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Stephen Foster Memorial Day in the United States

Many Americans pay tribute to one of the United States’ finest musicians on Stephen Foster Memorial Day, which is on January 13 each year. Stephen Foster was a songwriter who lived in the 19th century. His songs, such as Oh! Susanna and My Old Kentucky Home, are still popular in modern times.

Is Stephen Foster Memorial Day a Public Holiday?

Stephen Foster Memorial Day is not a public holiday. It falls on Sunday, January 13, 2019 and most businesses follow regular Sunday opening hours in the United States.

Stephen Foster's music and songs are still popular in modern times.

©iStockphoto.com/Susanna

What Do People Do?

The United States president may issue an annual proclamation calling on people in the country to observe Stephen Foster Memorial Day with:

  • Appropriate ceremonies.
  • Pilgrimages to Stephen Foster’s shrines.
  • Musical programs featuring his compositions.

Events for the day may be organized at places that pay tribute to Stephen Foster, such as the Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park in Florida. Some schools provide music and history lessons that focus on Stephen Foster’s life and works around this date. Many music appreciation societies and organizations dedicated to the songwriter, such as the Stephen Foster Citizen Support Organization, also pay tribute to Stephen Foster.

Public Life

Stephen Foster Memorial Day is an observance but it is not a federal public holiday in the United States.

Background

Stephen Foster was born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1826. He received his early musical training from German immigrant Henry Kleber and became one of the most famous musical composers in the United States. Much of his work celebrates the African American portion of the population at a time when slavery was an important and controversial issue. His most popular songs included:

  • Oh! Susanna (or O Susanna by some texts).
  • Laura Lee.
  • My Old Kentucky Home.
  • Old Folks at Home, which is Florida’s state song with revised lyrics. The original was The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home).

Foster also composed instrumental music, including the Social Orchestra, a collection of 73 arrangements for flute, piano, violin and other instruments. He was not well known to the public during his lifetime as he did not perform music professionally. He composed more than 200 works in his lifetime.

Stephen Foster died in New York City on January 13, 1864. One of his best loved works, Beautiful Dreamer, was published shortly after his death. Stephen Foster Memorial Day was first officially observed on January 13, 1952, after President Harry Truman dedicated January 13 as the day to remember Foster through a proclamation in October 1951.

Symbols

The Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park, situated on the Suwannee River banks in Florida, honors the memory of Stephen Foster. The center exhibits Foster’s most famous song and his music can be heard in the park during the day. Many of Foster’s songs are also remaining legacies of his achievements.

A memorial at the University of Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, is dedicated to the songwriter, as well as a sculpture of Foster near the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s entrance. A musical, called Stephen Foster – The Musical has also been performed since 1958.

Stephen Foster Memorial Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010WedJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2011ThuJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2012FriJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2013SunJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2014MonJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2015TueJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2016WedJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2017FriJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2018SatJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2019SunJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 
2020MonJan 13Stephen Foster Memorial DayObservance 

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