Submitted as my final project in American Studies 420: American Folk Revivals at Hamilton College, taught by Prof. Lydia Hamessely.
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On May 20, 2009, almost 30,000 Americans tuned into the season finale of American Idol to see underdog Kris Allen upset (the now far more famous) Adam Lambert to win the competition, inadvertently also witnessing a landmark moment in the 150+ year history of an unknown American musical instrument: the Appalachian or mountain dulcimer.1 Even though it only flashed on the screen a few times, viewers immediately noticed the unusual instrument that‘80s pop sensation Cyndi Lauper held on her lap while singing a duet of “Time After Time” with a previously-eliminated contestant. Some took to the internet, asking strangers on sites like Yahoo Answers to try to identify the strange instrument. Others celebrated the appearance of their …