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“The ancient Irish harp tradition, which goes back to medieval times, was dying out around 1800,” Simon Chadwick, honorary secretary of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland, wrote in an e-mail message. “Egan invented a completely new romantic type of Irish harp, which was very successful, and which formed the basis of all subsequent revivals.”


In its more recent past the harp from the Dumpster had a connection to another figure who shaped the history of stringed instruments.

The trash container had been filled when workers cleared out the old Augustine guitar string factory on West 26th Street, which recently moved to Long Island City. And the harp, it turned out, had belonged to the former president of the company, Rose Augustine, who died in 2003 and who had developed, along with her husband, Albert, the first nylon classical guitar strings. Those nylon strings, popularized in the 1940s by the iconic Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia, soon became standard.

Ms. Finch reached Stephen Griesgraber, the executor of Mrs. Augustine’s estate, who said that several valuable instruments that Ms. Augustine had owned, including a Hauser guitar and a Kirkman harpsichord, had been removed from the factory but that the harp had been discarded, mainly because of its deteriorated condition.

“Somehow that harp ended up with the rest of the rubble,” Mr. Griesgraber said. “I’m frankly really glad that Julie found it and is really bringing it back to life.”

But rarity, it seems, does not automatically translate into riches. Although Egan harps are of intense interest to a select group of enthusiasts and are owned by well-known museums, they are not on the order of, say, a Stradivarius. Auction houses have listed Egan harps for up to $10,000.

Ms. Finch sold the harp for $300 to a friend, Lorcan Otway, who plays traditional Irish music on a set of uilleann pipes and who had become infatuated with the Egan.

“It was like placing a kitten that I had found,” she said. “I had a great sense of responsibility, and I knew he would take care of it.”


Mr. Otway said that he was planning to fly to London with the Egan to have it restored by an expert. The procedure would probably cost several thousand dollars, he said, and the aim was to get the harp into playing shape while still maintaining its antique aspects.

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