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Mildred J. Hill

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Mildred J. Hill
Mildred Jane Hill

(1859-06-27)June 27, 1859
DiedJune 5, 1916(1916-06-05) (aged 56)
Resting placeCave Hill Cemetery
Known forComposing "Happy Birthday to You"
RelativesPatty Hill (sister)

Mildred Jane Hill (June 27, 1859 – June 5, 1916) was an American songwriter and musicologist, who composed the melody for "Good Morning to All", later used as the melody for "Happy Birthday to You".[1]



Mildred Jane Hill, born in Louisville, Kentucky, was the oldest of three sisters, Mildred, Patty, and Jessica. She learned music from her father, Calvin Cody, and Adolph Weidig.

It has been reported that Mildred Hill was a kindergarten and Sunday-school teacher, like her younger sister Patty.[citation needed] Prof. Robert Brauneis, after extensively researching the Hill family, has concluded that she was not a kindergarten teacher.[2] She moved into music, teaching, composing, performing, and specializing in the study of Negro spirituals. Hill and her sister were honored at the Chicago World's Fair (1893) for their work in the progressive education program at the experimental kindergarten, the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School.

She wrote about music using the pen name Johann Tonsor,[3] and her 1892 article "Negro Music", suggesting that the existing body of black music would be the basis of a distinctive American musical style, influenced Dvořák in composing the New World Symphony.[4]

Hill died in Chicago, Illinois, in 1916,[5] long before her song became famous. She is buried with her sister in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mildred Hill's manuscripts and papers are held by the University of Louisville Music Library in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Happy Birthday to You"


While teaching at the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School, the Hill sisters wrote the song "Good Morning to All"; Mildred wrote the melody, and Patty the lyrics. The song was first published in 1893 in Song Stories for the Kindergarten[6] as a greeting song for teachers to sing to their students.[7] Song Stories for the Kindergarten had over 20 editions, and the words were translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Swedish.[8]

"Happy Birthday to You" first appeared in print in 1912 using the melody of "Good Morning to All" with different lyrics.[9] Its popularity continued to grow through the 1930s, with no author identified for the new lyrics, nor credit given for the melody from "Good Morning to You". Based on 1935 copyright registrations by the Summy Company, and a series of court cases (which all settled out of court),[10] the sisters became known as the authors of "Happy Birthday to You". In September 2015, a federal judge declared that "Happy Birthday to You" is in the public domain.



Hill and her sister were posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 12, 1996.

See also



  1. ^ James J. Fuld (2000). The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 267–. ISBN 978-0-486-41475-1.
  2. ^ "Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song." Archived May 11, 2020, at the Wayback Machine Robert Brauneis. October 14, 2010. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
  3. ^ Simon Russell Beale (November 17, 2011). "New Nations and New Worlds". Symphony. Episode 3. BBC. Archived from the original on March 28, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  4. ^ Michael Beckerman (November 17, 2002). "MUSIC; Dvorak as Prime Mover, Sitting Duck and More". New York Times. Archived from the original on March 23, 2019. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
  5. ^ Fuld, James J. (2000). The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular and Folk. Courier Dover Publications. p. 267. ISBN 9780486414751. Archived from the original on May 24, 2024. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  6. ^ Hill, Mildred J. (1896). Song Stories for the Kindergarten. Internet Archive. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  7. ^ Brauneis, Robert (March 21, 2008), "Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song", Gw Law Faculty Publications & Other Works: 4–15, doi:10.2139/ssrn.1111624, SSRN 1111624, archived from the original on March 11, 2024, retrieved December 24, 2023
  8. ^ Biographical Extracts relating to Prominent Artists of Louisville and Kentucky. Louisville, Kentucky: Louisville Free Public Library. 1939. p. 107. Archived from the original on March 23, 2019. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  9. ^ Brauneis, Robert (March 21, 2008), Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song, p. 31, SSRN 1111624
  10. ^ Brauneis, Robert (March 21, 2008), Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song, p. 28, SSRN 1111624, The Myth of a Court Ruling
  11. ^ "The Little Loomhouse - Marker Number: 2298". Kentucky Historical Society. Retrieved May 25, 2024.