In his most productive years, he made a little over $1000/year. There were no copyright laws, no royalties , no recordings for sale. You could only publish your song sheets.
A melodic genius with tender, sympathetic lyrics and infectious rhythm, Stephen Foster is often credited as "America's First Composer" and widely regarded as one of the first who made professional songwriting profitable. Fosters' songs were the first
genuinely American in theme, characterizing love of home, American temperament, river life and work, politics, battlefields, slavery and plantation life.
Sadly, Stephen Foster died, alone and penniless, in a New York hospital, at 37 years