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Maria von Trapp

photo from Declaration of Intention, 21 January 1944
Born Maria Augusta Kutschera
26 January 1905(1905-01-26)
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died 28 March 1987 (aged 82)
Morrisville, Vermont, USA
Spouse(s) Georg von Trapp (1880-1947) (m. 1927–1947) «start: (1927-11-26)–end+1: (1948)»"Marriage: Georg von Trapp (1880-1947) to Maria von Trapp" Location: (linkback:
Children Rosemarie von Trapp (b.1929)
Eleonore von Trapp (b.1931)
Johannes von Trapp (b.1939)

Baroness Maria Augusta von Trapp (26 January 1905 – 28 March 1987) was the stepmother and matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers. Her story and that of her family's escape from the Nazis after the Anschluss served as inspiration for the musical The Sound of Music.[1]



Maria Augusta Kutschera was born on a train heading from her parents' village in Tyrol to a hospital in Vienna, Austria. She was an orphan by her seventh birthday. She graduated from the State Teachers College for Progressive Education in Vienna at age 18, in 1923. She entered Nonnberg Abbey, a Benedictine (Roman Catholic) monastery in Salzburg, intending to become a nun. While still a candidate for the novitiate, she was asked to teach one of the seven children of widowed naval commander Georg Ludwig von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp, who had died from scarlet fever.

Maria and Georg were married on 26 November 1927.[1][2]

Trapp lost his fortune in 1935.[2] Previously, it had been safely invested in a bank in London. The Captain, to help Mrs. Lammer, a friend in the banking business, withdrew the money from the English bank and deposited it in Mrs. Lammer's bank, which promptly failed. Austria had been experiencing economic pressure as a result of German pressure and other factors.

To survive, the Trapps sent away most of their servants, moved into the top floor, and rented the empty rooms to students of the Catholic University. The Archbishop sent Father Wasner to stay with them as their chaplain and the family began turning its love of music into a career. After performing at a festival in 1935, they became a popular touring act. Shortly after the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, the family moved to Italy and then to the United States. The family's former Austrian family home became the headquarters of Heinrich Himmler.[3]

Initially calling themselves the "Trapp Family Choir", the von Trapps began to perform in the United States and Canada. They got attention when they performed in New York City at The Town Hall on December 10, 1938.[4][1][5] The New York Times wrote:

There was something unusually lovable and appealing about the modest, serious singers of this little family aggregation as they formed a close semicircle about their self-effacing director for their initial offering, the handsome Mme. von Trapp in simple black, and the youthful sisters garbed in black and white Austrian folk costumes enlivened with red ribbons. It was only natural to expect work of exceeding refinement from them, and one was not disappointed in this.[1][5]

After an unsuccessful engagement with Charles Wagner, they signed on with Frederick C. Schang. He thought the name Trapp Family Choir was too churchy and otherwise "Americanized" their repertoire and at his suggestion, the group changed its name to the "Trapp Family Singers".[3] The family, which by then included ten children, became famous in a new context and was soon touring the world.[1]

After the war, they founded the Trapp Family Austrian Relief, Inc., which sent hundreds of thousands of pounds of food and clothing to impoverished Austria.

In the 1940s the family moved to Stowe, Vermont, where they ran a music camp when they were not touring. In 1944, Maria and her stepdaughters Johanna, Martina, Maria, Hedwig, and Agathe applied for U.S. citizenship. Georg never filed to become a citizen. Rupert and Werner became citizens by serving during World War II. Rosmarie and Eleonore became citizens by virtue of their mother's citizenship. Johannes was born in the United States.[2]

Georg von Trapp died in 1947 in Vermont from lung cancer.

The Trapp family made a series of 78 rpm discs for RCA Victor in the 1950s, some of which were later issued on RCA Camden LPs. There were also a few later recordings released on LPs, including some stereo sessions. The family also made an appearance on an Elvis Presley Christmas record. In 1957, the Trapp Family Singers disbanded and went their separate ways. Maria and three of her children became missionaries in the South Pacific.

In the mid-1960s Maria moved back to Vermont to manage the Trapp Family Lodge. She started to turn over management to her son Johannes von Trapp, but was reluctant to turn over ownership.[6]


Maria von Trapp died on March 28, 1987, of heart failure in Morrisville, Vermont, three days after surgery.[1] She had outlived her husband, who died before the book, musical, and films appeared, by 40 years. Maria, her husband Georg, Hedwig von Trapp, and Martina von Trapp are interred in the family cemetery at the Lodge.


