Patrick S. Gilmore, an American bandleader before the time of John Philip Sousa, was born on 25 December 1829 in Ireland. Most sources place Gilmore's birth in the town of Ballygar, but recent research by Frank Cipolla has suggested Mullingar as a more likely birthplace. The young Gilmore learned to play the cornet under a retired British bandmaster named Patrick Keating and was soon playing in the city of Athlone's Amateur Youth Band and singing in St. Peter's Catholic Church Choir.
Gilmore emigrated to the United States in 1849 and arrived in New York on October 16. The young musician settled in Boston where he soon headed the band instrument department at Ordway's Music Store and played with Ordway's minstrel ensemble, the Aeolian Vocalists.
By 1852, Gilmore was leading the Charlestown, Massachusetts Town Band, and soon thereafter, the Suffolk Brass Band. In 1853 he briefly directed the Boston Brigade Band but soon left for Salem where he led the Salem Brigade Band, which played for the inauguration of President James Buchanan. In 1858, Gilmore married Ellen O'Neill, and the next year they returned to Boston. On 9 April 1859, the reorganized Boston Brigade Band gave its first concert as Patrick Gilmore's Band.
General Order 48, issued on 31 July 1861, allowed for military bands to serve in the Union army. Gilmore's Band enlisted on 16 September 1861 and attached itself to the 24th Massachusetts Infantry, which it accompanied to Camp Massasoit near Boston. Gilmore and his musicians provided music for the Regiment and also served as stretcher bearers at battles in Roanoke, New Bern, Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Nashville, Petersburg, and Richmond. In August 1862, Congress discharged most military bands in an effort to lower costs. In 1863, however, the governor of Massachusetts charged Gilmore with reorganizing the state's military bands. In March 1864, Gilmore was sent to New Orleans to oversee music for the inauguration of Louisiana's new governor. This event, with its chorus of 6000, band of 500, cannons, and anvils, foreshadowed Gilmore's later monster concerts.
After the war, Gilmore returned to Boston where he formed Gilmore and Wright, a musical instrument manufacturer. His National Peace Jubilee opened on 15 June 1869, and audiences were treated to five days of music featuring over 1000 instrumentalists and 10,000 vocalists. The concertmaster for the event was the great violinist Ole Bull, and Gilmore earned some $40,000. The end of the Franco-Prussian war led Gilmore to organize an even larger celebration, the World Peace Jubilee. This time the event lasted 18 days, closing on 4 July 1872. The audience was able to hear 2000 instrumentalists and 20,000 adult voices, as well as the orchestra of Johann Strauss and bands from England, France, Germany and the United States.
On 18 November 1873 Gilmore gave the first concert with his new ensemble, the 22nd New York Regiment Band. In 1875, he leased the New York Hippodrome, renamed Gilmore's Concert Garden, and gave regular concerts with this ensemble. In 1876 Gilmore's Band became the first ensemble to travel across the country, giving concerts from New York to San Francisco. In 1878, they made an international tour and in 1879 opened the amusement park at Manhattan Beach.
Gilmore was not widely known as a composer, but he did write several pieces including "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," published under the name Louis Lambert, "The Everlasting Polka," "Music Fills My Soul With Sadness" and "Good News from Home."
Patrick Gilmore died following a concert at the St. Louis Exposition on 24 September 1892.