johnson intro orphans

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On Thursday, 24 January 1822, a fire at the Orphan Asylum of Philadelphia reduced the building to ashes. Many fire companies responded but twenty-three orphans did not survive the blaze. A benefit was held at the Walnut Street Theater on the following Monday, 28 January, featuring a play, a farce, and two musicals. It is possible that Johnson's "Orphan's Cotillion" was composed for performance by Johnson's band at the benefit.

Fig. 1: The Fire Association of Philadelphia was a fire insurance company founded in 1817 and incorporated in 1820. The fireplug in the masthead was the official logo of the company. The closing measures (at the top of the second page) include the cry "Fire, fire, fire, fire," which was probably shouted during a performance by members of the band. The descending chromatic passages in the third strain of "The Orphan's Cotillion" represent the cries of the orphans.

Fig. 2: News of the tragedy traveled quickly. This account in a New Hampshire paper appeared eleven days after the fire.

Fig. 3: Four days after the fire, a benefit was held for the Orphan Asylum at the Walnut Street Theater.

​​​​​​​Fig. 4: From Geschichte des Waisenhauses in Philadelphia [History of the Orphan Asylum, in Philadelphia] (Philadelphia, 1833). Free Library of Philadelphia.

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