Early Actors of the Stage
Transcribed by K.T.
FIRST ROW, L-R
Thos. A. Cooper
THOMAS A. COOPER (born in London, 1776) was one of the first stars of the American stage. He came to this country,
as a writer on the subject remarks, "before he had acquired any reputation in England," the plain fact
being that at his first appearance in London he was hissed off the stage, an experience which was repeated when
he visited his native land in 1828. Mr. Cooper made his debut in Baltimore, played a successful engagement at Philadelphia
in 1796, and in August of the following year appeared at the Greenwich Street Theater in New York, as Pierre in
Venice Preserved, one of his finest parts. He was wonderfully well endowed by nature with pleasing qualities. To
a fine manly figure and noble bearing, an imposing manner and an easy style of acting, he added a well modulated
and resonant voice. In certain mannerisms he resembled both Cooke and Kemble, but was not without originality.
He was at home both in tragedy and the higher grades of comedy. Such roles as Damon, Virginius, Pierre, and William
Tell, not often played nowadays, served to present his oratorical and impassioned style to great advantage. Mr.
Cooper's daughter, as the wife of Robert Tyler, son of President Tyler, was at one time the mistress of the White
House. During his latter years Mr. Cooper held several political appointments. He died in Bristol, Pa., in 1849.
SAN FRANCISCO, Cal., July 6. -John Drew's long fight against the consuming fever that has imprisoned his body in
a hospital for more than forty days appeared tonight to be within forty-eight hours of a losing termination. The
mind of the veteran actor was unclouded today in his waking hours, but his physical vitality had waned until it
no longer responded to the mental spurring that so frequently has brought results amazing to his physicians (NY
Times, July 7, 1927)
MANCHESTER, Mass., Sept. 16.--Junius Brutus Booth, the veteran actor and manager, is in a critical condition to
night. He is sinking so rapidly that all hopes of his recovery have been abandoned. Mrs. Agnes Booth is at his
bedside, Edwin Booth has been here all day, but left this evening. (NY Times, September 17, 1883)
Charles Burke, (1822-1854), was an American by birth, and though his stage career was very brief, had many
of the qualities of a great actor. He particularly delighted in melodramatic parts, and made his last appearance
at the Chestnut Street Theater of Philadelphia, in the lurid drama of Murrell the Land Pirate.
THOMAS S. HAMBLIN (1800-1853) was in his day one of the most popular actors in tragedy and melodrama. His first
appearance in this country — he had previously won considerable reputation in England — was at the Park Theater,
in 1825, as Hamlet. After starring the country for five years, being everywhere greeted with enthusiasm, he returned
York and became the manager of the Old Bowery Theater. He was afterward connected with the management of two or
three others of the New York theaters. Mr. Hamblin was married four times, and of his four wives three attained
some prominence on the stage. The first is better known as Mrs. Charles (having married an actor of that name after
her divorce from Hamblin), and was a great favorite at the Bowery, Mrs. Haller being her best part.
Was an Anglo-American actress and manager, whose real name was Mary Frances Moss. She was a niece of the British
actress Elizabeth Yates.
She was born in Winchester, England. She married, in 1844, Henry Wellington Taylor, by whom she had two children,
Emma Elija and Clara Stella, before her husband abandoned the family.
In 1851, in London, she was playing Pauline in The Lady of Lyons. She made her first appearance in New York on
September 20, 1852, on her way to Australia. She returned in 1855 and managed Laura Keene's Theatre until 1863,
in which was produced, in 1859, Our American Cousin. It was her company that was playing at Ford's Theatre, Washington,
on the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Keene was a successful melodramatic actress, and an admirable
manager. She died at Montclair, New Jersey.
Attempting to restore calm, on the night that President Lincoln was shot, the play's leading actress, Laura Keene
told the audience: "For God's sake have presence of mind and keep your places and all will be well."
Responding to a plea from Clara Harris, she then brought water up to the presidential box.
James W. Wallack
The three great theatrical families of America, so to speak, are the Booths, the Jeffersons, and the Wallacks.
James W. Wallack, Sr. (born in London, 1794 ; died in New York, 1864) made his debut in this country as Macbeth,
at the Park, in 1818. From that time until 1847 Mr. Wallack spent his time alternately in England and America.
