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Virginia Sturm Research Collection on the Glass Harmonica

Identifier: MS-0148
This collection consists of documents surrounding Virginia Sturm's research and performances of the glass harmonica. Included are Sturm's research notebooks, correspondence, clippings, working drafts of lectures and articles and photographs. The collection also includes a large amount of biographical materials on Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of the glass harmonica, as well as sheet music for the glass harmonica composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Gottlieb Naumann and Joseph Schlett.


  • 1786-1977
  • Majority of material found within 1940-1960


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

The Copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. The user agrees to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the Corning Museum of Glass and the Rakow Research Library against all claims, demands, costs and expenses incurred by copyright infringement or any other legal or regulatory cause of action arising from the use of Library materials.


10.7 Linear Feet (5 Boxes)

Biographical / Historical

The glass harmonica (also referred to as the armonica or harmonika) was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761. After hearing a musician playing water-filled wine glasses at a concert in England, Franklin was so enchanted that he decided to design his own instrument comprised of musical glasses. He attached perfectly tuned glass bowls on a horizontal spindle, which turned by means of a foot pedal. The tones, which resemble those made by the violin or flute, were produced by touching the rims of the bowls with water moistened fingers. Franklin’s new instrument attracted the attention of composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Strauss and Ludwig van Beethoven who preceded to create works featuring the glass harmonica.

Virginia Dadswell Sturm (1893-1977) was a music editor, critic, writer, researcher, lecturer and performer. She devoted years of research on the invention of the glass harmonica along with the music composed for and musicians associated with the instrument. She acquired an original glass harmonica from Bernhard Fritzsch, an accomplished violin-maker, and frequently performed with it while on her recital and lecture circuit.

Sturm was the music and art editor and critic for the Dayton Daily News during the 1930s and the editor of materials for the Dayton - Oakwood Press. She was a member of Sigma Alpha Iota (the international women’s music fraternity), Daughters of the American Revolution, National League of American Pen Women, and Ohio Newspaper Women. She also held office as president of Dayton Women’s Press Club and Vice-president of the Dayton branch of Pen Women and was a field representative for the Civic Music Association.

The glass harmonica owned by Virginia Sturm was acquired by the Corning Museum of Glass in 1979.

Information for this historical note was primarily found in the clippings and research papers of the collection.


The collection is arranged in seven series: Series I. Correspondence, 1937-1969; Series II. Clippings, 1930-1976; Series III. Research and Notes, 1926-1956; Series IV. Images, undated; Series V. Sheet Music, 1786-1883; Series VI. Publications, 1880-1975; and Series VII. Personal Papers, 1944-1977.

Custodial History

Acquired from Virginia Sturm's son, Julius K. Sturm in 1980. Some materials surrounding the provenance of Virginia Sturm's glass harmonica, including its sale to the Corning Museum of Glass, were removed from this collection upon arrival and now reside at the Corning Museum of Glass Registrar's Office.
Virginia Sturm Research Collection on the Glass Harmonica, 1786-1977
A Guide to the Collection
Nicolette Schneider
January 2004
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Rakow Manuscript Collections Repository

Rakow Research Library
Corning Museum of Glass
5 Museum Way
Corning NY 14830 USA