Fanny Crosby (Poet) – Overview, Biography

Fanny Crosby
Name:Fanny Crosby
Occupation: Poet
Birth Day: March 24,
Death Date:Feb 12, 1915 (age 94)
Age: Aged 94
Country: United States
Zodiac Sign:Aries

Fanny Crosby

Fanny Crosby was born on March 24, 1820 in United States (94 years old). Fanny Crosby is a Poet, zodiac sign: Aries. Nationality: United States. Approx. Net Worth: Undisclosed.


She was active in missionary work and speaking engagements in her later years from 1900 until 1915.

Net Worth 2020

Find out more about Fanny Crosby net worth here.

Does Fanny Crosby Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, Fanny Crosby died on Feb 12, 1915 (age 94).


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Before Fame

She was blinded as a baby due to damage to her optic nerves and she wrote her first poem about this condition at age eight.


Biography Timeline


Frances Jane Crosby was born on March 24, 1820 in the village of Brewster, about 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City. She was the only child of John Crosby and his second wife Mercy Crosby, both of whom were relatives of Revolutionary War spy Enoch Crosby. He was a widower who had a daughter from his first marriage. According to C. Bernard Ruffin, John and Mercy were possibly first cousins; however, “by the time Fanny Crosby came to write her memoirs [in 1906], the fact that her mother and father were related… had become a source of embarrassment, and she maintained that she did not know anything about his lineage”.

Her father died in November 1820 when Fanny was only six months old, so she was raised by her mother and maternal grandmother Eunice Paddock Crosby (born about 1778; died about 1831). These women grounded her in Christian principles, helping her memorize long passages from the Bible, and she became an active member of the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Manhattan.


When Crosby was three, the family moved to North Salem, New York where Eunice had been raised. In April 1825, she was examined by the surgeon Valentine Mott, who concluded that her condition was inoperable and that her blindness was permanent.


In 1828, Mercy and Fanny moved to the home of a Mrs. Hawley in Ridgefield, Connecticut. While residing in Ridgefield, they attended the Presbyterian church on the village green. Historian Edith L. Blumhofer described the Crosby home environment as sustained by “an abiding Christian faith”. Crosby memorized five chapters of the Bible each week from age 10, with the encouragement of her grandmother and later Mrs. Hawley; by age 15, she had memorized the four gospels, the Pentateuch, the Book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms. From 1832, a music teacher came to Ridgefield twice a week to give singing lessons to her and some of the other children. Around the same time, she attended her first Methodist church services at the Methodist Episcopal Church, and she was delighted by their hymns.


Crosby enrolled at the New York Institution for the Blind (NYIB) in 1835, just before her 15th birthday. She remained there for eight years as a student, and another two years as a graduate pupil, during which time she learned to play the piano, organ, harp, and guitar, and became a good soprano singer. While she was studying at NYIB in 1838, her mother Mercy remarried and the couple had three children together. Mercy’s husband abandoned her in 1844.


By the 1840 US Presidential election, she was “an ardent Democrat” and wrote verse against Whig candidate (and ultimate winner) William Henry Harrison. By 1852, she switched her political allegiance from support for the pro-slavery Democrats to the anti-slavery Whigs, writing the poem “Carry Me On” for them in 1852. After the election of Democrat Franklin Pierce as US President in November 1856, she wrote:


In 1841, New York Herald published Crosby’s eulogy on the death of President William Henry Harrison, thus beginning her literary career. Her poems were published frequently in The Saturday Evening Post, the Clinton Signal, the Fireman’s Journal, and the Saturday Emporium.


