Stephen Collins Foster

Page 3
Foster Family/Pittsburgh, Early Years

Two Pages of the Foster Family Bible/Record
Foster Family Record
Foster Family Record
Ten children were born to Mr. and Mrs. William B. Foster - the first Ann Eliza, listed above, was not of this family. James, who was born three years after Stephen, died at the age of one. Charlotte, born December 14, 1809, died when she was in early girlhood; her death was a great loss to the Fosters, as it seems she was a most attractive and talented child and the idol of the family. Because of the death of James, Stephen Foster remained the "baby of the family". (Photos: Copyright by Sims Visual Music Co.)

Morrison Foster
Morrison Foster, brother of Stephen
brother of Stephen C. Foster, who seemed to be the one in the family who recognized Stephen's talent for music and who steadily encouraged him in that vocation. He out-lived Stephen and has left to posterity, a very valuable, if short, biography of the composer, together with the volume containing 158 of Stephen's songs, which were published in 1896. Another important contribution pertaining to the life of Stephen Foster, is Morrison Foster's collection of family letters, which cover a period of nearly a century and which is now (1930) in the possession of Evelyn Foster Morneweck, living in Detroit, Mich. These letters, the short biographical sketch by Morrison Foster and Harold Vincent Milligan's biography of the composer, are the chief source of light on Stephen's life, as he was of a very retiring nature and placed little value on his own ability.

The White Cottage
The White Cottage
the home of the Foster family, located on a beautiful part of Bullitt's Hill, a height which commanded a view for many miles up and down the Allegheny River. This was on the tract of land which William B. Foster, Sr., had bought and called Lawrenceville and which eventually became annexed to Pittsburgh. The Foster family lived in the White Cottage until 1836, when they moved across the river to Allegheny City. This move was made because Mr. Foster had been appointed collector of the Pennsylvania Canal. "The White Cottage being the only private residence outside of the town in that neighborhood," writes Morrison Foster, "where open house was kept, its generous board was free to all comers." It was at White Cottage that Stephen was born, and he lived there for many years. The original of this picture is now in the possession of Evelyn Foster Morneweck, daughter of Morrison Foster. She says that the painting was by and artist friend of her grandfather, William Foster, whose name she does not remember; That the painting was made about 1830, as her father often related to her how he, when a small boy, watched the artist at work.


Spurious Home of Stephen Foster
spurious home of Stephen Foster
A search of files reveals the fact that this house has often been represented as Stephen Collins Foster's home, The White Cottage. This house stood about two blocks away from the lovely old home. (Photo: Courtesy of State Library, Harrisburg, Pa.)

View in Allegheny City
View in Allegheny City
which is now a very prosperous part of Pittsburgh, Pa. This is Union Avenue, as seen from the Park, where the Foster family moved to from White Cottage, which was sold. Union Avenue and Gay Alley, facing the Common, the exact spot where the Fosters lived, was then a grass grown, uncultivated stretch of land upon which cows grazed. (Photo: Courtesy of City of Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Pittsburgh's First Theater
and (insert) the Old Drury

Pittsburgh's First Theater
Stephen Foster made his "debut" at nine years of age. He was a junior member of the "Thespian Society," and organization of neighborhood boys, who occasionally gave dramatic performances. it is understood that when Stephen was first admitted to the society, he was much too young to take active part in the performances, so he would sing the popular fold songs and songs of the day, and did so with so much charm that he became quite famous. He finally became so popular that the boys decided to pay him a fee to retain his services. The proceeds of these performances were used to buy tickets for the Thespians to attend Saturday night performances at the old Pittsburgh Theater, where such celebrities as Junius Booth and Edwin Forrest were enjoyed.

Stephen Foster's First Letter
Stephen Foster's First Letter
written to his father at the age of ten years, from Youngstown, Ohio. There he used to go to visit John Struthers, an uncle to whom he was much devoted and who dearly loved the boy and his somewhat original character. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Uncle Struthers was anything but the cut and dried type of man himself. He had dogs and rifles and took "Stephy" on long imaginative flights with his stories of his Indian encounters and hunts for possums and 'coons. Uncle Struthers always said that "Stephy" would become "something famous". In the above letter, the boy gives expression to some strong homesick feeling; Henry and Dunning, whom he mentions, were his brothers. Already he mentions "song", despite the fact that it was a Commic" one he wanted. (Photo: Copyright Sims Visual Music Co.)

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