Thomas Martin Towne

thomas-martin-towneThomas Martin Towne (May 30, 1835 – April 4, 1912)

Thomas Martin Towne was not only the composer of many sacred and secular, patriotic songs. He was also a doctor, musical professor, husband to one of America’s first leading women in the literary and publishing fields, and served in the Civil War.

Born and raised in Coleraine, Vermont, his first important musical position was as a member of the well-known “Continentals” vocal group. The ensemble was engaged with a performance tour of the northern Midwest when war broke out. Although two of his brothers immediately enlisted, Thomas Martin initially helped the cause through his music, composing patriotic songs to stir up brotherhood and bravery amongst soldiers and civilians alike.

Later, however, he did finally make a physical war effort by joining a regiment based in Wisconsin. War, as it usually does, changes people. It is noteworthy that, at the end of the conflict and upon his return to music, his artistic output changed direction and his popular ballads and songs of nationalism began to be replaced with educational music and works designed to inspire, guide and delight children.

He was to eventually marry Belle Kellogg (1844-1923), and both flourished under the inspiration of the other. The young lady had shown promising talent as an author and journalist, but it was following their marriage that her career really began to take flight. As an editor she soon took charge of a department for young writers at the well-known David C. Cook Publishing Company of Chicago, where the couple were to settle. The company went on to publish the new “International Lesson Hymnal no.1”, for which Thomas Martin Towne served as a judge, helping to select original pieces of music from over seven hundred entries.

Musical Style and Influences

His music breathed fresh life into the American style which had become standard by the time of the Civil War. One need only hear the vibrancy of his “Lake Forest Mazurka” to experience the rhythms, harmonies and feelings which this new America offered.

His collections of songs are numerous and include “Temperance Songs”, “Band of Hope Songs”, “Sabbath Songs” (1886), “Anthems of Joy” (1891) and “Choir An­thems” (1880).

What was Thomas Martin Towne Known For?

The Music of Thomas Martin Towne

His musical work for children includes delightful titles such as “The Gruff Judge and Happy San­ta Claus”, “The En­chant­ed Wood” and “The Tri­al of San­ta Claus”.

Thomas Martin Towne Most Famous Works

Furthermore his Civil War song “Old Abe the Battle Eagle” (referencing the feathered mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Regiment) continues to be performed by a wide range of folk singers and ensembles.

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