The Hughes Dulcimer Company was owned by Virgil Hughes in Denver. I'm not sure if the company is still in business. When I lived in Denver (1981-1997) I frequented the shop to visit with Virgil. He indicated he had traveled the Appalachians and other areas of the southeast collecting dulcimer history. He had lots of great stories to tell. One such story was in some communities 3-string dulcimers were signs of the 3 tines of the devil's pitchfork where in other communities 3-string dulcimers were related to the Trinity.
Attached are some pdf files of flyers from Virgil's shop. The shop produced just about anything from dulcimers to harps to harpsichords in completed or kit forms in its day. Virgil's mountain dulcimers seemed mostly designed to be tuned in G tunings like GDD. Some of his mountain dulcimers were available with a solid spruce top as an option, but most mountain dulcimers from Virgil's shop had plywood bodies and tops. Virgil also seemed to favor just one sound hole on his mountain dulcimers.
I remember borrowing about 5 or 6 dulcimers from Virgil's shop for a party at a friends house. We invited several people from church for a sing-a-long and combination dulcimer workshop. You should have seen some of their eyes light up when they came in and we handed them a dulcimer and told them to sit down! Of course they were all playing Down In The Valley in 5 minutes or so.
One of those dulcimers was a black hourglass dulcimer. I think I had seen more than one black hourglass dulcimer in Virgil's shop. One of Virgil's stories about painting dulcimers was that woodgrain was considered ugly in some traditions, so paint or other decorations to cover the woodgrain made the dulcimer more acceptable. They used any paint they may have had on hand (barn paint, house paint, any available color). One of the folks at the party liked the black dulcimer and purchased it from Virgil. All of the dulcimers from Virgil's shop at the time did not have a 6.5 fret unless it was requested as an option.
So, if your hourglass dulcimer has one sound hole and does not have a 6.5 fret, I suspect either it was built from a kit from Virgil's shop by someone who held true to Virgil's design or it was built in Virgil's shop.
Also, search on this sight for "Church Dulcimer" and you'll find other threads on Virgil's dulcimers (I obtained a Church Dulcimer kit from Virgil around 1980 and we had a discussion here about Church Dulcimers a month ago).
- 1995 Flyer
- (3.02 MiB) Downloaded 429 times
- Front of 1979 Flyer
- (800.09 KiB) Downloaded 330 times