After graduation from the NYIB in 1843, Crosby joined a group of lobbyists in Washington, D.C. arguing for support of education for the blind. She was the first woman to speak in the United States Senate when she read a poem there. She appeared before the joint houses of Congress and recited these lines:


Crosby was among the students from the NYIB who gave a concert for Congress on January 24, 1844. She recited an original composition calling for an institution for educating the blind in every state which was praised by John Quincy Adams, among others. Two days later, she was among a group of Blind Institution students who gave a presentation to notable people at Trenton, New Jersey, where she recited an original poem calling for the aid and education of the blind. President James K. Polk visited the NYIB in 1845 and Crosby recited a poem that she composed for the occasion which praised “republican government”. In 1851, she addressed the New York state legislature.

Crosby was reluctant to have her poems published, as she considered them to be “unfinished productions”, but she acquiesced eventually because it would publicize the Institution and raise funds for it. (She had suffered an illness that caused her to leave the NYIB in order to recuperate.) Her first book A Blind Girl and Other Poems was published in April 1844 after encouragement by the Institution, including “An Evening Hymn” based on Psalm 4:8, which she described as her first published hymn. In 1853, her Monterey and Other Poems was published which included poems focusing on the recent Mexican–American War, and a poem pleading for the US to help those affected by the Great Famine of Ireland. She stated in her 1903 autobiography, edited by Will Carleton, that she “was under a feeling of sadness and depression at this time”.


In April 1846, Crosby spoke before a joint session of the United States Congress, with delegations from the Boston and Philadelphia Institutions for the Blind, “to advocate support for the education of the blind in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York”. She testified before a special congressional subcommittee, and she performed in the music room at the White House for President Polk and his wife. Among the songs that she sang as she accompanied herself on the piano was her own composition:

In 1846, Crosby was an instructor at the NYIB and was listed as a “graduate pupil”. She subsequently joined the school’s faculty, teaching grammar, rhetoric, and history; she remained there until three days before her wedding on March 5, 1858. While teaching at the NYIB, she befriended future US president Grover Cleveland then aged 17. The two spent many hours together at the end of each day, and he often transcribed the poems that she dictated to him. He wrote her a recommendation which was published in her 1906 autobiography. She wrote a poem that was read at the dedication of Cleveland’s birthplace in Caldwell, New Jersey in March 1913, being unable to attend due to her health.


Though she considered herself a Democrat at the time, Crosby was a keen admirer of the leading Whig, U.S. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, who in 1848 made a tour of large eastern cities. He visited the New York Institution for the Blind in New York City, where Crosby lived. The visit came two years after the death of Henry Clay Jr., in the Mexican–American War. Crosby recalled that “the great statesman was never quite himself after his son’s death, and I purposely avoided all mention of it in the address of welcome on the day he came to visit us, lest I mighty wound the heart of the man whom I had learned not only to venerate but to love; for Mr. Clay was always an especial favorite among public men. There was a strength in his character and an earnestness in his speeches that appealed to me more than I can tell. … I would have challenged any person, whether Whig or Democrat, Northerner or Southerner to come within range of the man’s eloquence without being moved to admiration and profound respect; for his personal magnetism was wonderful.”


In the summer of 1851, George Root and Crosby both taught at the North Reading Musical Institute in North Reading, Massachusetts. Their first song was “Fare Thee Well, Kitty Dear” (1851) which evoked old-South imagery. Crosby’s lyrics were based on a suggestion by Root, which she described as “the grief of a colored man on the death of his beloved.” It was written for and performed exclusively by Henry Wood’s Minstrels and published by John Andrews, who specialized in printing “neat, quick & cheap,” according to Karen Linn. “This song was not a hit, and had no lasting influence,” according to Linn, as “its style is far too literary, the words not in dialect, the cause of sorrow seems to be a lover (rather than ‘massa’, or Little Eva, or homesickness: all more appropriate causes for slave sorrow according to the popular culture)”. In 1852, Root signed a three-year contract with William Hall & Son.

Despite this initial setback, Crosby continued to teach at North Reading during her vacations in 1852 and 1853, where she wrote the lyrics for many of her collaborations with Root. Among their joint compositions were “Bird of the North” (1852) and “Mother, Sweet Mother, Why Linger Away?” (1852).

