Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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FIRST SONGS                             43
second-floor hall on Wood Street, furnished it with chairs and small tables, erected a stage at one end, and pro­ceeded to give a series of "entertainments." Admission was ten cents, the ticket purchased at the door being accepted later at face value toward payment for what­ever might be called for at the tables. The enterprise was advertised widely and Kneass was engaged as im­presario. To keep up public interest, prizes were offered from time to time, a bracelet for the best conundrum, a ring with an imitation ruby setting for the best comic song, a gold chain for the best sentimental song, and finally a silver cup for the best negro song. The silver cup was placed on exhibition and was to be awarded by a committee designated by the audience for the purpose at the time of the contest.
These "saloon entertainments" were not uncommon at this period, as they occupied a neutral ground upon which eschewers of theatrical performances could meet with abettors of playhouses, a consideration of ruling importance in Pittsburgh, where so many people carried on their legitimate inheritance of Cameronian fidelity to the old Presbyterian creed and practice.
Stephen Foster was in Cincinnati at this time, which probably was 1846 or 1847, but was persuaded by his brother Morrison to send a manuscript for Kneass's contest in Pittsburgh. Stephen sent the song '"Way Down South, Where de Cane Grows." It did not win the prize, but both Morrison Foster and Nevin place considerable importance on this contest and the part it played in turning Stephen's attention more and more toward song-writing.
Morrison Foster relates that on the morning following the song-contest, he went to the United States Court to take out a copyright on the words and music in Stephen Foster's name, and found Nelson Kneass there attempt­ing to copyright the song in his own name. "I informed Judge Irwin of the fraud," says Morrison Foster, "and







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