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Virginia Dadswell Sturm Collection on the Glass Harmonica

Identifier: MS-0148

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of documents surrounding Virginia Dadswell Sturm's research about, ownership of, and performances on an early 19th century glass harmonica. Materials are divided into four series:

(1) Correspondence and Research Materials, 1924-1976

(2) Photographic Materials and Printing Plates, Undated

(3) Sheet Music, Circa 1940-1950

(4) Personal Materials, 1944-1977


  • 1926-1977


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for public research. Researchers must make an appointment to view this collection.

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.

Biographical / Historical

The glass harmonica (also referred to as 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 moved 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. These composers were inspired to compose 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 to the glass harmonica, ranging from the invention of the instrument to related musical compositions and associated musicians. She acquired an original glass harmonica from Bernhard Fritsch, an accomplished violin-maker, and frequently performed with it while on her recital and lecture circuit.

During the 1930s, Sturm was the music and art editor and critic for the Dayton Daily News, as well as the editor of materials for the Dayton-Oakwood Press. Vibrantly involved in various associations, she was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Ohio Newspaper Women, and notable music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota. Sturm was a member of the National League of American Pen Women, and served as the vice president of the Dayton branch. She held office as president of Dayton Women’s Press Club, 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.


2.8 Linear Feet (2 Hollinger boxes and 2 flat boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received from the son of Virginia Sturm, Julius K. Sturm, in 1980.

Related Materials

Sturm's glass harmonica resides in the glass object collection of The Corning Museum of Glass: 79.3.35.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Nicolette Schneider in 2004. Reprocessed by Sandra Glascock in 2016. Reprocessed by Amanda LaLomia and Colleen McFarland Rademaker in 2019 and 2020.

Virginia Dadswell Sturm Collection on the Glass Harmonica, 1926-1977
A Guide to the Collection
Nicolette Schneider
December 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
Revised by Sandra Glascock in 2016. Revised by Amanda LaLomia and Colleen McFarland Rademaker in 2019 and 2020.

Repository Details

Part of the The Rakow Research Library Manuscript Collection Repository

The Rakow Research Library
The Corning Museum of Glass
Five Museum Way
Corning NY 14830 USA