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Lyon & Healy: the American Harp

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The design of the pedal harp underwent a series of dramatic changes at the turn of the century, most of them attributable to the inventive minds at a Chicago-based musical instrument manufacturer and music publisher, Lyon & Healy. Of the many innovations of the Lyon & Healy company, three of the utmost importance to the development of the instrument: the “adjustable fourchette,” allowing simple regulation of the harp’s tuning in the natural and sharp positions, the “single-link mechanism,” an internal change to the mechanism greatly simplifying both function and manufacture, and lastly the “extended soundboard,” an extension of the soundbox of the instrument allowing for greater volume. Each of these improvements has since been adopted by every modern-day harp maker. This paper endeavors to combine original patents, miscellaneous historical documents, and evidence gathered from extant historical instruments by Lyon & Healy to identify each of the above and other specific changes, their inventors, the time of their introduction, as well as the overall motivation behind each of these important changes.

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