Thomas Hastings

15 October 1784–15 May 1872

The cause of Sacred Music in America is under great ob­ligations to the late Dr. Thomas Hastings. Few men have labored so long, so earnestly, so intelligently, so devoutly, and so successfully, for the improvement of “the service of song” in the worship of God. To him, and the late Dr. Lowell Mason—”par nobile fratrum!”—more than to all others, is to be attributed the great advance made in the character of this part of public worship during the last half century. They may properly be regarded as the founders of the prevailing psalmody of America.

Thomas Hastings was the son of Seth Hastings, M.D., and was born, October 15, 1784, at Washington, Litchfield Co., Conn., where the first twelve years of his boyhood were spent. In the winter of 1796, his father, in company with several of his neighbors, removed to Oneida Co., N.Y., and located in the town of Clinton, a remote settlement, quite on the frontiers of civilization. Here the son became inured to hardship in the clearing of the forests, and the subjugation of the virgin soil to the plough. His opportu­nities of education were quite limited and remote—a daily walk of six miles in cold and storm and drifting snows, being required for two winters, in order to Academic schooling. Having an acute ear for music, and a corre­sponding passion for the art, he began the study of the sci­ence “with a sixpenny gamut of four diminutive pages,” under a not very competent teacher. He next mastered an old book of psalmody, and at length became the chorister of the village church. An elaborate treatise on music, bought at auction, came into his hands, and was thoroughly studied and apprehended.

Having reached the age of manhood (1805), he offered himself as a singing-school teacher, but, because of his im­perfect sight (he was an albino), fruitlessly. The follow­ing winter (1806-7), however, he taught a singing-school at Bridgewater, Oneida Co., and another at Brookfield, Herki­mer Co.; and thus began the work of his life. Years passed on, and other openings offered. One year was given to business pursuits, and four years to the care of his father’s farm. In 1816, he gave himself to the profession of music. A Musical Society (“the Handel and Burney”) had been formed in Oneida Co. Under their patronage, Mr. Hastings and Prof. Seth Norton compiled two pamphlet numbers of sacred music, which were subsequently enlarged, and, hav­ing been united with the Springfield Collection, edited by Col. Solomon Warriner, were published (1822) as Mu­sica Sacra. His Musical Reader was issued in 1817.

A winter (1816-7) spent in Troy, N.Y., served to de­velop a remarkable fluency in public speaking, and he be­came a popular Lecturer on Music. He wrote, also, for the periodical press; and, in 1822, published at Albany, N.Y., A Dissertation on Musical Taste, by which he became extensively known as a musical author.

From Troy he removed to Albany, and became the pre­centor of the Rev. Dr. Chester’s church. Thence, in the autumn of 1823, he removed to Utica, N.Y., to become the editor of a religious periodical. He continued to edit the Western Recorder from January, 1824, until the latter part of 1832, advocating in its columns, with marked ability, his views of Sacred Music, and taking frequent opportunities to lecture, by invitation, in various places, on his favorite theme. An Address, which he delivered before the Gen­eral Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, at Philadelphia, May 23, 1829, was published shortly after in the Biblical Repertory. He prepared (1830), for the American Sunday­-School Union, The Union Minstrel, for the Use of Sabbath Schools and Juvenile Classes. The Rev. Joshua Leavitt, of New York, had just published The Christian Lyre, a Col­lection of Hymns and Tunes, which had appeared weekly in successive Numbers of the New York Evangelist (of which he was the editor), designed for “Prayer-Meetings, and Revivals of Religion.” It had been received with great favor, and extensive patronage. To counteract what was thought to be the injurious tendency of this publica­tion in the matter of musical taste, Mr. Hastings, conjointly with Lowell Mason, of Boston, issued [1831] a similar se­rial, that was published collectively [1832] as Spiritual Songs for Social Worship.

