Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Cousin Albert Spalding, Violinist ~ 52 Ancestors #29

I am participating in this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Each week has an optional writing prompt and this week's writing prompt is Music.

My second great uncle William Scott Pyle (1856-1906) had two sons and one daughter, Mary Vanderhoef Pyle, born in 1886, who married Albert Goodwill Spalding, a famous American violinist.

Courtesy Wikipedia
Albert Goodwill Spalding was born 15 August 1888 in Chicago, Illinois to James Walter Spalding and Marie (Boardman) Spalding, a contralto and pianist. (His father and his uncle, Albert Spalding, founded the sporting goods company.)

After studying violin in New York and Italy, he made his debut in Paris in 1905 when he was 17. His American debut was made in Carnegie Hall on November 8, 1908. Newspaper headlines of the day raved about his abilities.

He put his performing on hold so he could serve in World War I, and on 19 June 1919, he married my grandfather Pyle's first cousin, Mary Vanderhoef Pyle.

The Internet Archive has recordings (digitized from 78 rpm records) of his playing which is truly a wonderful use of the Internet. From 1934, you can hear Albert Spalding play Chopin's Waltz in B Minor and Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, both violin solos with piano accompaniment. You can also search for Albert Spalding and select media type "Audio" to find additional recordings.

He taught at several universities, composed music in addition to performing, and wrote a novel. In his later years, he lived in the Berkshires of Massachusetts and had a winter home on Captiva Island in Florida.

He was so well-known that an obituary appeared in many newspapers in late May 1953 after his sudden death on May 26, 1953, after collapsing while dressing to go out. The following obituary, from the Tallahassee Democrat (the citation is embedded in the image) is one; they all seemed to have a different photograph of him.

He left no children. His wife, Mary, lived until 1970, dying in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. FindAGrave doesn't currently have a memorial for either of them, though I am inclined to think that they are buried in western Massachusetts.


  1. How wonderful to be able to hear him play! My great uncle was in a band and wrote a song but I haven't found anything on the internet that I can listen to.

    1. I was astounded to find the recordings. The Internet is an amazing thing!

  2. I recently found a letter from your uncle addressed to a local resident in Northern New York State. I found it at the town dump "gift" table, where books and other things are left prior to being tossed. The letter is dated 1923 and was a very cordial reply to a fan who had written him regarding the enjoyment he had taken in a January 3rd concert he had heard on the radio. My mother and I are both music lovers and are tremendously pleased at finding this treasure. Youtube has a number of recordings of his playing we have fallen in love with.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this story. What a treasure to find before it was tossed!
      Thank you for the comment.