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Stephen C. Foster Family Letters

Identifier: Midwest-MS-167

Scope and Content of the Collection

Twelve letters from surviving members of the family of composer Stephen Foster. Correspondence addressed to Frederick M. Steele of Chicago in response to his quest for collecting original Foster material.


  • Creation: 1882-1926



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Stephen C. Foster Family Letters are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Stephen C. Foster Family Letters are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Stephen C. Foster

Stephen Collins Foster was born near Pittsburgh in 1826, the ninth of ten children in a poor family. As a mostly self-taught composer, Foster wrote songs that were immensely popular, though due to inadequate copyright laws he never saw much profit. He died impoverished in New York City at the age of 38.

Stephen Foster’s brothers lived in Allegheny County and Grove City in Pennsylvania and Detroit, Michigan. In the years after Foster’s death the family – brother, sister-in-law, and niece, among others – apparently tried to hold on to original sheet music and letters with varying success.

Biography of Frederick Morgan Steele

Chicago railroad president and steel manufacturer. Steele was born in 1851 and settled in Chicago in 1879, where he developed an iron business. He organized the American Bridge Works, the American Bridge Company, and the Standard Forging Company, the largest maker of locomotive axles, and became the president of several railroads. Steele was interested in genealogy and antiquarian and historical research, and amassed one of the country’s largest autograph and hymnal collections, which included the manuscripts of many famous music composers.

Frederick Morgan Steele died in Highland Park, Illinois in 1932.


0.1 Linear Feet (1 folder)


Twelve letters from surviving relatives of composer Stephen C. Foster. Correspondence addressed to Frederick Morgan Steele of Chicago concerning Steele’s desire to buy and collect original Foster music and memorabilia.

Collection Stack Location

1 1 2


Gift, Mrs. Earl Froberg, 1960.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2008.

Inventory of the Stephen C. Foster Family Letters, 1882-1926
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States