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PLA Y ERS

OF A

CENTURY.

A

Record of the Albany Stage

INCLUDING NOTICES OF PROMINENT ACTORS
WHO HAVE APPEARED IN

AMERICA.

SECOND EDITION.

BY H. P. PHELPS.

ALBANY.
JOSEPH McDONOUGH, 32 North Pearl St.

1880.

Entered, according to act of Congress, in the year 1879, by

H. P. PHELPS,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

BURDICK & TAYLOR, Printers,

Martin Hall, Albany, N. Y.

PREFACE.

The history of the Albany stage is, in a great measure, the history of the theatre in America. From the days of Hallam to the present time, scarcely an actor of any prominence has appeared in this country, who has not visited Albany. It was here that the genius of Edwin Forrest was first discovered and nurtured, and by a curious coincidence, here, also, Charlotte Cushman

'first bound her buskin on.” Other highly honored members of the profession, who were either born here, made their debut here or practised for months in Albany stock companies, are to be counted by the score; while among Albany managers are to be found such names as Bernard, Gilfert, Blake, Duffy, Conner, Trimble, Lawlor and Albaugh. In short, the supply of material for a history of this kind was soon found to be embarrassing in its richness, and its arrangement for publication, to a great extent, a matter of selection.

A large part of what follows appeared originally, during 1879, in the Sunday edition of the Albany Argus, the compiler reserving the right to republish the articles in book form. He was encouraged to do so by the kindly interest manifested in them as they were read from week to week, and now presents his work, enlarged, revised, and corrected, and made available for reference by index.

Such a history must necessarily be, in part, a compilation from old newspapers, old play-bills, and old inhabitants ; but in part, also, from dramatic records previously published. While credit has frequently been given to the latter, in the text, the author here acknowledges his special indebtedness to Dunlap's History of the American Stage, Clapp's History of the Boston Stage, Blake's History of the Providence Stage, Brown's History of the American Stage, Hutton's Plays and Players, and in particular, Ireland's Records of the New York Stage, by far the best work of dramatic history published in America. Greater freedom has been felt in quoting from these authorities, from the fact that, with possibly one exception, they are out of print, and unavailable to the general public.

The writer is also indebted for many local reminiscences to Mr. Henry D. Stone, Mr. William D. Morange, Mr. Joel Munsell (the venerable Albany antiquary, whose lamented death occurred as these pages are passing through the press), Mr. and Mrs. Lucien Barnes and Capt. John B. Smith; to many co-laborers on newspapers, and others who have kindly added to the interest and value of the record.

H. P. PHELPS. ALBANY, N. Y., February 20, 1880.

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

Page.

1745--1752. Introductory-Who Founded the American Stage?—

The Honor in Dispute—Dunlap Confers it upon Hallam-A

Mistake-Hallam's Predecessors—The First American Rich-

ard-Kean and Murray-Moody, Probably the Original

Manager....

13

CHAPTER II.

1760—1786. Amateur Theatricals in Albany—Tragical Fate of

their Clerical Critic-Arrival of Hallam's American Company

– Plays Performed in the Hospital—The Second Season-

The First Advance Notice-Oldest Albany Play-bill Extant,

Attempt to Crush the Infant Drama-Appeal to the Common

Councıl—Newspaper Discussion-The Play-house Openly

Threatened-A Victory for the Comedians..

16

CHAPTER III.

1803–1811. The Thespian Hotel—Third Dramatic Season-

Poor Debtors Benefited-J. Howard Payne, the Author of

‘Home, Sweet Home,” the Boy Critic and Actor-His Sub-

sequent Career-George Frederick Cooke-He Visits Albany

on His Wedding Tour....

30

CHAPTER IV.

1810—1817. The Green Street Theatre—The Richmond Disaster;

Over Sixty Persons Burned to Death—Consequent Renewal

of Opposition to the Drama-Another Decision from the

Common Council-Albany's First Play-house-John Ber-

nard, Manager-Mrs. Esther Young, afterwards Mrs. Hughes,

the Leading Lady—Old Sol Smith's DebutHis Funny Stories

A Nigger in Sol's Bed”—A Live Corpse in King Henry's

Coffin—The Theatre becomes a Church...

38

CHAPTER V.

1822–1825. The Drama Houseless and Homeless—The Original

Stage “Yankee ”—Two Companies and no Play-house-An

Actor Aged Ten-An African Theatre—The Original of

' Mons. Mallet”_Vilallave's Picturesque Theatre—Tom and

Jerry..

55

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