As a tragedian he was probably inferior to either Booth or Forrest. It was said of him that he was first in his
line, but that his line was not the first. In melodrama and light comedy he was inimitable. In the autumn of 1840
he became manager of the National Theater, New York, corner of Leonard and Church Streets. Less than a year after,
it was totally destroyed by fire. His last journey to England was made in 1844, and after his return to this country
in 1847 he joined Mr. Burton at the Arch Street Theater. After starring for two or three years, he assumed the
management of the Lyceum, which had not been altogether successful under Brougham. The result of his management
was in the highest degree satisfactory both from an artistic and a pecuniary point of view, and from that day to
this the name of Wallack has been connected with the highest class of dramatic entertainments in the metropolis.
Of the achievements of his son, J. Lester Wallack, we speak elsewhere. The last appearance of the senior Wallack
was in 1862, in the Thirteenth Street house. We may mention as among Mr. Wallack's best parts : Rolla, Rob Roy,
Roderick Dhu, Benedick, Charles Surface, Mercutio, and Petruchio. Henry, the brother of J. W. Wallack, Sr., appeared
first at Baltimore in 1819. He was a good but not a great actor. For several years he was joint manager of the
Chatham Street Theater, New York. J. W. Wallack, Jr., first appeared at New York, in 1839, as Fag in The Rivals.
Gustavus V. Brooke
Who for many years was held in popular favor by the English critics as a great tragedian, was born in Dublin,
April 25, 1819, and made his debut in May, 1833, at the Theater Royal in that city as William Tell. He first appeared
in America, Dec. 15, 1851, at the old Broadway Theater, New York, as Othello, and in the following year went to
the Walnut Street Theater, Philadelphia, where he appeared in a round of characters. He became a great favorite
as Sir Giles Overreach in A New Way to Pay Old Debts. In 1860 he visited Australia, and remained seven years. He
reappeared at Drury Lane, Oct. 28, 1861. He was drowned at sea January II, 1866, on the steamship London, bound
for Australia. He was the husband of Avonia Fairbanks Jones. He was a tragedian of more than ordinary ability,
and as Othello was considered almost the equal to Forrest.
BOSTON, Jan. 15. The remains of the dead actress, Pauline Lucille Western, were to-day deposited in their final
resting-place in Mount Auburn Cemetery. The remains of her little niece, a daughter of the late Helen Western,
were also interred with her, and the family had thus a double cause of grief. (NY Times, January 16, 1877)
James W. Wallack, Jr.
J.W. Wallack, Jr. first appeared at New York in 1839 as Fag in the Rivals
CHARLOTTE SAUNDERS CUSHMAN was bom in Boston, July 23d, 1816, and was descended from one of the earliest Puritan
families. Her first appearance as a public singer, of which we have just spoken, led her to follow the lyric profession,
and she appeared with some success in The Marriage of Figaro, and other operas. But in 1835, then being in New
Orleans, she suddenly lost control of her voice as far as singing was concerned. By the advice of Mr. Barton, the
tragedian, she at once began to study acting, and made her dramatic tltbut as Lady Macbeth in the same year. On
September I2th, 1836, she first appeared at New York in the same part.
Her success was almost immediate, and she rapidly gained in power and reputation. Nancy Sykes was one of her first
great hits ; but she took the whole round of great tragic parts, including several male parts. Of her Romeo, the
declared : " It is far superior to any Romeo we have ever had. " She was also the only woman who ever
took the part of Cardinal Wolsey. Miss Cushman at different times supported Forrest and Macready. Her London engagement
in 1845, obtained only after great discouragement, proved a triumphant success. Many and varied as were the parts
she assumed, her name is intensely identified with two characters rarely seen on the American stage since her death
— Meg Merrilies in the romantic
drama founded on Sir Walter Scott's Guy Afannering, and Queen Katherine in Shakespeare's Henry the Eighth. The
latter was her greatest, the former her most popular personation. Miss Cushman visited Europe several times, and
spent some years in Rome. By her profession she acquired a fortune of about $600,000. Her last public appearance
— she incurred some ridicule by repeated " farewell appearances " in various cities — seems to have been
in a reading at Easton, Penn., June zd, 1875.
She died at the Parker House, Boston, on February l8th, 1876.
(March 9, 1806 - December 12, 1872), was an American actor. Forrest was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania of
Scottish and German descent
He made his first stage appearance on November 27, 1820, at the Walnut Street Theatre, in Homes Douglas. He soon
gained fame for portraying blackface caricatures of African Americans.
The admired actress Julia Dean died in New York on the morning of March 6, 1868 in the thirtieth year of her
age. Her parents Edwin Dean and Julia Drake were members of the dramatic profession. Her maternal grandfather,
Samuel Drake, was also an actor. At sixteen she made her first appearance in New York at the Bowery Theater, May
18, 1846 as Julia in the Hunchback.
