Instrument got its start in Persia
The hammered dulcimer originated in Persia about 1,400 years ago. From there, it spread over the world. Instruments very similar to the hammered dulcimer can be found in China, Eastern Europe, Germany and the British Isles.
The hammered dulcimer traveled to this country with the early settlers, and it was popular during the 18th and 19th centuries.
However, as the frontier was settled, people began to replace their dulcimers with pianos. Dulcimers soon became a musical memory -- except in Appalachia, where the tradition was kept alive.
Recently, the dulcimer was rediscovered by folklorists, and has experienced a renaissance. It can now be heard on concert stages, at folk festivals, at traditional dances or on a neighbor's back porch -- playing anything from Appalachian fiddle tunes, to Celtic airs, to Beethoven's symphonies.
Source: Judith Minogue