Appalachian Dulcimer

Appalachian Dulcimer

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This Appalachian dulcimer was made by an unknown maker in the United States, undetermined date. It is a straight-sided dulcimer, crudely constructed and held together with nails, with a wood nut and bridge, four strings (2 melody and 2 drone), 14 metal frets, a diamond-shaped sound hole under the fretboard, and a carved out pegbox with 4 carved wooden friction pegs. The collector Anne Grimes was told by the previous owner that this dulcimer came from Corbin, Kentucky.

As per accession records, on a visit with Anne Grimes, members of the famous folk-singing Ritchie family, Jean and her sister Edna, suspected it may have been made by their friend Will Singleton, but scholars later said that it is doubtful that Singleton made this instrument, as “the joinery is poor, and there are no characteristics to link it with Singleton’s construction methods.” A friend and neighbor of the famous Ritchie family, William Singleton made literally hundreds, more than a thousand, of dulcimers in his lifetime.

Anne Grimes (1912-2004) was an American journalist, musician, and historian of American (particularly Midwestern) folklore. Grimes studied voice and piano at Ohio Wesleyan and initiated graduate studies at Ohio State University. Following her education, Grimes was a music teacher, music and dance critic, and radio host. After WWII, Grimes began collecting and documenting folk songs throughout Ohio, as well as collecting Appalachian dulcimers and zithers. She would continue this work, performing, recording, and lecturing on instruments from her collection throughout the rest of her career.

Currently not on view
Object Name
place made
United States
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall: 6 5/8 in x 42 1/2 in x 11 1/4 in; 16.8275 cm x 107.95 cm x 28.575 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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