Stained Glass portait of Stephen Foster, playing a flute, close-up

Stephen Foster Museum Visit

It’s Stephen Foster Day in Pittsburgh, remembering the anniversary of the songwriter’s death. Stephen Foster is buried in Allegheny Cemetery in the city of Pittsburgh. He’s perhaps the cemetery’s most famous resident! We’d like to do our part by contributing our photographs from a visit to the Stephen Foster Museum. The small museum is on the grounds of Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to his piano and the commemorative stained glass, the museum displays and extensive collection of original editions of much of his sheet music as well as other artifacts of his life and the period. His piano was my favorite. Behind the scenes I understand there is an extensive archive available to researchers.

The displays tell his story. Stephen Foster sold many, many songs. He was well-known even in his lifetime. However, he died penniless. In his day, when a composer sold a song, the buyer assumed all rights of copyright and financial gain. No royalties were paid for the number copies printed or song performances. Nor was there much recourse for the composer to seek compensation from a publisher who pirated the work without paying for it. Stephen Foster’s story is a case study used by composers in later years to organize into the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP. Today, composers can be compensated whenever their music is published or performed. Were such a system in place for Foster, he would have likely died a multi-millionaire.

The photographs were taken with a Nikon D90, and a Nikon 18-55mm VR kit lens. All photographs were taken with available light.