Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Music History

Author's Keywords

Jean Thomas; American Folk music; Eastern Kentucky


Serious musicological research initiated in the first decades of the twentieth century in America uncovered vast riches of British folk music that had been transplanted to these shores by early pioneers. In the mountains of Appalachia, traditional British ballads remained miraculously unspoiled, and distinguished researchers from Britain and America published many volumes of such songs. Jean Thomas, a legal stenographer born in eastern Kentucky in 1881, became fascinated with this phenomenon. She came to believe that an annual festival of mountain music would help ensure the survival of this art and, in 1930, she founded the American Folk Song Festival. With some interruptions, the Festival was held in eastern Kentucky on the second Sunday of every June through 1972. The festival provided a forum for British ballads as well as native American music. While the entire corpus of Jean Thomas' output is of mixed quality, an analysis of the British music she preserved reveals its value, dynamism and authenticity. In 1968, Jean Thomas presented many of her materials - tapes, letters, photographs, clippings, kinescopes and the like - to the University of Louisville. An exhaustive study of these treasures will yield rich fruit to the discriminating musicologist.