The fame of Mr. Hastings, as a successful teacher of Sa­cred Music, had now become widespread. Several churches of New York City united (1832) in a request that he would remove to New York, and make it the centre of his opera­tions. He complied, and, removing thither, November, 1832, found a wide field for his art among the churches of the metropolis. A year later, he became the chorister of the Bleecker Street Presbyterian Church. He published (1834) The Mother’s Hymn-Book (145 hymns) … for the Use of Maternal Associations; and, shortly after, his Mother’s Nursery Songs. He became the editor (1836) of a periodical called The Musical Magazine, from the 24 Numbers of which, he compiled [1836] his Musical Miscel­lany. The Christian Psalmist, a hymn-book contain­ing, in addition to Watts’ Psalms, 648 hymns from Watts and others, was compiled, and published (1836), by the Rev. William Patton, D.D., of New York, and himself—great liberties having been taken with the originals.

He prepared and published (1837) The Manhattan Col­lection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes and Anthems, . . . .under the special Patronage of the New York Academy of Sacred Music, of which he was one of the most active and influential members. Three years later (1840), under the same Patronage, he issued The Sacred Lyre. Both of these works were received with much favor. To these he now added The New York Academy Collection of Anthems [Anthems, Motets, Sentences, Choruses, etc., 1836]. In 1842, he edited, for the American Tract Society, a vol­ume of Sacred Songs for Family and Social Worship, containing 183 Tunes; and, subsequently, their Songs of Zion.

With the late William B. Bradbury, a much younger man, and an ardent lover of sacred song, he united in the compilation and publication of The Psalmodist (1844), The New York Choralist (1847), The Mendelssohn Col­lection (1849), and The Psalmista (1851). These Col­lections met with a large patronage.

He now gathered together the hymns that during the previous forty years he had composed, many of them to meet special wants, either of occasions or tunes, and pub­lished them (1850) in a volume, entitled, Devotional Hymns [199] and Religious Poems. One of the latter contains nearly 1,000 lines.

He edited (1852), The Presbyterian Psalmodist (a collec­tion of about 500 tunes) and the Juvenile Psalmodist, for the Presbyterian Board of Publication. He also assisted Messrs. Bradbury and Root in the compilation (1853) of The Shawm, a Library of Church Music. In 1854, he published the entertaining History of Forty Choirs with the most of which he had been previously connected. He also published a Sunday-School Hymn and Tune Book. He united with his son, the Rev. Thomas S. Hastings, D.D., in the compilation and publication (1858) of Church Melo­dies, a Collection of [871] Psalms and Hymns with Appro­priate Music. Finally, he gathered together such of his hymn tunes and other musical compositions as he desired to preserve, gave them a careful and thorough revision, and then (1860) issued them in a volume, entitled, Hastings’s Church Music, 235 pieces—not more than half, probably, of what he had composed. Among his publications were a volume on Sacred Praise, and another on Prayer. He was the author of about 600 hymns.

Dr. Hastings continued, for forty years, to reside in New York, contributing constantly to the periodical press. He was greatly beloved and universally honored as a noble Christian man, as well as an accomplished musician. He died, at his home, May 15, 1872, in his eighty-eighth year.

by Edwin Hatfield
The Poets of the Church (1884)

Featured Tunes:


Collections of Hymns: 

Musica Sacra

1st ed. (1815): WorldCat
2nd ed. (1816): WorldCat
Rev. ed. (1818):
2nd rev. ed. (1819):
3rd rev. ed. (1822):
4th rev. ed. (1823):
5th rev. ed. (1825): WorldCat
6th rev. ed. (1827):
7th rev. ed. (1828): HathiTrust
8th rev. ed. (1829):
9th rev. ed. (1831): WorldCat
10th rev. ed. (1835): WorldCat

Juvenile Psalmody (1827): WorldCat

Spiritual Songs for Social Worship

1831: vol. 1 | vol. 2 | vol. 3 | vol. 4
1832 (PDF)
1833 (PDF)
1837 (PDF)

The Mother’s Hymn Book

1st ed. (1834):
New ed., rev. & enl. (1849): PDF
3rd ed. (1859):

The Union Minstrel (1834): PDF

Mother’s Nursery Songs

1st ed. (1835):
New ed., rev. & enl. (1848):

The Christian Psalmist (1836):
Musical Miscellany, vols. 1 & 2 (1836):
The Manhattan Collection (1837):
The Sacred Lyre (1840): WorldCat
Sacred Songs for Family and Social Worship

