Greenewalt, Mary Elizabeth Hallock, 1871-1950

Alternative names
Birth 1871
Death 1950

Biographical notes:

Musician, inventor, and author.

From the description of Papers of Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt, 1918-1942. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 83609205

Born in Beirut, September 8, 1871 to Sara (Tabet) Hallock, descendant of an aristocratic Syrian family, and Samuel Hallock, a U.S. consul, she was educated in Beirut and Philadelphia. Hallock graduated from Philadelphia's Musical Academy in 1893, and in 1897 studied piano in Vienna with Theodore Leschetizky. In 1898 in Johnstown, New York, Hallock married Dr. Frank L. Greenewalt, thirty-two years old and a physician-in-chief at Girard College. The Greenewalts had one son, Crawford, born in 1902. Greenewalt began in the early 1900s to investigate how gradated colored lighting might enhance the emotional expression of music. By 1920 Greenewalt had obtained the first of many patents covering a color organ designed to project a sequence of colored lighting arranged for specific musical programs. Although awarded eleven patents, Greenewalt spent a number of years pursuing patent infringements, finding recourse in the courts in 1932 with a judgment in her favor. Greenewalt's professional activities also included lecturing on music and serving as a delegate to the National Women's Party, which was instrumental in winning women's suffrage. After retiring from the concert and lecture stage, Greenewalt published Nourathar: The Fine Art of Light-Color Playing in 1946. She died on November 26, 1950, in Wilmington, Delaware.

From the description of Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt papers, 1769-1950 bulk 1879-1950. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). WorldCat record id: 122609443

Biographical Note

  • 1871, Sept. 8: Born, Beirut, Lebanon, then part of Syria
  • 1882: Arrived in Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1893: Graduated, Philadelphia Musical Academy, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1897: Studied piano with Theodore Leschetizky, Vienna, Austria
  • 1898: Married Frank L. Greenewalt
  • 1905: Began investigation of how gradated colored lighting might enhance the emotional expression of music
  • 1918: Published Light: Fine Art the Sixth; A Running Nomenclature to Underly the Use of Light as a Fine Art. Philadelphia: Westbrook Publishing Co. Filed her first patent, “Illuminating Means”
  • 1920: Columbia records released her performance of Chopin's Preludes in E Minor, C minor, A Major and Nocturne in G Major
  • 1920 - 1934 : Sued for and won infringement of patent cases relating to her invention of a color organ device named "Sarabet" after her mother
  • 1946: Published Nourathar, the Fine Art of Light Color Playing. Philadelphia: Westbrook Publishing Co.
  • 1950, Nov. 26: Died, Wilmington, Del.

From the guide to the Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt Papers, 1918-1942, (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)


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  • Music
  • Organ (musical instrument)
  • Women inventors
  • Musical inventions and patents
  • Light
  • Music and color


  • Authors
  • Musicians
  • Inventors
  • Pianists


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