Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The attempt is made in this paper to show that the Appalachian dulcimer is a variant, transplanted form of similar folk instruments which are to be found in northern Europe and that the dulcimer is neither a native American instrument nor English in origin.

The procedure followed is to note the place in which the Appalachian dulcimer fits into the Sachs-von Hornbostel classification of musical instruments and to describe the northern European instruments which also belong there. The northern European instruments and the Appalachian dulcimer are then compared.

Attention is drawn to the lack of evidence supporting a popular belief that the dulcimer is English in origin. An examination of immigration history from Norway and Sweden to the United States is presented in order to permit speculation on possible connections, through actual instruments or by means of folk oral tradition, between the northern European instruments and the Appalachian dulcimer.

Thera is no evidence to support theories of English origin for the Appalachian dulcimer. The basic similarity between the dulcimer and northern European instruments makes the likelihood of a native American dulcimer appearance unsupportable. Immigration history does show that contact between the Appalachian highlandera and northern Europeans might have occured at a time when dulcimers appeared. This contact might have been an actual instrument or orally transmitted directions resulting in a form for the Appalachian dulcimer varying from the similar northern European types. Therefore, without being able to verify it, the writer concludes that northern European origin for the dulcimer is the only supportable hypothesis.