As one of America’s principal and most influential songwriters, Stephen Foster shares his birthday with that of the nation. Born on 4 July 1826 in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, Foster revealed an early interest in music but received little formal training.
Primarily self-taught, Foster displayed an affinity for “Ethiopian” and minstrel songs (he performed in minstrel shows as a boy), yet he also incorporated characteristics of Irish melodies, German songs, and Italian operas in his compositions.
He was eighteen when his first song was published, “Open Thy Lattice, Love” (1844), set to a poem by George P. Morris; however, its title page erroneously credited the composer as “L. C. Foster.” Subsequently, Foster served as both composer and lyricist to his songs, which numbered over two hundred.