Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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TRAGEDY                               103
The "wrapping paper, picked up in a grocery store," is a feature of all Foster reminiscences. It has impressed itself upon the history of American music in a manner positively uncanny. "Old Dog Tray" is alleged to have been written in the middle of the night on an old piece of brown wrapping paper which happened to be handy. Various other of the songs are reputed to have been jotted down on this justly famous sheet; in fact, no biography of Stephen Foster can be considered complete without brown wrapping paper. One version even goes so far as to have the wrapping paper stained with grease from the articles of food which it once enclosed. Another biographer uses the wrapping paper as a starting-point from which to deduce the wholly incorrect supposition that Stephen was a clerk in a grocery store, and that during the day he waited upon customers from behind a counter, while at night, when all around was still, he sat in his lonely attic and dreamed of his absent loved ones, the while he consigned his immortal melodies to brown wrapping paper by the flickering light of a single candle. Just how important a part brown wrapping paper played in Stephen's life we can never know, but it has become so ineradicably connected with his memory that any attempt to dissociate it at this time would be sheer cruelty. All honor to its cherished memory!
George Cooper tells of meeting Stephen Foster in the back-room of a disreputable grocery on the corner of Hester and Christie Streets. According to the custom of that time, the front of the shop was devoted to the sale of groceries, but back of a partition was a small room which was used as a saloon, and here Stephen spent much of his time. Mr. Cooper describes him as a man utterly careless of his appearance, having apparently lost the incentive power of self-respect. He lived at 15 Bowery, in a cheap lodging-house where he paid 25 cents a night. He told Mr. Cooper that he had had a regular income of $1,500.00 a year from his songs, and

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