- Dilling, Mildred (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish material from the Mildred Dilling papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
2 cartons (2 linear ft.)
30 boxes (15 linear ft.)
Mildred Dilling was born on February 23, 1894, in Marion, Indiana. From a young age, Mildred knew she wanted to play the harp. Unfortunately for her, there was no harp teacher in Marion. So at age six, she began to take piano lessons at the Marion Conservatory of Music. When she was eleven, her family moved to Indianapolis for her father's business. Her parents arranged for her to have harp lessons from Louise Schellschmidt, and one year later, Mildred was given her first harp. It had previously belonged to General Evangeline Booth, of the Salvation Army. She later went on to study under Henriette Renié before performing for many occasions.
On her first tour of the country, Mildred gave over 85 concerts and while in the height of her career traveled approximately 30,000 miles each year. She visited over seventy-five different cities in the United States and had the opportunity to play for five different presidents. Mildred had a passion for the instrument itself and was fascinated with how widely the harp varies in terms of style, sound, and appearance. Because of this, she traveled with seven different harps. Yet another one of her accomplishments was her own CBS radio show where she played harp solos each week.
In 1943, she married Clinton Parker and lived happily until his premature death five years later. To cope with his passing, she decided that work was the best therapy. She became a soloist in the Bergen Symphony Orchestra, the oldest in the world.
One of her most widely known accomplishments was co-founding the American Harp Society. In 1981, she presented the Celtic Single Action Harp, Dilling Model. This new harp had seven levers on top of the harp, acting in the place of pedals. Each lever controlled one note in every octave and either hand could be used to activate them. She also taught lessons and held numerous masterclasses in countries all over the world. Some of her students included "Harpo" Marx, Deanna Durbin, Laurence Olivier, Bob Hope, and even the Crown Princess of Michiko Japan. She became the world's foremost collector of harps. Since then, she had acquired over 120 different instruments. Some of these included rare harps from Burma and Ireland, and the harp that had belonged to Queen Marie Antoinette. She died in 1982 at age eighty-eight.
The original order of the collection has been retained. Items are housed in archival boxes, but series are spread throughout the collection. While a majority of the collection fits into either of the two series, there are some loose papers that do not belong in either.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Register of the Mildred Dilling papers
- Lynzi Phillips
- 2011 March 14
- Description rules
- Language of description