Joseph Philbrick Webster

With an output of about 400 songs, Joseph Philbrick Webster was a composer and performer of popular music in the middle of the 19th century. His songs, simple and strophic, are extremely sentimental and often about morbid topics.

Photo: University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries

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About

Born in New Hampshire, Webster grew up in New England and studied music with Lowell Mason in Boston from 1840 to 1843. Following this period, Webster toured New York and New Jersey performing popular songs. In 1844, Webster began to write songs for a performing troupe in Connecticut named the Euphonians, and during this time, he began composing songs which became extremely popular.

After moving to Indiana in 1851, Webster established himself in the Midwest as a teacher, composer, and impresario. When his abolitionist views got him into trouble, Webster moved to Chicago, and then to Wisconsin. He continued to compose prolifically, and while his songs are mostly tonal and avoid modulation and chromaticism, he is still remembered today for his memorable melodies, steeped in Civil War history and nostalgia.

–Christie Finn Source: New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

Related Information

Recordings

The Civil War

(Henry Burleigh, Daniel Decatur Emmett, Stephen Foster, John Hill Hewitt, Abraham Lincoln, George Frederick Root, Henry Russell, Traditional, Joseph Philbrick Webster and Henry Clay Work)

1993

Angels' Visits and Other Vocal Gems

(Joseph Philbrick Webster)

1977

Books

History of Walworth County, Wisconsin

By Albert Clayton Beckwith

The Sweetheart of the Civil War: the True Story of the Song “Lorena”

By Ernest K. Emurian

Joseph Philbrick Webster: Nineteenth-Century American (thesis)

By Aaron Appelstein

The Signet Ring

By Joseph Philbrick Webster

Songs

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