Welcome to Zither US

Here you will find information pertaining to the concert zither, an instrument with Alpine origins commonly associated with the German-speaking lands of Europe. The concert zither has an incredibly rich history here in the US. By providing a venue to share its history and music, it's hoped that interest will be renewed and new players will be encouraged to take up this wonderful instrument.

To grow as a resource, Zither US is seeking your contributions. Did you have an ancestor who played the concert zither? Do you play, or have you attended a recent performance? If so, consider sharing your experiences and knowledge with the community. For more information on how to become a contributor, contact us.

For the enjoyment of the zither community, hundreds of vintage zither arrangements and compositions have been digitized and published. Visit the page of the Vintage Zither Music Project to browse the current collection.

The Zithers of the Pennsylvania Germans

The scheitholt, whose form is the predecessor to the modern alpine zither, was constructed and played in the US by early German immigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1923, Dr. Henry Mercer presented his research of numerous zithers, then museum pieces, to members of the Bucks Country Historical Society.




A Snapshot of Pauline Kruger Hamilton

An early photograph reveals an extraordinary life. The photo, circa 1893, was taken in St. Paul, Minnesota and shows Pauline Kruger Hamilton with her Arion zither. A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, she performed as a zither soloist and was a well known artist. For a number of years, she was designated as the official photographer for the court of Franz Josef, former Emperor of Austria.


Photo of the Week

Thank you to Anna Mayerhofer for sharing this photo of her grandfather, Josef Mayerhofer Sr., and father, Josef. In this 1925 photo, father and son are enjoying some quality time together with zither music at their home in Buffalo, New York. Anna writes, “Both my grandfather and father enjoyed playing together with my grandmother, Anna. My grandfather played with the Buffalo Zither Club, too.”


Josef Mayerhofer Sr. and son Josef, Buffalo, NY, 1925

Zitherist Tony Godetz

Beer, pretzels and zither music by Tony Godetz fuel the celebration in this 1933 photo, taken at Chicago's Bismarck Hotel. Born in Austria in 1876, Tony Godetz came to America in 1904 and lived in Chicago where he worked as a music teacher, performer and instrument maker. His large model zithers were made by Franz Schwarzer in Washington, Missouri, and sold as the "Concert Grand" model. The Bismarck Hotel was closed in 1996 and, after extensive renovations, was reopened as Hotel Allegro.


Zitherist Tony Godetz at Chicago's Bismarck Hotel, 1933

The Zapfs

A big thank you to Lenny Zapf for sharing this recording, titled "Scottish." On this recording, Lenny plays stand-up bass and his father, Leonard Zapf Sr., plays the concert zither. This video includes several photos shared by Lenny, including group shots of the Philadelphia Zither Ensemble.

On the Zither

This article, by Dr. Gerlinde Haid, comes from the Austrian publication Volkskunst heute (Folk Art Today),[i] a beautifully illustrated magazine devoted to Austrian handcrafts, costumes, and customs. The article is translated by Dr. Jane Curtis, and illustrations reproduced, with the kind permission of the publisher, the Hilde Jasser Verlag- und Werbegesellschaft mbH, Vienna, Austria. Translator comments and additions are set off in brackets; some slight rearrangements of material have been made for greater clarity in the English version.



Den En Zither Ensemble

I always enjoy hearing of zither events outside of the US, so thank you to Franz Metzger for sharing this photo of the Den En Zither Ensemble. The zither ensemble recently participated in a program in Tokyo. Franz also shared the following details regarding their recent performance:

"On September 8th, the Den En Zither Ensemble performed at the Fujimikaikan city facility in Den En Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. The ensemble participated in a concert given by some of the groups, professional and amateur, who practice at this facility. The program included Japanese folk instruments, vocal performances, Ocarina groups, our zither ensemble and a cello orchestra. Our group played "Jasmin - Polka" by Jos. Haustein, Op 110 (Zither I, II and Altzither) and "Elbstrandbilder Walzer" by Curt Freidrich (Zither I, II and Altzither). We annually play at this group concert using normal tables but this year we imported two zither tables from Germany and one of our members (far right in photo) made three tables. The new tables looked great and so was the sound."


The Den En Zither Ensemble, from left to right: Katsuya Shirai (Altzither), Teiko Sato (Zither I),
Franz Metzger (Zither I), Sachiko Sato (Zither II) and Toshihiro Kozaki (Zither II)

A Zither Match

In the late 1870s, zither players in the US began forming clubs to share music with the public. It was during this period that a Bavarian from Ruhpolding, Max Maier, settled in San Francisco and became established as a leading proponent of the zither. At his studio, Max gave music lessons, sold zithers and provided all the requisites for zither players in his community.


The Concert Zither in America's Civil War


John Maurath identified a photograph that should be of great interest to zither players. The photograph clearly shows a Union soldier, more than likely a soldier of German heritage, playing a concert zither. Although the picture speaks for itself, the question remains: What did he play?



Franz Schwarzer and Friends

This circa 1901 photo comes to us courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri. Shown standing on the right is Franz Schwarzer, Missouri's famous zither maker. At his factory in Washington, Missouri, over 10,000 instruments were manufactured, the majority of which were zithers. Also identified in the photo are Mr. Muehl, seated with zither, and Mr. Schmidt, shown holding a book.


Mr. Schmidt, Mr. Muehl and Franz Schwarzer. Courtesy State Historical Society of Missouri.

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