Between 1852 and 1854, Crosby wrote the librettos of three cantatas for Root. Their first was The Flower Queen; The Coronation of the Rose (1852), often described as “the first secular cantata written by an American.” It is an opera “in all but name,” described as a “popular operetta” which “illustrated nineteenth-century American romanticism.” In her 1906 autobiography, Crosby explained the theme of this cantata:


In 1853, Crosby’s poem “The Blind Orphan Girl” was included in Caroline M. Sawyer’s The History of the Blind Vocalists. Her third book A Wreath of Columbia’s Flowers was published in 1858 at about the time when she resigned from the Blind Institution and got married. It contains four short stories and 30 poems.

The Flower Queen was written as “a work for teenage girls (scored for first and second soprano and alto).” It was performed first on March 11, 1853 by the young ladies of Jacob Abbott’s Springer Institute, and almost immediately repeated by Root’s students at the Rutgers Female Institute; it was praised by R. Storrs Willis. It was performed an estimated 1,000 times throughout the United States in the first four years after its publication. The success of The Flower Queen and subsequent cantatas brought great acclaim and fortune to Root, with little of either for Crosby.

The second Root-Crosby cantata was Daniel, or the Captivity and Restoration, based on the Old Testament story of Daniel. It was composed in 1853 for Root’s choir at the Mercer Street Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. This cantata comprised 35 songs, with music composed with William Batchelder Bradbury and words by Crosby and Union Theological Seminary student Chauncey Marvin Cady. Some of its principal choruses were first performed on July 15, 1853 by the students at Root’s New York Normal Institute.


In 1854, Root and Crosby collaborated to compose The Pilgrim Fathers, described as an “antebellum landmark” in dramatic cantatas. According to Blumhofer, it “featured the contemporary evangelical reading of American history.” Crosby wrote the libretto for a cantata entitled The Excursion, with music by Baptist music professor Theodore Edson Perkins, one of the founders of New York music publishing house Brown & Perkins. In 1886, Crosby and William Howard Doane wrote Santa Claus’ Home; or, The Christmas Excursion, a Christmas cantata published by Biglow & Main.


Crosby-Root songs were published by other publishers after the expiration of Root’s contract with William Hall & Son in 1855 (and after being rejected by Nathan Richardson of Russell & Richardson of Boston), including Six Songs by Wurzel published in 1855 by S. Brainard’s Sons of Cleveland, Ohio. These six Root-Crosby songs were “O How Glad to Get Home,” “Honeysuckle Glen,” “The Church in the Wood,” “All Together Now,” and “Proud World, Good-by.” The most popular of these songs was “Rosalie, the Prairie Flower”, about the death of a young girl. It was popularized in the 1850s by the Christy Minstrels; it sold more than 125,000 copies of sheet music and earned nearly $3,000 in royalties for Root —and almost nothing for Crosby. Crosby also wrote the words for popular songs for other composers, including “There is a Bright and Sunny Spot” (1856) for Clare W. Beames.


In the summer of 1843, Crosby met Alexander van Alstyne Jr. (sometimes spelled van Alstine or van Alsteine), called “Van” by his friends. He also was blind and enrolled at the NYIB, where he was a casual acquaintance of Crosby and sometimes a student in her classes. He was a teacher at NYIB for two years from 1855; during this time, the couple were engaged to be married, necessitating her resignation from NYIB three days prior to their wedding at Maspeth, New York on March 5, 1858.


In 1859, the van Alstynes had a daughter named Frances who died in her sleep soon after birth. Some believe that the cause was typhoid fever, although Darlene Neptune speculates that it may have been SIDS, and that Crosby’s hymn “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” was inspired by her death.

After the death of their daughter, Van became increasingly reclusive; Crosby never spoke publicly about being a mother, aside from mentioning it in a few interviews towards the end of her life: “Now I am going to tell you of something that only my closest friends know. I became a mother and knew a mother’s love. God gave us a tender babe but the angels came down and took our infant up to God and to His throne”. In late 1859, the van Alstynes moved frequently, “establishing a pattern that continued for the rest of their lives”, and never owned their own home, living in rented accommodation without a lease.


