Colonialism and its legacies including slavery were a part of the lives of several generations of the Stockton family at Morven.
For Black History month, Independent scholar John Burkhalter and pianist Sheldon Eldridge explore the link between Robert Field Stockton (1795-1866) the “Commodore”, and the free black composer Francis “Frank” Johnson. Recordinig sent to ticketholders following program
Johnson (1792-1844) now considered one of America’s most prominent musicians during the Federal period, was the first African American to publish sheet music, to perform an integrated concert , and the first musician in America to tour with his band in Europe.
Johnson was no stranger to the College of New Jersey (which is now known as Princeton University). In addition, he composed and dedicated a work to Robert Field Stockton entitled the “Princeton Gallopade” to be performed on Morven's Grand Style 3 Piano, rosewood finish, Serial No. 7322, completed April 17, 1863. Steinway & Sons. Morven Collection. Gift of Harriet and Jay Vawter.
This piano was sold to Commodore Robert Field Stockton on January 7, 1864. Steinway’s records indicate that Stockton is listed as being from Philadelphia, and thus it seems likely that it was purchased for the Commodore’s home on Walnut Street in Philadelphia, where he spent much of the winter months.
The Philadelphia home was the sight of the Stockton family’s most sophisticated entertaining, and this elegant piano would have made quite the impression. With its beautifully carved legs and pedal lyre, the piano is a spectacular example of Steinway craftsmanship during the 1860s. An elegant gingerbread music rack and delicate floral carving bring lightness to the otherwise massive eight-foot, four- inch frame.