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IN 1832 William Dunlap published his “ History of the American
Theatre.” Since that time, no writers, except Joseph N. Ireland and myself, have undertaken the arduous task.
In his work Mr. Dunlap stated that the first dramatic performance ever given in America occurred in 1752. At Castle Garden one hundred years later, as I shall tell in detail, that date was erroneously celebrated as the anniversary of the introduction of the drama into America. During my researches I have discovered that a dramatic company performed in Philadelphia in 1749.
Joseph Norton Ireland wrote the Records of the New York Stage from 1750 to 1860. My record commences eighteen years before Ireland's, and closcs forty-two years later.
In 1853 I commenced to compile "A History of the American Stage" and for five years thereafter devoted my entire time to it. I travelled over the United States from Maine to California, visiting the libraries of the different cities and towns in search of possible information relating to the drama in America. Early in 1857 I completed the work occupying over three thousand folios, and immediately afterward arranged with the late Frank Queen, then editor and proprietor of The New York Clipper, for its publication. It took from two to three columns weekly in that paper for a period of nearly four years to complete the publication. At that time my work, besides the history proper of the theatres, contained a biography of almost every man, woman, and child that had ever appeared on the American stage. The biographical portion of the work was afterward published in book form. It made a volume of over five
During the early part of the winter of 1869 I continued my research for any dramatic performances in America prior to 1749. For weeks I had access to many private and valuable libraries, as well as to all the early newspaper publications. At last I discovered an advertisement in an old weekly paper of a dramatic performance to be given in September, 1732.
In March, 1885, there appeared in the editorial columns of the New York Herald the following:
“ Chief Justice Daly of the Court of Common Pleas has brought to light a most interesting bit of history concerning the drama in America. The first theatre in this country, he has discovered, was opened in this city on the evening of Dec. 6, 1732, with a performance of The Recruiting Officer.' All that is further known of the performance of 1732 (which was twenty years before the arrival of Hallam's Co. in New York, by whom Dunlap in his history says the drama was introduced in America) is that the part of Worthy was played by Thomas Heady, a peruke maker of this city."
Replying to this, The Clipper, in its issue of March, 1885, said :
"Judge Daly's discovery (?) that the first theatre in this country was opened in 1732 is not news to old Clipper readers, for T. Allston Brown published that 'item' in this paper just seventeen years ago."
In March, 1888, I commenced the publication in The New York Clipper of these records from 1732 to 1888, and it was continued in that paper for nearly five years.
The present work has been carefully prepared and rewritten since the time of its publication in The Clipper. It now includes the close of the regular dramatic season of 1900-1.
T. ALLSTON BROWN.