Stephen Foster

1826 – 1864


A prolific writer, Foster composed and arranged over 200 pieces of music during his brief career. His “Oh! Susanna” was the first viral hit, becoming the theme of the goldrush. He wrote of the love of his life, Jane, and the community around him. His song “Nelly Was A Lady” was groundbreaking in its description of a woman of color in a parlor song. According to Fletcher Hodges, Jr., Former Curator, Foster Hall Collection, University of Pittsburgh, his best works so combine the qualities of poetry and melody, simplicity and sincerity, that the resulting songs form a remarkable contribution to the music of our nation and mankind.

Learn more at the University of Pittsburgh archives.