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14th; “Alexander the Great,” July 3, and “As You Like It," 12th. A most extraordinary thing occurred in July and August, which was a "run" of eighteen consecutive nights, attained by a bill consisting of "Alexander the Great” and “The Poor Soldier." Mr. Henry became insane, and died April 25, 1795; Mrs. Henry also became insane, was placed in a Philadelphia hospital, and died the same year.
The season closed July 21, and the company left for Baltimore, Md. A play called “Contrast," by Royal Tyler, was acted April 18, 1787, and was the first drama by a native author produced in America.
Thomas Wignell had come to America to join the company in 1774, but the impending revolution prevented his appearance until after the war. His forte was low comedy, and he was the creator of the first stage Yankee Jonathan in "Contrast.” O'Keefe's comic opera, “Dead Alive," had its first production in this country Sept. 24, 1787, for Mrs. Henry's benefit.
In 1788, the theatre, having been closed during Lent, was reopened at Easter, Mr. Harper being announced for Falstaff in “Henry IV.,” when the “Doctor's Mob" excitement prevented it. The theatre was re-opened April 17, 1789. Unfortunately the pieces produced between April and May were not advertised in the newspapers, the managers, Hallam & Henry, being prudent men, who did not care to spend money merely for the information of posterity.
In “The School for Scandal," as Washington saw it, Mr. Henry played Sir Peter Teazle, of which he was the original in this country. Mrs. Hallam was the only American in the whole company. Miss Luke was the first American actress who attained anything like celebrity; but the favorite lady of the company was Mrs. Morris, tall, handsome, reserved to mysteriousness, and so averse to being seen by daylight that she had a gate made from her lodgings in Maiden Lane, to enable her to get to the theatre by running across John Street, without walking round through Broadway and exposing herself to the gaze of the beaux.
Washington's visits to the theatre were always exceedingly formal and ceremonious. Over the box that he was to occupy was the United States coat of arms. At the entrances to the theatre soldiers were posted, and four soldiers were generally placed in the gallery. Mr. Wignell, in a full dress of black, with his hair elaborately powdered in the fashion of the time, and holding two wax candles in silver candlesticks, was accustomed to receive the President at the box door and conduct him and his party to their seats. Alexandre Placide, together with Mme. Placide and a company of tight-rope performers and ballet dancers, first appeared in America Feb. 3, 1792. M. Placide is said to have been the most graceful rope dancer and gymnast that had then reached this country. He had previously performed with much success in both Paris and London.
John Hodgkinson made his New York début Jan. 22, 1793, in “The Dramatist.” Joseph Jefferson made his first appearance in New York, Feb. 10, 1796, as Richard in "The Provoked Husband." During the many years that Mr. Jefferson was before the public he was not only unrivalled in his peculiar department, but I may safely assert that of his competitors there was not one who could bear comparison with him. From the commencement of his career until a few weeks previous to his death (which took place at Harrisburg, Pa., in August, 1832), he continued with "untired spirit" to hold the highest station in the mimic scene, and, while his own heart was lacerated by an accumulation of family misfortunes, he was the constant delight and the admiration of the public. His integrity, though he was engaged in a profession with which calumny is always busy, was unsullied. In attempting to save an old friend who had become involved in difficulties, he ruined himself. Forlorn and broken-hearted, he went with one of his sons to Harrisburg, where he died.
A riot was caused in the theatre in February, 1797, by Mrs. Hallam accusing Mrs. Hodgkinson on the stage of trying to force her to retire. Hallam sold out his interests in the theatre to his partners.
The first Hamlet in New York in point of quality was Thomas Abthorpe Cooper, who played the part Nov. 22, 1797.
James Fennell, who came to America in 1794, acted Hamlet at the John Street Theatre in 1806. John Howard Payne enjoys the distinction of being the first Hamlet who was born in America, and he acted the character when seventeen years of age at the Park Theatre in May, 1809. He was the original “Boy Hamlet."
