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!