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Appalachian Dulcimer

Appalachian Dulcimer

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This Appalachian dulcimer was made by an unknown maker, however, according to the accession file, scholar L. Allen Smith stated it might be of Virginia origin, made in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It is a single-bout dulcimer, with a pegbox for four friction pegs (two melody and two drones), 15 metal frets, 4 round sound holes, 2 sound holes on the fretboard, carved out pegbox with 2 extant wooden friction pegs, and a brass reinforced tailpiece.

This dulcimer may be traced to 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.

There is a typed index card taped to the back of the dulcimer:

C 5 single bout, Smith D 12 p. 50
made circa 1875, 2 of 4 strings fretted on 14 frets
closed tail piece tapered tuning head, round sound holes, collected from William Breedlove, Churchill Tenn.
Virginia tradition.
hollow finger board and belly cut beneath the finger board, metal string holder on the tail piece found on instruments
made from 1875 on.

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: 3 15/16 in x 5 11/16 in x 35 3/4 in; 10.00125 cm x 14.44625 cm x 90.805 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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