Daughter of:

Anthony M. and Josephine Wade Zimmer


Betsy Greenway


By Betsy Greenway

Nellie M. Zimmer, the concert harpist, was the daughter of Anthony M. Zimmer, son of Peter B. and Lucinda Schoolcraft Zimmer.

This information comes to me from Timothy Zimmer, my 3rd cousin once removed. I met Timothy on my genealogy trip to Newark Valley, New York, April 2002 (See the Many Faces of NY page in the index).

When he corresponded with Nellie in 1983, she wrote him definite family information, identifying her father as Anthony M. Zimmer and her mother as Josephine A. Wade, daughter of William and Amanda Wade. I am a 1st cousin 2 times removed from Nellie and Tim is her 1st cousin 3 times removed. I was interested in learning about Nellie because my parents had contact with her in the 60s and 70s. Tim wrote to her to learn her genealogy.

Nellie said in the letter to Tim dated January 16, 1983: "My father's grandparents came here from Holland and settled there. We only heard of their having two sons. My father's father was one Peter B. I do not know the other son's name. They both had started to go out West. (Note: William W. Zimmer went to Iowa, Solomon to South Dakota, and Sophia died at age 22.)

Grandfather Peter B. loved the country from Binghamton to Maine and then that beautiful country down to Newark Valley. He decided to stay and build his house on the top of the hill. I believe all his children were born there-9 in all-Ransom (who was your {Tim's} great-grandfather, I believe), was the oldest, my father (Anthony), Nathaniel, Manier, Eva {Betsy's great-grandmother} and Mate (Marion was her real name.) The other 3 had died."


The harp trio, pictured, included Georgia Price, Nellie Zimmer and Ethel M. Zimmer, Nellie's older sister. Ethel was born January 8, 1880 in Newark Valley, New York, while Nellie was born December 8, 1892, 12 years later. Their brother was Archie W. Zimmer, was born April 18, 1875. Neither Nellie nor Ethel married, but Archie had four children, Donald, LeGrande (neither of whom had children), Margaret (2 girls), and Marie (2 boys.)

Nellie writes: "I was born in Newark Valley and went to school there until I was about 10. Then my father's health gave out and he sold the farm (which is now owned by one of my father's nephew's sons, Donald Zimmer. We moved to Waverly and I went through High School there. I went to study the harp from there to Round Lake, just out of Albany. My sister had gone through the Ithaca Conservative of Music in piano and voice and decided we would get a concert program together. After two years we met a harpist who was looking for a job, so we formed a Harp trio and that lasted for two years. Then she died suddenly and left me with the Trio, which I had through the 20's & 30's. I went to Boston and decided to locate and do work there, which I did at the time. I was the only harpist there to do the Union Work-orchestras & churches, summer theaters, most anything and teaching.

"I had an opportunity to live in Boston with a girl (now married), who traveled 6 years in my Trio through the 20s. Her husband was a musician, piano & organ, and learned to play the harp. We formed the Quintet and did a lot of concerts through New England and New York. We did these through the 40s & 50s, then I just taught & did a few concerts until I came out here {California} in 1979."

A flier for the Harp Trio says of Nellie Zimmer: One of America's finest and best-known harpists, a soloist of international repute. There is no harpist who excels her as a performer. She is also a successful teacher and well known for many Harp arrangements she had made for solo, ensemble, and orchestral use. Miss Zimmer studied with the eminent American harpist, Van Veachton Rogers and later with Mme. Henriette Renée, the renowned French harpist, composer and teacher. Nellie Zimmer has toured extensively throughout the United States both as soloist and director of her own Harp Ensemble for many seasons.


Nellie M. Zimmer died in LaJolla, California, in 1987. She is shown here at 60 years of age, still entertaining audiences with beautiful harp concerts.

In reply to this web site, Jan Jennings, a harpist, emailed Betsy, telling how she tried to contact Nellie in the 80s. "My harp teacher, Marie Mellman Naugle, was a member of the Zimmer Harp Trio and a life-long friend of Nellie's... I think there was more than one person who played in the trio with Nellie and Marie. The one I knew about was Gladys Custace whose husband, Kenneth, also played harp…"

Jan writes: "If you do find a close relative, I would love to know. Nellie wrote many lovely harp trio arrangements. They are all handwritten and I fear they will be lost. I'd love to have them published, but I'd probably need the permission of her heirs. I don't wish to make any money off them...in fact, I would prefer that any proceeds be donated to the American Harp Society. I just would like to see them in print so others can enjoy them and Nellie is remembered for being the good arranger that she was!"

