Penn Library Department of Special Collections

William Penn

Keffer Collection of Sheet Music,
ca. 1790-1895

Content and design by John Bewley

Collection History
Guide Statistics
Focus on Philadelphia
Composers Publishers Lithographers Imagesand Music
List of Topics
Related Resources

Philadelphia Composers: Thomas à Becket (ca. 1817-ca. 1871)

Thomas à Becket, composer, actor, and teacher, was involved in a controversy surrounding the authorship of the popular patriotic song, Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean. According to Becket, he was asked by David T. Shaw to compose a patriotic song for a performance in 1843 at the Chinese Theatre in Philadelphia. Becket claimed that the lines of text that Shaw gave him were unusable as they were, so he rewrote the song and gave it to Shaw. Wasting no time, Shaw had copies of the song printed with credit for the lyrics and music given to himself and additional credit granted to Becket as arranger. Becket disputed Shaw's claim and eventually had the song published under his own name.

Works by Becket in the Collection

Item No.TitleImprintPlate No.Illustration
Box 1
no. 3-6
Columbia the Gem of the Ocean / written & composed by David T. Shaw ; sung at the Boston, New York and Philadelphia concerts ; respectfully dedicated to John S. Du Solle ; arranged by T. A. Becket Philadelphia: Lee & Walker, 1843 1198.4 Color: two United States flags
Box 1
no. 2
Columbia the Land of the Brave / written and composed by David T. Shaw ; arranged for the Spanish guitar by Fr. Blancjour Philadelphia: George Willig, 1846 None None


Back to Top

Send mail concerning this page to: