University of Pittsburgh
January 7, 2014

Celebrating the Life of Composer and Native Son Stephen Foster

150th anniversary of his death to be commemorated with ceremony, exhibition

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926


PITTSBURGH—The life and worldwide influence of Pittsburgh native Stephen Foster will be celebrated on Jan. 13, the 150th anniversary of the songwriter’s death.

FosterStephen Foster, black and white copy of portrait by Walter L. White, based on tintype photograph, 1932 was born in Lawrenceville on July 4, 1826, and went on to become a world-renowned songwriter, portraying life in mid-19th-century America through such legendary compositions as "Old Folks at Home," "Oh! Susannah," "Camptown Races," “Hard Times Come Again No More,” and "Beautiful Dreamer." His music is still widely used today in television and films. Some consider him to be the forefather of American popular culture, inspiring such diverse musicians as Al Jolson, Irving Berlin, Tommy Dorsey, and Ray Charles.

Foster died at age 37 and is buried in Allegheny Cemetery. 

The Stephen Foster Day celebration will take place at 11 a.m. at the Temple of Memories Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery, 4715 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville. 

It will include: 

  • Remarks by Tom Staresinic, general manager of Allegheny Cemetery;
  • Medley of Foster songs performed by children from St. Raphael Elementary School, Morningside;
  • Remarks by Jim Wudarkczyk, Lawrenceville Historical Society;
  • Remarks by Deane Root, director, Pitt’s Center for American Music;
  • Announcement by Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross proclaiming Jan. 13 Stephen C. Foster Day in the City of Pittsburgh;
  • Placing of wreaths at the Foster gravesite; and
  • Performance and group sing-along led by local guitarist and Pitt music faculty member Joe Negri.

To mark the 150th anniversary, a special exhibition will be on display through January on the ground floor of Pitt’s Hillman Library.

Pitt’s Foster Hall Collection, housed in its Stephen Foster Memorial, contains a wide assortment of the composer’s manuscripts, photographs, first editions of sheet music, rare books, letters, and personal possessions, including his flute, a notebook, and the change purse he was carrying when he died.

“Foster’s enduring popularity is a tribute to his ability to write about broad, universal themes, couched in catchy, soaring melodies, that touch people regardless of where or when they live,” said Kathryn Miller Haines, associate director of Pitt’s Center for American Music.

Visit for more information about Stephen Foster and the Foster Hall Collection.