Stephen Foster was born July 4, 1826, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was educated at Allegheny Academy, Athens Academy, and Jefferson College. He became a full-time musician in 1850, working for and with Christy's Minstrels, Campbell Minstrels, and the New Orleans Serenaders. His songs made him famous with the public. Married to Jane Denny McDowell, and with one daughter, Foster moved to New York City in 1860, but he soon succumbed to alcoholism and poverty, living alone in a Bowery hotel. He died on January 13, 1864, in Bellevue Hospital from injuries to his face and neck as a result of a fall in his hotel room. The standard scholarly edition of his works is Music of Stephen Collins Foster (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, ca. 1990; score. M780.M81 F59S134 Music Library). For a biography, see John Tasker Howard, Stephen Foster, America's Troubadour (New York: Crowell, 1962; ML 410 .F78H6 Robarts Library). See also Calvin Elliker, Stephen Collins Foster: A Guide to Research (New York: Garland, 1988; ML 134 F6E4 Music Library General Reference).
A facsimile of another early edition of Foster's "songs" appears online in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music at the Sheridan Libraries of the Johns Hopkins University.