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Harry Von Tilzer - Biography

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Songwriter Harry Von Tilzer was born July 8, 1872 in Detroit, Michigan. His birth name was Harry Gummbinsky. The family changed the name to Gumm. A theater company that performed above his father's shoe store in Indianapolis, Indiana was young Harry's introduction to show business. At the age of 14 Harry ran away from home to join the circus. He changed his name again to Von Tilzer. His mother's maiden name was Tilzer. For the next five years he traveled, composing, playing the piano and acting with the touring company. Leaving the circus he continued to write songs and perform in Burlesque and Vaudeville shows. In 1892 he moved to New York where he worked as a saloon pianist.

Von Tilzer literally wrote hundreds of songs, most unpublished or sold to other entertainers for a small fee. He decided to make a profession of song writing after his song "My Old New Hampshire Home" became a national hit, selling more than 2 million copies. He had sold the song for $15 outright to William C. Dunn, the owner of a small print shop. Another Von Tilzer hit song was "A Bird in a Gilded Cage" written in 1900 with Arthur A. Lamb.

Forming his own publishing company in 1902, Von Tilzer was a prolific producer of the popular sentimental ballads and minstrel songs of the period. He died in 1946, in New York City, at age 74.

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