'Food for Apollo': Cultivated Music in Antebellum Philadelphia


Food for Apollo by Dorothy Potter, describes and evaluates the growth and scope of cultivated music in Philadelphia, from the early eighteenth-century to the advent of the Civil War. In many works dealing with American culture, discussion of music's influence is limited to a few significant performances or persons, or ignored altogether. The study of music's role in cultural history is fairly recent, compared to literature, art, and architecture. Whether vernacular or based on European models, a more thorough ...

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Food for Apollo by Dorothy Potter, describes and evaluates the growth and scope of cultivated music in Philadelphia, from the early eighteenth-century to the advent of the Civil War. In many works dealing with American culture, discussion of music's influence is limited to a few significant performances or persons, or ignored altogether. The study of music's role in cultural history is fairly recent, compared to literature, art, and architecture. Whether vernacular or based on European models, a more thorough understanding of music should include attention to related subjects. This book examines concert and theatre performances, music publishing, pre-1861 manufacture of pianos, and British and American literature which promoted music, informing readers about individuals such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose works and fame generated interest on both sides of the Atlantic.

Though initially hindered by the Society of Friends' opposition to entertainments of all sorts, numbers of non-Quakers supported dancing, concerts, and drama by the 1740s; this interest accelerated after the Revolution, with the building of some of America's earliest theatres, and over time, Musical Fund Hall, the Academy of Music, and other venues. Emigrant musicians, notably Alexander Reinagle, introduced new works by contemporary Europeans such as Franz Joseph Haydn, Mozart, C.P. E. Bach, and many others, in concerts blended with favorite tunes, like the "President's March." Later in the nineteenth century, Philadelphia's noted African-American composer and band leader Francis Johnson, continued the tradition of mixing classical and vernacular works in his popular promenade concerts. As they advertised and shipped their music to an ever-growing market, post-Revolutionary emigrant music publishers, including Benjamin Carr and his family, George Willig, and George Blake, created successful businesses that influenced American taste far beyond Philadelphia.

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Dorothy T. Potter is associate professor of history at Lynchburg College.

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"Food for Apollo"

Cultivated Music in Antebellum Philadelphia

By Dorothy T. Potter

Lehigh University Press

Copyright © 2011 Dorothy T. Potter
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61146-003-2


Philadelphia's Musical Beginnings, 1700–1786

Arts and sciences are yet in their infancy. There are some few persons who have discovered a taste for music and painting; and philosophy seems not only to have made a considerable progress already, but to be daily gaining ground. The library society is an excellent institution for propagating a taste for literature, and the college well calculated to form and cultivate it.

From June 15 through July 6, 1760, the reverend Mr. Andrew Burnaby, a young vicar from Greenwich, England, spent most of his Pennsylvania tour in Philadelphia. Recounting his 1759–60 journey from Virginia to New Hampshire, in a slender volume published in 1775, Burnaby remained impressed with William Penn's city and colony, despite the "present unhappy differences" between Britain and America, and devoted fourteen pages of his 154-page travel account to "this wonderful province." Four pages dealt specifically with Philadelphia, which he estimated to be a city of between eighteen thousand to twenty thousand inhabitants. Noting its amenities, he mentioned the "stadt-house ... a large, handsome, though heavy building ...," three libraries, the College of Philadelphia, a Masonic lodge, a barracks, and a "noble hospital for lunatics and other sick persons." Yet, amid his references to market days, schools, and thirteen places of worship, Burnaby said little about Philadelphia's social life. His account was that of a staid onlooker, not a participant, and despite his polite phrases, as an Englishman he knew himself to be culturally superior to his colonial acquaintances. Philadelphia had at least one music club, as well as assemblies, and subscription concerts. But Burnaby had come in the summer, when the city's elites retreated to the cooler and more healthy countryside; thus he did not experience, or chose not to record, its musical life.

