Stephen Collins Foster, one of the most significant songwriters in American history, died 150 years ago today. With over 200 songs to his credit, Foster penned tunes and lyrics that have stood the test of time: “Oh! Susanna,” “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” “Camptown Races,” and “My Old Kentucky Home” are just a handful of those titles. One of his most beloved songs is the sentimental ballad “Beautiful Dreamer,” written shortly before Foster’s death (see the sheet music cover that indicates: “One of the latest songs of Stephen C. Foster composed a short time befor[e] his death”).
The Performing Arts Encyclopedia holds a substantial amount of digitized Foster sheet music, and the Library’s National Jukebox features countless early 20th-century recordings of Foster’s songs. There is a bounty of information to search on the Library of Congress’ websites; for now, however, take just a moment out of your day to listen to a 1919 recording of operatic contralto Louise Homer performing Foster’s touching “Hard Times Come Again No More” with the Criterion Quartet and enjoy images of Foster available in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.