Crosby wrote the words and William B. Bradbury composed the music, soon after they met in February 1864, for the popular patriotic Civil War song “There is a Sound Among the Forest Trees”. Her text encourages volunteers to join the Union forces and incorporates references to the history of the United States, including the Pilgrim Fathers and the Battle of Bunker Hill.


Crosby supported the American Female Guardian Society and Home for the Friendless (founded in 1834) at 29 East 29th Street, for whom she wrote a hymn in 1865 that was sung by some of the Home’s children:


She wrote “More Like Jesus Would I Be” in June 1867 expressly for the sixth anniversary of the Howard Mission and Home for Little Wanderers, a nondenominational mission at New Bowery, Manhattan.


In early 1868 Crosby met wealthy Methodist Phoebe Palmer Knapp, who was married to Joseph Fairchild Knapp, co-founder of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The Knapps published hymnals initially for use in the Sunday School of Saint John’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, which was superintended by Joseph F. Knapp for 22 years, while Phoebe Knapp took responsibility for 200 children in the infants’ department. They first collaborated on Notes of Joy, the first hymnal edited by Knapp, who also contributed 94 of the 172 tunes, and published by her brother, Walter C. Palmer Jr., in 1869. Of the 21 hymns Crosby contributed to Notes of Joy, including eight as “The Children’s Friend”, Knapp provided the music for fourteen of them. Their best-known collaboration was “Blessed Assurance”, for which Crosby wrote words in the Knapps’ music room for a tune written by Knapp, while Crosby was staying at the Knapp Mansion in 1873.

She was inspired to write “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour” after speaking at a service at the Manhattan prison in spring 1868, from comments by some prisoners for the Lord not to pass them by. Doane set it to music and published it in Songs of Devotion in 1870. “Pass Me Not” became her first hymn to have global appeal, after it was used by Sankey in his crusades with Moody in Britain in 1874. Sankey said, “No hymn was more popular at the meetings in London in 1875 (sic) than this one.”

In April 1868, Crosby wrote “Fifty Years Ago” for the semi-centennial of the New-York Port Society, which was founded in 1818 “for the promotion of the Gospel among the seamen in the Port of New-York”.


By July 1869, Crosby was attending at least weekly meetings organized by the interdenominational New York City Mission. A young man was converted through her testimony, and she was inspired to write the words for “Rescue the Perishing” based on a title and a tune given to her by William Howard Doane a few days earlier.


From 1871 to 1908, Crosby worked with Ira Sankey, who helped make her “a household name to Protestants around the world”. While Sankey was “the premier promoter” of gospel songs, “Crosby ranked first as their provider”. The evangelist team of Sankey and Dwight L. Moody brought many of Crosby’s hymns to the attention of Christians throughout the United States and Britain. Crosby was close friends with Sankey and his wife, Frances, and often stayed with them at their home in Northfield, Massachusetts from 1886 for the annual summer Christian Workers’ Conferences, and later in their Brooklyn. After Sankey’s eyesight was destroyed by glaucoma in March 1903, their friendship deepened and they often continued to compose hymns together at Sankey’s harmonium in his home.


In addition to Crosby’s income as a poet and lyricist, Van played the organ at two churches in New York City, and gave private music lessons. The couple could have lived comfortably on their combined income, but Crosby “had other priorities and gave away anything that was not necessary to their daily survival”. Van and Fanny organized concerts with half the proceeds given to aid the poor, in which she gave recitations of her poems and sang, and he played various instruments. Van provided the music for some of her poetry, although Fanny indicated that “his taste was mostly for the wordless melodies of the classics”. The van Alstynes collaborated on the production of a hymnal featuring only hymns written by them, but it was rejected by Biglow and Main—ostensibly because the directors believed that the public would not buy a hymnal featuring only two composers, but probably due to the complexity of the melodies. In 1874, Crosby was reported to be “living in a destitute condition”.


