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, but scholar L. Allen Smith stated it might be of Virginia origin, made in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It has a hollow fingerboard and belly cut beneath the fingerboard and a tapered tuning head and tailpiece. Four round soundholes decorate the belly and two the fingerboard. Two of its four strings are fretted on fourteen frets, and two of its pegs are missing. A brass strip reinforces the tailpiece, and the instrument was put together with tacks and nails with a brass strip reinforcing the 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 that reads, "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."

Currently not on view
Object Name
place made
United States
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall: 10 cm x 14.5 cm x 90.5 cm; 3 15/16 in x 5 11/16 in x 35 5/8 in
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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