The process of researching this fascinating subject has been incredibly rewarding.  Tracing the evolution of the harp in its journey from Germany, to France, to England, and finally to the United States has given me a certain perspective on the history of my instrument, marked by short bursts of creativity and innovation, and followed by periods of decline and stagnation.  This perspective inspires important questions.  Are we, in our own time, in a period of stagnation or one of innovation?  Lyon & Healy recently celebrated their 130th year of harp building in 2019.  Will the company continue to use traditional designs, will they innovate, or will another harp builder dare to try something new?  Only time will tell.


As a performer and restorer who uses the historical instruments described in the body of this work in my daily practice (with an emphasis on early harps by Lyon & Healy) it has been a true pleasure to trace the development of these instruments, and to put names and dates on hardware from the great and complex action chains of Mr. Durkee to the humblest washer of Mr. Walter Kirk.  In contrast to the extensive literature published on Érard and the English harp makers of the 19th century, almost nothing has been written about this most recent chapter in the history of the harp, which, in my humble opinion, are no less important to the understanding of the modern instrument.  Understanding one's instrument, historically, technically, and musically, is, after all, necessary to properly play it, and this understanding is exceptionally necessary for me in my multiple role as  performer, restorer, technician, and conservator of these antique instruments.


The influence of Lyon & Healy on all modern instruments is immense, with all current harp makers having adopted their extended soundboard, the increased size, the simplified pedal chain, adjustable fourchette, and spring adjuster.  It is my belief that the innovations described in this paper, both structural and mechanical represent a new chapter in the harp's story, and that the changes made by Lyon & Healy in the late 19th century constitute the most recent evolution of this ever changing instrument, meriting the Lyon & Healy harp the title, in the tradition of its ancestors, of "the American Harp."