Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Touch for luck
OAKLAND – An unusual superstition believed to bring good luck has put Pittsburgh on a list of destinations with the most unusual tourist attractions.
A bronze statue of locally-born musician Stephen Foster with his slave outside of Carnegie Music Hall in city's Oakland section has caught the eye of Roadside Magazine because of the number of people who believe that rubbing the slave's big toe will put fortune on their side.
"It's listed among the bizarre places to go in America. It's like the world's biggest ball of mud. We're right up there with that," said Kathy Haines, associate director of the Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh, which houses Foster's archives and a nearby museum in his honor.
No one seems to know how the superstition began at the statue, which was moved from Schenley Park to its present site along Forbes Avenue to protect it from vandalism.
Many Pittsburghers are probably unaware of the giant ball of mud near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. It's not lucky, either.
Someone with more of an interest in America's most famous folk song writer would not want to pass up the Stephen C. Foster Memorial at Pitt, directly across the street from the statue.
Housed in an alcove at the Gothic landmark Cathedral of Learning at Pitt, the museum is home to the only known likeness of Foster's wife, who was believed to be the
inspiration for his tune "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair."
While there, check out the cured horse's jawbone mentioned in Foster's song, "Angelina Baker," and used as a percussion instrument in his minstrel show.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday
Call: 412-624-4100 for group tours
(Portions were published with permision of the Observer-Reporter)