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07.10.01 Milligan, Harold Vincent, Stephen Collins Foster: a Biography of America’s Folk-Song Composer, published in 1920

Notes Concerning the Author

Harold Vincent Milligan (1888-1951) was an American organist, composer, and writer on music. He spent his early years in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and from the age of twelve, he was an organist in churches where his father was minister.  He moved to New York City in 1907 where he eventually became a longtime organist for Riverside Church in Manhattan.

Our Review

Although people of the Southern States think of Stephen Foster (1826-1864) as one of their own, he never lived in the South.  But his songs so often dealt with the South and with African Americans that we have to believe that his heart was drawn to the Negro Spiritual and the Folk songs of the mountains and the rural areas of North America.  Before and during the War Between the States his songs were often sung.  Sadly, he died young, at the age of 37 years, at the start of the third year of the War Between the States.  

Foster is known as the “father of American music.”  His songs were cheerful and easy to sing, all with strong melodies.  Many were inspired by the minstrel music tradition.  They were favorites as parlor singing songs.  He wrote over 200 songs, among them “Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” “Old Folks at Home,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” ” Old Black Joe,” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Swanee River,” “Massa’s in De Cold Ground.”

For folks interested in learning how young Foster became so successful as a song-writer, we recommend getting a reprint of the 1920 biography by Harold Vincent Milligan.

Availability of this Book

We suggest a reprint from 

Digital copies are also available on the internet.