Appalachian Dulcimer, used by Jean Ritchie


This Appalachian dulcimer was made by George Pickow in Viper, Kentucky, in 1951. It is a single-bout dulcimer made of walnut, poplar, and maple. This dulcimer has a wood nut and bridge, 13 metal frets, 3 strings (1 melody and 2 drone), 2 heart-shaped sound holes, carved out pegbox, 3 wooden friction pegs, and a violin-like carved head. There is a handwritten label inside the instrument:

Made for
Jean Ritchie Pickow
by George Pickow
June 1951
Viper, Ky.

Jean Ritchie (1922-2015) became known as "The Mother of Folk" for her contributions to American folk music. She was instrumental in introducing the dulcimer to a wider audience as well as making dulcimers with her husband George Pickow (the maker of the "Wedding" dulcimer, Cat. #2015.0234.01).

In 1952, Jean Ritchie received a Fulbright scholarship to research folk songs and music that originated in Britain and Ireland, which subsequently made their way to the United States. Ritchie performed these songs in concerts throughout England and included some of the songs in her recording Field Trip, in 1954. After Jean Ritchie's return to the United States, she continued to perform and record. In 1959, she performed at the first Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. Jean Ritchie recorded over 30 albums and authored 7 books throughout her career. In 1977, she received the Rolling Stone Magazine Critics award for her album None But One.

In 2002, Jean Ritchie received a National Endowment for the Arts heritage fellowship. She continued to perform until 2009, when she suffered a stroke. A tribute album, Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie was released in 2014 and featured musicians Janis Ian, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, and Kathie Mattea.

Date Made: 1951

User: Ritchie, JeanMaker: Pickow, George

Location: Currently on loan

Place Made: United States: Kentucky, Viper

See more items in: Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments, Music & Musical Instruments, Dulcimers


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Peter Pickow

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2015.0234.01Accession Number: 2015.0234Catalog Number: 2015.0234.01

Object Name: dulcimer

Physical Description: wood (overall material)metal (overall material)Measurements: overall: 34 1/2 in x 7 3/4 in x 2 1/2 in; 87.63 cm x 19.685 cm x 6.35 cm


Record Id: nmah_1803595

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