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Eben Tourjée

American music educator, choral conductor and organist, was born in Warwick, Rhode Island on June 1, 1834.  He studied academic subjects at East Greenwich Seminary and music at Providence.

Portrait image of Eben Tourjee, NEC founder and first Director

Eben Tourjée’s History

In 1861 Tourjée became music director of the East Greenwich Seminary, and during 1863 he studied music for a short time in Germany. From 1867 Tourjée lived in Boston. In this year he and Robert Goldbeck established the New England Conservatory of Music, which remains one of the leading conservatories in the United States.

Tourjée helped to organize the mammoth choruses for the 1869 and 1872 peace jubilees in Boston. Through his initiative the first national conference of music teachers met at Boston in 1869, as the National Music Congress. When the Music Teachers National Association was organized in 1876 he served as its first president. An active Methodist and YMCA leader, he also led in church music development, compiling sacred music collections and encouraging congregational singing. Nason credited him with originating in 1851 the praise-meeting, a service combining scripture and song which Benson regarded as contributing to the prominence of gospel hymnody in American revivalism. Tourjée directed a choir of about 2000 singers during the 1877 Moody and Sankey revival in Boston.

On the establishment of Boston University in 1873 Tourjée became dean of its college of music. An honorary doctorate had been conferred upon him by Wesleyan University in 1869. Tourjée died in Boston on April 12, 1891. 

Biographical information taken from New Grove online.

Archival Collection

Two clamshell boxes; one containing nine file folders, the second containing one folder and 2 artifacts.

This collection was not originally a distinct collection. Because there is little information about Tourjée, but much interest, the NEC Archives has assimilated these materials into one collection over the years. The published articles about Tourjée were assembled by NEC librarians. Newspaper articles have been photocopied for the purpose of preservation. A note on one of the envelopes used to store these materials suggests that there is a possibility that the original materials in this collection…correspondence, memorial programs, European tour pamphlets etc. might at one time have been from a scrapbook that has since fallen apart. Inventorying and cataloging of some materials in this collection was previously done by former NEC Director of Libraries, Geraldine Ostrove, and Patrick Maxfield, current Head of Technical Services.

There are some items for which we do know their specific origins. The piece of correspondence from Tourjée to Miss Mary Evans was mailed to the NEC archives by Ruth Kowalewski in January 2002. The letter had been donated to St Mark’s Episcopal Church Thrift Shop in Hallstead, PA. The thrift shop had closed and Ms. Kowalewski thought the letter might be of value to NEC.

Secondly, the excerpt from the 1881 European tour prospectus was donated to the NEC archives by Mrs. Louis C. Elson in 1925.

The last four items listed in Folder 5(under Container List) were donated by David Reffkin in November 2010. The items are accompanied by his descriptive letter.

The last item in Folder 6(under Container List) was donated by Marian Vafiades in October 2010. Her donation letter accompanies the article.

The ambrotype photograph of the Tourjée family was purchased by the Conservatory in July 1997 from antique photograph dealer, Greg French. The family record of Ebenezer Tourjée was acquired along with the ambrotype.

The listing and articles from the Boston Globe were printed by library staff in November 2006.

The materials from the Rhode Island Hall of Fame ceremony were given to the Archives by Don Jones from NEC’s Office of Institutional Advancement in January 2007.

Access to the Tourjée Papers is granted by the Archivist. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. There are no access restrictions on this collection.

All copyrights to this collection belong to the New England Conservatory. Permission to publish materials from this collection is granted by the Library Director. This collection should be cited as: NECA 1.1. Eben Tourjée Papers, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.

The Eben Tourjée Papers are organized into the following eight series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Memorial programs/tributes
  3. European excursion materials
  4. Journal articles/Book Excerpts
  5. Newspaper clippings
  6. Photographs/memorabilia
  7. Rhode Island Hall of Fame materials
  8. Artifacts

Series 1: Correspondence

Folder 1

  • Letter. [Undated] Eben Tourjée to Emma J. Webber. Invitation to his home. [Auburndale?]
  • Letter. February 15, 1870, Eben Tourjée, Boston, to Miss Hawes, Oliver Ditson and Co., re: Concert at the Mission
  • Letter. February 6, 1873, Eben Tourjée, Boston, to Ella A. Mulliken, Rumney, NH
  • Letter. June 27, 1879, Eben Tourjée, Boston, to Jennie Congdon, Conwayboro, SC. Tourjee compliments her work as his pupil. Postmarked “Auburndale, MA”.
  • Letter. November 25, 1885, Eben Tourjée to Messrs Ivers and Pond regarding the quality of their instruments
  • Letter. February 5, 1889, Eben Tourjée to Dean Huntington, Boston University. Student recommendation
  • Letter. October 16, 188?, Eben Tourjée to Miss Mary Evans, Mechanicsburg, Ohio, a prospective student, about advantages of enrolling at NEC. Accompanied by gift letter

Series 2: Memorial programs/tributes

Folder 2

  • Program. [April 14?, 1891]. In Memoriam Eben Tourjée. Funeral services. Addresses by Rev. W. A. Brodbeck and Rev. W. R. Clark
  • Program. April 12, 1892. NEC concert held in Sleeper Hall in memory of Dr. Eben Tourjée
  • Program. June 1, 1892. Anniversary Exercises in honor of the birthday of Dr. Eben Tourjée. Alumni Association of NEC and BU College of Music
  • A Hymn of Homage by Louis C. Elson. Song text performed at the unveiling of the bust of Dr. Eben Tourjée on June 26, 1885 at NEC. See also photographs/memorabilia folder
  • Dennée (Charles) on Tourjée. Centennial of Tourjée’s birth? [1934?] (2 copies)

