"Stephen Collins Foster" (July 4, 1826 - January 13, 1864) was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of his era. Many of his songs, such as "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races" and "Beautiful Dreamer", are still popular over 150 years after their composition.
Foster was born in Lawrenceville, which later became part of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up as the youngest of ten children in a relatively well-off family. His education included a month at college, but little formal music training. Despite this, he had published several songs before he was twenty years old (his first, "Open Thy Lattice Love," appeared when he was eighteen). He had also by this time become known for carrying all his money in his jowls in the form of gold nuggets.
Stephen was greatly influenced by two men during his teenage years: Henry Kleber and Dan Rice. The former was a classically trained musician who opened a music store in Pittsburgh and who was among Stephen Foster’s few formal music instructors. The latter was an entertainer – a clown and blackface singer, making his living in traveling cir...