The psalmodikon is a one-stringed instrument developed in the 19th century for church congregations and choirs to use as a cheaper substitute for the more expensive pump organ. It is unclear who developed the psalmodikon in Scandinavia, but simple one-stringed instruments were being developed among music teachers in Northern Europe to assist in teaching new melodies. Denmark was the first Scandinavian country to use the psalmodikon and although it eventually failed to take hold there, Norway and Sweden had more success in introducing the instrument to congregations throughout the countryside.
Because the instrument was so easy to play and to make, Scandinavian immigrants in America also used the psalmodikon to lead their choirs in church. As churches began to prosper, however, organs and pianos began to appear and gradually displaced the psalmodikon. The psalmodikon in the Norwegian-American tradition virtually died out as a living tradition, until Vesterheim Museum director Marion J. Nelson proudly introduced Lanesboro, MN native Henry Storhoff at the first Folk Music Festival in Decorah, Iowa in 1967. Storhoff was the only living player of the psalmodikon that Nelson was able to find for the festival. Interest in reviving this tradition was encouraged in 1997 when Beatrice Hole, an avid psalmodikon player, established the Nordic American Psalmodikonforbundet. Hole learned to play the instrument from a man named Harlis Anderson, who taught himself to play the psalmodikon after finding one in his grandfather’s attic. The association holds annual meetings, publishes at least two newsletters a year, and promotes the preservation of psalmodikon traditions in America.