In 1877, Crosby met William J. Kirkpatrick, one of the most prolific composers of gospel song tunes and “the most prominent publisher in the Wesleyan/Holiness Movement”. She called him “Kirkie” and wrote many hymns with him. Some of her hymns reflected her Wesleyan beliefs, including her call to consecrated Christian living in “I Am Thine, O Lord” (1875):


In 1880, aged 60, Crosby “made a new commitment to Christ to serve the poor” and to devote the rest of her life to home missionary work. She continued to live in a dismal flat at 9 Frankfort Street, near one of the worst slums in Manhattan, until about 1884. From this time, she increased her involvement in various missions and homes.

From about 1880, Crosby attended and supported the Helping Hand for Men in Manhattan (better known as the Water Street Mission), “America’s first rescue mission”, which was founded by a married couple to minister to alcoholics and the unemployed. Jerry McAuley was a former alcoholic and thief who became a Christian in Sing Sing prison in 1864, and his wife Maria (c.(1847 – September 19, 1919) was a self-described “river thief” and “fallen woman”. Crosby often attended the Water Street Mission, “conversing and counseling with those she met”.


Crosby supported the Bowery Mission in Manhattan for two decades, beginning in November 1881. The Bowery Mission welcomed the ministry of women and she worked actively, often attending and speaking in the evening meetings. She addressed large crowds attending the anniversary service each year until the building was razed in a fire in 1897. She would also recite a poem which she’d written for the occasion, many of which were set to music by Victor Benke, the Mission’s volunteer organist from 1893–97. Among the songs that she and Benke collaborated on were six published in 1901: “He Has Promised”, “There’s a Chorus Ever Ringing”, “God Bless Our School Today”, “Is There Something I Can Do?”, “On Joyful Wings”, and “Keep On Watching”.


Jerry and Maria McAuley started the Cremorne Mission in 1882 in the Cremorne Garden at 104 West 32nd Street, as a “beachhead in a vast jungle of vice and debauchery known as Tenderloin” (near Sixth Avenue). Crosby attended the nightly 8 pm services, where gospel songs were often sung that were written by her and Doane, including “ballads recalling mother’s prayers, reciting the evils of intemperance, or envisioning agonizing deathbed scenes intending to arouse long-buried memories and strengthen resolves”. She was inspired to write a prayer after the death of Jerry McAuley in 1884 which was later included in rescue song books:


In 1887, she joined the Cornell Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church by “confession of faith”.


Some of the city missions with which Crosby worked were operated by proponents of Wesleyan/Holiness doctrine, including the Door of Hope rescue home founded by socialite Emma Whittemore on October 25, 1890 in a house belonging to A.B. Simpson, intended as “a refuge and a home for girls of the better class who have been tempted from home and right”, and to rescue “fallen girls”.


Van Alstyne rarely accompanied Crosby when she traveled, and she vacationed without him. Despite living separately for more than two decades, Crosby insisted that they “maintained an amiable relationship”, kept in contact with one another, and even ministered together on occasions in this period. For example, Alexander played a piano solo at the third annual reunion of the Underhill Society of America on June 15, 1895 in Yonkers, New York, while Crosby read an ode to Captain John Underhill, the progenitor of the American branch of the Underhill family. Her only recorded admission of marital unhappiness was in 1903, when she commented on her late husband in Will Carleton’s This is My Story: “He had his faults—and so have I mine, but notwithstanding these, we loved each other to the last”.

Many of Fanny’s hymns emerged from her involvement in the city missions, including “More Like Jesus” (1867), “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour” (1868), and “Rescue the Perishing” (1869), which became the “theme song of the home missions movement” and was “perhaps the most popular city mission song”, with its “wedding of personal piety and compassion for humanity”. She celebrated the rescue mission movement in her 1895 hymn “The Rescue Band”.