1st ed. (1842):
Rev. & Enl. (1855):

The Psalmodist (1844): Google Books
Indian Melodies (1845):
The New York Choralist (1847): Google Books
The Crystal Fount (1847):
The Sunday School Lyre (1847): WorldCat
The Sacred Choralist (1847): WorldCat
The Mendelssohn Collection (1849): WorldCat
Congregational Harmony (1849): WorldCat
Devotional Hymns and Religious Poems (1850):
Songs of Zion (1851) ? : WorldCat
Psalmista, or Choir Melodies (1851): Google Books
The Presbyterian Psalmodist (1852):
The Shawm: A Library of Church Music (1853): PDF
Sabbath School Songs (1853): WorldCat
Selah: A Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1856):
The Presbyterian Juvenile Psalmodist (1856):
Church Melodies (1858):
Hastings’s Church Music (1860):
Introits, or Short Anthems and Hymn Set Pieces (1865): WorldCat

see also:

The Sabbath School Singing Book (1843): WorldCat

Additional hymns, adopted by the General Synod of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in North America (1846): WorldCat

Psalms & Hymns (Dutch Reformed, 1847):

Charles Robinson, Songs of the Church (1862):

Charles Robinson, Songs for the Sanctuary (1865):

Lyra Sacra Americana (1868):

Edwin Hatfield, Church Hymn Book (1872):

Other Works by Hastings:

The Musical Reader:

1st ed. (1817): WorldCat
Rev. ed. (1819):

A New and Improved Violin Preceptor (1822): WorldCat

Flute Melodies (1822): WorldCat

Dissertation on Musical Taste 

1st ed. (1822):
2nd ed. (1853):

Western Recorder (1824-1832): WorldCat

The Musical Magazine (1835-1837): WorldCat

Anthems, Motets, Sentences, Choruses, Trios, Duets, Solos, and Pieces for Miscellaneous Practice (NY Academy, 1836): WorldCat

Elements of Vocal Music (1839): WorldCat

“Sacred Music: source of the prevailing abuses in cultivation, and the only practical remedy,” The American Biblical Repository, Second Series (1844):

The Chorus Glee Book (1851): HathiTrust

The History of Forty Choirs (1854):

Sacred Praise: An Earnest Appeal to Christian Worshipers (1856): HathiTrust


Thomas Samuel Hastings Papers, Burke Library Archives, Union Theological Seminary:

Related Resources:

Josiah Miller, “Thomas Hastings, Mus. Doc.,” Singers and Songs of the Church (London : Longmans, Green & Co., 1869), pp. 385-386:

Thomas Hastings, 1784–1872 (NY: Anson D.F. Randolph, n.d.): WorldCat

Edwin Hatfield, “Thomas Hastings,” The Poets of the Church (1884), pp. 297-301:

Samuel Duffield, English Hymns: Their Authors and History, 3rd ed., rev. (NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1888), pp. 163-165:

Frederick M. Bird, “Thomas Hastings,” A Dictionary of Hymnology, ed. John Julian (London, 1907), pp. 494-495, 1569: Google Books

Frank J. Metcalf: American Writers and Compilers of Sacred Music (New York, 1925), pp. 194-199.

M.B. Scanlon: “Thomas Hastings,” Musical Quarterly, vol. 32 (1946), pp. 265–77.

J.E. Dooley: Thomas Hastings: American Church Musician, dissertation (Florida State University, 1963).

L.M. Roth: Heaven, Harmony, and Home: Thomas Hastings’s and Joshua Leavitt’s Dueling Tunebooks, dissertation (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1996).

J.M. Jordan, Sacred Praise: Thomas Hastings on Church Music in Nineteenth-Century America, dissertation (Ft. Worth, TX: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1999).

Hermine Weigel Williams, Thomas Hastings: An Introduction to His Life and Music (New York, 2005).

Richard Crawford & David W. Music, “Thomas Hastings,” Grove Music Online:

Anne Bagnall Yardley, “Thomas Hastings,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:

Thomas Hastings,