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John Philip Sousa
By Cheri Mello

John Philip Sousa was born on 6 November 1854 in Washington, D.C. When John was 5 years old, he wanted more doughnuts. His mother said no. So John went outside in the rain for half an hour. He caught pneumonia that left him ill for almost 2 years. At the age of 7, he went to school where he also learned music and how to play various instruments. At the age of 11, he started his own dance band. Two years later, while practicing his violin, a man from the circus heard John practicing and talked him into running away in the middle of the night to join the circus. His father found out of his plans, and the next day, he had John join up for the Marines at the age of 13, as an apprentice. (John's father, John Antonio Sousa, was a trombonist with the U.S. Marine Band).

John continued his studies and performing. In 1879, at the age of 25, John met Jane van Middlesworth. "Jennie" as she was called, was a singer. They married in Philadelphia on 30 December 1879. They had 3 children, all born in Washington, D.C.: John Philip Sousa, Jr. born on 1 April 1881; Jane Priscilla Sousa, born on 7 August 1882; and Helen Sousa, born on 21 January 1887.

While the Marine band leader, John wrote many songs, marches and other melodies. Tired of the "stuffy" music that the public was told was "culture," John composed music that would appeal to the people. Arthur Fiedler said of John Philip Sousa: "Sousa probably did more to diminish musical snobbery than any other conductor of his time." In 1891, the band performed in New England as well as the Midwest. In 1892, John started his own band, which he aptly named "The Sousa Band." Their home was in New York City. In 1896, John composed one of his most greatest and famous marches, "Stars and Stripes Forever." He traveled extensively in Europe, performing in 175 concerts.

John also became involved in politics. He fought for, and won, the rights of composers. They were to be paid when their music was recorded.

During World War I, when John was 62, the U.S. Navy asked John to join them and start a band. He did this, raising over $21,000,000 in war bonds. After the war, John went back to his Sousa Band.

On 6 March 1932 at the age of 77, John Philip Sousa died in a hotel room in Reading, Pennsylvania. He is buried at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

John Philip Sousa's father was John Antonio Sousa, who was better known as Antonio. Antonio's parents were John Antonio Sousa and Josephine de Blanco. It is believed that due to the Peninsular War in 1822, that John and Josphine fled Portugal for Spain. It was in Seville, Spain, on 22 September 1824 that John Antonio was born. Antonio was well schooled and could speak many languages. He was in the British and U.S. Navies. He also served in the Mexican War.

While stationed in New York, Antonio met Marie Elisabeth Trinkaus, daughter of Peter Trinkaus and Catherine Schafers. They had immigrated to America from Hesse Darmstadt (Frankish Prumbach), Bavaria around 1846.

Antonio and Marie had the 10 childern, with 6 living to adulthood:
Catherine Margaret Sousa (6 Dec 1890 - 28 Dec 1939)
Josephine Sousa (c. 1851-1854 - c. 1854)
John Philip Sousa (6 Nov 1854 - 6 Mar 1932)
Ferdinand M. Sousa (6 Feb 1857 - 16 Apr 1857)
Rosina Sousa (Mar 1858 - 2 Mar 1860)
George William Sousa (7 Feb 1859 - 20 Jan 1913)
Annie Frances Sousa (1863 - 27 Jun 1865)
Mary Elisabeth (Elise) Sousa (18 Dec 1865 - 16 Mar 1940)
Antonio Augustus Sousa (25 Mar 1868 - 8 May 1918)
Louis Marion Sousa (13 Jan 1870 - 19 Aug 1929)

Ancestors of John Antonio Sousa are thought to be Thomas de Sousa, the first Captain General of Brazil; Alfonse de Sousa, Viceroy of India; Goncalo de Sousa, Chief Justice of Portugal; ans Louis de Sousa, a writer.

(Note: All ancestors names appear to be "Americanized).
Bierley, Paul E. John Philip Sousa, American Phenomenon. 1973. Prentice Hall, Inc. (Available from
Greene, Carol. John Philip Sousa, The March King. 1992. Children's Press.


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