Stephen Collins Foster
Natives of Kentucky as well as visitors to the Bluegrass State share a common twinge of pride when they hear those first notes signaling the playing of "My Old Kentucky Home." Stephen Collins Foster wrote the song that has become Kentucky's anthem more than 100 years ago, capturing the spirit of hospitality that is the trademark of the South.
Born July 4, 1826 in Pittsburgh, Foster wrote more than 200 songs, from spirited minstrel show numbers to beautiful ballads. The ninth child of William Barcley and Eliza Tomlinson Foster, he began writing songs at an early age. He attended Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pa., briefly, but left because of home sickness. Because the career of a songwriter was not all together acceptable in Foster's day, his parents encouraged him to enter business. Foster worked as a bookkeeper for his brother, Dunning, in Cincinnati for a time, and possibly gained inspiration at the Cincinnati waterfront.
"Oh Susanna," which became the theme song of the Forty-Niners bound for the California gold fields, was published in 1848. Foster returned to Pittsburgh in 1850, and embarked on a prolific, but stormy, career as a songwriter. A cousin of the Rowan family of Bardstown, it is said that Foster was inspired to write "My Old Kentucky Home" when visiting Federal Hill, the Rowan plantation, in 1852.
Although he lived most of his life in Pittsburgh, Foster wrote lovingly and knowingly about the South. It is documented that Foster visited New Orleans in 1852. He is the only songwriter to have two of his works chosen as state songs. In addition to "My Old Kentucky Home," Foster's "Old Folks At Home" is the state song of Florida. Incidentally, he wrote the song about life on the Suwannee River without ever having seen that river.
The years from 1850 to 1855 marked the most successful period in Foster's life. During this time, he produced some of his most famous works and enjoyed worldwide recognition. Foster is buried in the Allegheny Cemetery at Pittsburgh, where his grave is frequently visited by lovers of his songs. There is also a Stephen Foster Memorial at the University of Pittsburgh.
P.O. Box 546, 411 E. Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown, KY 40004,(502) 348-5971 or 800-626-1563.
Go back in time to the 1850's with The Stephen Foster Story. Nestled in My Old Kentucky Home State Park, where music fills the air and lights shimmer from the trees, you will enjoy songs like Oh! Susanna, Camptown Races, Beautiful Dreamer, and My Old Kentucky Home. The Stephen Foster Story will delight the whole family with spectacular period costumes, lively choreography, and more than 50 heartwarming melodies of Stephen Collins Foster, America's first great composer. Come and experience an evening under a blanket of starlight in our new State-of-the-Art amphitheatre with The Stephen Foster Story! www.stephenfoster.com
P.O. Box 546, 411 E. Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown, KY 40004,(502) 348-5971 or 1-800-626-1563. Join us on July 3rd as we celebrate the birthdays of Stephen Foster and our country. Food, games and fireworks. Performance at 8:30pm. with fireworks following in the J.Dan Talbott Amphitheatre. Call for reservations. www.stephenfoster.com
US 150 (Springfield Rd.), Bardstown, KY 40004, (502) 348-3502, (800) 323-7803. The plantation mansion known as My Old Kentucky Home was called Federal Hill by its owner, Judge John Rowan, a prominent lawyer and politician. Built in the late 1700s, Judge Rowan and his wife Rebecca maintained high standards of hospitality, entertaining distinguished visitors such as the Marquis de Lafayette, Henry Clay, and many others. Open to the public since 1923, thousands of visitors tour My Old Kentucky Home each year, enjoying the same welcome guests have been charmed by since the late 18th century. www.parks.ky.gov
Stephen Foster Statue
US 150 (Springfield Rd.), Bardstown, KY 40004, (502) 348-3502, (800) 323-7803.
The bronze Stephen Collins Foster statue was sculpted by Abbe Godwin in 1994. It is located near Federal Hill at My Old Kentucky Home State Park. From the scar on his cheek to his pinkie finger ring and eight-key flute, the sculptor captured the American composer. The statue depicts Foster sitting away from the home, glancing back over his shoulder. According to Godwin, he starts composing, but he hears the voices and sounds of the distant plantation, and turns back for a look.
Lyrics to My Old Kentucky Home - The Song
Words & Music by Stephen C. Foster
The sun shines bright on My Old Kentucky Home,
Tis' summer, the people are gay
The corn top's ripe and the meadow's in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day. Chorus:
Weep no more, my lady, oh! weep no more today
We will sing one song for My Old Kentucky Home,
For My Old Kentucky Home, far away.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy and bright
By'n by Hard Times come a knocking at the door,
Then My Old Kentucky Home, good night!