One might assume that Philadelphia's eighteenth-century cultural outlook was still circumscribed by the strict requirements of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, but Pennsylvania was no monolithic colony, even in the early stages of development. Swedish emigrants had settled on the west bank of the lower Delaware River in 1638, more than forty years before William Penn's experimental "greene Country Towne" became a reality in 1682. Though small, New Sweden was ethnically diverse, including Germans, Danes, and Finns among its inhabitants, and it had grown to around one thousand souls by the time Penn arrived. At Wicaco, which became part of southeastern Philadelphia, the Swedish Lutheran congregation heard the area's earliest documented public music, at the July 2, 1700, consecration of their brick church, christened Gloria Dei by Pastor Tobias Biörck, and later at an ordination service held there on November 24, 1703, for Justus Falkner. Trumpets and kettledrums were part of both services, along with an organ for the ordination. This is the earliest use of an organ in a colonial Protestant service, but when and how the instrument reached Philadelphia is unknown.

By contrast, Philadelphia's Society of Friends disapproved of all music, whether vocal, instrumental, sacred or secular, public or private. Their 1716 yearly meeting specifically condemned "going to or being in any way concerned in plays, games, lotteries, music, and dancing." Enough Friends must have been tempted by these entertainments to provoke such a strong exhortation. Their notable tolerance, which had allowed diverse groups of people into their colony, also played a major role in their decline. James Logan, a prominent Quaker, estimated as early as 1702 that only one-third of Philadelphia's inhabitants were Friends. As the century progressed, their percentage continued to decrease; by 1770, Quaker historian Robert Proud noted that his coreligionists made up only one-seventh of the city's total population.

While the Friends allowed themselves the pleasures of dining well, supporting library companies, and gardening, eighteenth-century Moravians cultivated complex music. Members of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum came initially to Savannah, Georgia, from Herrnhut, Saxony, in 1735. In 1740 they moved north and founded Nazareth and Lititz, Pennsylvania, and the following year they established Bethlehem, the church's major northern settlement. From their inception, Moravian communities in Europe and America treated music and worship as inseparable. Philadelphia's Moravian church, founded in 1742 at Bread and Race streets, had two organs by 1743, along with brass and string instruments. While Moravian music was primarily sacred, like that of earlier settlers, it was much more elaborate than the psalms or fuging rhythms sung by the Brethren's neighbors. Hymns were not only a vital part of church services, but were also central to a ritual known as the Singstunde or hymn sermon, in which the minister or lay leader organized a series of hymns and then delivered a musical sermon to the congregation. Moravian anthems, chorales, and arias were accompanied by ensembles of strings, horns, trumpets, flutes, clarinets, or trombones. After visiting Bethlehem in January 1756, Benjamin Franklin was impressed. "I was at their Church, where I was entertain'd with good Musick, the Organ being accompanied with Violins, Hautboys, Flutes, Clarinets, &c."

A CollegiumMusicum, a musical society, first organized in Bethlehem in the mid-1740s, performed sacred and some secular compositions and eventually served as a repository for works by local Brethren, as well as those by George Friedrich Handel, Ignaz Pleyel, Johann Adolph Hasse, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Joseph Haydn. Ties to the German states enabled the Brethren to purchase music from well-established publishers, like André in Offenbach am Main, or Breitkopf and Härtel in Leipzig. By around 1785, for example, Bethlehem possessed at least nine symphonies by Haydn and three by Mozart, and six Mozart trios for strings. These and other works were hand-copied by various leaders of the orchestra. Abraham Ritter, a historian for Philadelphia's Moravians, described the tunes in the choral book in 1857 as "productions of the best masters" and mentioned trombones, violins, violas, and a boys' choir.

