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Septimus Winner (11 May 1827 - 22 November 1902) was an American songwriter of the 19th century. He used his own name, and also the pseudonyms Alice Hawthorne, Percy Guyer, Mark Mason, Apsley Street, and Paul Stenton. He was also a teacher, performer, and music publisher.
Winner was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the seventh child to Joseph E. Winner (an instrument maker specializing in violins) and wife Mary Ann. Mary Ann Winner was a relative of Nathaniel Hawthorne, hence Septimus' use of the Hawthorne name as part of his pseudonym Alice Hawthorne.
Winner attended Philadelphia Central High School. Although largely self-taught in the area of music, he did take lessons from Leopold Meignen around 1853, but by that time he was already an established instrumental teacher, and performed locally with various ensembles.
From around 1845 to 1854, Septimus Winner partnered with his brother Joseph Eastburn Winner (1837 - 1918) as music publishers. Septimus continued in the business with various partners and names until 1902.
Winner was especially popular for his ballads published under the pseudonym of Alice Hawthorne, which became known generically as "Hawthorne's Ballads". His brother was also a composer, publishing under the alias Eastburn. Septimus Winner was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
In addition to composing popular songs, Winner also produced more than 200 instruction method books for more than twenty-three instruments. He wrote more than 1,500 easy arrangements for various instruments and almost 2,000 arrangements for violin and piano.
In 1855, Winner published the song "Listen to the Mockingbird" under the Alice Hawthorne name. He had arranged and added words to a tune by local singer/guitarist Richard Milburn, an employee, whom he credited. Later he sold the rights, reputedly for five dollars, and subsequent publications omitted Milburn's name from the credits. The song was indeed a winner, selling about 15 million copies in the United States alone.
Another of his successes, and still familiar, is "Der Deitcher's Dog", or "Oh Where, oh Where Ish Mine Little Dog Gone", a text that Winner set to the German folk tune "In Lauterbach hab' ich mein' Strumpf verlor'n" in 1864, which recorded massive sales during Winner's lifetime.
The first verse of "Der Deitcher's Dog" is particularly noteworthy as its first verse has become a popular nursery rhyme:
Modern versions occasionally change "cut" to "so".
The original song is written in German dialect, and subsequent verses praise lager but lament the fact that "mit no money" it is not possible to drink, and praise sausages and thence to speculate on the fate of the missing dog:
Another of Winner's best-remembered songs, "Ten Little Indians", was originally published in 1864. This was adapted, possibly by Frank J. Green in 1868 as "Ten Little Niggers" and became a standard of the blackface minstrel shows. It was sung by Christy's Minstrels and became widely known in Europe, where it was used by Agatha Christie in her novel And Then There Were None, about ten killings on a remote island. In 2005, film historian Richard Finegan identified Winner as the composer of the Three Stooges song "Swinging the Alphabet". Winner had originally published it in 1875 as "The Spelling Bee".
In 1862, Winner was arrested for treason because he wrote and published a song entitled "Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, the People's Pride". It concerned General George B. McClellan, whom President Abraham Lincoln had just fired from the command of the Army of the Potomac. McClellan was a popular man, and his supporters bought more than 80,000 copies of the song among them in its first two days of publication. Winner was in deep disgrace, and was only released from arrest after promising to destroy all of the remaining copies. The song reappeared in 1864 when McClellan was a presidential candidate. In 1880 the words were rewritten as a campaign ditty on behalf of Ulysses S. Grant.
The most popular Septimus Winner songs include: