Dowd Double Manual Harpsichord

Description (Brief)
This harpsichord, number 267, was made by William Dowd in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980. It is a double manual harpsichord with a compass of FF - f3, and a disposition of 2 x 8’, 1 x 4’. This instrument has a spruce soundboard with a gilt rose with a harp-playing and and the initials “WD,” and ebony-covered naturals and bone-capped accidentals with pear wood arcades. The name board is inscribed: “WILLIAM DOWD BOSTON.” It is a replica of the instrument made in Paris in 1730 by Nicolas Blanchet and his son, François Etienne. This harpsichord was commissioned by the Smithsonian in 1967 but not accessioned until 1980 because the maker wished to take every advantage of new research about instruments of the Blanchet family.
The inseparable outer case is painted grey-green with gold leaf bands. The soundboard painting, by Sheridan Germann, is copied from an original Blanchet harpsichord of 1730. The trestle stand has four turned legs and is painted grey-green.
Dowd spent many years working in the French style, producing dozens of harpsichords, many based on the Taskin instrument of 1769 in the Yale University Collection. It was in the early 1960s, when Dowd was already recognized for his substantial production of these instruments that he was asked to restore several Smithsonian harpsichords, including those by Burkat Shudi and Johannes Daniel Dulcken.
Musical instrument curator John Fesperman indicated, “It is due to the integrity and constant quality of his work that fine harpsichords, bearing his coveted rose and nameboard, now exist in dozens of music schools and universities, as well as in the hands of many fine performers. The musical debt owed by hundreds of musicians and scholars to this creative maker is very great. The musical satisfaction gained by all who play or hear these harpsichords is still greater.”
The harpsichord is currently used in concerts on featured on recordings by the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society.
Recordings currently available can be found at the following link:
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Dowd, William R.
Dowd, William
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
paint (overall material)
metal (overall material)
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Music & Musical Instruments
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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