Name Birth Death Notes
Rosemarie von Trapp 8 February 1928[7]
or 8 February 1929
Maria's Petition for Naturalization uses 1928 and the information was given under oath to God. Other non legally-binding documents use the date of 8 February 1929. There is much controversy as to which date is correct. She most recently lived in Pittsburgh, no children.
Eleonore von Trapp 14 May 1931[7] Married Hugh David Campbell in 1954 and had seven daughters with him, currently lives with her family in Waitsfield (Vermont)
Johannes Georg von Trapp 17 January 1939[7] Married Lynne Peterson in 1969 and had one son and one daughter with her

The Sound of Music

Maria's book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, published in 1949, was a best-seller. It was made into two successful German/Austrian films:

The book was later adapted into The Sound of Music, a successful Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, which resulted in an immensely popular U.S. motion picture. The Sound of Music, with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, opened on Broadway in the fall of 1959, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel. It was a success, running for more than three years. The film version set box office records, but Mrs. Trapp said she received only about $500,000 in royalties.[1] Maria von Trapp makes a cameo appearance in the movie version of The Sound of Music. For an instant, she, her daughter Rosemarie, and Werner's daughter Barbara can be seen walking past an archway during the song, "I Have Confidence", at the line, "I must stop these doubts, all these worries/If I don't, I just know I'll turn back."[8]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Maria von Trapp, Whose Life was 'Sound of Music', is Dead". New York Times. 29 March 1987. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Maria Augusta von Trapp, the guiding force behind a family of singers who won world reknown when their story was portrayed in the play and film The Sound of Music, died of heart failure yesterday in Morrisville, Vt., three days after undergoing surgery. She was 82 years old, and had lived in Stowe, Vermont, for more than 40 years. ... She is survived by a son, Johannes, of Stowe; two daughters, Eleonore Campbell of Waitsfield, Vermont, and Rosmarie Trapp of Pittsburgh; two stepsons, Rupert, of Stowe, and Werner, of Waitsfield; three stepdaughters, Agathe von Trapp of Glyndon, Maryland, Maria F. Trapp of Papua, New Guinea, and Johanna von Trapp of San Diego, and by 29 grandchildren."  
  2. ^ a b c Gearin, Joan. "The Real Story of the von Trapp Family". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 2009-01-05. "Maria Kutschera and Georg von Trapp married in 1927. They had three children together: Rosmarie, 1928– ; Eleonore, 1931– ; and Johannes, 1939–."  
  3. ^ a b Trapp, Maria Augusta (1953). The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. "After Armistice day when the boys [Maria's sons] were still in Europe, they had gone for a short visit to Salzburg and found that our old home there had been confiscated by Heinrich Himmler; that it had been made his headquarters for the last period of that cruel war; that the chapel had been turned into a beer parlour; and what had been Father Wasner's room had become Hitler's quarters when he came there."  
  4. ^ "Family Choir". Time magazine. December 19, 1938.,9171,772134,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-05. "Last autumn they decided to go to the U. S. Traveling all together in a specially chartered bus, Papa von Trapp, Mama von Trapp and the seven young singing von Trapps barnstormed the Middle West and South, surprised many a gas-station attendant with their dirndl dresses and Lederhosen. Last week they wound up in Manhattan, singing a program of Renaissance music and Austrian folk songs at Town Hall. Manhattan critics found their singing the last word in freshness and refinement."  
  5. ^ a b "Group Heard in Choral Works of Five Centuries in Its First Appearance Here". New York Times. December 11, 1938. Retrieved 2009-01-05. "An intriguing array of choral selections, culled from the music of the last five centuries, and representative works for the early vertical flutes known as recorders, was presented by the Trapp Family Choir at their first New York concert given yesterday afternoon at Town Hall."  
  6. ^ Trapp, Maria Augusta (1972). Maria: Maria Von Trapp, My Own Story. ISBN 0902088432. "Like many other parents who have been leaders for a very long time, I simply didn't know how to step down without bitterness and reproaches ... There I found myself in the middle of a generation gap."  
  7. ^ a b c "Petition for Naturalization". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 2009-01-05.  
  8. ^ Anderson, William (1998). The World of the Trapp Family. Anderson Publications. ISBN 1890757004.  

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