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36 STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
one already sold. He was much disappointed when told that Mrs. Woods had already bought it. It is a tradition in the Foster family that Stephen spent many hours in the Woods' home, playing this piano, and it is probable that many of his songs were worked out on it.
This, however, was later than the period now under consideration. The Woods' piano did not appear on the scene until seven years after the composition of "Open Thy Lattice, Love." In the meantime Stephen had had some experience in business, for which he was ill suited, and had yielded more and more to his "strange talent" for music. The speculations in the family as to Stephen's future do not seem to have arrived at any very satisfactory conclusion, and he was not able to map out a career for himself. He was following the line of least resistance, which led him inevitably into song-writing.
In the year 1844 occurred a Presidential campaign which was distinguished by political song-singing. President Tyler was a candidate for reelection, his opponent being James K. Polk. The principal issue of the campaign was the controversy with England over the boundary of "the Oregon Country," a controversy which produced the familiar slogan, "Fifty-four-forty or fight." The country seemed to be on the brink of war with England and the excitement during the campaign was intense. There were innumerable parades and processions and both parties organized singing clubs to give expression to their enthusiasm in the political songs of the day. After the conclusion of the campaign, most of these singing societies went out of existence, although a few lingered on, gradually losing their political character and becoming purely social clubs.
Among the organizations which survived was one which met twice a week at the Foster home. Negro melodies were most popular with this singing-club, and one evening Stephen Foster produced a composition of his own. It was called "Louisiana Belle." A week later