In commemoration of renowned Swedish soprano Jenny Lind’s 200th birthday on October 6th, we’re taking a look at her time in and around Boston during her 1850-1852 U.S. tour. Lind came to the United States soon after her European opera career ended, at the invitation of infamous impresario Phineas T. Barnum. Starting in September 1850, she gave ninety-three concerts under his management, traveling to cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, Havana, and Cincinnati over the course of nine months. A combination of Barnum’s publicity and Lind’s much-admired voice and charitable giving made her hugely popular across the country – indeed, “Lind mania” swept the nation.
Lind gave seven concerts in Boston under Barnum’s management, third to New York (where she gave thirty-five) and Philadelphia (where she gave eight). After an amicable break with Barnum, she continued touring the northeast, giving five Boston concerts in June 1851 and returning for another short series in November-December of that year. Boston at this time was known for its sacred music ensemble, the Handel and Haydn Society (est. 1815); the Germania Orchestra, a touring group from Berlin which accompanied Lind on several occasions, would establish their home base in Boston in 1851. In addition to the city’s musical life, this Jenny Lind Promotional Newspaper held at the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut, reasons Boston’s allure was also environmental.
1850 September 23 Jenny Lind elected Honorary Member, by acclamation, of the Boston Musical Fund Society, a musicians’ cooperative. (She was not present to accept.)
1850 September 27 First performance in Boston at the Tremont Temple. The Boston Daily Evening Transcript reported that even with muddy streets, “every seat in the Tremont Temple was occupied before eight o’clock.” Her portion of that first program included operatic favorites by Rossini and Weber, as well as an audience favorite, the “Herdsman’s Song,” a Swedish melody. Lind took up residence in a four-room suite at the Revere House, an upscale hotel that was destroyed in 1912.
1850 September 28 Lind received many visitors, including politician and former Harvard president Edward S. Everett, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Massachusetts governor Colonel George N. Briggs. Lind visited the Harvard Observatory a few nights later on Everett’s invitation, during which time a comet reportedly flew overhead.
1850 October 1 Second performance in Boston at the Tremont Temple. The second program included additional operatic standards by Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Mozart.
1850 October 6 Fourth performance. The first half of the program featured sacred music, including selections from Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s Creation.
1850 October 10 Charity concert. Lind raised over $7,000 (over $200,000 today) which she donated to organizations including the Boston Port Society (later the Boston Seaman’s Friend Society), the Musical Fund Society, and the Association for Aged and Indigent Females.
1850 October 12 Concert in Boston at the Fitchburg Railroad Hall. The crowd became rowdy when some ticket holders reportedly could not access their seats and several windows were broken to improve the ventilation, but the concert eventually went on as scheduled. The Jenny Lind Tower, relocated to North Truro, MA in the 1920s, was originally part of the hall; Lind reportedly climbed the tower during her visit.
1851 June 18 First concert in Boston since her break with Barnum. Historian Robert Gales notes that Lind made a June visit to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at his home on Brattle Street in Cambridge.
1851 summer After concluding her concerts in Boston, Lind traveled to Springfield and Northampton, where poet Emily Dickinson heard her sing on July 3.
1851 November 22 Concert at the Melodeon in Boston. The New York Times mentions it was a sold out performance. The Boston Morning Journal noted that the Melodeon was acoustically superior to the Tremont Temple and Fitchburg Railroad Hall, allowing for “the full extent, the richness and purity of her magic voice” to be heard.
1851 November 25 Sold out concert cancelled on account of illness.
1851 November 28 Lind returns having “recovered from her indisposition.”
1851 December 1 Another concert at the Melodeon. On this occasion, the New York Times reports Lind was experiencing hoarseness due to a cold and chose to forego her first piece.
1851 December 6 Final Boston concert.
1852 A new Music Hall (now the Orpheum Theatre) is dedicated by Jenny Lind.
1852 February 5 Lind marries her accompanist, Otto Goldschmidt, at a friend’s Beacon Hill home. The New England Historical Society writes about the private ceremony. The event – which had been organized in complete secrecy – astonished press and fans alike (“Jenny Lind Married–The Nightingale Flown Into the Nest of Matrimony” read one headline in Vermont). The couple honeymooned in Northampton, Massachusetts for three months.
For more information about Jenny Lind, see these online and digitized collections:
Gale, Robert L. A Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Companion. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2003.
Holland, Henry Scott, & Rockstro, William Smith. Memoir of Madame Jenny Lind-Goldschmid: Her Early Art-Life and Dramatic Career, 1820-1851. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Ware, W. Porter and Thaddeus C. Lockard, Jr. P. T. Barnum Presents Jenny Lind: The American Tour of the Swedish Nightingale. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980.
This post was written collaboratively by Liz Berndt-Morris and Katie Callam (PhD ‘20).