Stephen Foster’s Sketchbook

I just found the coolest site while researching Stephen Foster for a story I’m working on. The University of Pittsburgh has one of his sketchbooks with sixty four of his songs in it. You can view the pages of the Stephen Foster Sketchbook online. There’s a Song List so you can go to the one you want, or you can browse. I went to “Hard Times Come Again No More,” a favorite, and there you have it, in four fascinating pages, the whole process of that song being born—writing, rewriting, jaunty little squiggles under the title when he finally gets it right and copies all the verses down. I got chills.
Foster died at 37 with 38 cents to his name. He made less than $20,000 in his life for the 285 songs he wrote.

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears

While we all sup sorrow with the poor;

There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears—

Oh, hard times come again no more.


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