(February 3, 1834 - October 28, 1877) was a United States stage actor, considered to have been one of America's
best light comedians.
He was born in Medford, Massachusetts, and began his career on the stage in The Hunchback, at the National Theatre
in Boston. He also appeared in Hamlet with Kate Josephine Bateman in 1860, as well in The Serf in 1865, and The
Dead Heart, Wild Oats, The Lady of Lyons, Narcisse, and The Marble Heart.
In 1869, Adams joined Edwin Booth's acting company, appearing in Romeo and Juliet, Narcisse, Othello, and Enoch
Arden, based on the poem by Alfred Tennyson. From 1870-75, Adams toured the country performing his best-known roles.
His last appearance was at the California Theatre in San Francisco in 1876. He died the following year in Philadelphia
on October 28, 1877 (aged 43)
William Rufus Blake, actor, manager (b at Halifax and christened there 5 Dec 1802; d at Boston 22 Apr 1863).
The highest paid actor on the American stage at the height of his career, Blake first performed as an amateur with
Thomas Placide's company of American actors as the Prince of Wales in Richard III in Halifax on 19 May 1817, and
joined that company as a professional for the next season.
His known written plays include Nero, The Turned Head, Norman Leslie and The Buggs, and he was probably the author
of Fitzallan, the first play by a Canadian-born author, which his company produced in Halifax in 1833
Anna Cora Mowatt
Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie was an American author, public reader, playwright and actress. She was the first female
to enter the career of public reader without a previous career on the stage.
On June 7, 1853, Anna Cora married William Foushee Ritchie. During her years of marriage to Ritchie, Anna Cora
became involved in the movement to preserve George Washington's home at Mount Vernon as a national historic site.
She also wrote two fictional novels based on her experiences in the theatre. Mimic Life; or, Before and Behind
the Curtain (actually three novellas collected in one volume) was published in 1855 and Twin Roses; a Narrative
She died in Twickenham, England, on July 21, 1870, aged 51 She was buried in Kensall Green Cemetery in London beside
her first husband, James Mowatt.
1816 - 1 September 1877
Edward Loomis Davenport was an American actor.
Born in Boston, he made his first appearance on the stage in Providence, Rhode Island in support of Junius Brutus
Booth. Afterwards he went to England, where he supported Mrs. Anna Cora Mowatt (Ritchie) (1819-1870), William Charles
Macready and others. In 1854 he was again in the United States, appearing in Shakespearian plays and in dramatizations
of Dickens's novels. As Bill Sikes he was especially successful, and his Sir Giles Overreach and Brutus were also
greatly admired. He died in Canton, Pennsylvania.
In 1849 he had married Fanny Vining (Mrs. Charles Gill) (d. 1891), an English actress also in Mrs. Mowatts company.
Their son Harry Davenport (1866-1949) and daughter Fanny Davenport (1850-1898) were also actors.
Matilda Heron was a popular American actress of the mid-1800s. She was born near Londonderry, Ireland, on December
1, 1830, and her family moved to Philadelphia in her early childhood.
Her reputation was founded almost solely on her adaptation and starring role in Camille, or "the Fate of a
Coquette," a French play by Alexandre Dumas about a courtesan who dies of consumption (or tuberculosis) in
her lover's arms. The first showing of Heron's Camille took place in 1857 at Wallack's Theatre in New York City.
Heron's adaptation was significant because it was the first American version of the script that was not sanitized
to remove ``morally objectionable'' elements. She translated it directly, having seen a production of the original
The other reason that Heron's Camille is interesting is her acting; she embraced a very earthy, direct style (unlike
most of her contemporaries, who were classically trained and restrained). She lacked finesse, but made up for that
with a passion for the role that endeared her to audiences and set the stage for many overactors in the future.
In 1857, she married a German musician named Robert Stoepel, only to separate from him in 1861. She also bore a
daughter named Bijou; Matilda's final public performance, in the role of Medea, took place in April 1876 . She
died March 7, 1877, in New York City, having spent most of her later life in obscurity, teaching acting.
DANFORD MARBLE, or "Dan Marble," as he was more familiarly known, was born in East Windsor, Conn.,
in 1807, and made his first appearance in 1831 at Chatham Garden, New York, as Rollin Roughhead in Fortune's Frolic.