This theatre was the leading one till 1798. The last performance occurred January 13 of that year.
RICKETT'S CIRCUS AND GREENWICH STREET
HE place of amusement known as Rickett's Circus was situ
opened in 1795; it was afterwards enlarged and called a theatre. The following season it became known as the Pantheon. Thomas Abthorpe Cooper made his New York début on the opening night as Pierre, in "Venice Preserved." In 1841 he was appointed military storekeeper to the arsenal at Frankfort, Pa. He was afterwards appointed Surveyor of the Ports of Philadelphia and New York, which place he held nearly until the time of his death, which occurred at Bristol, Pa., April 21, 1849.
THE PARK THEATRE
feet north of Ann Street, on the lots numbered 21, 23, and 25, and recently occupied by the Mail and Express newspaper building. It had a frontage of 80 feet, and a depth of 165 feet. The plan for its construction was furnished by the builder and engineer of the London Thames tunnel - a Frenchman named Mark Isambard Brunel. Although designed in 1793, the work was not commenced until 1795. Originally, the property was a stock concern with a capital of $30,000, divided into eighty shares of $375 each. The stock was to be increased to one hundred shares, if necessary:
Before the erection of the theatre was half completed, Hallam and Hodgkinson, lessees and managers, engaged in a bitter quarrel, which delayed the opening till Jan. 29, 1798. The theatre was then, though in an unfinished state, thrown open to the public. The following is a copy of the advertisement:
MONDAY, JANUARY 29, 1798,
“ALL IN A BUSTLE, OR THE NEW HOUSE." The characters by the company. After which will be presented Shakespeare's comedy of
“ AS YOU LIKE IT." Jacques . Mr. Hodgkinson | Le Beau
Mr. Hallam, Jr. Touchstone Mr. Hallam Corin
Mr. Simpson Orlando . Mr. Martin William
Mr. Jefferson Banished Duke Mr. Tyler Sylvius
Mr. Miller Usurping Duke
Mr. Fawcett Jacques de Bois Mr. Seymour Adam Mr. Johnson Rosalind
Mrs. Johnson Amiens, Mr. Prigmore Celia .
Miss Broadhurst Oliver Mr. Hogg Phoebe
Mrs. Collins Charles. . Mr. Lee Audrey
Mrs. Brett To which will be added a musical entertainment called
“ THE PURSE, OR AMERICAN TAR." Will Steady . Mr. Hodgkinson Page
Mast. Stockwell Edmund Mr. Tyler Sally
Mrs. Hodgkinson Places for the boxes will be let every day at the old office in John Street, hy Mr. Falconer, from ten to one, and on the play day from three to four in the afternoon.
Tickets are also to be had at the above office, any time previous to Monday, four o'clock, after which they must be applied for at the New Theatre.
Ladies and gentlemen will please direct their servants to sit down with their horses' heads towards the New Brick Meeting, and take up with their horses' heads towards Broadway.
The future regulations respecting the taking of seats will be placed in the box office for general information.
The doors will be opened at five, and the curtain drawn at a quarter-past six.
Ladies and gentlemen are requested to be particular in sending servants early to keep boxes. Boxes, 8s. Pit, 6s. Gallery, 4s.
The nights of performance were, at this period, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Mr. Hodgkinson was stage manager. The dramatic. company was composed of Messrs. Hallam, Hodgkinson, Tyler, Johnson, Jefferson, Martin, Simpson, Chalmers, Williamson, Fawcett, Prigmore, Hallam, Jr., Miller, Seymour, Lee, Leonard, Master Stockwell, Mesdames Johnson, Melmoth, Hodgkinson, Hallam, Brett, Simpson, Seymour, Tyler, and Collins, and the Misses J. Westray, E. Westray, Broadhurst, Brett, Harding, and Hogg. The theatre's actual cost amounted to more than $179,000. Dunlap states that “the first night receipts were $1,232, and hundreds were unable to get in. Also many people slipped in without paying.”
