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One of the United State’s most famous songwriters, Stephen Foster is known for his enduring and popular songs which continue to be widely recorded and performed to this day, such as “Camptown Races,” and “Oh! Susanna.”

Celebrated on January 13 to recognize the life and legacy of this talented composer, Stephen Foster Memorial Day is typically marked with concerts, performances, and other events to celebrate his life and work.

History of Stephen Foster Memorial Day

Born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania in 1826, Stephen Collins Foster is considered one of the first American songwriters to write primarily for the commercial market, rather than for the stage or church. Often celebrating the everyday lives of ordinary Americans, Foster’s songs gained popularity in the mid-19th century. Some of his more widely recognized works include:

  • Oh! Susanna – A song about a man who is traveling to see his love, Susanna, and reflects on the many difficulties he has encountered on his journey.
  • Camptown Races – A humorous depiction of a horse race at a place called Camptown, with the singer encouraging his horse to “git up and git” in order to win the race.
  • My Old Kentucky Home – A nostalgic tribute to the state of Kentucky and the simple pleasures of life on a plantation.
  • Beautiful Dreamer – A romantic ballad about a man who dreams of his beloved, even as he knows that she is far away.
  • Hard Times Come Again No More – This song is a poignant reflection on the struggles of poverty and the hope for a better future.

On January 13th, 1864, at the age of 37, Foster died in poverty in New York City, following a life fraught with financial and personal difficulties throughout his career. Despite his early death, his music has had a lasting impact on American culture and continues to be widely performed and celebrated to this day.

In 1951, a joint resolution of Congress authorized President Harry S. Truman to issue an annual proclamation to call upon the people of the U.S. to observe the day with activities and ceremonies on January 13th, declaring it Stephen Foster Memorial Day.

How to Celebrate Stephen Foster Memorial Day

Stephen Foster Memorial Day is celebrated throughout the United States, with events and activities taking place in many cities and towns. It is typically observed by those who are interested in American music and culture, as well as those who are fans of Stephen Foster’s work in particular. Fans of this prolific musician show their appreciation by attending concerts or performances featuring his music, visiting museums or exhibits dedicated to his life and work, or participating in educational events or activities that focus on his contributions to music. Here are some ways you might want to consider celebrating Stephen Foster Memorial Day:

Attend a Concert

Many communities across the country host concerts and performances featuring Stephen Foster’s music on Stephen Foster Memorial Day. These events often include a variety of his most popular songs, as well as other pieces that showcase the diversity of his work. Some concerts may also feature guest speakers or educational elements that provide more context about Foster’s life.

Visit a Museum or Exhibit

Many museums and cultural institutions have exhibits or displays dedicated to Stephen Foster and his music. These exhibits often include historical artifacts, photographs, and other items that provide insight into Foster’s life and career. Visiting one of these exhibits can be a great way to learn more about Foster and his contributions to American music and culture.

Participate in Educational Events

Many organizations and institutions host educational events and activities on Stephen Foster Memorial Day to help people learn more about the composer and his work. These events can include lectures, workshops, and other activities that offer more in-depth information about Foster and his music.

Host a Listening Party

If you’re a fan of Stephen Foster’s music, consider hosting a listening party on Stephen Foster Memorial Day. Invite your friends and family to come over and listen to some of Foster’s most popular songs, or create a playlist of your favorite Foster tunes and listen to it together. This can be a fun and social way to celebrate the holiday and share your love of Foster’s music with others.

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