In 1837 he appeared in Philadelphia at the Walnut Street Theater as Sam Patch, making an instantaneous hit. In
1845 he went to England, and starred throughout the provinces successfully. He then appeared in London at the Strand
Theater, Oct. 30, 1845, as Deuteronomy Dutiful. He married Anna Warren, a Philadelphia girl, Nov. 13, 1836. She
was quite a prominent actress in her day. Dan Marble was a very popular actor, and such farcical parts as Robin
Roughhead, Sam Patch, and Deuteronomy Dutiful were in his special line. He died in
Louisville, Ky., May 13, 1849.
born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 22 March 1835; died in Bluffton, Indiana, 4 December 1875. When very young
she and her sister Kate took the part of dancing fairies at the National theatre, Philadelphia. Susan afterward
became a favorite in New York and other parts of the country, and in 1869 made her first appearance in London.
Her death was the result of a fall on the stage in Indianapolis, Ind. She had been married four times. Her sister
Kate, born in Philadelphia in 1837, was also a popular actress. They resembled each other in person, manner, and
ability, and for a time were quite popular in melodramatic characters.
William Evans BURTON, actor, born in London, England, 24 September, 1804; died in New York, 10 February, 1860.
His father, George Burton, was the author of "Biblical Researches" and other writings. William Junior
was intended for a career in the church but success as an amateur actor led him to attempt a career on the stage.
After several years in the provinces, he made his first London appearance in 1831. In 1834 he relocated to the
United States, where he appeared in Philadelphia as Dr. Ollapod in The Poor Gentleman. He took a prominent place,
both as actor and manager, in New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore, the theatre which he leased in New York
being renamed Burton's Theatre.
In 1837 in Philadelphia he established the Gentlemen's Magazine, of which Edgar Allan Poe was for some time the
editor. In late 1840, Burton sold his magazine to George Rex Graham for the price of $3,500 (one dollar for each
subscriber), who transformed it into Graham's Magazine. Burton went on to become the editor of the Cambridge Quarterly
and the Souvenir. He also wrote several books, including a Cyclopaedia of Wit and Humour in 1857.
He was twice married, and left a widow and three daughters. Burton died February 10, 1860 in New York City and
was buried in Greenwood cemetery.. At the time of his death, he had collected a library of over 500,000 volumes,
especially rich in books by and relating to William Shakespeare.
actor, born in Kihnacthomas, Ireland, 2 November, 1797; died at sea in March, 1841. He made his first appearance
on the stage at Newport, Isle of Wight, in 1815, as Alonzo, in Kotzebue's play of "Pizarro." In 1817
Power married a lady of means, and after playing for about a year in Edinburgh, Dublin, and the provinces, he retired
from the stage.
He visited the United States on two occasions, from 1833 until 1835, and from 1839 until 1841, and met with extraordinary
success. He made his American debut at the Park theatre in New York city on 28 August, 1833, in the plays of "
The Irish Ambassador" and " Teddy the Tiler." His last appearance was at the same house on 9 March,
1841. Among the dramas in which he performed were " Tile Nervous Man and Man of Nerve," " Paddy
Carey," "St. Patrick's Eve," "The Irish Tutor," "The White Horse of the Peppers,
' Rory O'More," and " O'Flannigan and the Fairies." Some of these were written for him" others
were dramatized by himself. He left New York for Liverpool on the steamer " President" on 21 March, 1841.
Three days later tile vessel was met on the ocean, but it was never heard of afterward. Power was an easy actor,
endowed with wit and humor, set off by vocal ability and a rich Irish brogue.
Eliza M.S. Hamblin
ELIZA HAMBLIN, neee LIZZIE BLANCHARD, the first wife of the celebrated actor Thomas S. Hamblin, was born in
London, her father being a well-known comedian at the Haymarket Theater. She made her debut at that theater on
July 15, 1818 as Emily Worthington. Her American debut took place at the old park Theater in New York with her
husband, playing Mrs. Haller to his ???, November 4, 1825. She subsequently became a great favorite in the Bowery
Theater. She then procured a divorce from her first husband, and married an acotr named Charles, traveling with
him throughout the South and West. She reappeared in New York, at Niboe's Garden, in 1848. She died in New Orleans
May 8, 1849. She left three children, Bessie and William Hamblin and Betty Charles.
JAMES H. HACKETT was born in New York in 1800, and made his first appearance at Newark, N. J., in 1816. In 1826
he first acted before a New York audience at the Park Theater as Justice Woodcock in Love in a Village. He acted
during 1828, 1832, 1845, and 1851 in England. His death took place in 1876. Mr. Hackett was very popular as Falstaff,
being suited for the part both in temperament and physique.
Comedian, was born near Dublin, Ireland, Sept. 1811, the son of , an innkeeper.
