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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
freda underhill Autoharps in the early 20C (16) RE: Autoharps in the early 20C 28 Apr 13

On page 7 of this catalogue is a picture of
an autoharp owned by Nita Lawes-Gilvear. The autoharp is in the collection of the National Museum ofd Australia. Here is a description from the website:

An auto-harp made from wood and metal with a painted exterior. The wooden sound box is designed in a stylised shape with a circular sound hole in the centre. There is a series of 60 strings fixed to the top of the sound box. There is a painterly decoration featuring peacocks, floral designs and a musical score, in gold, brown, green and red hues. The main exterior is painted black. The paint is worn in areas from use. The auto-harp is stored in a wooden box covered with brown leather-looking vinyl. There is a plectrum that is a corresponding part of the harp, used to stick cords.

Nita Lawes contracted poliomyelitis in 1937 at the age of 11. She spent long periods in hospital and suffered badly with pain and paralysis, being one of 1000 children who contracted polio in Tasmania between 1937 and 1938. Second only to Iceland, Tasmania suffered the highest rate per capita of poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, in the world. Children were treated in isolation wards of hospitals and families were denied visiting rights in an attempt to counter the spread of the disease.

Nita Lawes-Gilvear was given the autoharp when she was 16. She played at parties and concerts around her local district throughout her young adult life.

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