Stephen Foster, the Songwriter
Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864) wrote over 200 songs and other musical offerings in his brief lifetime. Among his best known are "Oh! Susanna," "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "Camptown Races," "My Old Kentucky Home," " Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair," and "Beautiful Dreamer."
Born in western Pennsylvania as the youngest of a family of ten siblings, Foster was sent by his father to Cincinnati in 1846 to become a bookkeeper for his older brother’s steamboat ticket agency. While working for his brother as a bookkeeper during the day, in the evening he connected with the local musical scene including traveling minstrel shows, resulting in his penning of his first successful songs – starting with "Oh! Susanna" (which became the theme song of the California Gold Rush of 1849!).
Quitting his job to return to Pennsylvania in 1850, the rest of Foster’s career was back east, culminating in final years in New York during the Civil War. Foster died in that city in 1864, at the age of 37, but this program brings him back to life in person, sharing his personal story and his music in a program courtesy of Cincinnati History Museum at Cincinnati Museum Center.