Born: Au­gust 28, 1840, Ed­in­burg, Penn­syl­van­ia.

Died: Aug­ust 13, 1908, Brook­lyn, New York.

Buried: Green-Wood Ce­me­te­ry, Brook­lyn, New York.



Ira was the son of Da­vid Ira San­key and Ma­ry Lee­per, hus­band of Fran­ces Vic­tor­ia Ed­wards (marr­ied 1863), and fa­ther of Ira A. San­key.

As a young man, he served in the Am­eri­can ci­vil war. He of­ten helped the un­it chap­lain and led his fel­low sol­diers in hymn sing­ing.

After the war, he joined the In­ter­nal Rev­e­nue Ser­vice, and al­so worked with the Young Men’s Chris­tian As­so­cia­tion (YMCA). He be­came well known as a Gos­pel sing­er, and ev­en­tu­al­ly came to the at­ten­tion of ev­an­gel­ist Dwight Ly­man Moo­dy.

The two men met at a YMCA con­ven­tion in In­di­an­apo­lis, In­di­ana, in June, 1870. Some months lat­er, San­key at­tend­ed his first ev­an­gel­is­tic meet­ing with Moo­dy, and re­signed from gov­er­nment ser­vice short­ly there­af­ter.

In Oc­tober 1871, San­key and Moo­dy were in the mid­dle of a re­vi­val meet­ing when the Great Chi­ca­go Fire be­gan. The two men bare­ly es­caped the in­fer­no with their lives. San­key end­ed up watch­ing the ci­ty burn from a row­boat on Lake Mi­chi­gan.

Sankey com­posed about 1,200 songs in his life­time. He was blind from glau­co­ma the last five years of his life, and no doubt found a kin­dred spir­it in his blind friend and mu­sic mak­ing part­ner Fan­ny Cros­by.





Great Chicago Fire, 1871