John Collins, the well-known Irish comedian, died yesterday, at Philadelphia, in the sixty-fifth year of his age.
He was born at Lucan, near Dublin, Ireland, where his father, John Collins, was, for many years, proprietor of
the Lucan Spa House. At the age of eighteen, Collin went to London and for the lyric stage. His debut was made
at the Haymarket Theater as first tenor in English opera. His hit was made in the "Beggar's Opera" as
Captain McHeath. He came to America in 1846, and made his appearance on the American stage at the Park Theater
in New York as McShane in the "Nervous Man" He played the same character, and that of Teddy Maloney
in "Teddy the Tiler," at Philadelphia. Though going back and forth between this country and Europe, and
at one time Australia in his profession, he made his home in Philadelphia.
Benedict DeBar, comedian
Ben DeBar (1812-1877) had been "stage manager for Noah Ludlow and Sol Smith at the St. Charles Theatre in
New Orleans, when they retired in 1843 he assumed management of their New Orleans and St. Louis theatres. At
the outbreak of the Civil War he moved to St. Louis. He remained active as a performer, touring the Mississippi
River valley as a star every season, and was the most influential manager in the region".
Eied August 28, 1877 in St. Louis with "disease of the brain"
was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1823. He commenced his career as a supernumerary, and in 1836 appeared at the
Franklin Theater, New York, in The Ice Witch, under Wm. Dinneford's management. He appeared in Philadelphia, March
9, 1845, at the Old National Theater, in The Heroic
Struggle of 1776. He became manager of the Vauxhall Garden in the Bowery, New York, in 1845, and in 1850 he married
Mrs. Charles Mestayer. With her he visited San Francisco, and opened at the Metropolitan Theater. In 1855 he sailed
for England, and appeared at the Adelphi Theater, where he was such a success that he traveled all over Europe.
He returned to America and opened at Niblo's Garden in 1859. He was manager of the old Broadway Theater from that
time until 1869. His real name was Bernard Flaherty.
Jno. R. Scott
JOHN R. SCOTT (born in Philadelphia, 1808 ; died, 1856,) deserves a word of mention, as he was at one time absurdly
called a rival of Forrest. He made his debut at the Park, playing Malcolm to J. B. Booth's Macbeth. Rob Roy was
one of his best parts. In 1847 he visited England, but met with no great success. He was a tragedian of much promise,
but did not live to fulfill the hopes of his friends.
He died April 4, 1856, of apoplexy, in Philadelphia. The last time he acted was at the City Museum, in that city,
Jan. 22, 1856. He commenced Jan. 21, as Damon. He was so feeble that he could scarcely finish his part. He was
to appear Jan. 22 as Rob Roy and Michael in "The Adopted Child." He managed with great difficulty to
play "Rob Roy," but in "The Adopted Child" it was impossible for him to appear, and "Used
Up" was substituted. On Feb. 28, 1856, he was cast for Othello, to Hield's Iago, at Sanford's Opera House,
Philadelphia, for Paul Berger's benefit. He dressed for the part, but was taken ill and was unable to play. He
appeared before the curtain and made an apology to the audience. He was removed to the Western Hotel, thence to
Mrs. Delaney's house, where he died. He was buried April 7 in St. Peter's churchyard, at Third and Pine streets.
S. S. Sanford's band performed dirges all the way from his residence to the cemetery. The band took the lead of
the funeral procession, the Actors' Order of Friendship came next, and Sanford's company followed.
Scott's first appearance in New York was July 2, 1829, as Malcolm to J. B. Booth's Macbeth, at the Park Theatre
for the benefit of Mr. Booth. He next appeared in Boston, at the Tremont, as Peter in " Speed the Plough.
He had but ten lines to speak, having a message to deliver to Sir Abel Handy, as follows: "Mashed all to pieces;
" which he delivered, " Smashed all to patent axletrees!" He was not permitted to speak on the stage
again for three months, being placed among the mutes in groups and ballets. He afterwards became one of the greatest
favorites seen at the Old Bowery, also at this house. There are few instances, perhaps, of an actor rising so rapidly
as did Mr. Scott. In a very short time he enjoyed a reputation throughout the country which others had been vainly
struggling for years to obtain. No one was a greater favorite than he, and it must have been a source of pride
to him to know that he owed his success mainly to himself. He began in parts which had little to recommend them
save the excellence of his playing, and in that way attracted attention and admiration.
Info from an assortment of sources, including "The Drama, Painting, Poetry and Song", Published 1884,
P. F. Collier