Made in America with Foreign Parts

Fiddle and Dulcimer

Hardanger Fiddle Hardanger Fiddle
Martin Cliff, 1895
Wood (maple, spruce, ebony), mother of pearl, metal, bone
Museum acquisition
MHAHS 2003.028.0001
Hammered Dulcimer Hammered Dulcimer
Orrin Sweet, 1857-1858
Wood, metal
Gift of Delma Donald Woodburn Estate
MHAHS 2002.001.0147
Photograph by Emily Pfotenhauer.

Ellen Sweet Donald and other family members played this dulcimer at social and community gatherings. The creator of this instrument, New York cabinet-maker Orrin Sweet, traveled through Dane County in the 1850s making and selling dulcimers to settlers.

The Hardanger fiddle was made by carpenter Martin Cliff from the Town of Blue Mounds. Without formal training, Cliff made this folk instrument for his own enjoyment, incorporating traditional Norwegian Hardanger motifs and decoration.

Both instruments speak to the central role of music in this young community. Where the Hardanger fiddle possesses a long Norwegian cultural history shared by many in the Mount Horeb region, dulcimer players required little to no formal training and could easily accompany other, more traditional, instruments.


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