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Music Library Special Collections: Mildred Hill


Photo of Mildred Hill
Mildred J. Hill

Mildred J. Hill (June 27, 1859 – June 5, 1916) was an American composer and musicologist, who composed the melody for "Good Morning to All", later used as the melody for "Happy Birthday to You," one of the most well-known songs in the world. Hill, born in Louisville, Kentucky, was the oldest of three sisters, Mildred, Patty, and Jessica. She learned music from her father, Calvin Cody, and Adolph Weidig. It has been reported that Mildred Hill was a kindergarten and Sunday-school teacher, like her younger sister Patty. Professor Robert Brauneis, after extensively researching the Hill family, has concluded that she was not a kindergarten teacher. She moved into music, teaching, composing, performing, and specializing in the study of Negro spirituals. Hill and her sister were honored at the Chicago World's Fair for their work in the progressive education program at the experimental kindergarten, the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School. She wrote about music using the pen name Johann Tonsor, and her 1892 article "Negro Music,” suggesting that the existing body of black music would be the basis of a distinctive American musical style, influenced Dvořák in composing the New World Symphony. Mildred Hill died in Chicago, Illinois, in 1916, long before her song became famous. She is buried with her sister in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Collection Includes

  • Hill's music manuscripts, composition sketchbooks, and published works
  • articles and clippings related to Hill and the history of the "Happy Birthday" song.
  • Hill's lecture notes

How to Use this Collection

To access materials in this collection please contact the Director of the Music Library.