, 65 cellos, one double bass, and six bows.

Today Hayslett’s instruments are cherished by collectors and players alike. He retired from Union Carbide as a pipe fitter in 1980, and was featured in the November 1982 Union Carbide World magazine in an article titled ‘‘Making Instruments of the Violin Family.’’ His article ‘‘Shaping Blocks for Cello Sides’’ was published in 1990 in The Journal of the Violin Society of America. The video Building a Cello with Harold, completed in 1996, was West Virginia filmmaker Robert Gates’s in-depth look at Hayslett’s life and work. In 2016 Haylsett received a Governor’s Arts Award. Hayslett lived in South Charleston until his death on Valentine’s Day 2018. He was 100 years old.

Written by Bobby Taylor