My Zithers
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It all started at a yard sale a couple of years ago. That's where I found the zither. It was missing a string or two and had a big crack in the front, but when I plucked one of the few strings with any tension on it, the tone was surprisingly rich. She wanted $20, but took my offer of $15. When I got it home, I went straight to the Net to research my find. 

Thanks to Kelly Williams' wonderful Guitar Zither Clearing House, I soon learned that my zither was much older than I had guessed - probably dating from about 1900! I replaced the missing strings with steel guitar strings, dug out an old autoharp wrench, and soon had her tuned up and playable. Sure enough, she had a sweet sound tone, and more volume than you'd expect. In no time, I was picking out "Red River Valley" and "Rock of Ages."

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My First Zither
Phonoharp Columbia #2

From Kelly's page, I learned that my Columbia Guitar Zither was just one of a whole class of delightful instruments designed for the emerging middle class around the turn of the 20th Century. These folks didn't have enough money for a really nice instrument like a piano, and certainly not for expensive music lessons, but they did have a little money and time to spare, plus the universal human desire for music in their lives. Into this target market stepped the ever-ingenious American inventor. From the 1890's to the 1930s door-to-door salesman and the Sears Catalog delivered an astonishing variety of cheaply-made play-by-number zitheroids to the eager American public. In the '30s the market dried up abruptly when everyone went out and got a radio, and most of these instruments ended up in attics and basements. Ultimately, they found their way to yard sales, dusty thrift shops, and Ebay. Ah, Ebay, the crossroads of America. Ebay has something for everybody, I hear, and what it had for me was .... zithers. Thanks to Ebay, my dining room now looks like this....
Dining Room - Venus, Columbia, Zippy Zither, and Old Zither Dining Room - Pianoette, Harp-O-Chord, and something else... Ukelin #2 Marxolin (aka Hawaiiphone)

And that's only about half of them. There are zithers hiding under the furniture, standing in cases in the corner or piled up in the attic waiting to be restrung, reglued, or otherwise refurbished.
Marxophone in case, behind door to den Ukelin#1, under china cupboard in living room

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Site Last Updated  April 21, 2002
By Sharon Kahn