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Page 7 of Mountain Life & Work vol. 34 no. 4 1958

Part of Mountain Life and Work

The following article is adapted from the author's forthcoming book dealing with the history of the dulcimer, its construction, people Yho make and play it, and instructions for learning to play the instrument. the section of the book dealing with people who make and have made dulcimers is incomplete. There is still much to be discovered and recorded about these craftsmen. It is hoped that this article will stimulate readers to bring to light information regarding dulcimers and their makers. ellve JO/acXed '~ic~cameli JOHN PUTNAM THE PLUCKED DULCIMER is a musical instrument which is truly American, having been developed in the Southern Appalachian mountains of the United States. It is distinguished by its long and slender form, its hollow raised fingerboard over which are stretched usually three or four strings, and a soundbox which bulges symmetrically on either side. Though it has European forebears, no instrument having the distinctive characteristics of the Appalachian plucked dulcimer has yet been positively identified as being of European manufacture. ,~,,,~ Who are the people who have developed and produced the plucked dulcimer? In general, it may be said that dulcimers have been made by a large number of men having a wide variety of skills, interests, and occupations. Brief biographies of several of the better-known makers of dulcimers are presented here as representative of the men who have produced this distinc tive musical instrument. James Edward Thomas (c.1850-1933), of Bath, Kentucky, was an early producer of what is now the most common of the dulci mer shapes, the hourglass shape. Allen Eaton, in his Handicrafts o f the Southern Highlands , has written an interesting account of Mr. Thomas' experiences with dulcimers: "Mr. Thomas, the most outstanding dulcimer maker of the Highlands, began making these instruments when he was 21, continuing with considerable regularity until shortly before his death in 1933, a working period of nearly 62 years.

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