“Foshay Tower Washington Memorial” (1929)
This obscure march has perhaps the most interesting history of any of Sousa’s compositions. It might well be called his “mystery march.”
Sousa and the managers of the band were undecided about making a tour in the fall of 1929, but Wilbur B. Foshay of Minneapolis resolved their dilemma by making a lucrative offer for the band’s services over the Labor Day weekend. Foshay was a public utilities magnate and had constructed a unique thirty-two-story building in downtown Minneapolis which came to be known as the Foshay Tower. Because of his fascination with the Washington Monument, Foshay had the building fashioned after it. A gala celebration was planned for the dedication. Governors of all the states and many other dignitaries were invited to Minneapolis at Foshay’s expense.
Sousa thought that such a gala event warranted a new march but evidently felt there was insufficient time to compose one. He had just finished a march for the lady students and faculty of the College of Industrial Arts in Denton, Texas, however, so he “borrowed” it. The “borrowed” march had been called “Daughters of Texas,” but he re-titled it “Foshay Tower Washington Memorial.”
Because of an apparent change in schedule, he would have had time to compose a new march for the Foshay occasion. But in the meantime his copyist had already extracted parts for the band and had affixed “Foshay Tower Washington Memorial” to them. So he made use of the extra time to compose a completely new march for the ladies at the school – actually a better one, according to march afficionados. This then became the “Daughters of Texas” march, and the ladies never knew of Sousa’s secret switch!
The stock market crash came two months later, and Foshay’s financial empire collapsed. In an ensuing investigation it came out that the W. B. Foshay Company had misrepresented its stock and had been guilty of illegal manipulation. In an eventful trial, one of Foshay’s former secretaries managed to seat herself as a juror and caused a hung jury. Later, however, Foshay was convicted of mail fraud and imprisoned.
Sousa did not want his name associated with the Foshay scandal and quietly withdrew his march from the public. He died before Foshay was imprisoned, and his family has since withheld the march from publication. Meanwhile, Foshay was serving a fifteen-year term in a federal prison. After three years, President Roosevelt commuted his sentence, and he was released on parole. Ten years later, President Truman granted him a complete pardon.
Once out of prison, Foshay copyrighted Sousa’s march and made several attempts to have it published. Sousa had presented him with a copy in 1929, and Foshay had incorrectly reasoned that it was Sousa’s last march. But apparently the Sousa family had informed several publishers of the circumstances, and Foshay was unable to find a publisher willing to go against their wishes.
More than three decades after the “Foshay Tower Washington Memorial” march had disappeared, Sousa’s daughter Helen discovered the band parts in the archives of the Sands Point estate. Almost coincidentally, there was a movement in Minneapolis to convert the top floor of the Foshay Tower into a museum. The Apache Oil Corporation, new owners of the building, conducted a survey to determine public sentiment concerning Foshay’s past history. The consensus was that Foshay had merely had the misfortune of being caught doing what many other corporation executives had done without detection. Because of this and Foshay’s subsequent record of public service, the public had forgiven him. So the museum was begun.
Representatives of the Apache company explained the situation to Sousa’s daughter Helen, who agreed to permit her father’s march to be played at the opening of the museum. After preparations had begun, however, she changed her mind. The march was not played, other scheduled events were canceled, and the museum was quietly opened in the spring of 1967.
The march eventually received another hearing, however, at quite a momentous occasion. When it was announced that John Philip Sousa was to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, the Sousa family decided that this might be a good time to re-premiere the march. So on August 23, 1976, the march was performed by the U.S. Marine Band – the first time in nearly forty-seven years.
Today the Foshay Tower stands as a landmark in Minneapolis, tribute to Wilbur B. Foshay – and George Washington. In the museum may be found memorabilia attesting to Foshay’s association with the “March King.”
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 52. Used by permission.
*PLEASE NOTE: Currently, none of the marches from Volume 7 are in the public domain. Recordings of non-PD marches are only available for streaming on YouTube. To purchase a published edition of this march, please visit the sheet music vendor of your choice.