Stephen Collins Foster (July 4, 1826 – January 13, 1864), known as "the father of American music", was an American songwriter primarily known for his parlor and minstrel music. Foster wrote over 200 songs; among his best-known are "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair", "Old Black Joe", and "Beautiful Dreamer". Many of his compositions remain popular more than 150 years after he wrote them.
Foster wasn’t a fan of school and its rote methodology, but he loved music and was an avid reader. When he was a teenager he was part of a secret male society called Knights of the S.T. (Square Table), which met multiple times a week and primarily sang songs. At 18 he published his first song "Open Thy Lattice Love." Two years later “Oh! Susanna” was officially published and became his first real hit in Cincinnati, Ohio. Some consider Foster the first pop artist. In 1855 hard times came Foster’s way, and he wrote “Hard Times Come Again No More,” out of response. Penniless and living in and out of hotels in New York City, he died at 37 on January 13, 1864 from a fever and a fall that gave him a gash to his head.
Stephen Foster Memorial Day is a United States Federal Observance Day observed on January 13. According to 36 U.S.C. § 140, Stephen Foster Memorial Day celebrates the life of American songwriter Stephen Foster. The date commemorates date that Foster died. The law took effect on November 2, 1966, and the day was first observed in January 1967.
With no extensive copyright laws to protect his work, he made a little over $15,000 in royalties in his lifetime. Today his songs would be worth millions.
Source: gpo.gov | wikipedia.org