James Edward (Uncle Ed) Thomas (1850-1933) was born in Letcher County, Kentucky. Thomas lived part of his life on Big Doubles Creek in Knott County, Kentucky. Along with Charles Prichard,
James Edward Thomas is credited with being one of the first to build and popularize the Cumberland-Style Dulcimer (modern hour-glass) in the Kentucky and West Virginia region. L. Allen Smith describes Uncle Ed’s double bout style “...characterized by round shoulders, narrow waists, and mortised ribs, or ribs that are mortised into the tuning head and tailpiece blocks...” (page 81 of A Catalogue of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers). It is reported that Thomas began to make dulcimers in 1871 and made dulcimers for about 62 years. He made an estimated 1,500 instruments in his lifetime and influenced many dulcimer makers over the years. He sold them as a traveling peddler through remote areas of Kentucky, carrying them on his back or in a pony cart. His instruments cost $3 for Poplar and $5 for Walnut.