Appalachian Dulcimer

Appalachian Dulcimer

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This Appalachian dulcimer was made by an unknown maker possibly in eastern Tennessee or western Virginia, undetermined date. It is a single-bout dulcimer made of walnut, put together with brass tacks and screws, with a metal bridge, 8 extant metal frets, 4 round sound holes, carved out pegbox for four friction pegs (three melody strings and one drone string), and “tongue” tailpiece. The entire instrument is painted a light rust color, with leaves and flowers in dark blue and red. The sides of the fingerboard are painted black. The sound holes are surrounded with sunbursts made of the same triangular shapes that appear along the upper edges of the peg channel.

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.

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
walnut (overall material)
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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