Hidden Gems! Stephen Collins Foster – Songs and Compositions

Have you ever wondered who wrote the song/lyrics “Oh! Susanna, do not cry for me; I come from Alabama, with my Banjo on my knee”, or “De Camptown ladies sing this song, Doo-Da! Doo-Da! De Camptown’s racetrack five miles long, Oh Doo-da day!”?

1940_FamAmer_e_1.pngIt was Stephen Foster, and we hold his entire collection here at the library! He has been given the title of “the father of American music”, or “most famous songwriter of the 19th century”, and two centuries later we still feel his reach on music. His work has been recorded a countless number of times, from artists like Bob Dylan, The Byrds, James Taylor, Yo Yo Ma, and Alison Kruass. Even Charles Ives quoted a variety of Foster’s songs in many of his own works. He has been immortalized in memorials, sculptures, a musical, television, film and even a postage stamp!

I bring up all his accomplishments not only to show how important he is to American music, but to also point out how lucky we are to have a collection such as this! It’s a work that only 1,000 libraries around the world have and includes over 200 original songs and compositions, and also arrangements of his own work and that of others. The majority are first editions with information about each piece/song, and they have a range of accompaniment parts, from piano, to guitar, to woodwinds/strings, to a small chamber ensemble. There is sooo much music that can be played by all types of musicians in this collection!


Just to give an example of what one of these sheets of music look like, here is a first edition of “Oh! Susanna”
arranged for solo voice, piano, and a chorus


Another example is a first edition of “Camptown races” copyrighted March 20, 1952
 arranged for voice and guitar


These are just two examples of music in this collection. Like stated before, there are over 200 original songs and compositions, and also arrangements of his own work and that of others. If you like/love folk music, you need to see what else is here! Come by the library to check it out!