National Music Museum Logo   National Music Museum  
Home  Collections
Virtual Tour
Calendar Gift Shop FAQ Site Index Maker Index


Images from the Graese Gallery

Alpine Zither (Arion Harp Model) by Franz Schwarzer Workshop, Washington, Missouri, ca. 1920

Portrait of Arion Harp Zither

NMM 12881. Alpine zither (Arion harp zither) by Franz Schwarzer workshop, Washington, Missouri, ca. 1920. Custom Special Arion Harp Zither; Mittenwalder Form. Serial number 10517. 43 strings (5 melody, 38 accompaniment). Original zither table. Custom built for Emma Wellisch, prominent zither virtuoso in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ex coll.: Emma Wellisch. Paul and Jean Christian Collection, 2006.

Front, Side, and Back Views

Front view Melody strings side view Bass strings side view Back view

Note: Click on any image on this page to see an enlargement.

Franz Schwarzer (1828-1904) developed the Arion Harp Zither model in 1880, to produce greater volume and better tone than previous models. It has a large, round body that, along with the ornately turned pillar, is characteristic of Alpine harp zithers. Inlaid with ivory and abalone, exemplifying the finest of the Schwarzer zither models, this instrument is preserved along with its original, ivory-handled tuning hammer, tortoise-shell picks, and a large collection of the original owner's music.

Details of Decoration on Emma Wellisch's Zither

Upper end of zither

Peghead plate Tuners Front of Ornamental shell Back of Ornamental shell

Ornament at top of pillar

Pillar ornament
Engraved shield on fretboard

Materials used on zither include: rosewood veneer on soundboard and back; tulipwood veneer on sides; ebony scroll, spiral pillar, fretboard, and ornamental shell; abalone, mother-of-pearl, and ivory inlay; and, gold-plated peghead plate, shield, decorative leaves, and pillar spiral.

Soundholes and Maker's Label


Schwarzer label

Lower End Bridges, Hitch Pins, and Ornamentation



Decoration at lower end of zither

Emma Wellisch Playing Her Arion Harp Zither on Schwarzer's Custom-Made Table

Table with zither in playing position Emma Wellisch playing her Arion Harp Zither

The instrument rests on a zither table designed by Schwarzer to embellish the zither's sound, as well as hold the instrument when being played.

Emma Wellisch as child, view 1 Emma Wellisch as child, view 2 Emma Wellisch posing with Arion Harp Zither

The original owner of this zither was Emelia ("Emma") Lawrence Wellisch (b. 1862-d. 1951), a German-speaking immigrant, who began playing the zither as a child in the 1870s. Wellisch later became a prominent zither virtuoso in the twin cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul and served in various administrative positions on the board of the Minneapolis Zither Society.

Advertisement for Schwarzer's Patented Zither Table (1893)

Engraving of Schwarzer's patented zither table Catalog description of Schwarzer's patented zither table

Additional Views of Zither's Custom-Made Table

Table closed Table opened Table opened, with cloth on top

Literature: Darla Earnest, "Schwarzer's Arion Harp Zither Reflects Golden Era in USA," National Music Museum Newsletter 34, No. 1 (February 2007), pp. 1-2.

  Click arrow to continue Graese Gallery Tour

Go to Graese Gallery Tour Index

Go to Virtual Tour Index

Go to Checklist of Zithers by Franz Schwarzer

National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069

©National Music Museum, 2009-2014
Most recent update: March 15, 2014

The University of South Dakota
Return to Top of Page