Buzzer (whirligig)

A buzzer (buzz, bullroarer, button-on-a-string), is an ancient mechanical device used for ceremonial purposes and as a toy. It is constructed by centering an object at the midpoint of a cord or thong and winding the cord while holding the ends stationary. The object is whirled by alternately pulling and releasing the tension on the cord. The whirling object makes a buzzing or humming sound, giving the device its common name.

A buzzer is often constructed by running string through two of the holes on a large button and is a common and easily made toy.

American Indians used the buzzer as a toy and also to call up the wind. It was also used ceremonially. Early Indian buzzers were constructed of wood, bone, or stone, and date from at least the Forche Maline Culture, c. 500 B.C.

North American Buzzers, Buzzes, etc.
Eastern Cree
"A Buzzer of Bone
"Buzz Toy
American Girl
"Whirligig Made from
a Large Button



  • Beard, D.C. The American Boys Handy Book: What to Do and How to Do It. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. (1907).
  • Hall, A. Neely; Perkins, Dorothy. Handicraft for Handy Girls: Practical Plans for Work and Play. Boston: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co. (1916).
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. "The Arapaho," Part IV "Religion, Bulletin American Museum of Natural History Vol. XVIII. New York: Published by Order of the Trustees (1907)
  • Skinner, Alanson. "Notes on the Eastern Cree and Northern Saulteaux", Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, pp. 1-178. New York: Published by Order of the Trustees (1912).
  • Powell, J.W. (Director). Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1887-'88. Washington, D.C.: Government printing Office (1892).
  • Wells, J.B. Toy Buzz. US Patent #193201. US Patent Office (May 21, 1877).

See also

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