Francis Johnson Exhibit


The Orphan's Asylum

On Thursday, 24 January 1822, a fire at the Orphan Asylum of Philadelphia reduced the building to ashes. Many fire companies responded but twenty-three orphans did not survive the blaze. A benefit was held at the Walnut Street Theater on the following Monday, 28 January, featuring a play, a farce, and two musicals. It is possible that Johnson's "Orphan's Cotillion" was composed for performance by Johnson's band at the benefit.

Baptismal Record Baptismal Record "Philadelphia Firemen's Cotillion" with "The Orphan's Cotillion." Philadelphia: G.E. Blake, [1822?].

The Fire Association of Philadelphia was a fire insurance company founded in 1817 and incorporated in 1820. The fireplug in the masthead was the official logo of the company. The closing measures (at the top of the second page) include the cry "Fire, fire, fire, fire," which was probably shouted during performance by members of the band. The descending chromatic passages in the third strain of "The Orphan's Cotillion" represent the cries of the orphans.
Directory Listing Account of the fire at the Orphan Asylum. New Hampshire Patriot & State Gazette, 4 February 1822.

News of the tragedy traveled quickly. This account in a New Hampshire paper appeared eleven days after the fire.
Portrait Account of the benefit at the Walnut Street Theater. Providence (Rhode Island) Patriot, 9 February 1822.

Four days after the fire, a benefit was held for the Orphan Asylum at the Walnut Street Theater.
Cotillion "Der Brand des Waisenhauses in Philadelphia am 24sten Januar 1822." [Burning of the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum on 24 January 1822.]

From Geschichte des Waisenhauses in Philadelphia [History of the Orphan Asylum, in Philadelphia] (Philadelphia, 1833). Free Library of Philadelphia.
The Buffalo City Guards

Occasionally, Johnson was engaged by militia groups outside the Philadelphia area. One of these was the Buffalo City Guards, and as was his custom with militia patrons, Johnson composed a new march in their honor. On 4 July 1839, Johnson's band accompanied the City Guards on a trip to Detroit, where they played for the presentation of the City Guards and then accompanied a ball in the evening. Following the engagement in Detroit, the band traveled to Cleveland, back to Buffalo, and then on to Toronto. By the end of the month, they were back in Saratoga Springs for their annual summer residency.
Kurt Stein Kurt Stein
"Buffalo City Guards Parade March." Philadelphia: Osbourn's Music Saloon, [1839?].
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