John Francis Tuckerman (1817-1885)

The brief article on “Music of the Winter,” at the end of the first volume of “The Dial,” was the only one written by John F. Tuckerman for that publication. He seems to have had no close connection with the transcendentalists, and it was probably through his acquaintance with some one of them that he came to write this paper for its pages. He was born in Boston, June 13, 1817, graduated at Harvard in 1837, and at the Medical School connected therewith in 1841. Immediately after completing his medical studies he entered the United States Navy as an assistant surgeon, and served on the “John Adams” at the South American, African, and other naval stations. In 1847 he was made Past Assistant Surgeon, and was stationed at the Naval Hospital in Chelsea, Massachusetts. In October of that year he was appointed to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery at Washington, to which city he removed. In the autumn of 1851 he resigned from the navy, and went to live in Salem, having married a daughter of Leverett Saltonstall of that city. He held several business positions of responsibility in Boston, as treasurer of various institutions, and manager in a large number of private trusts. He was a man of distinguished integrity, and remarkable for his accuracy in the management of accounts. He died in Salem, June 27, 1885.

Tuckerman was much interested in music, as his article will indicate. He had an exquisite tenor voice, and for thirty-five years he was active in the musical interests of Salem. He was president of the Salem Academy of Music in 1854, and the next year of the Salem Choral Society. In 1870 he organized a chorus for the study of Mass music. For ten years he had charge of the music of the North Church in that city. then for twenty-five years of Grace Church. of which he was for many years a vestryman. He made an extensive collection of church music for his choir work, and he wrote much music himself, one volume of his compositions being privately printed. “Dr. Tuckerman’s influence in the cultivation of a purer and higher style of music in our city.” says one of his friends, “soon became apparent, and the aid of his voice was early called for. He devoted himself for years to choir work with most successful results, bringing to its duties an exquisite musical taste and culture, and devotion to its interests rarely seen. He was called to the presidency of several of the musical organizations of our city, filling the respective positions with peculiar grace and dignity! He was ever ready to respond to the many calls upon him as an ardent lover of music and a generous and disinterested patron of the arts. His compositions of sacred music are of a high order of merit, and while best fitted for use by the more accomplished singer and best appreciated by the cultivated musical ear, they will, we think. stand high as ranked by competent musical critics.”

—George Willis Cooke, A Historical
and Biographical Introduction to the Dial
(Cleveland: Rowfant Club, 1902) v. 2, pp. 99-100