Often billed as the “First Lady of the Harp,” Mildred Dilling was one of the greatest classical harpists of the twentieth century. She was famous for her radio program of harp music that appeared every Sunday night on NBC preceding performances by the New York Philharmonic, and regularly appeared on other celebrity programs including with Bing Crosby. She toured extensively and through her celebrity connections met Harpo Marx and became his teacher. She performed for five U.S. Presidents beginning with Warren G. Harding. This beautiful harp was built in 1929 by Lyon & Healy as their top of the line “art nouveau” model instrument. Stylized flower designs are found on the column, which is designed to look like it grows out of the pedestal. Four colors of gold leaf and shadings are used on the instrument along with hand painted flowers on the soundboard. The instrument was originally purchased by Evangeline Booth, the fourth (and first woman) General of the Salvation Army. Mildred Dilling, who had a large collection of harps numbering more than 65 at the time of her death, purchased this instrument directly from Booth, and used it in her home, although she appears with it in some advertising materials from the 1960s.
Marking: Engraved on neck plate: Lyon & Healy/Chicago U.S.A. Makers/Concert Grand/N 3351/Manufactured under eight Patents; several patent marks, e.g. for washers and neck, both dated Sept. 14, 1915
Mildred Dilling ; Evangeline Booth
Ed. Barbara Burn. A Checklist of European & American Harps. revised. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pg. 12.
A Checklist of American Musical Instruments. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pg. 27.
American Musical Instruments in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pg. 140, fig. 167, ill.