Single-Bouted Plucked Dulcimer

Single-Bouted Plucked Dulcimer

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Description (Brief)

This single-bouted, plucked dulcimer’s maker, place of origin, and date are unknown, although it is attributed to either eastern Tennessee or western Virginia. Three of its four strings are fretted on eleven frets. The plates on the bottom at the joints of the back, the tuning head, and the tailpiece have the same function as feet, but it is uncertain whether they were intended as feet. The whole instrument is painted a light rust color, with leaves and flowers in dark blue and red, and the sides of the fingerboard are painted black. The soundholes are surrounded with sunbursts made of the same triangular shapes that appear along the upper edges of the peg channel. Made entirely of walnut, the instrument is put together with brass tacks and screws. A decorative fish-scale pattern appears on the upper eighth of the belly.

Collector Anne Grimes purchased the instrument from William Breedlove, popularly known as the musician “Unaka Bill,” who collected instruments in the areas of eastern Tennessee and western Virginia to sell to antique dealers and collectors of musical instruments.

Currently not on view
Object Name
place made
United States
Physical Description
walnut (overall material)
overall: 7.5 cm x 20 cm x 88 cm; 2 15/16 in x 7 7/8 in x 34 5/8 in
overall: 2 3/4 in x 7 7/8 in x 34 3/8 in; 6.985 cm x 20.0025 cm x 87.3125 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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