Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Dowd Harpsichord Collection

Collection ID:
Dowd, William R.
Collection is in
. Some materials in
Physical Description:
33 Cubic feet
81 boxes, 7 map folders

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection documents Dowd's career as a maker and scholar of harpsichords through correspondence, photographs, drawings, notes, and financial materials. The collection contains templates and drawings for harpsichords built or restored by Dowd. The collection also documents the activities of small business and its owner in Boston from 1959-1988.

The collection is arranged into ten series.
Series 1: William Dowd (Boston Office), 1958-1993
Subseries 1.1: Background Matreials, 1965-1993
Subseries 1.2: Desk Calendars, 1982-1989
Subseries 1.3: Wall Calendars, 1964-1985
Subseries 1.4: Address Books, undated
Subseries 1.5: Telephone Logs, 1985-1988
Subseries 1.6: Catalogs, 1962-1988
Subseries 1.7: Shop Books, 1949-1986
Subseries 1.8: Maintenance, 1981-1993
Series 2: General Files, 1949-1993
Series 3: Design Notes and Drawings, 1952-1990
Subseries 3.1: Drawings, 1952-1990
Subseries 3.2: Design Notes, 1959-1987
Series 4: Suppliers/Services, 1958-1988
Series 5: Owner's Files, 1960s-1980s
Subseries 5.1: Owners Files (alphabetical)
Subseries 5.2: Former Owners (alphabetical)
Series 6: Antique Files, 1949-1979
Series 7: Financial Records, 1961-1987
Series 8: Photographs, 1949-1988
Series 9: Publications, 1969-1994
Series 10: William Dowd (Paris Office), 1971-1985
Series 11: Newspaper Clippings, 1949-1993

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
William Richmond Dowd (1922–2008) was an American harpsichord maker. Dowd graduated from Harvard University (1948) and apprenticed with John Challis, a harpsichord maker in Detroit. In 1949, Dowd partnered with Frank Hubbard (1920-1976), a fellow Harvard classmate and harpsichord maker to form Hubbard and Dowd in Boston, operating the Boston School of Harpsichord from 1949-1958. Dowd and Hubbard built harpsichords based on historical principles and dedicated themselves to research and restoration techniques of historical keyboard instruments. The first harpsichords built by Dowd were based on the 1637 Johannes Ruckers single harpsichord. In 1956, Charles Fisher joined the firm as a third partner.
Dowd formed Dowd Harpsichord Shop in 1959, building the Pascal Taskin model of harpsichord. Taskin (1723-1793) was a French harpsichord and piano maker. In 1972, Dowd established an office in Paris in association with Reinhard von Nagel. The Paris office closed in 1985. Dowd closed his workshop in Boston on September 1, 1988 and died in November 1988.

Alison Oswald
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated by William R. Dowd and Pegram Dowd on June 12, 1997.
Separated Materials
The Division of Culture and the Arts (now Division of Cultural and Community Life) contains two harpsichords built by William Dowd. See accessions 1980.0274.1 (Compass: FF-f3. Copy of 1730 Blanchet instrument) and 2009.0229.01 (double manual, serial number 336-75).
Processing Information
Portions of the collection processed by Grace Angle, volunteer and Sony Prosper, intern (2012) and Alison Oswald, archivist, 2016. Finding aid authored and encoded by Alison Oswald.
One cubic foot of material containing personally identifiable information and personally identifiable health information was disposed of in December 2016.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Preferred Citation
Dowd Harpsichord Collection, 1949-1997, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Musical instrument makers Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Musical instruments Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Harpsichord Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Harpsichord makers Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Business records Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Design drawings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012