Appalachian Dulcimer, used by Jean Ritchie

Appalachian Dulcimer, used by Jean Ritchie

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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.

Currently on loan
Object Name
date made
Ritchie, Jean
Pickow, George
place made
United States: Kentucky, Viper
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
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
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Peter Pickow
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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