29th October 1815
28th June 1904
Mount Vernon, Ohio, USA
Daniel Decatur "Dan" Emmett was an American songwriter, entertainer, and founder of the first troupe of the blackface minstrel tradition.
Dan Emmett is traditionally credited with writing the famous song "Dixie". The story that he related about its composition varied each time he told it, but the main points were that he composed the song in New York City while a member of Bryant's Minstrels. The song was first performed by Emmett and the Bryants at Mechanics' Hall in New York City on April 4, 1859. The song became a runaway hit, especially in the South, and the piece for which Emmett was most well known. Emmett himself reportedly told a fellow minstrel that "If I had known to what use they [Southerners] were going to put my song, I will be damned if I'd have written it." After the South began using his song as a rally, Emmett wrote the fife and drum manual for the Union Army. Emmett's song was a favorite of President Abraham Lincoln, who said after the war ended in 1865: "I have always thought that 'Dixie' was one of the best tunes I ever heard. I had heard our adversaries had attempted to appropriate it. I insisted yesterday that we had fairly captured it.