Sacred works formed the core of early colonial music. Plymouth's Separatists brought with them The Book of Psalmes: Established Both in Prose and Metre, compiled by Henry Ainsworth and published in various editions between 1612 and 1690. Puritans in the larger Massachusetts Bay settlement initially preferred an older singing book by Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins (1562), but in 1640 created The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, often called the Bay Psalm Book. Though significant because it was the first book printed in the English colonies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, early editions of the Bay Psalm Book contained no music, only advice on appropriate tunes for various psalms. Customarily a deacon read the chosen psalm one line at a time for the congregation to sing unaccompanied; this style, called the "old" or "common way," or "lining-out," could still be heard in some rural Baptist churches in the South, into the twentieth century. By the early eighteenth century, enough Puritan ministers began complaining about slow and often discordant music, that around 1721 John Tufts, a Harvard graduate, issued A Very Plain and Easy Introduction to the Art of Singing Psalm Tunes, a pamphlet with twenty-eight melodies and nine pages of instruction.

Tufts' primer and later tunebooks fostered the growth of singing schools where, for more than a century, itinerant singing masters and compilers promoted an elementary musical education. Meeting once or twice a week and using tunebooks often written by their teacher, students learned to read music and sing in harmony. After several months, having expended his resources, the singing master would move on to another community. Two notable singing masters with Philadelphia associations were the Reverend James Lyon and Andrew Adgate. Born in Newark, New Jersey, on July 1, 1735, Lyon attended Princeton College and lived in Philadelphia from around 1759 to 1762. After becoming a Presbyterian minister he spent most of his life in Machias, Maine, where he died on October 12, 1794. In 1761, while in Philadelphia, Lyon published Urania, a 198-page collection of psalms, hymns, and anthems superior to earlier tunebooks. In addition to directions for singing, Urania included seventy psalm-tunes, fourteen hymns, and twelve anthems. These were arranged primarily for four voices, with eight two- or three-part settings, and solo parts in some of the anthems. Urania 's poetry was complied from several British authors, most notably Isaac Watts.

On March 22, 1762, the same year that Urania was reissued for non-subscribers, Andrew Adgate was born in Norwich, Connecticut. Little is known of his early life, but by 1784 he was in Philadelphia, where he began a series of singing schools. His 1785 plan for an interdenominational free school called the Uranian Society was by 1787 renamed the Uranian Academy of Philadelphia. It was no coincidence that Adgate chose the term "Uranian," for he presented Lyon's anthems in at least two of his concerts, and Urania was still being sold in Philadelphia in 1786. Adgate's concept was that the school would be supported by wealthy subscribers, who in return would receive three tickets to twelve vocal concerts. The Uranian Academy became Adgate's most ambitious musical project. Established to improve church music, the academy's modified plans were described in detail in the March 30, 1787, Pennsylvania Mercury. Adgate proposed that his school for three hundred pupils be opened in September with three potential sites to ensure a greater enrollment: Southwark, the Northern Liberties, and the central city. Instead of the twelve public concerts he had envisioned in 1785, one "grand concert" would be given each year. The school's administration plan included twelve trustees and twenty patrons, among them two of the new republic's leading citizens, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Francis Hopkinson. Both of these men had a strong interest in music, and in Hopkinson's case, talent and skills.

Adgate conducted vocal and instrumental music for the University of Pennsylvania's 1788 commencement and led concerts until 1790. The Uranian Academy lasted in some form for perhaps a decade. Most concerts were held at the University of the State of Pennsylvania; the few extant programs list mainly vocal music, such as Messiah 's "Hallelujah" chorus, and Lyon's anthem based on Psalm 18. Programs began with an unattributed "grand" or "celebrated" overture and might include a flute or violin concerto, with the performer's name listed, but not that of a composer. Probably the most notable of these choral events was a "Grand Concert of Sacred Music" at the German Reformed Church on Race Street, on May 4, 1786. The 230-voice chorus and an orchestra of fifty were clearly modeled on the well-known London Commemoration of Handel on May 26, 1784, as well as a similar concert in Boston. Vocal selections included two anthems by Lyon, William Billings' popular anthem "The Rose of Sharon," based on the Song of Solomon 2:1, and Handel's "Hallelujah" chorus. According to the May 30 Pennsylvania Packet, nearly one thousand tickets were sold, with the proceeds going to the Pennsylvania Hospital, the Philadelphia Dispensary, and the Overseers of the Poor.

