Epinette de Vosges, used by Jean Ritchie

Epinette de Vosges, used by Jean Ritchie

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This zither, also known as an epinette de Vosges was made by an unknown maker in France, in the 19th century. It has a trapezoidal shaped body made of cherry, with five strings, wood nut and bridge, 14 metal frets, one heart-shaped sound hole and one seven-hole rosette sound hole, carved out pegbox for 5 strings, 4 extant wooden tuning pegs (2 are replacements), scallop decorations at the top and bottom of the soundboard, five metal pegs at the bottom of the instrument, three of which have slotted screw heads and are likely replacements.

This instrument was previously owned by American folk music singer and songwriter, and Appalachian dulcimer player, Jean Ritchie. According to Ritchie in The Dulcimer Book, she bought this instrument in a Paris shop with her husband in 1953.

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 not on view
Object Name
date made
19th century
Ritchie, Jean
place made
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 19 in x 2 3/4 in x 1 in; 48.26 cm x 6.985 cm x 2.54 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Peter Pickow
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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