Wishing a very happy birthday to our founder and first music director Theodore Thomas on the occasion of his 178th birthday!

Theodore Thomas at age 14

Theodore Thomas at age 14

As a teenager, Thomas spent a year traveling alone through the southern United States. “So he secured a horse, had a few concert posters printed, announcing the coming appearance of the wonderful boy violinist T.T., packed his few belongings in a valise, and purchased a large pistol for use in case of a much-hoped-for attack by brigands. To further enhance the adventurous atmosphere of the journey, he determined to ride on a straight line, over fences and ditches, through streams and forests, regardless of how the road ran. Like young Lochinvar, he ‘stopped not for brake and stayed not for stone, he swam the Esk river where ford there was none,’* and, as may be supposed, the adventures thus carefully planned for were many and varied. In one town he was called upon by a deputation from the city fathers with the request that he leave at once, as they were convinced that the devil was in his violin.

“Boy-like he would ride until he reached some pleasant place, and amuse himself there until his money was spent, then he would take out some of his posters and tack them up around the town, and engage the dining-room of his hotel for a concert. When the time for the concert arrived he would stand at the door and sell tickets until he thought his audience was all in, after which he would hastily run up to his room, don his concert clothes, seize his violin, and presently appear at the stage end of the room and give the concert. In this romantic fashion he whiled away a year, but even as a child Theodore Thomas could not be satisfied long in idleness . . .”

— excerpt from Memoirs of Theodore Thomas by Rose Fay Thomas, 1911.

*Quote from Sir Walter Scott‘s poem Marmion.