Like other colonial musicians of his day, Adgate pursued several vocations, including compiling at least six tunebooks between 1785 and his death in 1793. The largest, Philadelphia Harmony, was reprinted as late as 1811. In 1787 he became the first instructor of music at the Young Ladies Academy of Philadelphia, established a year earlier. Among the non-Quaker gentry, music was deemed especially suitable for a young woman's education. Dr. Benjamin Rush's 1787 speech, at the Young Ladies Academy, published in 1802, also touted its health benefits, particularly in preventing one of the scourges of the era, tuberculosis:

Vocal music should never be neglected in the education of a young lady, in this country. Besides preparing her to join in that part of public worship which consists in psalmody, it will enable her to soothe the cares of domestic life.

The music-master of our academy [Adgate] has furnished me with an observation, that he had known several instances of persons who were strongly disposed to consumption, who were restored to health, by the moderate exercise of their lungs in singing.

Being singled out in his teaching capacity by a man of Rush's consequence was surely gratifying to Adgate, but his most lucrative employment from 1789, when his name and occupation appeared in a land sale, was card making. These cards were metal tools used to comb out wool or cotton fibers, rather than playing cards or calling cards. Adgate's various occupations enabled him to buy and sell canal stocks and also purchase four hundred acres of land in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, in 1792; by contrast, at this time the finances of William Billings, Boston's most famous musician, were in decline. However Adgate was a bachelor, while Billings was a widower after 1795, with six children in his care.

There is no obvious reason why Adgate's concerts ended in the autumn of 1790; there may have been other venues for which information has not survived. In any case, by the end of the century, Philadelphia elites had more choices among sacred, secular, and theater performances. New singing masters, including Adgate's associate John Ely, advertised competing singing schools. The City Concerts, a secular music series first organized by John Bentley in 1783, were revived in 1786 by Alexander Reinagle, a professional musician from London, who brought with him compositions by Carl Friedrich Abel, Johann Stamitz, Mozart, Haydn, and other contemporary composers. Reinagle was also more successful in working with touchy individualists like violinist Alexander Juhan and flutist William Brown, who had formerly been part of Adgate's concerts.

Philadelphia's 1793 yellow fever epidemic ended Adgate's career—and his life. While the city of more than forty-four thousand had not experienced a major outbreak since 1762, the attack in 1793 was particularly virulent, lasting from mid-August through November. The harbor was quarantined, most businesses closed, and those who could leave, including the Washington administration, hastily fled. A few brave souls of both races, including Adgate, black ministers Richard Allen (Methodist), and Absalom Jones (Episcopal), and others rallied around Mayor Matthew Clarkson and tried to help in whatever ways they could. On September 14, a committee of twenty-six volunteers agreed to assist the sick and maintain order in the city; Adgate was part of a group of ten citizens who were to "report the state of the sick and poor of the city and vicinity and measures for their relief."

Over fourteen hundred deaths were reported in September, and by the first week of October there were more than one hundred burials a day. Mathew Carey, an Irish emigrant who arrived in Philadelphia in 1784 and became a publisher of note, tracked the course of the epidemic in A Short Account of the Malignant Fever, Lately Prevalent in Philadelphia, and noted that it became difficult to find space in the cemeteries. From a brief reference to Adgate's death in Dr. Rush's letter to his wife on October 13, it appears he died in late September. Andrew Adgate was buried in the Second Presbyterian Cemetery on Arch Street.


Excerpted from "Food for Apollo" by Dorothy T. Potter. Copyright © 2011 Dorothy T. Potter. Excerpted by permission of Lehigh University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7

Introduction 11

1 Philadelphia's Musical Beginnings, 1700-1786 17

2 From City Tavern to Musical Fund Society Hall: Philadelphia's Music in Transition, 1786-1831 34

3 Cultivated Music Adapts and Thrives, 1831-1861 70

4 Music for the Masses: Publishers and Piano Makers, 1786-1861 102

5 Historians, Critics, and Romantics: Mozart in Literature, 1803-1861 133

Appendix 163

Notes 185

Bibliography 211

Index 227

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