My family’s first home in NYC was located at 25 Bowery–they arrived from Newry, Ireland in 1854–and was located just outside the lens of the photographer’s camera in this stereograph, which was taken in the late 1850s. A few years after my family moved to the Bowery, Stephen Foster known as the “Father of American Music,” and the composer of many popular songs including, “Oh, Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” took up residence across the street from John and Maria Hale at 30 Bowery.
Foster, who had drinking problems and suffered from depression, was found with a gash in his neck and a bruise on his forehead and died of his injuries in 1864. In 1865, John and Maria lost their three-year old daughter Ellen, from bronchial pneumonia. Foster, who knew instinctively how to blend words and music into songs that became hymns to the sorrow of the human condition, had written a beautiful lullaby, two years before his death. I wonder if John and Maria crossed paths with Foster and I wonder if Maria ever sang this Stephen Foster lullaby to her dying baby, Ellen.
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