Fanny Crosby


Fanny Crosby : biography

March 24, 1820 – February 12, 1915

While Crosby was reluctant to have her poems published, as she considered them to be "unfinished productions", she acquiesced eventually as it would both publicise the Institution and raise funds for it.Crosby (1906), p. 17. She had suffered an illness that caused her to leave the NYIB in order to recuperate, and her first book, A Blind Girl and Other Poems, was published after encouragement by the Institution in April 1844, including what Crosby describes as her first published hymn, "An Evening Hymn",Carleton (1903), pp. 77–78. based on Psalm 4:8. In 1853, Crosby’s Monterey and Other Poems was published. In her 1903 autobiography edited by Will Carleton, Crosby indicates that at this time: "I was under a feeling of sadness and depression at this time".Carleton (1903), p. 78. It included poems focusing on the recent Mexican-American War, and a poem pleading for the US to help those affected by the Irish Potato Famine.Frances Jane Crosby, "An Appeal for Erin in her Distress", in Monterrey and Other Poems, rev. ed. (New York: R. Craighead, 1856):61–62.

In 1853 Crosby’s poem "The Blind Orphan Girl" was included in Caroline M. Sawyer’s The History of the Blind Vocalists.Sawyer (1853), pp. 31–37. About the time Crosby resigned from the Blind Institution and was married, in 1858, her third book, A Wreath of Columbia’s Flowers, containing four short stories and 30 poems was published.Frances J. Crosby, (New York, NY: H. Dayton, 1858)

Popular songs

Inspired by the success of the melodies of Stephen Foster,Crawford (2000), p. 157. between August 1851 and 1857 Crosby and George F. Root, who had taught music at the Blind Institution from 1845 to 1850,Neptune (2001), p. 108. wrote at least sixty secular "people’s songs" or parlour songs,Root (1891), p. 83. some for the popular minstrel shows. Due to the negative reputation of the minstrel shows among some Christians and classical musicians, both Root’s and Crosby’s participation in these compositions was deliberately obscured.Carder (2008), p. 38. According to Ruffin, "Like many cultured people of the day, [Root] considered native American music rather crude", and like many American artists and musicians of that era, chose to "Europeanize" his name,Ruffin (1995), p. 75. choosing to use the name George Friederich Wurzel (German for Root), while Crosby’s name was sometimes omitted altogether.Blumhofer (2005), p. 154. For many years Crosby was usually paid only or $2 per poem with all rights to the song being retained by the composer or publisher of the music., Severance, Diane; Glimpses of Christian History 30 In the summer of 1851 George Root and Crosby both taught at the North Reading Musical Institute in North Reading Massachusetts.Smucker (1981), p. 201. Crosby and Root’s first song was "Fare Thee Well, Kitty Dear" (1851), a song that endeavoured to evoke "Old-South imagery", with Crosby’s lyrics based on a suggestion by Root,Karen Linn, That Half-Barbaric Twang: The Banjo in American Popular Culture (University of Illinois Press, 1994):55. which Crosby described as "the grief of a colored man on the death of his beloved",Carder (2008), p. 44. and was written for and performed exclusively by Henry Wood’s Minstrels.Carder (2008), pp. 44–45. Published by John Andrews, who specialized in printing "Neat, quick & cheap",George Frederick Root, New Song: Fare Thee Well, Kitty Dear: Composed Expressly for Wood’s Minstrels (New York, NY: J. Andrews, 1852). according to Karen Linn, "this song was not a hit, and had no lasting influence", as "its style is far too literary, the words not in dialect, the cause of sorrow seems to be a lover (rather than ‘massa’, or Little Eva, or homesickness: all more appropriate causes for slave sorrow according to the popular culture)". In 1852 Root signed a three-year contract with William Hall & Son.

Despite this initial setback, during her vacations in 1852 and 1853, Crosby continued to teach at North Reading, where she wrote the lyrics for many of her collaborations with Root.Hall (1914), p. 37. Among their joint compositions was "Bird of the North" (1852); and "Mother, Sweet Mother, Why Linger Away?" (1852).Carder (2008), p. 49.