Celebrating the Life and Success of Pittsburgh Native Son, Songwriter Stephen Foster

Issue Date: 
January 13, 2014

His music is timeless and has proven staying power.

StephenStephen Foster Foster, born in Lawrenceville, Pa., on July 4, 1826, became a world-renowned composer, writing music that portrayed life in mid-19th-century America. His legendary songs “Old Folks at Home,” “Oh! Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and others continue to be widely used in television and films.

“Foster’s enduring popularity is a tribute to his ability to write about broad, universal themes, couched in catchy, soaring melodies, that touch people regardless of where or when they live,” said Kathryn Miller Haines, associate director of Pitt’s Center for American Music.

Today, the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland marks its annual Stephen Foster Day, which commemorates the life and success of the songwriter, who died 150 years ago on Jan. 13, 1864, at age 37. He is buried in Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville.

Pitt’s Center for American Music scheduled a number of activities to commemorate the songwriter, including an annual graveside ceremony at Allegheny Cemetery at 11 a.m. Jan. 13. Also this year, a special exhibition about Foster is on display throughout the month on Hillman Library’s ground floor.

Pitt’s Foster Hall Collection, housed in its Stephen Foster Memorial, contains a wide assortment of the composer’s manuscripts, photographs, first editions of sheet music, rare books, letters, and personal possessions, including his flute, a notebook, and the change purse he was carrying when he died.

Visit http://www.pitt.edu/~amerimus/foster.htm for more information about Stephen Foster and the Foster Hall Collection.