Bestow’d by The Civil War Roundtable of the Merrimack.
Here’s a song you’ll recognize, and yet… it’s a side of the Gold Rush story you might not have heard about in school: The melody is Stephen Foster‘s first big hit, “Oh Susannah” (1847), ubiquitous in its time and still common in the “folk song” tradition over a century and a half later. Foster’s original composition features two world-changing technologies…
Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture
Stephen Foster’s anthem recounts “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in three verses.
Frederick Douglass (1845) ~ “Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears…”
Stephen C. Foster ~ Letter to E. P. Christy (May 25, 1852) ~ “As I once intimated to you, I had the intention of omitting my name* on my Ethiopian songs, owing to the prejudice against them by some, which might injure my reputation as a writer of another style of music…”
Stephen Foster’s 1851 song “Old Folks At Home” provides an excellent introduction to the antebellum period: