Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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20              STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
the technic of the instrument as to be able to render in­telligibly to the amazed ears of the clerks and other shoppers the strains of "Hail Columbia."
According to another of these family traditions, he appeared at the age of nine as the star performer of an amateur "Thespian Society" composed of neighborhood boys. The theatre was fitted up in a carriage house, and all the boys were stock-holders except Stephen, who was much the youngest member of the society and was at first admitted merely on sufferance. He was too small to attain much prominence as a "Thespian," but at the performances of the club he sang the popular songs of the day with so much grace and charm that he soon came to be regarded as the bright particular star of the entire constellation. So great was his popularity that the other members guaranteed him a certain sum per week in order to retain his services and good will. It was a very small sum, but sufficient to mark his superiority over the rest of the company.
The negro song had just come into vogue and the popu­lar ditties were "Zip Coon," "Longtail Blue," "Coal Black Rose" and "Jim Crow." Stephen's performance of these songs was greeted with uproarious applause, whenever the company gave an entertainment before their admiring friends and families, which was, during its brief existence, three times a week. When sufficiently large the proceeds from these performances were used to buy the amateur Thespians tickets to the old Pitts­burgh Theatre on Saturday nights, where they enjoyed the acting of Junius Brutus Booth, Edwin Forrest, and other celebrities of the time.
Between the ages of ten and thirteen, Stephen fre­quently visited an old uncle, John Struthers, who lived in Youngstown, Ohio, which was still considered "fron­tier." Uncle Struthers had been a surveyor, hunter and Indian fighter in the early settlement of the country; and now, in his eighties, he was very fond of Stephen and







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III