In 1896, Crosby moved from Manhattan to an apartment in a poor section of Brooklyn, living with friends at South Third Street, Brooklyn, near the home of Ira D. Sankey and his wife Fannie, and near the mansion owned by Phoebe Knapp.


This was the first full-length biographical account of Crosby’s life, although Robert Lowry had written a 16-page biographical sketch that was published in 1897 in her last book of poems Bells of Evening and Other Verses. In the advertisement at the front of the book, the following statement from “the author” was signed with a facsimile of Crosby’s signature: “‘Fanny Crosby’s Life-Story’ is published and sold for my benefit, and I hope by its means to be a welcome guest in many homes”. Carleton added:

Biglow and Main were concerned that the book would diminish sales of Crosby’s Bells at Evening and Other Verses, which they had published in 1897 and which contained Lowry’s biographical sketch of Crosby. They convinced Crosby to write to both Carleton and Knapp, and to threaten to sue Carleton in April 1904. The threatened lawsuit was to obtain information regarding sales of the book, for which she had been promised a royalty of 10 cents per copy, and to seek an injunction preventing further publication. The proposed injunction was on the grounds that she had been misrepresented by Carleton; she believed that he had described her as living alone in poor health and extreme poverty, when in fact she was receiving $25 a week from Biglow and Main and was living with relatives who cared for her. Crosby indicated she had no desire to be a homeowner, and that if she ever lived in poverty, it was by her own choice.


American poet, author, and lecturer Will Carleton was a wealthy friend with whom Crosby had lived in her last years in Brooklyn. He had been giving lectures on her hymns and life, and had published a series of articles about her in his Every Where magazine in 1901 (which had a peak circulation of 50,000 copies a month), for which he paid her $10 an article. In 1902, he wrote a tribute to her that was published in his Songs of Two Centuries.


Crosby described her hymn-writing process: ‘It may seem a little old-fashioned, always to begin one’s work with prayer, but I never undertake a hymn without first asking the good Lord to be my inspiration.’ Her capacity for work was incredible and could often compose six or seven hymns a day. Her poems and hymns were composed entirely in her mind and she worked on as many as twelve hymns at once before dictating them to an amanuensis. On one occasion Crosby composed 40 hymns before they were transcribed. Her lyrics would usually be transcribed by “Van” or later by her half-sister, Carolyn “Carrie” Ryder or her secretary Eva C. Cleaveland, as Crosby herself could write little more than her name. While Crosby had musical training, she did not compose the melody for most of her lyrics. In 1903 Crosby claimed that “Spring Hymn” was the only hymn she wrote both the words and music.


She had been ill with a serious heart condition for a few months by May 1900, and she still showed some effects from a fall, so her half-sisters traveled to Brooklyn to convince her to move from her room in the home of poet Will Carleton in Brooklyn to Bridgeport, Connecticut. They urged her to live with her widowed half-sister Julia “Jule” Athington and with Jule’s widowed younger sister Caroline “Carrie” W. Rider. She and Rider rented a room together, before moving to a rented apartment where they lived until 1906. She transferred her church membership from Cornell Memorial Methodist Church in Manhattan to the First Methodist Church of Bridgeport in 1904, after moving to Bridgeport. Her husband “Van” died on July 18, 1902; he had been living in Brooklyn. She did not attend the funeral due to her own poor health. Phoebe Knapp paid for his burial at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Queens County, New York.

