MYSTERY INSTRUMENT: What are these antique dulcimer things?

I recently won these two instruments in an eBay auction.  The seller said that these were found in a Massachusetts house from 1900 that was being demoed.  No other information was given.

First, here's a video tour around them both:

The instruments appear to be handmade and are very similar in construction.  One is 26" long and the other (with a protruding headstock horn) is 28".  

They both feature 18.5" scale lengths, a metal "pickguard" area and body depths between 1.5" and 1.75".  Tuning is via traditional zither pins.

Each instrument features a fretted area and a drone string area.  The frets are made from bent wire that is inserted into holes in the soundboard.  The longer instrument features four strings that are fretted and four strings that are drone.  The shorter has three fretted strings and four drones.

Note the long 16 penny nail used as a bridge. 

The biggest difference between the two is the number of strings and the headstock shape:

Even the soundholes are similar, apparently made by carving an "X" into the soundboard and then adding additional flourishes.

The headstocks and butt ends are separate from the body and were glued on.  You can see the details in the picture of the instruments backs:

These instruments are inspiring me to create my own version.  Perhaps an electric version using a 2x4 and pickups?

So what is it?  Did I buy a holy grail?   Post your observations, conclusions and comments below!  

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Here's a vid I found with lots of info,

........I tried looking 'lover's dulcimer' at

What you might be looking for is a "courting" dulcimer, which you will find has two necks in opposite directions, and the players would sit knee to knee and play together.

What is shown has what I believe to be "sympathetic" or harp style strings, which is quite different.

I believe the original question is answered with "there are many minor variations from several global sources through history", and that it is hard to definitively trace as many are "home made" or made in few numbers with many varied interpretations of the style.

I have eight I believe, each very distinctly different from the others.

The best resource I have ever found is from the research of Ralph Lee Smith. And he has some very very nice examples. Though he specializes in the Appalachian mountain style dulcimer, he is very knowledgeable about the history, roots and styles. Heck of a nice fella too.

Examples here

And here

Thanks Mark. Yep, that's what I was looking for. Right idea, wrong word. 

These look to be a German Scheitholt.  This instrument was used in this country as a way to play parlor music.  I own a couple and find them fascinating, though they have fallen into general disuse.  I like the looks of these, very nice. One of mine is late 18th century, these look to be mid to late 19th century, thought I can't be sure without looking more closely.  

Ill agree whit Jim Morris on this on ,believe you askt before? Scheitholts  Home made zithers.

The one in the picture is a Hommel its tuned like yours whit a tuning key like piano for as for as i know from Belgium / Germany, will be brought by the first pilgrims, so probely Old ! 1800? the on in the picture 1620 about.

Talking Holy Grail ! the Johnnie Winter Collection is auctioned off Who buy's and who scores?


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