Series 3: European Excursion Materials

Folder 3

  • Circular. Reunion, tourists of 1878, 1879, and 1880 or 1881(2 copies).
  • Newsletter. The Tourjée Tourist. v. 2 no.1, April 1881. Boston, MA
  • Pamphlet, “Prospectus for tour of Europe in 1881,” printed 1880? p.13-26
  • Prospectus. “Tourjée’s Educational Excursions to Europe” [for 1884, printed 1883?]
  • “Song of the Tourists” by A. Tourist (probably Tourjée). Boston: New England Conservatory Music Store, c1884.

Series 4: Journal articles/Book Excerpts

Folder 4: Articles about Tourjée (NEC publications)

  • New England Conservatory Review. v. 3/2, June 1913. This issue contains “A Life Sketch of Eben Tourjée” by Elizabeth Samuel, based on notes from Eben Tourjée’s daughters, Clara Tourjée-Nelson (NEC Class of 1884) and Lizzie Tourjée-Estabrook (NEC Class of 1876)
  • New England Conservatory Bulletin. v.16/3, April 1934, p. 6-7. Tourjée Centenary announcement
  • New England Conservatory Bulletin. v.16/5, June 1934. p.1-2. Tourjée Centennial observance
  • New England Conservatory Bulletin. v.16/6, July 1934. p. 5-8. Tourjée Centennial observance
  • New England Conservatory Bulletin. v. 16/7, August 1934. re: the Tourjée celebration
  • New England Conservatory Bulletin, v. 19/2, April 1942. 75th Anniversary of the founding of NEC

Folder 5: Journal articles/Book Excerpts (other)

  • “Edward Ball and Some of his Descendants,” compiled by Nicholas Ball (Nicholas was the brother of Eben Tourjée’s mother, Angeline). Newport, RI: Mercury Print, 1891.
  • “The American Evangelists Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey with an account of their work in England and America and a sketch of the lives of P. P. Bliss and Dr. Eben Tourjée” by Rev. Elias Nason. Boston: D. Lothrop & Co. Publishers, 1877.
  • Catalogue and circular of the Musical Institute, Providence, R. I., for the spring and summer terms of 1865. Providence: Pierce and Budlong Printers, 1865.
  • “God’s Apostle of Music: Dr. Eben Tourjée, Musical Pioneer” by Leo Eben Tourjee. The Etude. April 1947. pp. 187, 194.
  • Excerpt from History of Fall River, with notices of Freetown and Tiverton as published in 1841 by Rev. Orin Fowler, A. M….Fall River, MA: Almy & Milne Printers, 1862. p. 94-95.
  • Excerpt from The Fall River Directory by George Adams. Fall River, MA: Robert Adams, 1855. pp 134-135, 146-147.
  • Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. No. CCCV, October 1875. Vol. LI, pp. 743-744.
  • Fitzpatrick, Edward J. “Eben Tourjee’s Rhode Island Roots” in Rhode Island History, v. 36 no. 3 (August 1977). Providence: Rhode Island Historical Society. pp. 81-91.
  • “Tourjee and the Conservatories” – Information taken from Providence Journal, 1934.
  • “Ancestors of Eben Tourjee,” Genealogical Review.
  • Map of West Warwick, RI (originally Warwick, RI). Tourjee lived in Phenix Village.
  • Descriptive donation letter accompanying the previous four bulleted items.
  • Boston University, Alumni Magazine, October 1928.
  • Boston University, Alumni Magazine, Vol. II no. 9, February 1929.

Series 5: Newspaper Clippings

Folder 6

  • A series of articles about Tourjée that appeared in the Lowell Courier-Citizen from May 21, 1934 – June 20, 1934. There are duplicate copies.
  • Excerpt from The Keynote, v. 1 no. 5, April 1855. Fall River, MA. (published about the 10th of every month by Eben Tourjee)
  • Downie, Robert M., “Block Island’s Lost Veterans of the Civil War,” Block Island Summer Times (July 2010), pp. 31-32. Includes donation letter.

Folder 7

  • Obituaries, biographical articles (some articles from The Boston Globe online archive)

Series 6: Photographs/memorabilia

Folder 8

  • Ambrotype photograph of the Tourjée siblings, c.1854. [From left to right: Mary, Celinda, Eben (at age 20), Jeremiah Hayden, and Charity]. Reproduction with accompanying materials kept with collection. Original kept in secure location.
  • Family record of Ebenezer Tourjée (a listing of members of the Tourjée family with birth and death dates)

Folder 9:

  • Two teaching receipts
  • Two small photo clippings of Tourjée
  • Two photos of the Tourjée bust – one 8 x10, the other approx 8 ½ x 11
  • Photograph of a National Peace Jubilee Chorus ticket (June 1869) and a Chorus membership certificate
  • National Musical Congress, Brochure, Boston, 1869

Box 2

Series 7: Rhode Island Hall of Fame materials

Folder 1

  • Contains certificate, description from NEC Update, newspaper article, and photograph

Series 8: Artifacts

  • Paper weight from Rhode Island Hall of Fame
  • Small attache case with Tourjee’s name engraved