The theatre was three stories high, of stone, with about six steps up to the box entrance, and three green baize doors from the outside lobby. There was a box office on the right hand as you entered. In a niche in the centre of the building was, some time after the house was erected, a statue of Shakespeare on a pedestal. The extension lobby was wide and carpeted, and in cold weather two blazing fires were kept up at either end of the lobbies. There was a box door at each box of the first tier, and a box keeper ever ready to open to the audience. The interior was tastefully ornamented in light pink and gold. There were three tiers of boxes, a gallery and a pit. There were no chairs in either boxes or pit, but cushioned seats. The proscenium had stage doors and about four or five private boxes. The stage was at all times well arranged and provided with most excellent scenery. The prices of admission were: boxes, $I; pit, 50 cents; gallery, 25 cents. No lady was admitted to the first or second tier unless accompanied by a gentleman. The theatre held $1,700. Although the house was opened before it was completed, it was finished and elegantly furnished during the summer of 1798, by Mr. Dunlap, the manager. Notwithstanding its popularity, this theatre was subject to all the ups and downs of financial experience, as may be inferred from the fact that during its opening season one of the original managers, Mr. Hallam, withdrew, and at the close of the first season the other one, John Hodgkinson, also gave up his managerial control. During the season of 1798 Mrs. John Oldmixon made her first New York appearance.
She played Wowski in “Inkle and Yarico." She was connected with the New York theatres until 1814, when she retired, and thereafter kept a seminary for young ladies at Philadelphia. She died during the winter of 1835-6.
“Hamlet” was acted Feb. 28, 1798, and the cast was:
Thomas A. Cooper Ghost .
Fawcett First Gravedigger
Prigmore Mrs. Melmoth Mrs. Hodgkinson
The salaries paid at this were ridiculously small compared with those of to-day. Mr. and Mrs. Hallam received $25 each; Hodgkinson, $50; Cooper, $32; Jefferson, $25; Martin, $25; Tyler, $25; Fox, $18; Hallam, Jr. $18; Hogg, $14; Perkins, $12; Lee, $12; Seymour $9; Master Stockwell, $4; Mrs. Hodgkinson, $50; Melmoth, $25; Hallam, $25; Seymour, $16; Hogg, $14; Brett, $14; Miss E. Westray, $18; Miss A. Brett, $14; Miss Harding, $10; Mrs. Perkins, $10; Mrs. King, $6; Miss Hogg, $4; the orchestra (fourteen performers) received $140. The total weekly expenses amounted to $1161.
The second season opened Dec. 3, 1798. The third season commenced Nov. 18, 1799, with “The Heir at Law” and the farce of “The Old Maid,” in which Mr. Hodgkinson, the former manager, and his wife appeared, being engaged by Mr. Dunlap at $100, the highest salary up to that time ever paid in America.
Gen. George Washington died Dec. 14, 1799. The theatre was closed on the 20th and was reopened the 30th, draped in black. A monody was delivered by Mr. Cooper. The performances on Jan. 10, 1800, were devoted to the memory of Washington, when Gustavus Vasa, the Deliverer of his Country” was acted.
The fourth season opened October 20 with about the same company. On July 1, 1801, the first "star" engagement played in this city was commenced by Mrs. Merry, who had come from Philadelphia. Her terms were $100 per week with “a clear half benefit. The fifth season opened Nov. 16, 1801, and closed June 18, 1802. The sixth season began Oct. II, 1802.
The seventh season commenced Nov. 14, 1803, but did not prove a prosperous one, on account of yellow fever and intensely cold weather. John E. Harwood, who afterwards became one of the most popular actors known to the New York stage, appeared Nov. 14, 1803, as Trepanti in “She Would and She Would Not." He was at one period as popular as Lester Wallack was in our