On this day in 1937 the United States Patent Office recognized George D. Beauchamp as the inventor of the electric guitar with the award of Patent #2,089.171 to for an instrument known as the Rickenbacker Frying Pan.
It took more than five years for G.D. Beauchamp and his partner Adolph Rickenbacher to get the patent on the Frying Pan. Part of the problem was that the electric guitar's technology relied on engineering that had been around for just over 60 years – the telephone. When a membrane is placed within a magnetic field, it is possible to "pick up" the sound waves created by that membrance's vibrations and convert those waves into electric current. Which is exactly what an electric guitar pickup does only with a string. Beauchamp had to be revise his patent application several times to clarify to convince the patent office his new instrument was truly novel.
On August 10, 1937, the Patent Office approved Beachamp's unique design of the "pickup," a heavy electromagnet that surrounded the base of the steel strings like a bracelet rather than sitting below them as on a modern electric guitar. The later design, created by Beachamp’s competitors gained great popularity and so the patent awarded on this day in 1937 is mostly only of historical importance.
Beauchamp's "Frying Pan" Electric Guitar