According to Ruffin, Carleton’s book “went over like a lead balloon with Fanny’s publishers.” There was nothing negative written explicitly about Biglow and Main, but there was also little praise for the firm and its members. Crosby is quoted, referring to Biglow and Main: “with whom I have maintained most cordial and even affectionate relations, for many years past”. The book did not use any of her hymns that were owned by Biglow and Main. Hubert Main believed that “Will Carleton wanted to ignore the Biglow & Main Company and all its writers as far as possible and set himself up as the one of her friends who was helping her”. Biglow and Main believed that Carleton and Phoebe Knapp were guilty of “a brutal attack on Fanny”, and that they were plotting to “take over” Crosby. Knapp was not invited to the 40th anniversary reception and dinner held in Manhattan in February 1904 to celebrate Crosby’s association with Bradbury and Biglow and Main; according to Blumhofer, she was persona non grata at Biglow and Main.

In 1904, Phoebe Knapp contacted Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Charles Cardwell McCabe and enlisted his assistance in publicizing Crosby’s poverty, raising funds to ameliorate that situation. They secured Crosby’s permission to solicit funds for her benefit, and the religious press (including The Christian Advocate) carried McCabe’s request for money on her behalf in June 1904, under the heading “Fanny Crosby in Need”. McCabe indicated that Crosby’s “hymns have never been copyrighted in her own name, she has sold them for small sums to the publishers who hold the copyright themselves, and the gifted authoress has but little monetary reward for hymns that have been sung all over the world”.

By July 1904, newspapers reported that Crosby’s publishers had issued a statement denying that she was in need of funds, indicating that she never would be, “as they have provided abundantly for her during her entire life”, and stating that “Bishop McCabe … has been grossly deceived by somebody”.

The matter was still not settled in July 1904; however, it came to an end before Fanny Crosby Day in March 1905 after Carleton’s wife Adora died suddenly.


In 1905 Carleton issued a new edition of Fannie Crosby, Her Life Work, which was both expanded and “newly illustrated”, and despite “the greater expense of production, the price remains One Dollar a copy”, with Crosby to “receive the same liberal royalty”, as the book was “SOLD FOR THE BLIND AUTHOR’S BENEFIT”.

In December 1905 Crosby issued a card protesting the continued sale of Carleton’s book, again denying she was “in distress”, as she was in “comfortable circumstances and very active”, giving lectures nearly once a week. She indicated she had received less than $325 from the sale of the book, that her “requests had been disregarded”, but that “when these facts are fully known to all, the publishers can sell the book as they desire; only I have no wish to increase its sale for my own benefit, which, of course, is very small”.


It is estimated that books containing her lyrics sold 100 million copies. However, due to the low regard for lyricists in the popular song industry during her lifetime, and what June Hadden Hobbs sees as “the hypocrisy of sacred music publishers” which resulted for Crosby in “a sad and probably representative tale of exploitation of female hymn writers”, and the contemporary perception that “Crosby made a very profitable living off writing songs that were sung (and played) by the masses”, “like many of the lyricists of the day, Crosby was exploited by copyright conventions that assigned rights not to the lyricist but to the composer of the music… Crosby was paid a flat fee of one or two dollars a hymn”. In her 1906 autobiography, Crosby insisted she wrote her hymns “in a sanctified manner”, and never for financial or commercial considerations, and that she had donated her royalties to “worthy causes”.

In 1906 Crosby composed both the words and music for “The Blood-Washed Throng”, which was published and copyrighted by gospel singer Mary Upham Currier, a distant cousin who had been a well-known concert singer. While teaching at the NYIB, Crosby studied music under George F. Root, until his resignation in November 1850.

Crosby and Rider moved to 226 Wells Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut in summer 1906 because of Rider’s cancer. Carrie died of intestinal cancer in July 1907, and Phoebe Knapp died on July 10, 1908. Weeks later, Ira Sankey died having just sung “Saved by Grace”, one of Crosby’s most popular compositions.


Ira Sankey recalled the origins of “Rescue the Perishing” in his 1907 book My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns:


On May 2, 1911, Crosby spoke to 5,000 people at the opening meeting of the Evangelistic Committee’s seventh annual campaign held in Carnegie Hall, after the crowd sang her songs for thirty minutes. On Crosby’s 94th birthday in March 1914, Alice Rector and the King’s Daughters of the First Methodist Church of Bridgeport, Connecticut organized a Violet Day to honor her, which was publicized nationally by Hugh Main.

