DANIEL DECATUR EMMETT
(born Oct. 29, 1815, Mount Vernon, Ohio, U.S. - died June 28, 1904, Mount Vernon), U.S. composer of "Dixie" and organizer of one of the first minstrel show troupes.
The son of a blacksmith, he joined the army at age 17 as a fifer. After his discharge in 1835 he played the drum in travelling circus bands. He was also a capable violinist, flutist, and singer. In 1843 in New York City he and three co-performers organized the Virginia Minstrels, a troupe that competes with the Christy Minstrels for recognition as the earliest minstrel show troupe. In 1858 Emmett joined the Bryant Minstrels.
His song "Dixie", written in 1859, was originally a "walk-around", or concluding number for a minstrel show. It attained national popularity and was later the unofficial national anthem of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War (1861-65) and the South thereafter. Several sets of words, Northern and Southern, were written for the song, but it survives in its version with Emmett's words.According to the most common explanation of the name, $10 notes issued before 1860 by the Citizens' Bank of New Orleans and used largely by French-speaking residents were imprinted with dix (French: "ten") on the reverse side; hence the land of Dixies, or Dixie Land, which applied to Louisiana and eventually the whole South. The song was originally a "hooray song" or walk-around in Jerry Bryant's minstrel show, for which Emmett, a native Ohioan of Virginian parents, performed and wrote music. It was played at the inauguration of Confederate Pres. Jefferson Davis on Feb. 18, 1861, in Montgomery, Ala.
Emmett retired in 1888 but subsequently toured in 1895 with A.G. Field's minstrel troupe.