William McCarty, comp. The American National Song Book. 1842.
By Joseph Hopkinson (17701842)
The Origin of Hail Columbia.In the year 1798, when patriotic feeling pervaded the country, and when there were several parties in the field, Mr. Fox, a young player who was more admired for his vocal than histrionic powers, called one morning upon his friend, Mr. Hopkinson, and after stating that the following evening had been appointed for his benefit, and expressing great fear for the result, as not a single box had been taken, begged his friend to do something in his behalf. If, said Fox, you will write me some patriotic verses to the tune of the Presidents March, I feel sure of a full house. Several of the people about the theatre have attempted it, but they have come to the conclusion that it cannot be done: yet I think you may succeed. Mr. Hopkinson retired to his study, and in a short time wrote the first verse and chorus, which were submitted to Mrs. Hopkinson, who sang them to a piano accompaniment, and proved the measure and music to be compatible and in keeping. In this way the second and other verses were written, and when Mr. Fox returned in the evening, he received with delight the song as it now stands. The following morning small hand-bills announced that Mr. Fox would sing a new patriotic song, &c. The theatre was crowded; the song was sung and received with rapture; it was repeated eight times, and again encored, and when sung the ninth time, the whole audience stood up and joined in the chorus. Night after night, Hail Columbia cheered the visiters of the theatre, and in a very few days it was the universal song of the boys in the streets, from one end of the city to the other. Nor was the distinguished author of this truly national songa song which met the entire approbation of all parties of the dayforgotten. The street in which he resided on one occasion was crowded, and Hail Columbia broke on the stillness of midnight from five hundred patriotic voices.