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 Images and Music
List of Topics
Related Resources

Philadelphia Composers: Richard James Milburn (b. ca. 1814)

Richard James Milburn was an African-American barber in Philadelphia who also gave whistling and guitar recitals. He is remembered today as the composer of the melody of the song Listen to the Mocking Bird. Septimus Winner, who had hired Milburn to work in his music store, wrote the words to the song and arranged it for publication. Winner published the song in 1855 under his pseudonym, Alice Hawthorne, and gave credit to Milburn for composing the melody. Later publications omitted Milburn's name from the title, robbing him of recognition for composing a song that sold twenty million copies between 1855 and 1905.

Compositions by Milburn in the Collection

Item No.TitleImprintPlate No.Illustration
Box 23
no. 30
Listen to the Mocking Bird : as sung by Rose Merrifield / written and arranged by Alice Hawthorne Philadelphia : Lee & Walker, 1856 None A mockingbird


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