Marion Dix Sullivan

While Marion Dix Sullivan's birth and death dates are unconfirmed, she was active in the musical world in the 1840s and 50s in America, known as the first woman to write a commercial hit song, "The Blue Juniata".

Image: From the cover of "The Blue Juniata", 1844, public domain

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Originally from New England (probably New Hampshire), Marion Dix Sullivan married J. W. Sullivan of Boston in 1825.

Sullivan is best known for her song “The Blue Juniata,” the first commercial hit in America written by a woman, originally written for voice and guitar. The song was reprinted several times and was arranged as piano variations by Charles Grobe and Gould. “The Blue Juniata” is mentioned in Mark Twain’s Autobiography as well as in Little House on the Prairie. Please see the entry for “The Blue Juniata” for more information.

Sullivan also published two other collections of songs. Her Bible Songs of 1856 were a collaboration with Benjamin Johnson (or B. J.) Lang, father of Margaret Ruthven Lang. Sullivan wrote the melodies for the Bible Songs and Lang wrote the piano accompaniments. Sullivan’s other collection, Juniata Songs is a volume of fifty simple school songs without accompaniment.

Sullivan wrote most of the lyrics for her songs, though the text of “The Blue Juniata” was written by her husband, J. W. Sullivan. Her songs are in the style of the parlor song, with chordal accompaniments and simple harmonies, with memorable melodies. The topics of her songs cover a wide range, and she even addresses the Mexican-American War (which ended in 1848) in her song “The Field of Monterey.”

–Christie Finn

Sources: The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, and Women & Music, 2nd ed. (Karin Pendle, ed.)



From the Parlor to the Prairie

(Marion Dix Sullivan)


Music from Little House on the Prairie

(Marion Dix Sullivan)


An American Idyll: American songs from 1800-1860

(Stephen Foster and Marion Dix Sullivan)



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