Despite Crosby’s efforts, Carleton continued to advertise the book for sale until at least 1911. In 1911, Carleton serialised and updated Crosby’s life story in Every Where. The 1906 publication of Crosby’s own autobiography, Memories of Eighty Years, which, in contrast to Carleton’s book, focused on Crosby’s hymn-writing years, was sold by subscription and door-to-door, and promoted in lectures by Doane, raised $1,000 for Crosby. For a period Crosby and Knapp were estranged because of the Carleton book, but by early 1905 they had reconciled.


Crosby died at Bridgeport of arteriosclerosis and a cerebral hemorrhage on February 12, 1915 after a six-month illness, aged 94. She was buried at Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, CT near her mother and other members of her family. Her family erected a very small tombstone at her request which carried the words: “Aunt Fanny: She hath done what she could; Fanny J. Crosby”.


In 1921, Edward S. Ninde wrote: “None would claim that she was a poetess in any large sense. Her hymns… have been severely criticised. Dr. Julian, the editor of the Dictionary of Hymnology, says that ‘they are, with few exceptions, very weak and poor,’ and others insist that they are ‘crudely sentimental’. Some hymn books will give them no place whatever”. According to Glimpses of Christian History, Crosby’s “hymns have sometimes been criticized as ‘gushy and mawkishly sentimental’ and critics have often attacked both her writing and her theology. Nonetheless, they were meaningful to her contemporaries and hymn writer George C. Stebbins stated, ‘There was probably no writer in her day who appealed more to the valid experience of the Christian life or who expressed more sympathetically the deep longings of the human heart than Fanny Crosby.’ And many of her hymns have stood the test of time, still resonating with believers today”.


Crosby left money in her will for “the sheltering of senior males who had no other place to live, with these men to pay a nominal fee to the home for their living expenses”. In 1923, the King’s Daughters of the First Methodist Church of Bridgeport, Connecticut honored Crosby’s request to memorialize her by beginning to raise the additional funds needed to establish the Fanny Crosby Memorial Home for the Aged. The non-denominational home was established in the former Hunter house at 1008 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport; it opened on November 1, 1925 after a national drive by the Federation of Churches to raise $100,000 to operate it. It operated until 1996 when it was given to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.


In March 1925, about 3,000 churches throughout the United States observed Fanny Crosby Day to commemorate the 105th anniversary of her birth.


The Enoch Crosby chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated a historic roadside marker on October 8, 1934, commemorating her birthplace on the western side of Route 22 in Doansburg, New York, just north of Brewster.


A large memorial stone was dedicated on May 1, 1955 by Crosby’s “friends to whom her life was an inspiration”—a stone that “dwarfed the original gravestone”—despite her specific instructions not to erect a large marble monument. It contained the first stanza of “Blessed Assurance”.


Crosby was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1975. Known as the “Queen of Gospel Song Writers”, During 2010 songwriter George Hamilton IV toured Methodist chapels celebrating Fanny’s outstanding contribution to gospel music. His presentation included stories of her productive and charitable life, some of her hymns, and a few of his own uplifting songs. The liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the United States remembers Crosby with an annual feast day on February 11. While she is not mentioned in The Hymnal 1982, her hymns are included in several more recent hymnals, including Lift Every Voice and Sing II and the African American Heritage Hymnal. Fanny and Bing Crosby both were descendants of the Rev. Thomas CROSBY, who lies at rest in the Granary Burying Ground, in downtown Boston. His wife was probably Sarah SHED. Bing was a 5-great grandson of Thomas & Sarah’s son, Simon CROSBY, who married Mary NICKERSON.

Upcoming Birthday

Currently, Fanny Crosby is 202 years, 3 months and 2 days old. Fanny Crosby will celebrate 203rd birthday on a Friday 24th of March 2023.

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