If there are any descendents of Anthony M. Zimmer out there in Tioga County and surrounding areas, this is a call to come forth and identify yourselves, so Nellie's music may be published. Please email Betsy at GreenwayB@aol.com, contact this web site, or contact Tim Zimmer in Newark Valley, NY.

from A. D. Pitcher address book of 1923
This is where Nellie Zimmer lived. Perhaps she only worked in NYC.
98 Hemenway Street
Suite 8
Boston 15, Mass.

New information received from the International Harp Archives at Brigham Young University tells us that Nellie M. Zimmer resided (or at least paid her American Harp Society membership dues from these residences) in Brookline, Massachusetts from October 1969-September 1977 and in La Jolla, California from September 1978-November 1986.

In the Social Security Death Index there was an entry for Nellie Zimmer; born 8 Dec 1892; died July 1987; last residence in La Jolla, San Diego, CA; social security # issued in Massachusetts (013-20-2915). In the California Death Index there was an entry for Nellie Maranda Zimmer; born 8 Dec 1892 in New York; mother's maiden name was Wade; died 27 July 1987 in San Diego.

February 16, 2008
by Principal Harpist Don Hilsberg,
Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra

From: bn1854@wildblue.net
To: GreenwayB@aol.com
Sent: 2/18/2008 5:51:53 P.M. Pacific Standard Time
Subj: Nellie Zimmer's harps

Dear Betsy,

I came across your posting on the Internet of your cousin Nellie Zimmer. Being a harpist myself, I've come across many old print ads for the Zimmer Harp Trio over the years. It was interesting to see some of the pictures you have posted.

In one of the photos (the one where Nellie is standing, flanked by the other two seated harpists) you have posted, Nellie is shown at a one-of-a-kind Lyon & Healy harp. The harp was made for exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Somewhere along the way, it looks like Nellie owned this harp. Which makes this story even more interesting is that harp wound up here in Denver, Colorado! In the 1990s, that harp was returned to L&H in Chicago. It is now part of the Salvi Foundation's Museum in Italy. The Salvi Company is the parent company of Lyon & Healy Harps in Chicago.

The last picture you have of Nellie (LaJolla, CA) show her at a Lyon & Healy Style 26 model.

My question to you is this. Do you have any knowledge of Nellie or Ethel's harps? To whom where they sold? Are there any harps left in the family?

I ask these questions because I research many of the old L&H models, many of which are still around today.

I enjoyed reading your research and hope to learn more of your family of harpists!


Don Hilsberg
Principal Harpist, Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra

February 20, 2008 Email from Don Hilsberg:
American Harp Repository
Created at BYU

Hi Betsy,

Thanks for your reply. Please add my email to your webpage.

Re: the Sam Pratt donation you came across. Several years ago, the American Harp Society established a repository for harpists to donate their papers/photos/recordings/music, etc. This is housed w/ the library at BYU in Provo, Utah. David Day is the curator of the collection.

Sam Pratt worked for many years in the NYC salon of Lyon & Healy. When the salon closed, Sam saved many of the photos that had been autographed and in the collection of Mr. Hunt, the previous manager of the salon. If I remember correctly, there may be a picture or two of the Zimmer Harp Trio in that collection.

In any event, it's always fun to research our previous artists. I'm just so sad that we're losing many and I've not had the chance to meet them! The stories they could tell!

Don Hilsberg

"My Sister Ethel"


This picture of an "Unknown Ethel" in Betsy's collection of genealogy photos has been identified as Ethel Zimmer, sister of Nellie M. Zimmer, and a member of the Zimmer Harp Trio. Comparing the picture to Ethel in the Harp Trio with this photo, both Betsy Greenway and Tim Zimmer agree that it is indeed Ethel Zimmer. On the back of the picture, it says, "My sister, Ethel."

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Ernie Miles
Photos Copyright © 2000 Betsy Greenway. All Rights Reserved.